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Understanding the why, will help focus the RFP

Why send out an RFP

What is your motivation for an RFP?

To get better pricing – if you’d like better pricing from your current ESP, rather go back and negotiate. Sending out an RFP to get better pricing can damage the relationship with your ESP, and 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, then ask for quotes.

To use it as an ‘idea 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 strategize with you. Keep in mind that an RFP won’t necessarily highlight the best strategists.

To compare apples with apples – no two ESPs are the same. Email marketing includes a lot more than just features.
What is the team structure in the company? Do they have a high staff churn rate? What do other vendors have to say about them? These answers won’t necessarily be answered in an RFP process. Do research outside of this 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 those found 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,  consider the following points:

  1. Look for an ESP that is ideally positioned to help you to fulfil your specific requirements, based on your email marketing strategy.
  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 RFP.
  3. If you’re serious about changing your current ESP, make sure to document the reasons for the change (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 on the RFP. 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 these ESPs.

Meeting up with ESPs will determine whether they will suit your company culture and if they have the staff required to meet your specific requirements.

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