So it’s finally time. You’ve decided your business needs a new website. There are probably a variety of reasons why (it’s outdated, it’s not mobile friendly, it doesn’t represent your brand, etc.)—but where to start? Well, many businesses will write a website RFP (request for proposal) and then send that RFP out to multiple agencies hoping they’ll respond.
But here’s the thing, some of the best agencies out there hate responding to RFPs because they’re time consuming and creatively constraining. That’s a problem because as a business, you want the best agencies to respond to your RFP so you can get the best website possible.
Here are five reasons why your website RFP is failing you:
1) You Don’t Establish Attainable, Measurable Goals
All projects should stem from goals and objectives. Your website is no different. You should have a clear set of goals—measurable goals.
Many website RFPs have goals around attaining new functionality (such as mobile friendly), however functionality is a means to an end, not a goal. Your goals should be around increasing leads from your website. Your website can increase leads in two ways: either by ranking higher in search engines or by improving your website’s conversion rate.
Pro Tip: Calculate your website’s conversion rate and then set a goal of improving that conversion rate. Your website’s conversion rate is basically the number of conversions (leads) you get over a set period of time divided by your website’s total traffic (sessions). Say you get 1,000 sessions per month in traffic and of those 1,000 you convert 20 into leads, your conversion rate would be 2%. In your RFP you should state “Our website currently converts leads at a 2%, our goal for the new website is to convert at 3%.”
When you set goals like this, you offer a challenge to agencies to come back to you with their ideas to not only give you a prettier website, but one that performs better for your bottom line.
2) You Don’t Share Your Budget
Listen, we’re all adults here. We’re professionals. And we’re busy. No one has time to play the “whoever says a budget number first loses” game.
Websites can cost as little as a couple thousand dollars to as much as hundreds of thousands dollars. If agencies know how much your budget is, they can submit a plan tailor-made for your budget (and your goals). If you keep it a secret, they might spec a website that is far too expensive, filled with bells and whistles you can’t afford (and might not even want or need).
Or they might spec something on the low end that comes under your budget but doesn’t include the strategic considerations you need to hit your goals. If you don’t share your budget, it’s a real guessing game that will cause problems when you try to move your selected agencies to the next round of consideration, only to find that agencies that submitted proposals that happened to meet your budget range don’t fit later on.
3) It’s a Turnoff
You’re probably thinking that hiring an agency is like hiring a new employee, so you write your RFP like it’s a job description, filled with requirements and reference requests. But you would be wrong to treat your agency search like an employee search.
Here’s the deal, you don’t want another employee; you don’t want someone you’re the boss of. What you want is a partner. A partner who will counsel you and guide you through this process because they are a seasoned professional in this field. So in essence, you should be hoping that your agency also wants to pick you back.
The courting goes both ways. So keep that in mind when you catch yourself writing lines like this:
“Agency Requirements — The hired agency must demonstrate a strong understanding of modern web technology and be skilled in seamless integration of web 2.0 best practices and social media platforms.”
Not only should that go without saying, but it’s a very dry way to present your company and your understanding of this project. Agencies get multiple RFPs per month, probably even per week. They are long, repetitive and often times extremely boring, chock full of so much fine print, that the most talented agencies (who don’t need to chase RFPs), drop the whole thing in the trash.
Your RFP should be an ad for what an exciting project this will be and what a great company you would be to work with. If you want to work with the best web design agencies out there, then they’re going to have to have to want to work with you too. If your RFP is a big bummer, the best and brightest agencies will opt out.
4) It Doesn’t Allow Agencies to Answer Creatively
Be careful with all your requirements. Remember you’re hiring an expert in website design because, well, you are not one. But just imagine you are a web design expert, and then you get an RFP from someone else (who is not an expert) filled with requirements telling you how to do your job. Not attractive right?
You need to leave room for agencies to solve your problems. If you spec everything from the content management system (CMS) down to the server requirements, your agency may not have any room to offer other recommendations, so they might not even bother.
Instead, write your RFP in a way that lets agencies suggest what they feel is the best solution for your company and your goals. Your RFP should ask for advice. Go ahead an include lines like “We would like to build the new website on the HubSpot COS or WordPress, however, are there any other options we should be considering?”
5) It Doesn’t Require Inbound Assets to be Created
Once your new website is launched and live and your champagne-fueled launch party is over, then what’s your plan? If you invested all this money in building a website, one would hope there would be a plan to drive traffic to it after it’s live.
Not only should there be a plan for traffic driving post launch, the website should have been built with this plan in mind. These days all websites should be built to support an inbound marketing strategy.
This means the site should have a blog (that is easy for you to update), a landing page template to follow, a call-to-action (CTA) strategy and even a resource center. Your new website should position you for an inbound content marketing strategy from day one.
Now that you know the reasons your website RFP might be hurting your business, hopefully you’re ready to rewrite it better. Be clear on your goals and transparent with your budget. Show enthusiasm for your project and allow for creative responses.
And finally, think about your post-launch traffic and lead goals. With that approach, you’ll be well on your way to a website RFP that will attract a true marketing partner to help grow your business online.
Originally published Apr 7, 2015 11:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017