What is an RFP? [A 2023 Guide]

What is an RFP? [A 2023 Guide]
Article by DesignRush DesignRush
Last Updated: March 12, 2023

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If your business is considering expanding your services or improving the infrastructure and processes you currently have in place, it is likely that you have considered finding a third-party vendor to provide these for you.

Enter RFPs or requests for proposal: business documents that, when done right, can help you find the perfect vendor for your exact needs.

In this guide on what is an RFP, we will touch upon the RFP meaning and definition, what an RFP document should entail and how to write an RFP for a successful procurement process.

We will also discuss different types of RFPs for projects in various niches, from software development to eCommerce. Let’s dive in!

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What is an RFP and When to Use it?

RFP is a formal document outlining a company’s intent and effort to secure a service, solution or a product.

An organization buying a service or a product issues the RFP document to request vendor bids for a product, solution or service and invites them to send their proposal that will meet the organization’s needs.

Businesses create and use RFPs when they:

  • Want to purchase services that will improve their business processes and bottom-line
  • Want to outsource business processes (for more on that, learn about what is BPO)
  • Are aware of very specific business issues that they want to solve with a new and improved solution
  • Don’t have the internal capacities to tackle some projects, such as creating an eCommerce platform or rebranding their business

What to Include in an RFP?

An RFP document is not a one-size-fits-all solution. It needs to be tailored to each business’s specific needs and according to the type of service or solution the company requires.

However, you can start drafting your RFP document by following a template for the initial structure which you can alter.

A standard RFP document should include this essential info about your company:

  • Project Name or Description
  • Company Name
  • Address
  • City, State, Zip Code
  • Procurement Contact Person (PCP)
  • Telephone Number of PCP
  • Email Address of PCP

The RFP’s body should also contain additional details about your project, such as:

  • Your company’s background
  • Project goals and overall scope
  • Your overall budget
  • Proposed selection schedule
  • Time and method for submission of proposals
  • Project timeline
  • Elements of proposal
  • Evaluation criteria
  • Possible roadblocks
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RFP Process: How to Write an RFP in 7 Steps

Once you understand what elements constitute an average request for proposal document, it’s time to start drafting it.

But before – and after – you do that, there are certain steps you should take to successfully prepare for drafting an RFP and to see the procurement process through to the end.

1. Define Your Needs and Requirements

Your company’s procurement manager and team in charge of drafting the request for proposal should decide on and articulate the type of service/solution you are looking for. Teams and staff that will be impacted by the procurement – stakeholders, IT department, finance department, end-users etc., should also be involved in the process of gathering requirements.

This team will come up with RFP questions, prioritize the selection criteria and establish the entire scope. The end result of this step is defining the RFP, the issue(s) the company needs to solve or the goal it wishes to achieve.

2. Write a Comprehensive RFP

When writing your RFP, include questions to vendors that reflect your company’s specific needs. You can adapt these questions to any future procurement.

Asking the right questions in your RFP ensures that you’ll have the information you need to make a confident decision.

Some of the questions to your vendors include:

  • Who are your competitors?
  • What is your service/product implementation process like?
  • What kind of training do you provide?
  • Do you have any references and relevant case studies?
  • How will you protect our organization from risk?
  • How will your customer success team help us meet our goals?

3. Ask Vendors to Reply

After writing the RFP, you need to gather vendor proposals. Create a list of vendors, send your RFP to them and ask them for direct responses or use a bid service to post your RFP publicly. The latter option will gain you a bigger number of responses, but may also bring in some responses that are irrelevant to your procurement.

4. Assess the Arrived Proposals

After gathering vendor proposals, you need to evaluate their answers with a scoring approach that will help align your decision factors. Establish point values for individual questions in the RFPs based on their importance for your business to objectively establish which vendor is the best fit for your company.

5. Make a Shortlist

Following the evaluation of the arrived proposals, create a shortlist of the five best vendors (the vendors that are most likely to provide the solution fit for your needs). These vendors will move on to the final stage of your procurement process where you will ask them additional questions related to your business and their offerings.

6. Make a Final Selection

After coming up with your final choice, inform all the vendor you’ve shortlisted, regardless if you’ve chosen them or not. To those that didn’t make the cut, provide feedback on why they weren’t chosen – they may still be a viable option for your company in the future and you should try and be on good terms with them.

7. Establish Vendor Evaluation Process

To ensure that the chosen vendor delivers the return on investment, determine your vendor evaluation process. For example, you can use a supplier scorecard to make sure vendors meet your requirements. Also, it is important to communicate to the vendor the areas they’re lacking in so they can correct them and meet your expectations.

RFP Process

Why Businesses Use RFP Software Solutions

Plenty of business organizations use software solutions to streamline the RFP process since these documents involve a lot of moving parts and can be quite time-consuming to make.

