Erica Lynn

Just another marketing studen't WordPress blog

RFPs from the Buyer’s & Seller’s Perspective

What is an RFP?

A Request for Proposal (RFP) is a call to potential suppliers to submit a proposal for selling of goods or services. An RFP initiates a bidding process between suppliers to try to do business with the company who submitted the RFP (Rouse, 2007). Generally RFPs are procured through personal relationships, websites (corporate and third party RFP hosts) and word of mouth. The content of an RFP is vital to the success of the project, as it clearly outlines what the company wants from the suppliers (Rouse, 2007). Sometimes companies will issue a Request for Quote (RFQ), which is a pared-down version of a RFP when the company requires something that is clearly defined. An example of this would be a need for specific equipment. Another variant is the Request for Information (RFI) is a call to potential suppliers to provide information about themselves. This is generally used to narrow the list of potential suppliers so that the company can put a future RFP to a narrower audience. (Mhay & Coburn, 2008)

From Buyers Perspective

In order to write an effective RFP there are numerous components that should be included to increase chances of success. A brief background of the organization should first be included to give a sense of what the organization stands for and believes in. Goals should be communicated in a way that focuses more on what is trying to be achieved than what the end product is expected to look like which gives the seller space to explore and share their own creative approaches to achieve the buyers’ business goals. Project requirements should be detailed including information on launch dates, deadlines, legal clearances, etc which will help to determine unqualified candidates as well as deliver more accurate results. Buyer’s expectations should be included in the RFP to reduce the risk of receiving irrelevant information and instead receive only pertinent information for that particular project/request. The final three components that should be included are a timeline, budget, and questions section. These sections give sellers the information needed in order to develop the best solution to meet budget and timing restraints (Ramsey, 2011).

From Sellers Perspective

When responding to an RFP as a seller there are a few things to consider when trying to ‘win’ the deal. The first and most important, is knowing the buyer is looking before they issue the RFP, or in Ritchie Bros. case the RFI. Robert Potter, the author of the article Three Keys to Winning RFPs’ states, “If you wait for the RFP, you have already lost”. The goal here is to gain the inside track when it comes time to for the prospective company to contract a seller. If a seller does not have a pre-existing relationship with these buyers, the first step is become a considered service provider and then begin working up the hierarchy. Potter refers to this as penetrating the ‘invisible’ market. The goal of this process is when it comes time to sell, the company will contact your company.
The second thing to consider when responding to RFPs is deciding if a particular RFP is worth the time and resources that will be spent responding it to. Responding to an RFP can take weeks, even years. These opportunity costs must be considered and weighed against how the time and resources could be spent elsewhere.  Some questions to consider when making this decision include:

  • Do we have an existing positive relationship with the buyer?
  • Do we have the needed skills, capabilities or resources that are critical to the project’s success and are difficult for competitors to copy?
  • Does the client understand and recognize our unique selling proposition (USP)?
  • Do we have access to the company before submission or presentation of the RPF?

The third thing to consider when responding to an RFP is the process that the company goes through when considering the applicants.
There are three stages the buyers will go through; the search phase, the screening phase and the selection phase. The key to passing the search phase it to be sure your company is invited to submit an RFP based on the pre-existing relationship.

The second phase, the screening phase, is intended for the buyers to find out if the sellers that have submitted RPFs are capable and match the decision criteria pre-set by the buying company. These criteria are pre-set before the RFP is posted. To pass this phase the seller must differentiate themselves from their competitors and communicate that their USP complements the buyers pre-existing criteria. It is important to call on the pre-existing relationship at this point and find out exactly what they are looking for and find a way to communicate you can do it better than any other competitor.

In the third and final phase of selection the final decision of who wins the RFP comes down to irrational emotions and personal preference. At this point the buyer has narrowed the group to a small number of applicants who are all able and willing to complete the project. The final decision comes down to the way the buyer feels about the seller and if they are comfortable, confident and can trust the sellers and the key account rep. At this point the personal brand of the key account rep plays a huge role in the final decision.

