digital marketing rfp concept

A modern-day business is unthinkable without a digital strategy in place. In 2020 alone, digital advertising spending amounted to a whopping $356 billion!

However, performing quality digital marketing in-house is not easy: you need dedicated specialists that not many companies can afford to hire permanently. The solution is to outsource digital marketing experts that can deliver steady results when you need them.

The key to hiring the ideal digital marketing vendor is in preparing a comprehensive digital marketing RFP (request for proposal) that leaves no stones unturned.

Having already discussed the RFP meaning, process and response, we now shift our attention to digital marketing RFPs and how to write this procurement document when hiring a vendor in this field.

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What Is a Digital Marketing RFP?

A digital marketing request for proposal is a formal business document that companies draft to procure services of digital marketing agencies.

The RFP document organizes all necessary information to successfully outsource services and allows companies to compare different marketing vendors that send their bids in an RFP response.

The RFP process, guided by the RFP document, provides an objective approach for buyers selecting vendors. Digital marketing RFPs can be used to find a partner for one-off digital marketing campaigns or ongoing marketing services.

Why Is RFP for Marketing Services Important?

An RFP for a marketing agency streamlines and improves the way organizations connect with potential vendors by providing all the necessary information in one place.

Through digital marketing RFPs, clients can identify multiple decision factors while providing aspiring service providers with enough company and project information. This will help agencies identify which of their digital marketing services would benefit the client the most.

Other notable advantages of drafting a digital media RFP include:

  • Lower procurement costs: RFP is an integral part of strategic sourcing. It reduces the overall procurement cost by efficiently finding the most suitable agency partner.
  • Head-to-head comparison of vendor experience: The organization, with its detailed requirements, scope and deliverables, will have a quick overview and insight into each vendor’s capabilities as the RFP response contains their qualifications, past work, customer results, pricing and other considerations.
  • Better transparency and fairness: Organizations send RFP documents to multiple qualified digital marketing vendors, ensuring each has a fair chance of winning the account.
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10 Essential Steps of the Digital Marketing RFP Process

Every digital marketing request for proposal is different to accommodate the organization’s specific requirements. However, each RFP should contain the essential steps below to ensure process consistency and proper briefing to vendors.

1. Share Your Company Background

At the beginning of your digital marketing RFP document, you should supply a clear, concise and understandable summary of your business:

  • A brief history and mission statement
  • What your brand is known for; UVPs
  • Business values
  • Key personnel and stakeholders
  • Links to company info online, etc.

This step aims to provide basic information about your business to companies not familiar with your business.

2. Provide Project, Audience and Competitor Briefing

In the project overview, describe the particular project objectives and list the short-term and long-term goals you wish to achieve with it. Of course, these objectives should fit into your general business growth strategy.

In this section, you should also include details about your target audience and their general attributes such as:

  • Demographic information (gender, age, location, income, etc.)
  • Psychographic information (expectations, pain points, online behavior, etc.)
  • User persona/ideal buyer

It is where you can also introduce your competitors – who they are, what their strengths and weaknesses are, what their brand identity is, etc.

3. Identify Targets and KPIs

Set your KPIs and communicate them clearly in the RFPs so that potential vendors know what they should provide you with exactly.

Defining very specific digital marketing goals along with measurable KPIs in a digital marketing campaign couldn’t be understated. These should align with your business objectives, so try to emphasize this relationship when defining your targets in the RFP.

Try to make your goals SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-based. Invest in resources to ensure the goals and project outcomes are adequately defined and not unrealistic or unattainable.

4. Share an Overview of Current Benchmarks

Along with defining your targets and ideal performance, you should also share your current marketing performance status. This readily available information will give potential suppliers a better idea of what solutions they should suggest and which direction they should take when proposing a digital marketing strategy for your business.

It will serve as a benchmark on which all future campaigns will be measured.

5. Present Your Budget

Sharing your budget constraints and availability will help you better evaluate the submitted RFP responses from various vendors. Being transparent can help them provide realistic outlines of what they can achieve with the budget at your disposal.