Using software for generating RFPs such as Provalido, RFP360, Loopio and others help you:

  • Create RFPs faster: Especially helpful for companies that issue RFPs regularly and in great amounts. Since a lot of RFPs include the same or similar information and ask a lot of the same questions, RFP software can help by storing and organizing RFP templates and questions that you can reuse quickly.
  • Gather and keep track of vendor proposals in one place: RFP software tools provide greater visibility into vendors’ responses, saving you time by avoiding follow-ups and reminder emails.
  • Evaluate proposals side by side: Most RFP software systems make it easy to rank RFP responses, helping you find the right vendor more easily.

RFP Benefits

Issuing an RFP helps businesses find the best vendor for their needs and minimizes risk of poor ROI.

A well-written request for proposal helps companies:

  • Get the best pricing: More competing vendors in the responses increases the likelihood of businesses issuing RFPs getting the best pricing. RFPs allow issuers to compare pricing and value metrics to make sure they work with the right vendor.
  • Make better-informed buying decisions: By allowing your company to compare many different bids, RFPs help you to decide on the option that gives the most value to you, is most sustainable and most comprehensive.
  • Save time by easily comparing vendors: RFPs’ strict formatting guidelines save the time your procurement team would lose researching bidding companies. These guidelines ensure your team finds and compares data from each response timely.

Benefits of RFP

Types of RFPs  

RFPs are commonly classified by the industry they relate to. That said, every industry can have its RFP, including:  

Software Development RFP

RFP for software development is the initial document that you can use when looking to select a software development partner, specifically.

Like all other types of requests for proposal, an RFP for software development needs to outline specifics about the project, your business, deliverable dates and so on. The end goal is to procure a software development vendor that is capable of providing a sturdy, reliable product tailored to your goals.

Software development RFP essentials include:

  • Your company description
  • Project scope and deliverables
  • Project infrastructure
    • Hosting solutions
    • Networks and server rooms
    • Developer hosted solutions
    • Physical and data security
    • Intellectual property protection
    • Limit of access
  • Product requirements
    • UX
    • Product capabilities
    • Optimization
    • Entity details
  • List of experts in your company that will add value to the process
  • Project management
  • Timeline for response
  • Bid structure and requirements
  • Vendor questions
Looking for the best software development companies?
FIND THEM HERE

Mobile App Development RFP

Similar to software development RFPs, a mobile app development RFP is a procurement document companies draft and send to vendors when they need to have a mobile app developed.

The mobile app development RFP essentials are:

  • Your company information and executive summary
  • App development project description
  • App product functionality
  • Use cases
  • Stakeholders and Target Audience
  • Project Scope Requirements
  • Services
  • Operating Systems and Platforms
  • Backend Requirements
  • Analytics
  • Budget
  • Project timeline
  • Proposal timeline
  • Vendor questions
Looking for the best app development companies?
FIND THEM HERE

Digital Marketing RFP

If your company is looking to hire a company to help your digital marketing efforts, devise campaigns for social media, email, PPC and other platforms, you need to create an RFP for digital marketing services.

Digital marketing RFP documents should generally include:

  • Your company and brand background
  • Digital marketing project overview
  • Projected targets and KPIs for digital marketing campaigns
  • Current digital marketing performance benchmarks
  • Suggested platforms and channels
  • Your budget
  • Campaign expectations and goals
  • Critical requirements and roadblocks
  • Project timetable
  • Future developments
  • Resource availability
  • Vendor questions
Looking for the best digital marketing companies?
FIND THEM HERE

Web Design and Development RFP

Similarly, an RFP document for website design and development includes vital procurement information such as presenting the scope and details of your website projects, your objectives and goals, as well as asking vendors essential questions based on which you will make your final decision.

The absolute essentials of RFP for website design and web development RFP are as follows:

  • Company overview
  • Project overview
  • Your website’s audience
  • New website objectives and goals
  • Your current website’s inventory
  • New website functionality requirements
  • Optional functionalities
  • eCommerce component details
  • Your website budget
  • Proposal requirements
  • RFP and project deadlines
  • Vendor questions
Looking for the best website development companies?
FIND THEM HERE

SEO RFP

When looking to procure a third-party vendor to perform search engine optimization for your website, you need a specialized SEO RFP that includes these salient points:

  • Your company info and business forecast
  • Information about your market, vertical and competitors
  • Your website’s demographics
  • Whether your online business focuses on organic or paid search results
  • Current state of your online rankings and SEO
  • The budget for SEO
  • SEO project goals and specific KPIs
  • SEO project timeline and deadlines
  • Vendor questions
Looking for the best SEO agencies?
FIND THEM HERE

Branding RFP

When an organization is in need of a thorough rebranding – or a new company is looking to build their own brand image and identity – the decision-makers may want to procure a professional branding agency.

