So you’re an accountant (or work for one) and need to issue an RFP (request for proposal), tasking a creative or digital agency with designing your new website or marketing campaign. What do you do?
It might be that you’ve not written one before. In all likelihood, you haven’t written one in a while (they aren’t exactly a core part of most people’s job description). So when it comes time to tender a brief to a financial marketing agency or creative agency, it helps to have some guidance.
Here, we’ve compiled a short guide to help you put your RFP together. If you have any questions or need further help, please feel free to reach out to our friendly team, who’d be happy to help:
What is an RFP?
A request for proposal is a document issued by a financial services company, normally to a set of marketing or creative agencies they are interested in working with for a project or campaign.
The RFP outlines specific aspects of the project – i.e. the brief -, such as core deliverables, timescales, desired agency traits, budget and company overview. Once this document is sent to the potential vendors, these are then expected to come back with a proposal/bid to do the work.
An RFP is therefore slightly different from a RFQ (request for quote). Whilst the former asks for a plan of action from the agency about how to approach their project/campaign, the latter simply asks for the agency’s costs so the company can compare vendors’ offers simply/mostly on price.
Of course, accountants looking for SEO, website design or branding should be aware that some agencies, in some cases, will not be able to respond automatically to an RFQ with their costs.
For instance, here at AcccountantLift we provide bespoke marketing and creative solutions for accounting firms, which requires us to fully understand our client, their project and/or campaign before we can accurately quote for the work. For agencies like ourselves, therefore, the RFP model works better.
The general rule is, if you are looking for a more straightforward piece of creative or digital work, then consider issuing an RFQ. Examples of this work might include a 12-page brochure design, or setting up your Google Ads account.
If your project involves multiple variables – such as a website design, or digital marketing campaign – which can affect the scale, nature and timescales of the work, then you’re better of with an RFP.
How the RFP Process Works
Naturally, before a creative agency for accountants can issue a proposal to you, they first must receive your RFP. (We’ll provide steps about how you can put this together a bit later).
Once you have written it and approved the document internally, you then need to send it out to a carefully-chosen list of accountant marketing firms, or creative agencies (depending on what you’re looking for).
They will then get back to you – usually within a week or two – with a proposal, which is a document or file typically including the following:
- A plan of action, about how they would approach your project / campaign to meet the project goals and objectives.
- A breakdown of how long the project – and each of its stages – will take.
- An outline of costs.
- Background information to the agency, case studies and credentials.
Sometimes, an accountant marketing agency or creative agency will come back to you, asking for specific parts of your RFP to be adjusted. If they do this, it’s not because they’re trying to be difficult!
They’re doing it because their process might be slightly different from others, or because they have a better grasp of what the RFP needs due to their years of experience in the industry. So it’s important to listen and to try and not be offended. Everyone wants the same thing – for your project to succeed.
Once you have all the proposals back, it’s time to narrow them down. You might have 10, for instance, which you should try and whittle down to 3 or 4. Consider the value, team, skills and experience each one offers to your project or campaign, and of course compare their costs.
Once you have your finalists, do some vetting. At the minimum, you should have further conversations with them over the phone, asking them questions and getting a feel for who they are, and how they work.
Sometimes, narrowing down from here comes down to a simple matter of chemistry and “fit”. Other times, it may be obvious through further discussion that one or some of the agencies do not quite have the capacity, or experience, to take on the work.
Once you are down to one, you have your choice in front of you. If you’re down to 2, then it might be time to make a difficult decision! Don’t worry about upsetting the agencies in question, though. They understand that you win some projects, and you lose some. It’s all part of the beast.
How to Write an RFP
Writing an RFP requires time and effort, but isn’t as complicated as it might look. Here is what it needs, at a bare minimum:
- Overview of the project
- Background to your company
- The goals and objectives for the project
- Project details and scope (i.e. What do you specifically want and not want, as part of the project?)
- Timeline, deadlines and schedule
- Anticipated challenges, obstacles and road blocks to overcome
- Your budget, or expected costs
- A description of your ideal agency traits, needed for the project
For some more tips about how to write an RFP, see this helpful article by Forbes. There are also some things you should definitely avoid doing with your RFP, as well:
- Avoid closed questions, where the vendor is forced to reply “Yes” or “No”.
- Making it waaaaaay to long. It shouldn’t be longer than 20 pages, at the most.
- Being too brief. Make sure each of the 8 points above has at least a decent paragraph devoted to it.
- Asking for the the same website, branding or design seen somewhere else (i.e. plagiarism).