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How to Run a Successful RFP: Do’s and Don'ts for Brands and Partners

Marketing technology spending has been on the rise for years. The global pandemic has only accelerated that trend as brands race to deliver more sophisticated customer experiences fueled by digital transformation. With the stakes high and the landscape so complex, organizations must ensure they are making wise tech investments.

Whether you are talking about content (CMS, DAM), audience (CDP, Campaign), identity, or any other platform or service, the following questions are commonplace in virtual meeting rooms today. What are your key use cases? How do you ensure your investment will be able to deliver the desired functionality and integrate with the rest of your existing stack? Do you place your bet on a full stack provider, or should you plug in best-of-breed point solutions? These questions explain the surge in demand for consulting surrounding the vendor selection process, also known as a request for proposal (RFP). By leveraging successes and lessons learned from our many partner engagements, we have answers.

Here are some do’s and don’t’s for both brands and their prospective vendor partners.

Brands: Tips for selecting the right vendor.

1. Define the process.

It is critical that a process is defined up front. The process does not just refer to external interfacing with prospective partners, but internal identification of and alignment with the appropriate stakeholders as well. The process also entails understanding who has decision input versus who makes the final selection, and how to socialize change within the organization. Too often, brands underestimate their effort in making an informed decision and the impact of delays and added costs of misalignment across the organization.

2. Select use cases first.

When evaluating change, it is easy for requirements to snowball. In order to keep your path to value at the forefront, you must define, document, and gain alignment on a finite mix of problems and capabilities.

3. Craft the RFP.

Solicit questions from all departments and levels in your organization. A good RFP will have a mix of due diligence, vision, technical/integration, functional/user, and marketing/customer experience-driven representation. This mix should align with the process, address your key use cases, and provide stakeholders with the necessary foundational knowledge going into the demo phase.

4. Prepare for the vendor demo.

Preparation should be considered for prospective partners as well as internal communication. Be clear about what you would like to see in advance. This should include an overview of functionality, realization of key use cases, solutions to pain points, as well as addressing any gaps that may exist in the written response. Internally, include the right stakeholders and ensure they are prepared to engage and understand the format in which their opinions will be solicited (scoring, caucus, etc.).

Partners: Tips for putting your best foot forward.

1. Be easy to work with.

This seems so basic, and yet it is common to see one or more vendors not put their best foot forward in the partner selection process. Whether it be timely acknowledgement of emails, setting expectations, following instructions, or a friendly demeanor, the little things go a long way.

2. The right mix of possible and probable

Tell a real story. There will be bumps in the road, since not everything can be turnkey. Each situation is unique and carries its own challenges. Be honest about where you’ve seen pitfalls, how you will do your best to avoid them, and what the brand can do to help. This is the foundation of a good partnership.

3. Personalization isn’t just for marketers.

Speak to the brand. If the brand has run a good selection process, you should have the information you need to make your solution speak to them as an organization with unique challenges and aspirations, and even to unique stakeholder groups (think IT and business). Don’t show up with plug-and-play slides and an overview demo. Show that you are listening and showcase not only what you want to show, but how you can help activate their use cases to drive value.

Need assistance selecting a technology partner? Our team of marketing technology experts understands the complex vendor landscape and can help you navigate the RFP process efficiently. Contact us to learn how we can help.