The most future-proof way to go about this is to draft your own RFP for branding agencies that will present your current branding strategy to your potential vendor, as well as outline specific deliverables, deadlines, expectations and budget.

The RFP for branding services should contain these bare essentials:

  • Company info
  • Company’s background, marketplace and competitors
  • Perceived company’s mission, vision and value proposition
  • Your current branding challenges and problems
  • Target audience
  • Scope and deliverables of the branding project
  • RFP process and timelines
  • Branding and rebranding budget
  • Vendor questions
Looking for the best branding agencies?
FIND THEM HERE

PPC RFP

For new, startup companies and businesses that don’t have first-hand experience in paid advertising, running the first PPC campaign by themselves can be challenging. Even businesses with extensive track records may often produce poor results with their own pay-per-click campaigns.

PPC advertising is best left to professional agencies that specialize in this. When looking to procure one, writing a paid media RFP is the number one step.

This particular document should entail:

  • An overview of your company
  • Digital marketing objectives
  • Your industry and target audience
  • Info about your website, social media channels and other digital assets
  • Current digital marketing and paid media strategy and results
  • PPC KPIs
  • Competitive analysis
  • Scope of the PPC project
  • Timeline and budget
  • RFP response requirements
  • Vendor questions
Looking for the best PPC advertising companies?
FIND THEM HERE

IT Services RFP

Finding a new IT services provider can be a difficult and intimidating process. Requests for proposals are a safe and streamlined way to help organizations procure the right third-party vendor that can deliver professional services and value in this field.

IT is, of course, a very broad industry so the strategic sourcing process relies on evaluating your exact requirements, IT solution’s useability, technical capabilities and customer resources.

With that said, a typical RFP for IT services consists of:

  • Your company information
  • Line of work and the industry you operate in
  • Specific IT services requirements
  • Previous and current IT capabilities
  • Your staff’s understanding of IT
  • IT Budget
  • Projected timeline
  • Proposal timeline
  • Vendor questions
Looking for the best IT services companies?
FIND THEM HERE

RFP for eCommerce

In case your business needs a solid eCommerce platform, as well as the auxiliary services that go with it (e.g. SEO for eCommerce), creating an RFP is the first step you should take.

Writing an RFP for eCommerce platform is a demanding process, but a well-structured request for proposal with questions tailored to your future project and desired objectives can help you find a partner capable of providing the fitting solution.

A good RFP for eCommerce must always contain:

  • Your company overview
  • eCommerce expectations and goals
  • Desired functionalities of an eCommerce platform
  • Scope of work
  • Number of products and/or services offered
  • Your budget
  • RFP timeline and review process
  • Requirements for proposals
  • Vendor questions

Best Agencies to Send an RFP to

Depending on your needs, you can send an RFP to the following top-notch agencies:  

1. Daniel James Consulting

  • Location: 2125 Albany Post Road, Montrose, New York 10548, United States
  • Average Hourly Rate: $125/hr
  • Expertise: Branding, Logo Design, SEO, PPC...

Daniel James Consulting provides extensive business consulting services and interconnected deliverables tailor-made to individual needs, goals, companies and industries, coupled with their extensive knowledge of digital technologies and successful implantation of brand development and marketing elements.

The award-winning agency with client retention of more than 7 years that has serviced over 200 companies, tailors services in customized packages for any business or presents an a la carte solutions menu developed to decrease turnaround time while increasing deliverables with measurable goals. 

2. Unit Space

  • Location: Freedom Square 7, Kharkiv, 61000, Ukraine
  • Average Hourly Rate: $30/hr
  • Expertise: Web Design, eCommerce Development, eCommerce Web Design, Mobile App Development...

Unit Space is an agency offering modern solutions for software design and development. They specialize in web & mobile apps development. Unit Space was founded in 2017 and in 5 years they've successfully completed 300+ projects. Today Unit Space is one of the top-10 Ukrainian software development companies.

Their team consists of highly qualified designers, software engineers, and QA engineers. All of them are ready to use their experience for your project and provide you with a flexible and qualitative solution for your business.

3. ZalaTech

  • Location: Tropical Mall, Airport Street, Addis Ababa, 2310, Ethiopia
  • Average Hourly Rate: Inquire
  • Expertise: Web Design, Software Development

ZalaTech has introduced all its Website, ERP and Software services on Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) to be in tune with the latest updates and development in the world of technology together with meeting the expectations of our prestigious Ethiopian and foreign customers.

They offer a wide range of IT Solutions like ERP, Software and website solutions that help organizations improve their operational efficiency while keeping their budget in place. Their products are tried and tested, now with budget-friendly ERP and software solutions. 

