How to Write a Request For Proposal (RFP) that Drives Responses

As a marketer, you have a lot of things on your plate and can’t manage everything on your own. Moreover, some tasks are just not possible or practical to manage manually. At some point, you’re going to need to work with other businesses that offer tools or services to help you do your job more efficiently. That’s where a request for proposal comes in, enabling you to attract prospective vendors who can help you achieve your business goals.

If you’ve never written a request for proposal (RFP) before, you may not know how to get started or what you need to include. The good news is, we’re here to help. This guide walks you through the process of writing a successful request for proposal that drives responses from the most viable vendors. Let’s dive right in.


How to Create a Request for Proposal that Drives Responses:


What is a Request for Proposal (RFP)?

A request for proposal or RFP is a document that provides a list of requirements that vendors need to meet to complete a project. Typically sent out by businesses that need to find the right technology solution or professional service, it serves as an open invitation for vendors to submit their proposals. This enables them to attract potential vendors who can provide them with the tools they need or to whom they can outsource some of their work.

It's crucial to get your request for proposal right because it details all the criteria that vendors must meet in order to win the bid. As such, it enables you to collect proposals from the most relevant vendors, making it easier to decide on the right one for your business. 


8 Steps to Writing a Request for Proposal

So, if a request for proposal is so important, how do you write one? Check out the steps below to start writing your very own request for proposal.

steps to writing a request for proposal

1: Define the project, scope, and budget

Start with a clear definition of what the project is and understand the role that the vendor will play in it. In other words, have a proper idea of what you need from the vendor before you can write your request for proposal. Discuss what you need the vendor to do, how it should be done, and how long it should ideally take to be completed. 

Additionally, you’d also need to talk about how much you’re willing to spend for the service or platform. This provides you with a solid foundation for your RFP as you clearly know what you’re looking for.  


2: Provide an introduction

Now that you have a clear idea of what you’re looking for, it’s time to write an introduction explaining your project and expectations. The introduction should be able to help potential vendors understand the purpose of your RFP and what they need to help you achieve. This would also be a good opportunity to explain if you’re facing any challenges and how the vendor can help you overcome them.

Besides these basics, you may also want to include additional information about your project. This may be details such as when you intend to start the project and how long it will run. The introduction should help potential vendors get a better idea of your needs so they can assess their ability to meet them.


3: Explain the history of your company and project

Next, it’s time to introduce your company to the vendors. Give them a brief history of your company and what you do as well as the project you’re undertaking. Talk about your brand values, history, and other important background information. This information should be able to help vendors understand your market and where your business currently stands. 

Keep in mind that many of the potential vendors may have never heard of your company before. Make it easy for them to make an informed decision by giving them a sense of who you are as a brand. They can then use this information to assess whether they’re the right fit for your needs and whether they’d want to work with you.


4: Describe your requirements

Now comes the most important part where you describe exactly what you need in a vendor. Provide specific details about the services or solutions that you’re looking for to help you achieve your goal. Be sure to include details such as the level of experience you’re looking for (in the case of service solutions). For software solutions, you may also want to include details such as the level of access you need based on your team size.

It’s important to get as specific as possible in this section so potential vendors can know if they’re offering the solution you need. This will help them decide if they should send in a proposal or not, allowing you to instantly filter your options to get proposals from the most suitable prospects.

For example, if you’re looking for a social media marketing agency, you may be in need of an agency that can take care of content planning, production, and scheduling. Additionally, you may even need them to manage your community on your behalf. In this case, an agency that doesn’t offer community management may opt to avoid sending in a bid, so you don’t need to waste your time reviewing their proposal.

Alternatively, let’s say you’re looking for a social media management tool for a team of three. And you want to be able to plan your content, schedule your posts, monitor your comments, and analyze results all in one place. That way, only those vendors who can meet the above requirements will send in a proposal for you to review so you’re instantly filtering your options.


