For many value-added resellers, the digital signage RFP can be a make-or-break process. In most cases, an RFP is your lifeline to a particular job. If you’re not approaching the process correctly, you could be missing out on business-building digital signage projects.
To be successful at the RFP process, it’s important to first understand the critical components of a digital signage RFP.
A request for proposal, or RFP, is a solicitation from a company that is interested in a particular technology deployment. A digital signage RFP is sent out to potential suppliers – mainly, VARs – to begin the bidding process for a new project.
An RFP explains the high-level needs for the particular project and should also include information on the strategy and short- and long-term business objectives of the new digital signage network. This information will help respondents decide whether they’re a good fit for the project. An RFP is usually sent out fairly early in the project cycle since the winning VAR be a driver of the budget and specifications of each project.
Critical Components of an RFP
When responding to a digital signage RFP, you will most likely encounter these four common components:
- A detailed description of the digital signage project. Ideally, a company will have only released an RFP if they are serious about the project and it is supported by the budget. The RFP document should include a description of the digital signage network that they envision building and as much detail as possible. What exactly is the company looking for? What constitutes an ideal solution? Answering an RFP takes time and effort, so be sure to verify that the project seems legitimate. You wouldn’t want to invest time and resources in preparing an RFP bid for a project that never gets off the ground.
- Background on the company. This can be another indicator of how serious a requesting company is about an RFP. Did they provide little or no information about themselves? Or, did they make an effort to explain what they do and how they do it? Companies that give a well-rounded description of themselves from the start recognize that this will help attract the best-suited VARs, while also minimizing questions and confusion down the road.
- Specific, focused questions for respondents. The best RFPs include relevant, pointed questions that will help the company determine whether you’re a good fit for the project. Be wary of any RFP with questions that seem vague or canned; often, these are the projects that don’t have much thought behind them from the get-go. Your response to the RFP questions is your chance to shine, so answer each by calling on your experience and your vision for the project. Try not to get overly wordy; think of your responses as a type of resume – not an essay. If the questions are presented in a template, follow that template with your answers. This will help the reviewers more accurately compare your responses to those of other applicants.
- A clear definition of the process. No one wants to spend hours filling out and submitting an RFP only to never hear back from the company. So, make sure that the document has some sort of review process and “next steps” defined. Will the company create a shortlist of potential winners, followed by presentations and further review? Or, will the winner be chosen from the first round of applications? Ideally, you would also know a bit about the timeline of the review process and the project itself. It’s always better to seek out companies that are good about keeping you informed from the start.
- A call for references. A thorough RFP will also include a place for you to tout your previous experience by inviting the reviewers to connect with your previous clients. This is how one great digital signage deployment leads to others.
What has been your experience in responding to RFPs? Do you feel that this step is an important one, or has it become more of a formality?