Issues with RFP Process

Sometimes sellers miss out on possible deals because they cannot be bothered to get tied up in an RFP competition. This is particularly true when sellers sense they may have been invited to bid simply to provide a façade of competition while the buyers intended to pick a favoured seller anyway. A second problem is that the investment of time in the RFP process is expected to be made solely by the seller. If the prospective seller has questions, the buyers often won’t answer or meet with the seller unless there is a positive pre-existing relationship (Schachter, 2013).

Best Practices when responding to an RFP

1. Be concise. The initial review of a RFP response is commonly a quick scan, not a thorough and thoughtful analysis. This leads to responses being rejected on the basis of how they look, rather than the content. Therefore it is important to be quick and to the point. If the agency has what the prospect is looking for, it will be seen immediately and the clarity and brevity of the communications will be appreciated (Morgan, 2009).

2. Customize the response. Almost every agency has standard language to describe their philosophy, their capabilities and their process. Agencies should never “mail it in” by simply cutting and pasting from a previous submission. Every question is an opportunity to demonstrate understanding of the category, the audience and the prospect. Whenever possible, responses should be framed in a way that demonstrates knowledge of the client’s brand, market environment or audience (Morgan, 2009).

3. Address the prospect’s criteria, not your own agenda. Everything you say should be relevant to the client and the assignment by addressing the specific criteria the client has identified as important. Offering creative ideas is a good way to demonstrate your thought process and creativity, but only after thoroughly addressing the question asked by the prospect. It should also be included that all preliminary ideas put forth can be developed further or rejected once greater understanding of the situation has evolved (Morgan, 2009).

4. Demonstrate your creativity and professionalism in the response. The RFP response is an opportunity to establish your agency as a professional resource that can solve a business problem and help them sell a product or service. But the RFP response is also an opportunity to provide a statement of your agency’s style and creativity as well as your salesmanship. By making your RFP response stand out in a crowd, you send a message that you can make their company stand out as well (Morgan, 2009).


Create a RPF committee to determine the RFP’s decision criteria made by the buyer and provide answers to the RFP, rather than going to each department on an ad-hoc basis.

Having a team of a people from each department providing the information needed by offering their own insight as to why the info was requested aiding in determining what the pre-existing decision criteria is, and decrease the time needed to complete the response.



Mhay, S., & Coburn, C. (2008). Retrieved from

Morgan, D. (2009). The 5 c’s of an effective RFP process. Marketing Thought Leader. Retrieved on November 4, 2013 from

Potter, R. (NA) Three Keys to Winning RFPs; get there first, pick the right battle and play to win. Retrieved from

Ramsey, J. (2011). Running a successful RFP. Purchasing B2B, 53(7), 32. Retrieved from

Rouse, M. (2007, July). What is request for proposal (RFP)? – Definition from Retrieved November 8, 2012, from

Schachter, H. (2013). Turn that RFP into a really fabulous process. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved on November 5, 2013 from



Social Media and Business in 2013

Deborah Sweeney of Social Media Today says “2012 was definitely a year of growth” and that “usage on the sites will undoubtedly continue to grow” in the article titled Where Businesses Meet Social Media – Predictions for 2013. She suggests the following will improve social media practices for businesses in 2013.

A Slightly More Personal Touch
By now we as marketers have figured out social media is not just another channel for promotion. But rather a two way communication tool between customers and companies. Sweeney predicts more CEOs and owners making personal accounts on social media platforms to interact with their business’s customers. By doing this CEOs can forge a personal connection with their customers and be seen less as a corporate entity but more of a helpful friend.

A Blurring of the Borders between Business Websites and Social Media
Sweeney states “currently, there isn’t much of a connection between business websites and social media”. By position the company website as the hub for all social media content and overlapping posts on social media platforms we have begun to blur the line. Sweeney suggest as social media use continues to grow “businesses will begin trying to blend their social media presence and their website. This could mean giving customers the option to post what they just bought on Twitter and Facebook, à la Amazon, or it could just mean that websites are going to be a bit more intuitive and streamlined so jumping from a business’s Facebook account to its website is not such a shock.” To achieve this integration it will be important to marketers to understand not only what the company wants from social media usage, but the customers as well.

