Looking for an email supplier, but who writes the RFP?

Going out to do a Request For Proposal (RFP) to find the right email marketing software or service provider (ESP) is often a laborious process, with little chance that you will achieve the expected results.

In my previous post I discussed the correct motivations for sending out an RFP and how understanding the “why” will help focus the RFP. Now I take a look at the next common point of failure – who should be putting the RFP together.

Who should be involved in the RFP process?

When appointing an ESP the Request for Proposal process is all too often managed by people unaffected by the solution or not everyone affected is involved.

The wrong people compile the RFP
The biggest problem with most RFPs is that the questions are compiled by the wrong people or not enough of the right ones. Although procurement may have the right experience in compiling RFPs and know how to drive negotiations, they may not understand your specific solution requirements. By the same token, asking just the marketing department or just the IT department is also incorrect as so many business units are affected.

Who should be writing the RFP, ideally?
Business units makeing an rfpIdeally, the RFP should be developed by all business units who will ultimately be affected by the solution. So when putting together the RFP, think about the outcome. Email marketing affects all sides of the business and the compilation of the RFP should therefore be a meeting of minds. With marketing, IT, call centre, customer service & sales, as well as procurement involved.

This will make for the most well rounded responses. In my experience I have  found that the call centre and customer service areas are most often forgotten in this process.

Determining who should be involved in the ESP selection process should be based on who will own and who will be impacted going forward. Who is responsible for the success of this solution? Those are the people that need to have a stake in the RFP. They must understand the direction and solution required.

Who do you invite to participate?

meeting email accountmanagersTime and time again, RFPs are sent out to a list of ESPs but without that crucial first step – meeting them beforehand. Every good partnership is based on a relationship. Take the time to meet the Email suppliers you’d like to invite to gain a better understanding upfront of whether you would work well together – this means meeting the account management team, rather than just the sales team. This process allows the email supplier a chance to better understand your business and your unique requirements which results in far improved responses to your RFP.

Decide what you want in an ESP, meet those potential email suppliers and send the RFP out to them. You’ll find that you won’t send the RFP to all the email suppliers and some may decline to bid for the contract based on the culture and fit of the company, saving you time down the line.

Once you have the right team in place, you have a clear understanding of your goals and you have determined the right candidates you are ready to embark on your RFP journey.

10 Steps to finding the right Email Supplier with an RFP:

1. Have an email marketing strategy

2. Involve all affected business units

3. When putting questions together, include as much detail as possible (it’s difficult to provide pricing if the information provided is vague)

4. Decide on the key features you want in an ESP

5. Draw up a candidate list based on those features

6. Meet with your ESP candidates

7. Send out the RFP to those that fit the bill

8. Shortlist the vendors based on their ability to fulfil your specific requirements

9. Set up presentations by the shortlisted vendors with all the stakeholders that have been involved from the start

10. Find your perfect match (and hopefully after all the effort, the decision won’t be made purely on price)

A request for proposal is a time consuming process. But if you take the time to do it right from the start, you will find the perfect ESP for your needs.

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.

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