Jan 11, 2010

7 ways to get bidders for your Request for Proposal

An important part of the Request for Proposals process is the distribution strategy that you use for disseminating your RFP. Without a good distribution strategy you likely won't receive the proposals you need to make your process competitive and in line with your project goals.

Some factors to consider:
  • Distribution requirements
  • Physical location of the company to you
  • Type of company that you are seeking
  • Size of company you are seeking
  • Monetary value of your contract

There are lots of other factors that you might want to consider, but these are typically the top five.  The primary one you need to worry about is the distribution requirements of your organization or agency; those requirements might dictate the methods you need to employ for distribution and advertisement. The middle three factors are preferences that should be stated in your RFP, but also factors that will impact where you might want to announce your project. The last factor will impact where you announce the RFP, but also how hard you promote it (why get 200 proposals for a $500 project?).

1) Publish it on your website

The first step to advertising your RFP is to create a landing page within your website for the project. Use this page as the staging ground for all information related to the project and the place that you can direct people to go for that information. Place your RFP on this page as a downloadable file (PDF or DOC are good choices), and when you issue addendum, you'll add them to this page. In addition to the files for download, include the schedule, contact information, contact preferences, and other basic information.

Once that page is created and ready, find places within your own site to announce it, whether it is in the "News" section, the homepage under "What's Happening", or other sections that already see traffic. You don't want your RFP to be hidden within your site on a page that nobody will ever find.

We also recommend encouraging that people interested in submitting a proposal to your RFP register with you in some way so that you can alert them to changes in your RFP and send them addendums. This registration can be as little as an email with their contact information, but something that enables you to get a headcount as well as their contact information.

2) Publicize it on the RFP Database

The RFP Database is a free and efficient website for publicizing your project to thousands of vendors, many that will be interested in bidding on your project. Make sure to specify your location and location requirement if there is one. Head over to the site, register and create an account, then click on the link to "Add an RFP". A short form that should take 60 seconds to fill out and your project will be announced on the site.

3) Seek out recommended providers

Not every project has to start out cold; ask around to business owners that you know about their experiences with vendors for projects similar to yours. See if they recommend anyone. Seek out instances of similar services that you like and find out the vendor that worked on them. Invite them to bid on your project.

4) Source local companies via your Chamber of Commerce

While economists and theorists such as Thomas Friedman like to say that the World is Flat, reaching out to your local businesses is often a much better idea. On complex projects a local company's proximity will enable you to have more face-time with the client, fewer communication issues, and a greater sense of connectedness as opposed to a faceless voice on a phone. In addition to these benefits to your project, establishing connections with local businesses can often lead to a greater local awareness of your organization and yield secondary benefits. 

5) Announce it through professional associations

Almost every product or service has a professional association to represent it. For instance, if you're seeking architectural services, you can visit the American Institute of Architects and their pages for RFPs. Or, if you're seeking public relations services, you can visit the Public Relations Society of America and visit their RFP Exchange to announce your RFP.

6) Print advertisements

Print advertisements are probably one of the least effective means of publicizing your RFP and receiving good results. RFP listings are typically buried in the back of the newspaper, rarely read, and the advertisement will cost you money that doesn't need to be spent. However, sometimes print advertisements of your RFPs are a requirement, specifically if you are representing a government agency.

7) Craig's List

Craig's List can be a good way to publicize your project, but be warned: you'll be on the receiving end of LOTS of worthless communications, pitches, and spam.


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