About a year ago, I wrote an article with guidelines on writing a website design and development Request for Proposal (RFP), which received a great response. Now I think it’s high time to do the same thing for those wishing to engage an agency for Social Media Marketing and other Online Marketing and Advertising consultation and implementation.
Below are my suggestions of how to prepare an RFP for social media projects, retainers and campaigns. I also suggest doing research online and viewing other Request for Proposals to see what works best for your organization. Keep in mind that whatever format you choose will determine not only how long the responses are, but also what type of focus you are looking for from the respondents. Each section of the RFP is outlined below, along with some explanation and suggested questions. Have fun!
Information about your organization and project
The purpose of this section is to give a brief overview of the company issuing the RFP and the social media project or desired work relationship between the company and the vendor. Provide as much information as you feel is necessary to allow vendors to prepare an accurate proposal. If you feel that there is certain proprietary or other information that you do not wish to make public, require a Non Disclosure Agreement be signed before receiving that information. This may limit the participation of vendors, but it is oftentimes necessary to protect private information.
1. Company Overview
- Organizational history
- Your business objectives
- Your company’s history using social media or reasons why your organization intends to begin to participate in social media
- State the project objectives and how they relate to the business objectives stated above. Explain the type of vendor relationship desired i.e. Project-based, Agency of Record, etc. Explain the current involvement your organization has with social media channels and how they relate to both your organization’s primary presence and any related campaigns
- Explain the social media channels you wish the campaign to involve, unless you are looking for suggestions of which to use, then please specify that to the vendors
- Explain how the project fits into your overall marketing strategy (online and offline) and if there is another vendor involved in other aspects of your Advertising and Marketing initiatives
- Explain the measurable outcomes you would like to see
- Explain the duration of the work – is it a temporary campaign, or an ongoing organizational marketing platform?
3. Overview of Audiences and Stakeholders
- List primary audiences for the company, i.e. demographics, psychographics, etc
- List primary information needs of each audience group
- Identify if any market or audience research will be necessary in the execution of the campaign
4. Overview of Response
- Make it clear the type of response you are looking for:
- Are you looking for a hypothetical approach, or an explanation of the vendor’s process of how they will come to create your campaign. Many times a hypothetical approach is not the best way to approach an RFP process simply because a vendor will be missing several key pieces of information that might negatively affect their ability to propose a specific solution. We suggest looking for more general responses and weighing the effectiveness of past client work heavily
Guidelines for Proposal Preparation
- In order to give all qualified vendors a level playing field, it’s important to set up an easy to follow schedule for both when your RFP is issued, when and to whom questions are allowed, and when and in what format responses are required
- Specify the date the RFP was issued (Month, Day, Year). If your RFP is publicly listed, it will help those searching for RFPs on Google or by other methods to find relevant Request for Proposals
- An optional requirement is to specify that all interested vendors register their intent to submit a proposal by a certain date – usually within 1-2 weeks of the RFP issue. This is a good way to limit the potential number of vendors who respond if you anticipate a large volume of proposals and would rather receive a smaller amount
- We recommend allowing a question and answer period that ends at least 1 week before the proposal is due. It is up to you whether to allow questions by email, conference call or individual phone calls. We do recommend that you share all the questions (and answers) with all interested vendors in order to keep things as equal as possible. Always specify which format -phone call, email, and to whom these questions should be addressed. We recommend identifying a single person in your organization to be the point of contact. Just make sure vacation schedules, etc don’t interfere with this process, and if there is any other reason why the primary point of contact might need to be out of town during the process, specify a secondary point of contact
- Responses from issuer to be sent by 20XX in the following formats (specify whether electronic submissions, hard copies or both must be either emailed, mailed or hand-delivered)
- On the basis of the replies to the RFP document, a short list of potential vendors will be selected and this group will be asked to present demonstrations of their capabilities and vision for the project. These meetings will be completed by XXth, 20XX
- Awarding of the contract to selected Vendor by XXth, 20XX
- Work to commence by 20XX and to last until (if applicable)
Vendor Questions and Qualifications
The following is a series of questions that, if applicable, we suggest you ask the vendors submitting proposals. Some may not apply, but it is a great idea to get as much of an idea of the vendor’s approach and philosophy on social media as possible. Compare the responses both among each other, and to the research and reading that you have done to make sure that the vendor is up to date with the latest thinking and best practices.
- Company name and parent company name
- Ownership structure
- Years in operation
- Mailing address (headquarters)
- Other office location(s)
- Primary phone
- Fax number
- Website and blog URL
- Primary point of contact (name, title, phone and email address)
- Total number of employees
- Number of vendor employees whose primary function is social media
- Current client list with those engaged in social media work identified
- Percentage of total revenue that is social-media related
- Three references for social media work including; company name, primary client name, contact details and brief explanation of services provided
- Any potential conflicts with existing vendor client base and this RFP
- Senior social media staff bios and links to social media profiles where applicable
- Please provide a complete list of relevant social media platform and technology partners
- References from clients currently engaged in social media work with the vendor
CAPABILITIES & EXPERIENCE
- List all social media and online marketing capabilities
- Do you have any proprietary tools or products related to social media?
- Please list any experience you have with integrating social, paid and/or earned media
- Is there a specific industry or type of work your firm specializes in?
- Please list and provide links to primary social media communication channels for your company (i.e.company blog,Twitter account, Facebook group, blogs authored by principals, etc.)
SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING STRATEGY
- Please outline your social media strategy process
- Which stakeholder groups do you typically include in a strategy engagement?
- Describe the final deliverable of a strategy engagement
- What is your approach to risk management in social media?
- How do you incorporate existing applications, websites, microsites and newsletter programs into your overall social media strategy?
- How do you ensure compliance with client legal requirements?
- Please describe your approach to integrating across client marketing, customer service and corporate communications departments. Please provide an example of your work in this area
- How do you approach adapting a traditional brand into a two-way dialogue?
- Please provide a case study of your strategy work that resulted in a social media initiative and the business results achieved
REPUTATION MANAGEMENT & SOCIAL MEDIA MONITORING
- What is your brand/reputation monitoring process (i.e. proprietary tools used, methodology, etc)?
- What is your opinion on automated sentiment analysis?
- What technology do you use to assist in online monitoring?
- How long (on average) between a potential issue being posted online and being flagged to the client?
- What volume of mentions has your organization handled in the past (e.g. 2,500 mentions per week)?
- What is your quality assurance process to ensure that the large volumes of data gathered in the monitoring process are handled efficiently and representative of the overall online conversation?
- Please detail your methodology for handling online crises
- What services do you provide in support of online crisis management?
- Please describe the structure of your crisis management team, including bios and relevant experience
- How do you assess which mentions require immediate responses and which do not?
- Please outline your general approach to sourcing and responding to comments
- Please provide a case study detailing your work for the purposes of managing reputation or online crisis management, including outcomes and lessons learned
- Please include a sample of your monitoring report format and/or a link to appropriate dashboards (specifics should be removed)
METRICS, MEASUREMENT & REPORTING
- What methodology do you use for measuring the success of your social media programs for clients?
- Please provide specific examples based on past work
- Have you developed any proprietary metrics? How have you applied these for clients?
- How have you defined Return on Investment (ROI) from a social media perspective in the past?
- How do you take data points generated from various social media channels and measurement tools and combine to give an objective/comprehensive view?
- What is your approach to server analytics and community analytics for program measurement?
- Do you have the capability to measure cost per lead or cost per acquisition? Please provide an example of a project on which you have done so
- What platforms are you unable to measure accurately, or able to provide only limited measurements from?
- Please provide a sample of a measurement document or final report (specifics should be removed)
- What percentage of the budget do you recommend be dedicated to metrics and measurement?
CLIENT EDUCATION & TRAINING
- Do you offer social media training services for clients? If yes, what formats are they available in?
- What internal processes do you have in place to ensure that your staff is kept current on social media innovations and best practices?
- How do you measure progress and evaluate training effectiveness?
- How do you recommend that clients keep up to date on the latest social media innovations and best practices?
SOCIAL MEDIA AND OTHER DIGITAL CHANNELS
- What are your design, creative and community management capabilities?
- What percentage of your staff is dedicated to building and deploying social media solutions versus management and consulting?
- Please describe your experience with the following platforms and tactics:
– YouTube or similar video sharing sites
– Blogs, Podcasts, Vodcasts, Forums
– Content Management System (CMS)
– Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
– E-mail Marketing
– Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing(SEM)
– Facebook Pages, Apps, API integration
– Mobile application development
– News sharing sites (i.e. Digg, Reddit, etc.)
– Virtual Worlds and Augmented reality
– Photo sharing (i.e. Flickr) and other content sharing sites (i.e. Scribd, Slideshare, Delicious, etc.)
– Social Media press releases(SMPRs)
– Crowdsourcing or Wikis
– Real world events organized via social media (e.g. Tweetups)
– Ratings/Customer service sites (i.e. Yelp, ePinions, etc.)
Please provide examples of social media channel development work completed within the last two years
COMMUNITY AND INFLUENCER OUTREACH (SOCIAL PR)
- What is your process for identifying influencers within various social media channels?
- How do you determine and define “influence?”
- What is your outreach process for communicating with identified online influencers?
- What tools and approaches do you use for Influencer Relationship Management? (Third-party, proprietary,etc.)
- How have you integrated Influencer Outreach with traditional communications and/or marketing campaigns?
- How do you approach seeding conversations within stakeholder groups?
- What is your exit strategy with influencers once the initiative is completed?
- How do you ensure authenticity and transparency when conducting outreach on behalf of a client?
- Please provide a case study of an online community outreach project
CLIENT SERVICES & PROJECT MANAGEMENT
- How is a typical client engagement with your firm structured?
- How do you structure your account teams?
- Please outline your internal communication structure. If your account staff is separate from your project management staff, please detail how these teams work together
- If you are selected to provide social media services, who will be assigned to our business (please provide names, titles and short biographical notes)
- What percentage of senior staff involvement is structured in to your projects? What role do they play?
- How are your projects priced? Using an hourly rate? Blended agency rate? If the former, please provide a rate card
- What change management practices does your agency employ?
- What reports will be provided to the client in order to communicate project milestones and overall project health?
- What is the frequency of these reports?
- What is your process for gathering business requirements?
Writing a Request for Proposal (RFP) is a good first step when considering Online Marketing and Social Media work as it takes thoughtful planning to specify and construct an effective, integrated campaign. A well thought-out, quality RFP is essential to a successful endeavor because it helps you to focus on your goals and exactly how to achieve them.
Greg Kihlstrom is the Chief Creative Officer at Carousel30 Interactive in Washington DC, an award-winning digital agency offering online advertising and marketing services as well as interactive design and development for social media, websites and mobile applications.
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