RFPIt’s not often that we participate in the RFP (Request for Proposal) process for any new projects.  From our perspective RFPs tend to miss out on the heart of what will make a great website and inbound marketing campaign.  They tend to focus on finding the lowest cost solutions and nice to have features while missing the greater business goals.  This week I had a discussion with a prospect who told me they were pulling an RFP together currently and would appreciate our response when it is ready.  When I inquired about who was writing the RFP, I found out that she herself was.  She is a 20 year business owner who works in an industry far removed from Internet marketing.  I’m sure she knows her industry well but for her to pull together a website RFP would be analogous to me diagnosing myself and then going out to look for a doctor to write me a script.

You see the RFP process generally starts with the solution already in mind.  Or to continue my medical analogy, the patient already knows what prescription they want before seeing the doctor.  Sending out a ‘Website RFP’ has already determined that a new website is needed.  The truth of the matter is that often a “new” website is not necessarily needed.  What is needed is more results from the site.  More visibility might be needed, more site loyalty or even more conversions.  But increasing these results doesn’t always require a new site.   I know I’m not going to change the RFP mentality in one blog so today I am here to give you 5 tips on how to create a website RFP for those of you tasked with pulling one together.

1.  Implement penalties for late delivery

We continue to hear horror stories of basic website builds for small businesses that end up taking 8 months, 10 months or even over a year.  Sometimes these projects end up in our laps as we try to pick up the pieces where another development company dropped the ball.  Our typical website build lasts 60 to 90 days from the time we hold the initial strategy meeting to the time the site is live.  This is only possible because we take this timeline seriously and we have built a process to ensure project completion within that timeline.  So when creating your website RFP, determine the timeline you need and implement project penalties when it is not met.

2.  Implement penalties for lost organic search traffic

One of the biggest mistakes site owners make when building a new site is to not pay attention to their current search engine rankings along with the traffic from those rankings and to take the necessary steps to ensure the new site doesn’t lose this search engine traffic.  If your web developer destroys your rankings when launching your new site, they should see a monetary penalty.

3.  Ensure continuity of analytics

When investing in a new site, you are ideally setting business goals for the investment (see point 4).  How will you measure these goals if your web developer creates a new analytics account and loses all your old site traffic data.  Ideally after your new site launches, you will be able to compare previous site performance to new site performance to determine if your investment was worth while.

4.  Clearly lay out measurable goals for your new site

I’m sorry to say but implementing drop down navigation on your site is not a goal.  Goals should be related to increasing the visibility, loyalty or conversions of your site.  Often these goals will be segment specific such as: increase the time on site for visitors from mobile devices.  You can define the amount of increase more specifically such as “by 10%” or “by 20%” but this is not always necessary.

5.  Create a post launch plan

One major problem I have with the RFP process is that it generally aims to turn the website into a one time project as opposed to a core element of the business.  Again in most cases businesses don’t need a  new website necessarily.  What they do need is an ongoing plan to increase visibility, loyalty and conversions from their site.  RFPs are generally project focused and often miss out on what happens one month, two months, 6 months or 12 months after site launch.  Who is going to review the data to see if goals were met?  Who is going to make recommendations for further improvement based on the data?   Who will do the ongoing competitive analysis, keyword research, and conversion optimization?

When talking about new websites with clients I like to use Craigslist as an example.  If most small businesses owned Craigslist, they would probably move to scrap the old site and build a new site because they feel it is ugly or someone told them it is ugly.  If Craigslist did this, they would likely frustrate millions of users.  When you focus on the data and compare the data to your goals, Craigslist turns out to be a great site not because it is beautiful but because people actually use it.  So when looking into your next website RFP, consider the data and your specific goals for going down this path.  Then ensure you implement the 5 keys above and shoot me a copy of the RFP when you are done.  I’d love to see what you come up with.