5: Give submission instructions

Vendors who plan on sending in a proposal should know how to respond to your request for proposal. Make sure you’re providing clear instructions on the structure they should follow in their proposal as well as what they need to include. When all the proposals are formatted in a similar way, it becomes easier for you to process the information and evaluate them.

For example, you may require them to include a certain number of headings. Or you may even request them to provide a list of points under each heading. Additionally, you may also ask them to send in samples of their previous work, case studies, and demos to better evaluate their quality of work or platform capabilities. 


6: Include your selection criteria

It’s also important that you include a detailed list of the criteria using which you’ll be evaluating the proposals. This gives vendors an idea of how they’ll be evaluated so they can understand their chances of winning the bid. As such, only the most qualified vendors will respond to your request for proposal, making it easier for you to sort through your options.

Provide details about your priorities, basic requirements, and preferences so vendors know exactly what you’re looking for and how to position their offerings. For example, you may prioritize agencies that specialize in content production beyond their marketing services. The basic requirements could be the ability to plan and execute social media marketing campaigns, while you may prefer agencies that have experience working with companies in a certain industry.


7: Specify the RFP timeline

Additionally, it’s crucial for everyone involved to know your target timeline. When do you expect to receive the responses? When will the selected vendor be announced? Make sure to include these key deadlines so vendors don’t have to keep reaching out to you for updates when you haven’t made your selection.

Besides these, you’d also want to include your project start time and end time. Knowing these timelines will allow vendors to plan their schedules and assess their availability before they choose to respond. This benefits both parties because you don’t want to end up working with a vendor who’d eventually not be able to help you meet the deadline. Also, vendors will be able to understand whether they can fit your project in considering their current workload.

This is particularly important for RFPs that are seeking service solutions. Keep in mind that depending on how detailed your requirements are, you’ll need to adjust your timeline accordingly. If vendors have to provide a highly detailed proposal, they may require more time to plan their response. 


8: Proofread, revise, and go live

Now that you’ve written down all the crucial information, it’s time to proofread your request for proposal. Look for spelling mistakes and grammatical errors as well as complicated sentences that may be difficult to understand. You want to come across as professional and trustworthy while avoiding any chances of miscommunication.

Besides the basics, make sure you’re on the lookout for mistakes that could be detrimental to your project’s timeline. For instance, a typo in your deadline could result in you losing out on potential vendors because they couldn’t meet it or a huge delay in receiving your proposals. Alternatively, a missing 0 in your project budget could mean losing out on potential vendors who declined to bid because the pay was too low.

Make any necessary revisions and give the RFP a once-over to ensure that it’s professional and clear. You’ll then be able to finally go live with your request for proposal.


Best Practices to Write an Effective RFP

In addition to simply following the steps above, there’s a certain way to make sure that your RFP gets the responses it deserves. Follow these best practices to write an effective request for proposal.

best practices to write RFP

  • Keep It Simple and Easy to Understand

To avoid the chances of miscommunication, make sure you use language that’s understandable to your potential vendors. You may want to cut back on the industry jargon and resort to simple English while still keeping it professional. Try to avoid long run-on sentences and instead cut them to shorter, more bite-sized sentences that are easier to process.

  • Make the Most of Headings and Bullet Points

Headings and bullet points make your RFP easier to digest compared to large blocks of text. Make the most of them to break up your request for proposal and make it more scannable.

  • Be as Detailed as Possible

Don’t miss important details that could help potential vendors understand your project and requirements better. Vendors are more likely to respond with the right proposal when they have a clear idea of what you’re looking for and what kind of role they’ll play.


Example of a Request for Proposal

Still not sure what your request for proposal should look like? Let’s take a look at an example of how a typical RFP looks so you can get a better idea.

Request for Proposal: Social Media Services for June’s Vintage
16 December 2022
Issued by: June’s Vintage
Contact Person: June Phillips
[email protected]
(445)917-3069

Introduction

June’s Vintage, a retail store that deals in vintage clothing, is accepting proposals to find a reliable agency to manage our social media on our behalf. The purpose is to:

  • Grow our social media community.
  • Engage our audience on an ongoing basis.
  • Maintain a strong brand presence across leading social networks (Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok).