Clients include World Bank, Ethiojobs, Boortmalt, GIZ...

4. Nvent Marketing

  • Location: 21725 N 20th Ave, Ste 101-102, #1026, Phoenix, Arizona 85027-2640, United States
  • Average Hourly Rate: Inquire.
  • Expertise: Web Design, Website Development, Digital Marketing, SEO, PPC, Social Media Marketing.

Nvent Marketing is a full-service digital marketing agency with expertise in cutting-edge technology and an unmatched dedication to innovation.

Its team of professionals made it their mission to help you build your brand with website development, SEO and PPC services or create social media campaigns that will reach your consumers worldwide. Whether you’re looking to increase traction to your website or gain qualified leads for your sales team, Nvent Marketing helps your business invent, accelerate, and expand opportunities for growth in all areas.

Some of Nvent Marketing’s most notable clients include HP, Canon and ReachOut.

5. DDS Web Solutions

  • Location: Sierra College Blvd, Roseville, Sacramento, California 95661, United States
  • Average Hourly Rate: $50
  • Expertise: Branding, Reputation Management, Website Development, Digital Strategy...

DDS Web Solutions is a full-service marketing agency specializing in the dental industry. In addition to a website that converts more visitors into patients, they manage clients' social media, run targeted online advertisements, create beautiful print marketing pieces, and much more!

They tailor dental marketing services to each practice and evaluate performance based on patient experiences and marketing innovation!

6. Big Red Jelly

  • Location: 2545 N Canyon Rd Suite 210, Provo, Utah 84604, United States
  • Average Hourly Rate: $125
  • Expertise: Small Business Website Design, Responsive Website Design, Shopify, WordPress Website Design...

Big Red Jelly provides digital solutions for businesses looking to expand and upgrade their online image and presence. Digital is what Big Red Jelly does best. This agency is the most efficient option, saving you time and money.

Big Red Jelly creates digital foundations that are built on marketing fundamentals, not individual tactics. They work with you to understand your business and audience and then customize a solution that best fits your needs. The blend of creativity and measurable results differentiate Big Red Jelly from other agencies.

7. Startbit IT Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

  • Location: C-6/82, Sector 6, Chitrakoot, Vaishali Nagar, Jaipur, 302021, India
  • Average Hourly Rate: $25
  • Expertise: Node.js Development, Software Development, Mobile App Development, eCommerce Development...

Startbit IT Solutions is a Global IT Services provider company with expertise in outsourced product development and custom software development focusing on web app development, mobile app development, and tailor-made solutions. They consistently deliver offshore outsourcing solutions, quality software products, and solutions to start-ups, mid-size and large enterprises worldwide.

They have 1400+ satisfied clients worldwide and develop web, windows, and mobile applications using all the latest technologies i.e. Microsoft Technologies (ASP.Net, C#, VB.Net, Azure, Entity/MVC framework, SSRS, Crystal Reports, etc.), MEAN Stack, Front-end, PHP, Laravel, React, MERN, WordPress, CodeIgniter, Shopify, Ruby on Rails, Android Development, iPhone development, Hybrid mobile app, etc.

8. Lars Owens Design

  • Location: 5230 Betty Lou Blvd, Lincoln, Nebraska 68516, United States
  • Average Hourly Rate: $50
  • Expertise: Product Design, Print Design, Digital Marketing, SEO...

Multiple product development services including industrial design, CAD, packaging and graphic design under the same roof can save time and during development and when marketing products at scale. Lars Owens Design is here for their clients throughout the products' entire lifecycle.

RFP FAQs

What are RFP requirements? 

RFP requirements outline the needs and expectations of a company in terms of purchasing goods or services from a business consulting company or any other.  

The RFP specifies what the company is searching for, such as product specifications, timelines, and expected costs. It may also indicate qualifications an organization must meet to be considered eligible, along with any additional documents necessary to submit a proposal. All of these requirements help companies identify their best vendor options and select the one that meets their operational needs. 

When should you use an RFP? 

An RFP is typically used when comparing multiple vendors that offer similar solutions and requires complex decision-making to select the right partner for the job.

Looking for the best eCommerce development companies?
FIND THEM HERE

Request for Proposal Takeaways

RFP is the essential document for any procurement of third-party services, solutions or products.

Not using a request for proposal when looking for professional services can result in great financial losses. Poor time management and overall inefficiency due to the inferior choice of company can badly affect your business down the line.

Although every RFP is different and varies in length, requirements and submission details, each of them contains essential elements that are pertinent parts of the document.

It is critical to customize each RFP according to your company’s specific project requirements, the type of services you seek and the variety of potential vendors.

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