Why send out an RFP?

In a world full of choice, a Request for Proposal (RFP) seems like the perfect process to find that Email Service Provider to meet all your goals. Or is it? Time and time again, the RFP process fails, not in terms of appointing a vendor, but in terms of finding the right partner to implement the required solution. So where does it all go wrong?

Before embarking on the RFP process, ask yourself whether the reasoning for going through this process is sound. Here are a few points to take into consideration when thinking about an RFP.

What is your motivation for an RFP?

To get better pricing – if you’d like better pricing from your current email Service Provider (ESP), rather go back and negotiate. Sending out an RFP to get better pricing can damage the relationship with your ESP. Remember it’s a hugely time-consuming process – not only for you but for all the vendors involved. If corporate governance requires you to get pricing from a number of vendors, rather prepare a one-pager with your current requirements and sending volumes and only ask for quotes.

To use it as an ideas and strategy exercise – you need to be 90-100% sure of the strategy before you invite vendors in. Don’t use the exercise to get a strategy. If you are unsure of the direction you want to take, rather find an ESP that can strategise with you. Keep in mind that an RFP won’t necessarily highlight the best strategists.

Compare email marketing vendorsTo compare apples with apples – no two ESPs are the same. Email marketing is a lot more than features. What is the team structure of the email vendor? Do they have a high staff churn rate? Do they offer the same quality of services? And what do other vendors have to say about them?
These answers won’t necessarily be answered in an RFP process. Do research outside of the proposal process to understand whether the ESP is the right fit

To tick the technology box – most ESPs provide the same technical service and can give you a list of features that sound great on paper. Again, an RFP is unnecessary here as there are reputable established tools such as on the Email Vendor Selection site where you can compare functionality.

The right approach to an RFP:

If a simple feature check is not what you’re after, then an RFP may be the right choice for you. To get the most out of this exercise here are some points to consider:

  1. If you have your email marketing strategy in hand, you can look for an Email Service Provider that is ideally positioned to help you to fulfil your specific requirements.
  2. If this is a new company strategy and the process is required from a corporate governance perspective, do your research before going out to Request Proposals.
  3. If you’re serious about changing partners, make sure to document the reasons for changing your current ESP (e.g. account management, deliverability, cannot fulfil the entire scope of requirements) and structure the RFP accordingly.
  4. Scope out the specific goals that need to be met. Knowing what you want means getting the right questions in the RFP and the feedback from the participating ESPs will be so much more valuable.
  5. Meet the potential ESPs before-hand and then use the RFP process to map out the functionality, structure and pricing across them. Meeting up goes a long way in evaluating the ESPs and determining if they will fit in with your company culture and have the staff to meet the requirements.
Mia Papanicolaou

About Mia Papanicolaou


I work in and with email and I love what I do. I am constantly inspired by cool new ideas and new thinking, as well as new ways in which we can adapt to help our clients wow their customers. I am passionate about ensuring that my customers get great strategy advice and consultation. As the COO for Striata in the US, I get to steer the team to do just that! Among the customers Striata serves are the biggest and most innovative across a wide range of vertical sectors. If you're looking for more innovative and efficient ways to reach your customers, contact me.