This article was written specifically for B2B companies preparing to send out an Request for Proposal (RFP) for a website build. It was written to challenge your thinking before heading down the long road of drafting the RFP, selecting an agency, overseeing the website build and being held accountable for the project’s success or failure.

How the web design RFP process usually plays out

At some point a light bulb goes on in the brain of someone in upper management. For one reason or another, he or she reaches the conclusion, “we need a new website”. And there’s a good chance that person is right. Unfortunately, what happens next is entirely wrong.

You’re instructed by the CEO or CMO to begin drafting the RFP and searching for agencies to which it can be sent. You begin asking friends, coworkers and colleagues if they know of any web design shops. Someone passes along their cousin’s son’s email address. Another person passes along the name of a freelancer that built her old company’s website seven years ago.

In the meantime, you begin frantically searching for RFP templates online and preparing to waste your next week putting together your own 10-20 page version full of legalize nonsense, sending it out to that cousin’s son, freelancer and some obscene number of other random agencies you discovered in a Google search. You’ll then spend the following two weeks attempting to evaluate the best candidate from a mess of answers to questions that weren’t really all that relevant in the first place. Whew!

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The website RFP is a broken process

A website design RFP is work for the sake of work – a massive drain of company time and resources. And it’s an ineffective method of finding the right agency for the job. More importantly, this process almost always begins before a company asks themselves some critically important business questions. We’ve boiled those questions down to five we believe are mandatory to answer before proceeding.

1. What is the single most important business problem that your new website is going to solve?

My mind is blown time after time after time during conversations with companies who have contacted US about a website rebuild, and they can’t even answer this question. They stumble over words.

Uhh… well… our current one is really outdated, so we need to look more innovative and modern.
Uhh… well… we need better SEO. I don’t really know how that stuff works, but we need it.
Uhh… well… our competitors just launched a new website and it looks really professional.

OK, great. But, again I ask: What is the single most important business problem that your new website is going to solve? Your answer should be echoed by your CEO, Director of Marketing, the agency you plan to hire and everyone at your company who will play a part in this job. And the answer should be more along the lines of “we want to increase leads by 50% over the course of the next year” or “we want to drive revenue from new customers up by 25%”. Looking professional and improved SEO are by-products of a new website worth paying for. Answer the higher level questions first. Shoot, you might even discover that a website build isn’t what you need to solve that business problem after all!

2. How exactly is a new website going to solve that problem for you?

NEWS FLASH: Fancy blinking banners and cute fonts ain’t gonna cut it. I promise you that much. Your website is a marketer and salesman alike. It’s there to generate business by attracting qualified visitors through search engines, validate your offering and convert visitors into leads that you can nurture and sell to when ready. You website will solve your business problems of lead generation and revenue growth when it’s designed to do these things. Don’t invest in the new website if it’s not planned with well-defined lead conversion paths and valuable, audience-centric content.

3. What additional marketing effort will be required to help solve my business problem(s)?

If your business goals include increasing lead volume and revenue, it’s unrealistic to think that launching a new website alone will accomplish these objectives in any significant way. It’s a first step – and an important one. But would a newly renovated brick and mortar store on a side street receive more foot traffic by default after that renovation? Sure, probably some. But not much without drawing some attention to it through advertising and some good reviews.

The point is that you need a marketing strategy in place during that website build. How will you attract qualified visitors to your newly renovated, lead-generation-ready website that you’ve built? Increasing the volume of qualified visitors to your site means more leads. More leads means more customers.

4. What are upper management’s expectations for the the results this website will generate?

This one is simple. It’s so critical to define these expectations before the job begins. When objectives come from up top, you can effectively guide your team and hired agency throughout the process with clear goals in mind.

5. How specifically will you measure success or failure?

Be specific. And then get buy off from those above you. If you’ve committed to answering the previous questions, you’ll already have clearly defined goals and objectives. So now you just need to put measurement systems in place. If increasing lead volume by 50% is your task as a marketer, set a benchmark for how much of that 50% should originate on your new website. You’ll need to measure leads captured through website forms and monitor analytics to learn what keyword searches in Google brought those qualified leads to your site in the first place.

A B2B website must be constantly growing and evolving. Ineffective content should be revisited. Effective content should be expanded and replicated. Gather intelligence, and use it to refine so you can accomplish those defined goals. If you’re interested in learning more about how to measure effectiveness, we recommend reading our guide Measuring Online Marketing Return on Investment.

So back to the whole RFP thing…

If you decide to go down the RFP route, be sure you’ve identified the project’s intended effect on your business. Know what those above you are trying to accomplish and build your strategy accordingly. Downloading our B2B website planning guide should help you identify specific goals to reach for with your new build. You’ll save yourself valuable time and be a lot happier with your results when it’s said and done.