marketing technology proposal“People, process, and technology” are the trilogy mantra for successful marketing automation, as all too often the allure of a shiny new technology falsely appears to be a silver bullet for curing all ills. Successful adoption of marketing technology starts with the way you approach your request for proposal. It’s all too easy to make mistakes compiling and issuing a request for proposal (RFP) when choosing marketing technology. In the spirit of learning from the mistakes of others, here are five worst practices and corresponding best-practice checkpoints. How many do you recognise from RFPs in which you’ve been involved?

Worst Practice No. 1: Impose Very Tight Timelines
Once the decision has been made to undertake a request for proposal, everyone is keen to proceed as quickly as possible, resulting in compressed and unrealistic timescales, also known as “hurry up and wait” as reality sets in and the project stalls.

Best practice check points:

  • Allow sufficient time, including internal activities as well as solution provider response preparation.
  • Build-in time for re-scheduling postponed discovery sessions and for handling additional queries that arise.
  • Remember that the quality of the responses and ultimate selection of the best solution are reliant on allowing sufficient time.

Worst Practice No. 2: Create Requirements with No Indication of Priority
The temptation is to create an elongated “wish list” of perceived needs, which ultimately leads to an unrealistic solution. Overly prescriptive requirements risk the submission of responses that lack innovation or lateral thinking.

Best practice check points:

  • Avoid creating requirements that encompass every conceivable eventuality. Focus on the core business issue.
  • Prioritize requirements with a suitable mechanism so that solution providers can indicate full or partial compliance.
  • Allow and encourage providers to include narrative with their proposals so that alternative approaches can be outlined in more detail.

Worst Practice No. 3: Define Requirements Solely on Current Practices
The pain of the current situation and the haste to resolve it often preclude a clear vision of the organization’s future and careful thought about requirements to adapt to emerging needs.

Best practice check points:

  • Capture existing, “as-is” requirements that reflect current business processes so that potential solutions can be matched to them.
  • Identify future, “to-be” requirements, ensuring the chosen solution will have an acceptable lifespan.
  • Thoroughly determine the capabilities of potential solutions and consider them against all requirements.

Worst Practice No. 4: Expect Unrealistically Detailed Business Case Input
Providers are unlikely, especially in an initial response, to have attained sufficient insight to be able to provide any meaningful assessment.

Best practice check points:

  • Avoid setting unreasonable expectations on the detail in RFP responses relating to business case and return on investment justification.
  • Keep in mind that any contribution around return on investment may be coloured by specific strengths of the solution provider
  • Work with the solution provider ultimately selected to obtain any further detail for the business case, drawing on specifics of their solution.

Worst Practice No. 5: Send the RFP to a Long List of Solution Providers “Just to See What They Come Back With”
Inevitably, there will be compelling reasons to request a proposal from every potential solution provider, including companies favoured by stakeholders or that are currently in vogue with relevant industry analysts.

Best practice check points:

  • Restrict the number of solution providers invited to submit proposals and avoid adding providers that don’t have realistic prospects of success.
  • Ensure that providers selected represent a cross-section of possible deployment models and cost levels.
  • When choosing the final list, consider that every proposal will need to be reviewed and how long it will take to assess all of the responses.

Regardless of the size and nature of your organization, the type of solution being sought and the characteristics of the solution provider, a little investment upfront in planning and commitment could be the difference between success and failure. A good marketing operations team in your company can keep this mantra top-of-mind to avoid stumbling blocks — not only to help achieve automation goals of preventing marketing technology mistakes, speeding up data accessibility, and allowing marketers to focus brain power on strategy rather than routines — but also to improve the scalability of marketing (easing growing pains during periods of rapid growth) and ensure that the people and process components of the trilogy mantra are well-balanced with the technology component.