6. Mention Expected Outcomes and Roadblocks

Outcomes that support the entire digital marketing project are essential and it’s important to identify and communicate them in the RFP for digital marketing agencies.

Likewise, possible constraints that could impede a digital marketing project should also be a part of your RFP. This can include any possible limitation, such as technical website implementation difficulties, lack of in-house know-how, a budget limitation, certain non-existent channels for digital advertising, etc.

7. Outline Your Vendor Requirements

In your RFP document, outline what you expect from an ideal vendor. It will help you quickly eliminate those that don’t fulfill these basic requirements.

These expectations can be:

  • The desired work hours/time zone
  • Familiarity with particular tools and project management systems
  • Readiness to work with other third-party providers like web hosts or marketing specialists
  • Availability for regular face-to-face meetings, weekly updates, etc.

8. Communicate Timeframe and Deadlines

One of the most important aspects of a solid RFP digital marketing document is communicating the overall project deadline and the timelines for specific parts of the process.

These dates and deadlines can include:

  • The date of RFP document distribution to potential vendors
  • The period during which you will accept RFP responses
  • The date when you will shortlist the most qualified agencies
  • The date when you will announce or contact the winning vendor (and those that were not chosen)
  • The start date for the digital marketing project
  • Specific milestone dates for different parts of the project (if any)

Indicating when you expect certain events to take place and deliverables to be submitted is vital because the vendors can plan their response and presentation around that.

Also, always try to indicate whether deadlines are fixed or flexible.

9. Itemize Resource Availability

In your RFP, include information about the resources you have available in-house. Summarize your capabilities or reliance on third-party service providers in terms of website hosting, website design, content creation, social media management, etc.

You should also list out all the relevant tools and software you are using, such as various SEO tools, project management tools, analytics software and so on.

10. Pinpoint Competition and RFP Selection Criteria

For aspiring service providers, it can be very beneficial to find details regarding RFP distribution in your request for proposal document.

In this regard, you can include information about the number of vendors you have reached out to and what types of agencies they are.

When vendors know this information, they know who they’re up against, which guides them in formulating RFP responses.

Letting them know of your selection process and criteria is also advisable. For example, you can use a score-based system to allocate points to relevant experience, track record, cost of services, cultural fit, skills and others.

How to Evaluate Responses for Digital RFP

Once digital marketing RFP responses start pouring in, you should read them thoroughly and carefully while focusing on the following five questions to help you determine the right vendor.

  • Do they have expertise and experience in the digital marketing channels you require? Full-service digital marketing agencies work with multiple channels and take an integrated approach to each, while niche agencies specialize in managing one channel. Be sure to identify the type of vendor to make sure they can deliver on channels that are important for you.
  • Have they worked in your sector before? It is advisable to pick an agency with a track record in your particular sector or industry. This effectively means that they have likely encountered issues similar to the ones you’re experiencing and can apply their knowledge and adequate digital marketing strategies to help you solve them.
  • Does their portfolio include relevant successful projects? An agency that truly boasts of its past success should be able to back its claims with specific case studies, client feedback and industry awards — all of which should be relevant to your project goals. Look for these in their RFP response and evaluate them accordingly.
  • Are they a good cultural fit? It is very important to find and work with a vendor whose core values and beliefs align with yours. The agency with a culture similar to yours can act as an extension of your in-house team which results in a flourishing collaboration.
  • Can they work with your budget? Another indicator of a vendor being a good fit is if they can work with companies of similar sizes and budgets to yours. An agency that works with a budget that is higher than yours may not be able to provide a cost-effective option and if they work with budgets much lower than yours, they may not have the resources to manage the project.

Final Thoughts on Digital Marketing RFP

The general guidelines for writing effective, detailed and comprehensive RFP for digital marketing can also be applied to other industries or procured services like:

The basic reasoning behind hiring a vendor in all of these industries relies upon a similar set of criteria.

Regardless of the kind of RFP you need to create, don’t forget to involve all relevant stakeholders and members of your team, as they can contribute invaluably by providing information or insights that are vital for the success of your digital marketing project.

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