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Are you looking for a company that will carry out branding and marketing activities for you, but you have no idea where to start the recruitment process for this project? Above all, you need a branding RFP document, which will define all the most important elements of cooperation. How to create it? Here are our proven tips!
What is branding RFP?
We define branding RFP (Request For Proposal) as a formal invitation to present offers, containing a description of the branding project and requirements for its implementation. Usually, it is made public or sent to many entities. Companies that can help in a given aspect – in this case branding – send back their proposal for implementation and a quote of the whole process.
An RFP document – where is it most often used?
Branding RFP documents are actually found in most industries, including IT, marketing, trade, education, or companies offering traditional and digital services. Sometimes, these types of requests for proposals are concerned with creating a new brand, or rebranding businesses that have been around for years.
Of course, it is not necessary to have such a document. You can simply contact the branding agency of your choice by email or phone to get the information on the project deliverables and a quote. However, you must know that such a proposal will never be as precise as the one you will receive after sending a professional request for a quote.
What is the difference between RFP, RFI and RFQ?
If you want to define the RFP process properly, you also need to understand what RFI and RFQ are. These two terms are often confused and in practice, they actually mean something completely different. RFI, i.e., a Request For Information, is just an exploratory document that allows you to check whether there are service providers on the market who can offer the services needed for your company. So, it should be used as a pre research tool for projects.
On the other hand, RFQ, Request For a Quote, is connected to financial matters. For example, you can ask a marketing agency to write down the costs of rebranding several businesses, running social media accounts, or creating a brand identity. As you can see, it is an essential tool for planning the marketing budget in the company.
A request for proposal for branding services – what do you need to create it?
Preparing a branding RFP is thought to be a very difficult and time consuming task which can be handled only by a person that is well-versed in the subject. As a result, many people are misled and decide not to do it. However, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Indeed, it takes a lot of time and commitment to create a credible document that will help you select branding agencies to collaborate with, but it does not require any marketing expertise – rather a thorough knowledge of the needs of your business. With a bit of self-discipline and the help of the team you work with, you can easily prepare a branding request like yourself.
Is it worth creating an RFP document?
Remember that the branding RFP should contain not only general information about the project, but also specific questions about, among others, infrastructure, data security, or the cost that will have to be paid for individual stages of work.
Only such a thorough RFP process will bring the results you expect, i.e., you will receive specific proposals for marketing cooperation from many entities. So is it worth it? The RFP opportunities are really great, but it is up to you to decide if it is an option for you.
A branding RFP process – how to start?
Let’s discuss what a well-constructed branding RFP should look like. First, prepare a framework plan for such a document. It is extremely important to divide it into specific sections, for example brand information, scope of work, form of cooperation, etc. Then, consider who will prepare the content for each part of the RFP. If possible, you should involve employees or co-investors in the process, because the more views you have on the project, the more accurate questions you can ask about marketing.
What is more, you need to choose a minimalist presentation template, as the main focus should be put on the content itself. Finally, you should remember that the branding RFP structure must contain several important elements. Here are the basic components you should include.
A project description
At the beginning of the branding request for proposal, you need to include key things about the project, such as a list of its general objectives, system requirements, constraints, and the deliverables you expect. It is also worth mentioning necessary members in the team, e.g., graphic designers, website developers, public relations specialists or people responsible for writing sales content. Such a short introduction will allow the potential service providers to determine whether they are able to help you or should resign from sending the offer.
The company overview should not be too long, as it is supposed to be only a handful of the most important information that will help people applying for cooperation understand what the mission of a given brand is. You need to include e.g. business goals, target audience, competitor analysis, and guiding values.
Remember to always add such a description, regardless of whether you run a large, well-known international corporation or a small start up. Even if you think that people know you, in this situation it is important to highlight how you, not a bystander, see your company.
A project scope
Assigning tasks in the project appropriately is the key to finding a company that provides the branding services of highest quality. Of course, the process of creating a brand strategy should be led by branding agencies, as they employ professional marketing consultants. However, it is you, as the commissioner, who must define your needs and project scope. It is therefore essential that the branding RFP includes elements such as:
- deliverables that you want your business to achieve,
- the scope of branding methods that you would like the agency to use,
- inspiration resources,
- information on preferred marketing efforts (e.g. the number and experience of people you need in your team),
- the method of the quality control in regard to activities performed for your business by the agency (i.e. how the next steps will be reported to you and which person from the team will be responsible for preparing such feedback).
