By: Neil Sniffen

Date: August 30, 2016

A successful project depends upon multiple variables. But one variable can help determine the ultimate success of every project and it can be controlled from the beginning.

Starting with a specific goal and working backwards can help your brand understand the destination before the path is even laid.

Too often project requests for proposal are sent out with a generic goal or focus–build a website, create an email template, conquer the world–that sets the stage for challenges or failure down the line. Avoid these challenges and ultimate ugly agency-partnership break-up by creating an RFP that starts with the strategic goal.

Here’s how to create a successful project by revamping your RFP process.

Set aside your list of features and align your project around the goal.

Start with the end goal in mind

It may seem obvious to start with the end in mind, but after reviewing hundreds of RFPs, it looks like this critical step is often generally stated or missing altogether.

RFPs are notorious for the list of features required for a project, but starting with a list of features sets the field before the players are even identified. Instead of requiring that certain tactical features be included in a project, begin by stating the specific end-goal and allow the project’s process to identify the features that will accomplish the goal.

Starting with the specific end-goal in mind will often save time, energy and resources that can be spent elsewhere.

Specific project goal examples:

  • Create a customer-centric website that serves customer needs and drives shopping cart conversion
  • Create an email template and campaign that drives website traffic
  • Optimize current e-commerce website/shopping cart/product detail pages to maximize conversion

Once you have identified your specific goal and sent out your RFP, here are two additional tips to finding an agency partner that you will feel confident working with:

Identify agencies that already have a proven track record

Agencies can be like shoppers on Black Friday; sending out a RFP blindly to any agency who shows an interest is creating more work for you and diluting the quality of agencies capable of helping you meet your project’s specific goal.

Do a little research before sending out an RFP, identify agencies who demonstrate their capabilities online and who write about the type of work you need done. There are a surprising number of agencies that don’t do the actual thinking part of their job, but rely instead on wow factor designs to draw attention away from the flawed customer experience and conversion killing designs.

Sometimes during this research process, you may discover you don’t need an RFP or can limit your agency short list to just a few highly qualified potential partners.

A little research can avoid the cattle-call RFP and you will save yourself a massive headache.

Make sure your agency partner is a fit

Evaluating an agency based upon their RFP response is one way to evaluate the potential talent of the agency. But keep in mind that you are reviewing them on their best day, a day they have been preparing for and are eager and happy to say whatever you want them to so long as you say yes to them at the end of the day.

What happens after the honeymoon phase has the greatest impact on the success of a project.

Ensuring a proper fit, both personally and culturally, then becomes one of the single most important factors in choosing the right agency.

No one wants to go through the awkward breakup in the middle of, or right after, a project.

The trick to avoiding this troublesome situation is as simple as choosing an agency that shares your brand’s values and fits your brand’s culture.

It’s a step that we go through when we evaluate potential client-partners.

At Subtext, when we begin working with potential clients, we try to determine if the company or brand is a good fit with our agency’s core values because we have found that these relationships result in our most compelling work.

Ultimately, creating an RFP process that results in the successful completion of a project is a long and challenging one. By clearly identifying and starting with a goal, reducing the number of applicants, and placing cultural fit as a priority you will increase the likelihood of successfully achieving your project’s goal and creating a brand and agency relationship that will prevent the need to find a new partner for the next project.


Subtext is a digital agency that focuses on building and optimizing online customer experiences for our clients. To learn more about how we help our clients and how we can help you, please get in touch. We’d love to hear from you!