Request for Proposal: How to Make the Most of It

In the column, “What Marketing Automation Tool Is Right for You?” I outlined five key considerations when selecting a marketing automation provider. The second step is the ever-so-loved request for proposal (RFP). This step is critical in choosing a provider that is right for your team and company. It can be a great way to help you organize your process and communicate your evaluation and the ultimate decision. This month, I want to dig into the RFP process and suggest a few tips that can help you along the way and ultimately guide you to your final decision.

In the first step to the RFP process, build a list of questions around capabilities and functionality that are important to you and your organization. It also helps to categorize these questions into higher, more digestible buckets. Here are 10 areas that make sense for marketing automation RFPs:

  1. Email marketing
  2. Lead scoring
  3. Landing page and optimization
  4. Social media
  5. Data management
  6. Customer relation management (CRM) integration
  7. Sales functionality
  8. Reporting
  9. Other capabilities (webinar, survey, etc.)
  10. Customer support, etc.

Before finalizing the list of questions, capture input and feedback from key stakeholders, such as others from the marketing and sales departments. Otherwise, there’s not a specific number of questions about capabilities you should be striving to ask when looking for a partner; just a comprehensive list that makes sense for your business. In the end, it’s not uncommon to have over 100 questions.

Once the RFP responses come in, it’s important to take the time to thoroughly review them and compare them to your research, the discussions, and demos that you’ve had. This step of the process can take more time than you might originally think. Let’s do the math: 100 (questions asked) x 4 (marketing automation providers) = 400 responses! Coffee please! You will need to take time to just go through and understand the responses from each provider and conceptualize what it means for your business. In addition, there will most likely be a few discrepancies and confusing responses from each company and it will be important to set up calls to get your follow-up questions answered.

With all responses collected and understood, it’s now time to determine which company is able to meet most of the capabilities included in the RFP. However, it’s really not as easy as picking the one with the most “yeses” to your questions. Some capabilities can be more or less important to your business and some vendors may have an advanced or basic way to address a capability need. To address the varying degrees of importance and capabilities, I suggest using a weighting scheme.

Step one: Go through each capability or question and weight how important it is for your business. Here is an example scale: 1 = important; 3 = very important; and 5 = extremely important.


Step two: Grade each provider on its ability to address your needs. Here is an example scale: 0 = does not meet need; 0.5 = slightly meets need; 1 = meets need; 2 = exceeds need.

Step three: After steps one and two are done, multiply your weighted importance score and the marketing automation capability score to determine which provider is a best fit for you.


In the end, you can have an objective way to measure all the information you will receive in your audit process. Specifically the weighting of importance can help determine and justify the budget needed to cover the tool. At last (in honor of the late Etta James), the RFP process is complete and hopefully you are getting closer to signing for your new MA tool.

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