What Is an RFP in Marketing? How to Navigate a Request for Proposal

Posted on January 13, 2024 | Updated on January 13, 2024

As if there isn’t enough paperwork floating around small businesses, here enters another classic. RFPs in marketing are well-known documents that help negotiations and keep deals transparent. It clarifies deadlines and expectations, even if adjustments need to be made. So, what is an RFP in marketing, and will you have to write one up at some point? 

If you do, we have strategies for crafting a quality RFP, no matter your experience level. Alternatively, you may need to respond to one, and we’ve taken care of that for you, too.

What Is a Request for Proposal (RFP)?

An RFP in marketing is when a business submits a request for products or services from another entity. For example, a government agency may submit a request for supplies from a manufacturer. If an RFP is targeted to a specific recipient, it usually implies the receiver has a strong industry reputation, or there is an existing working relationship.

Adversely, a corporation may post an RFP like a job posting — seeing whoever decides to capitalize on the opportunity first. It allows companies to build new relationships and scope out of the current capabilities of a market. Perhaps an industry is looking outside its typical working space and doesn’t know any significant players — an RFP can act as a conversation starter.

These are the typical facets of an RFP:


  • The entity requesting the product or service
  • Who to communicate with and how
  • The request’s scope
  • Budgetary details
  • The timetable and other relevant deadlines
  • How to submit

If the RFP is for open submissions, a bidding process unfolds after the deadline. The writer of the RFP will decide who is the best candidate and notify them accordingly.

RFPs are sometimes confused with RFQs or RFIs. The latter stands for request for quote and information, respectively. RFQs allow many contractors and applicants to tell a company how much they would charge for a specific product or service. RFIs are more broad, and companies posting one may want an overview of the options in their area.

Why Would You Need to Send or Post an RFP?

There are a few reasons why a small business or nonprofit organization would post an RFP. Let’s see two examples. 

The first is an environmental nonprofit organization seeking to help local waterways. They need a wide array of experts to undergo testing and analysis, so they post an RFP for companies, contractors, or schools wanting to participate in local water studies. 

A company outlines the project stages, from obtaining more grants to collecting and reviewing data with each price listed on how much each event will cost. They want one request per scope, ensuring experts work for each phase. They list the regions they want applicants from, among other criteria, and how they will be evaluated.

Another business wants to undergo research for a different purpose. They have niche accommodations for people visiting the area for local tourism but are still determining how to market to their target demographic. They post an RFP to try and get professional researchers. Subsequently, they may request assistance from other professionals, like interior designers, to rework their properties to be more personalized to those travelers. The SMB owners are not architects or marketers — they have travel agent backgrounds. So, they need help from other professionals to boost their services to the next level.

These situations reveal a few reasons why you would need to post an RFP. There may be an element to your company you do not know much about. Maybe the assistance comes with consultations on executing these services in-house the next time you need them. The scope is so varied and expansive, which is the beauty of RFPs. It allows companies to reach countless workers of every expertise and background.

How Do You Write an RFP?

If you follow these steps in writing an RFP for marketing, you will obtain high-quality applicants when you require additional business help the most.

1. Clearly Report Business Scopes and How it Matters

It isn’t enough to say you need help installing new hardware or collecting materials for a new product. Companies want to know more about your story and how their contribution will improve you. Remember — their reputation is at stake, too, because others will know their influence. Give them as much context as possible for each phase in sequence — with deadlines.

2. Explain How the Needs and Challenges Mesh

After providing background information and why you need assistance, explore your company’s needs and how the applicant’s experience will be. For example, if a company has difficulty sourcing something in their supply chain, will the applying business have to find a way to overcome that obstacle? Detail what hurdles they might encounter in getting applicants with defined expectations.

3. Detail Application Guidelines

You want to be as specific as possible on what kind of companies you need applying. The selection criteria will deter some applicants — which you need — and entice others. Be reasonable yet firm, especially regarding the quality and reputation of your business. Do not sacrifice quality for impatience or fear nobody will apply. In time, the right people will see, apply, and interview for your RFP.

How Could You Respond to an RFP?

Are you looking for work? No matter your small business niche, there is an online community for people needing your specialties. Numerous directories exist where you can filter out relevant RFPs to see if you can gain extra work. You can also go the more traditional route and look in newspapers and other paper advertisements.

All you have to do is read the posted RFP. There are always submission guidelines and where to submit information. Treat them just like you would a job application. Do not skip any part of the RFP to try and find where to submit your info. Typically, there is background info that will make your submission shine if you make it curated for the organization. Every request is different, so consider every applicant’s needs accordingly.

For companies who repeatedly earn success and good standing with B2B clients, you might get invited to bidding lists. Imagine a public RFP posting, but it is for a specific email list. It is a collection of trusted parties companies might reach out to again and again for similar jobs. It’s like forming a soft freelance contract with a lower obligation.

RFPs in Marketing for Collaborative Progress

RFPs for large and small businesses are the way to collaborations that would have otherwise not happened. Companies are only expected to know some of what they need to succeed all at once, especially if the skills are outside of their industry. However, just because you do not have specific skills in-house should not prevent you from venturing into new realms that will make your SMB more attentive to your customers.

Requests for proposals allow B2B relationships to form with a greater goal in mind. The scope’s clarity allows for consistent motivation until the deadline hits. The more organizations extend offers by submitting to RFPs or asking for assistance by posting them, the more connected and respectful the world’s businesses will be.


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