A method to collect proposals
This section of the RFP must contain information on all technical aspects of the proposal process. Many people think that it is enough to include here only the format in which the proposals should be submitted, for example PDF. Of course, this is an important point, but that is not all. You need to mention other elements that service providers willing to cooperate with your business should include in the application, such as:
- agency details,
- at least a few projects from the portfolio, related to branding in your industry,
- referrals from previous clients,
- the estimation of activities,
- their distinguishing feature, i.e., something that can convince you to choose the particular agency,
- description of the team that will work on the project,
- contact info.
It is up to you how you accept proposals. You can create a website with a form where the potential service providers can submit their application, or simply ask them to send their documents to an email address of consultants responsible for recruitment.
A schedule of activities
In the branding RFP, it is also worth planning the entire project timeline. Write down each due date for:
- an inquiry request,
- submission of proposals,
- selection period,
- preliminary talks,
- final talks,
- final choice.
This will motivate you to close the process quickly, and will also inform applicants when they can expect a response. It also allows you to save time because you do not have to answer all the emails or phone calls with questions about the recruitment results.
The next important point is the selection criteria that you will follow when choosing an agency to cooperate with. There is no single set of features that will work for marketing every business. Some brands will care most about quick availability, others about a rich portfolio or a fresh, creative team perspective on problems. Therefore, when creating a document, think which project requirements are a priority for you and what you can accept even if it does not necessarily match your expectations.
Of course, the things we have listed above are just the minimum requirements when it comes to writing an RFP. You can add additional aspects, but what you include specifically depends on the individual needs of your company. For example, if you have a limited budget, you want a person with specific experience to lead the project, or you simply live on another continent and wish to be contacted at certain times, you can also write such information in the RFP. It will facilitate the process of the application to various agencies.
In addition, this document will differ significantly depending on the type of branding you expect. For example, in the case of small brands that are just entering the market and do not have much financial capacity, the number of records regarding the scope of work will be quite small. However, huge companies that are starting the process of rebranding a newly purchased brand and they want every little element to be in line with their policies applied to other products or the target audience, will provide a long list. In the latter situation, you need to remember that those agencies need to conduct research for many months to carry out marketing activities in the right way, so it is essential to include such information in the RFP.
Readymade templates in the RFP process
It is worth mentioning that a free branding template of an RFP might be a good option at the beginning. Such resources can be found on various platforms. However, it is important to always adjust them to your own needs. They are usually quite universal and simple because the authors want them to fit as many industries as possible. So treat them rather as a foundation to develop a document than the ultimate solution. They will definitely be useful this way.
What should you watch out for when creating a branding RFP?
Now that you know what the RFP process is and how to conduct it properly, it is also worth flagging out what you should avoid there. The first thing is the lack of specified information! As we have mentioned, it takes a lot of time to create a reliable document of this type, and you have to be prepared for it.
If you do it without going into detail, you can expect to receive very vague proposals – you will not find an agency which will be able to answer your requirements without specific information. It means that the RFP process carried out in an ill-considered hurried manner, without consulting the team, will not serve its purpose. It is not just a waste of your time, but also service providers’ that will be applying for your inquiry, as you would get the same generic offers by writing a regular email. However, the lack of precision in describing the order is only a drop in the ocean of mistakes.
The ones that appear just as often are:
- unrealistic deadlines for both proposal submission and branding project execution;
- an excessive scope of work in relation to the budget;
- a very wide scope of work (e.g. preparation of a full business expertise in terms of marketing, finance and HR, instead of branding);
- team requirements that are not adapted to the amount of work (e.g. if you want four employees to do graphic design instead of one);
- errors in the RFP document, which makes it look unprofessional;
- no specific questions for potential vendors.
Stages of selecting a branding agency
When choosing a specific service provider for a branding project, you need to be prepared for several stages of the decision-making process. Many people make a big mistake because they select a company to work with just after receiving the RFP response, focusing on the portfolio and a certain budget. This is not a good idea. So how should you recruit?