The objective of this request for proposal is to find a social media agency that will provide the best overall value and deliver impressive results. We’re hoping to run a test project for three months after which we may decide on a long-term partnership.

Background

Our vintage business was established in 2007 and has since established a strong customer base throughout Philadelphia. Most of our customers are local fashion enthusiasts roughly between the ages of 25 and 50 and shop in-store. However, as we expand to online shopping channels, there’s an opportunity to extend this reach beyond the local area. This has proved to be challenging as our social media presence is fairly limited and we lack the time and know-how to actively engage our audience on social media. 

Project Overview

We would like to be able to consistently post and engage with audiences across three key social media platforms–Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. As such, we’re looking for an agency that can help us with the following:

  • Create a solid social media strategy complete with a publishing calendar.
  • Develop fresh content ideas and take care of content creation in accordance with the publishing calendar.
  • Schedule and publish posts on our behalf.
  • Monitor and respond to customer comments.
  • Run a week-long advertising campaign to attract new followers/customers.

Our budget is $2,500 per month with some room for flexibility depending on the level of service that can be provided. Ideally, we would like to employ an agency that has experience working with small retail stores and local businesses.

Submission Guidelines

All proposals must be created using the format below (bulleted lists will be highly appreciated):

  • Executive summary
  • Business background 
  • Highlight your unique selling point
  • Provide relevant experience that makes you qualified for the project
  • Details of proposed deliverables and services
  • Note the social media management tools you will use to complete the necessary tasks
  • Not how content will be shared with us for approval
  • Include your rates
  • References and/or case studies
  • Provide samples of social media content created for previous clients
  • Additional terms and conditions to work with your agency 

Please submit your proposal in .pdf format to [email protected] by January 30, 2024.

Evaluation Criteria

June’s Vintage will use the following criteria to evaluate proposals and select the right vendor:

  • Experience providing full-service social media solutions for a minimum of 24 months
  • Responsiveness to the requirements highlighted above
  • Competitiveness of service rates
  • Testimonials from past/current clients
  • Tools and technology used to carry out necessary tasks

Timeline

June’s Vintage expects to complete the RFP and project according to the following timeline:

  • Issuance of request for proposal – December 16, 2022
  • Deadline to submit proposals – January 30, 2024
  • Vendor selection date – February 15, 2024
  • Finalization of contract and other project discussions – February 20, 2024
  • Project start date – March 1, 2024
  • Initial project completion – May 31, 2024

Getting Started with Your First Request for Proposal

Now that you know exactly what a request for proposal looks like and what to include in it, it’s time to write your very own. There are plenty of free templates available online that can help you draft the perfect request for proposal. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is meant by request for proposal?

A request for proposal or RFP is a document that a company sends out listing all requirements that vendors need to meet to complete a project.

What is the difference between RFP and RFQ?

A request for proposal or RFP helps the business know more about a product or service. Meanwhile, a request for quote or RFQ helps the business learn about the rate of the product or service they want to buy.

What is an RFP vs. RFI?

A request for proposal or RFP helps the business know more about a product or service to finalize a vendor. Meanwhile, a request for information or RFI is sent out to collect information about the options available in the market.

Who creates RFP?

An RFP is created by a business that’s in search of a suitable vendor to provide them with technology or service solutions.

What is the difference between an RFP and a proposal?

An RFP is an invitation sent out by a business to get proposals from potential vendors. Meanwhile, a proposal is sent by vendors in response to the RFP.

About the Author
With over 15 years in content marketing, Werner founded Influencer Marketing Hub in 2016. He successfully grew the platform to attract 5 million monthly visitors, making it a key site for brand marketers globally. His efforts led to the company's acquisition in 2020. Additionally, Werner's expertise has been recognized by major marketing and tech publications, including Forbes, TechCrunch, BBC and Wired.