The first point is a review of the proposals, i.e. the initial qualification of potential providers of services. At this stage you rely on the portfolios, references, and indicated solutions. However, these cannot be the only evaluation criteria! Once you have received a variety of offers, pick a few options and then invite representatives for interviews where you will ask about any of the more specific issues you are interested in. This will make the final selection much easier for you.
A branding project – do not forget about this when choosing a contractor
Many people are terrified of the recruiting process. No wonder, branding is one of the factors affecting the success of a brand, so the service provider who will be hired to handle the scope of marketing activities should be very familiar with the specifics of the brand and the industry. In addition, the selected company, apart from a long experience, must be responsible, reliable, and deadline oriented. So how do you make the right decision and choose the most attractive proposal?
Check out the service provider’s previous branding projects
Obviously, a portfolio submitted by a given branding agency is important, but it is necessary to check how the brands are actually doing after some time. As we are all aware that every company in its portfolio wants to present itself as creative, experienced, and resourceful. That is why you need to see whether the proposal matches reality.
The best way to get real opinions is to contact companies that have previously used the services of a given contractor. However, if you are not able to get in touch with them, do not worry. Nowadays, you can find almost every business, even a small one, on the Internet, so you can easily check whether the solutions proposed by the selected service providers are effective among the companies with which they worked before you! Remember that the discovery phase should be primarily focused on the research on the marketing effects that a given company has obtained for its clients.
Compare service providers thoroughly
The right selection criteria will have a huge impact on potential cooperation. Unfortunately, many people choose the final marketing proposal based on the price. And there is nothing worse than starting to work with someone just because they provide cheaper services. Of course, if you are interested in collaboration with two companies that offer similar solutions and have comparable experience, but one of them estimates the project at a more attractive price, then you should choose them over the competition. However, if a cheaper quote in the proposal comes with worse reviews from previous clients or inexperience, it is definitely better to increase the budget and find someone more reliable.
Prepare trial tasks
Trial tasks always work well. Of course, you cannot ask anyone to deliver an idea for an entire branding campaign or an overall expertise of your business as a part of a recruitment process. However, you can, for example, show a particular problem and ask all applicants to suggest ways to solve it. How is it working?
Suppose you run an event company. You can ask for specific deliverables to attract small business owners for £100. Based on such a simple task, you will know whether the company is creative, has experience and resonates with your brand. Such tests can be conducted already at the stage of sending a branding request or after the initial selection.
Analyze your communication with service providers
Many collaborations fail because the two parties are unable to communicate properly. At first, we usually do not pay attention to any such signs, but then a problem arises. A great example can be a situation when you wrote specific contact times in your request for proposal, and a particular service provider does not stick to them at all.
Imagine that you indicated that in the recruitment process you only want email contact between 9am and 5pm, while a company interested in cooperation calls you at 8am. It is a red flag that you should look out for. If the service provider does not respect the boundaries you set in the beginning, it can only get worse later on. A good fit is extremely important for effective collaboration, especially in such a creative and dynamic sector as marketing.
Always have a trial period
You should never sign a full contract for services at the beginning of cooperation, even if the selected company seems to be perfect. Instead, offer a trial period so that both parties can see how the collaboration is going. Such an agreement may last, for example, a month or three.
Of course, you need to define a long-term cooperation, yet the first phase should be treated as a warm-up when you get to know each other. Why is it a safer option? Among others, it may turn out that deliverables, e.g. graphic design or web design, will be below the expected technical level. This can have a significant impact on collaboration. However, remember that the trial period is a part of the discovery phase.
If something goes wrong, you do not have to quit immediately. Explain your comments, pass them on to specific people responsible for project supervision and ask for changes. You can end the cooperation when, despite your intervention, errors still appear.
Give yourself time to decide
Never make decisions under time pressure. If you know that you are unable to choose a service provider within the due date specified in the RFP branding document, inform those interested in cooperation and postpone it a bit. You need to have time to analyze the applications thoroughly, because only in this way can you find a company that will meet all project requirements.
We hope that now you know how to define and what to include in the branding RFP. Creating this document should not be a problem for you anymore. Contact us if you need branding strategy consulting and we will make sure to answer all your needs. Check out our blog if you want to continue your research and learn more about corporate branding strategy. We have a lot of articles that will pique your interest!