Higher Expectations for Employees to Play Along
The incorporations of more of the human element (mentioned earlier) is important to a company’s social media presence. Sweeny suggest one way if doing this is by “asking employees to both promote and interact with the company online”. This suggestion is dependent on the nature of the business of the company and attitude of the employees. Sweeny mentions “some businesses already monitor their employees’ social media accounts, and there have been reports of people being fired for badmouthing their employer online”. But in order for any business to succeed (with or without social media interactions) relies on business owners, CEOs and employees will being team players and supporting the business they work for.


Other links of interest:

Google Apps no longer free for businesses

Originally when using Google Apps, business had the choice between the free version or the premium version. Since then Google has put a price on its Apps at $50 per user, per year. According to an ‘official blog post’ the reason for this mandatory price is that businesses “quickly outgrow” the basic version.

The new version of Google Apps will include 24/7 phone support, a 25GB inbox, and a 99.9% uptime guarantee. While $50 per user, per year may sound like a reasonable price that might be hard to tell small business owners who have not ‘outgrown’ the basic version. That, and the fact that things will not change for existing customers (no matter what their size) might decrease to amount of businesses that use Google Apps out of pure spite.

Thankfully, Google Apps will still remain free for individuals, and (thanks goodness) Google Apps for Education will continue to be free for schools and universities.


Other links of interest:

YouTube begins using Collaborative Filtering

According to Wikipedia, Collaborative filtering is a “method of making automatic predictions (filtering) about the interests of a user by collecting preferences or taste information from many users (collaborating). Wikipedia also states this technique was first used in business by Amazon “Build an item-item matrix determining relationships between pairs of items and used the matrix, and the data on the current user, infer their taste”.

This can been seen on websites when a user views an item and the website generates a cash of other items the user my like based on what other customers have bought in the past who bought the particular item being viewed.

YouTube has also adopted this feature by having a channel guide follow the user while they navigate through the website. This guide suggests channels the user might like to subscribe to and videos they should be interested in based on their browsing history.
This channel guide is also designed to correspond with the users existing subscribed channels and not only guide the user through the website, but on all devices. Write designer, Josh Sassoon and Engineer, Alex Nicksay say all a user needs to do is “subscribe to their (your) favorite channels and the Guide lets them (you) know when there are new videos waiting for them(you) to enjoy” the guide also “suggests the latest and greatest channels they(you) might like, and shows them(you) what your friends are sharing across the web.”

The most noticeable change the user will notice is the absence of the titles above the videos. They have been moved to the bottom to minimalize the space between the user and the video window and search bar.


Other items of interest:

Has Coca-Cola upped the anti for company website?

According to an article posted on titled ‘Coca-Cola Relaunches Website as Socially Enabled Digital Platform’ Coca-Cola has “revived an internal print magazine in digital form in a relaunch of its website”. Coca-Cola’s new website Coca-Cola Journey is something much different from the typical company website. The website focuses on creating conversation by posting content relating to everything from social causes to company news. According to the article the website content is divided into types such as:

• Stories
• Opinions
• Brands
• Videos
• Blogs
• Business
• Community
• Entertainment
• Environment
• Health
• History
• Innovation
• Sports

The website also includes “hi-res photography, video, and audio” as well as “infographics and a Debate Board, which polls readers on a range of Coke-related topics.”
The website also supports 26 other Coca-Cola products by allowing the user to choose from other Coca-Cola brands and have search them on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Google+, LinkedIn, and YouTube right on the website.
The website also supports a blog called Coca-Cola Unbottled. This corporate blog is updates daily and according to Ashley Brown, director of digital communications and social media at the Coca-Cola Company, “a ‘lean forward’ experience that’s updated daily (while) Coca-Cola Journey publishes more in-depth and long form pieces that provide a ‘sit back’ experience.”
Has this rich content, storytelling website design becoming the standard for company website? With everyone jumping on the blogging wagon content marketing has become much more popular and therefore more common. I think Coca-Cola has found a way to re-invent content marketing with this website design and found a way to put themselves above most (dare I say all) company websites.


Twitter awards of 2012

With 2012 coming to an end it is time for the anticipated Twitter awards. The award categories this year include:

• Tech
• Conversation starters
• TV and Movies
• Sports
• Food
• Retweet

Category: Tech
In third place right in front of Skype, is Instagram. Runner up goes to iPhone with At&t taking home to top spot. Unfortunately this first place spot is due to amount of discussion on Twitter as At&t being the ‘worst-rated wireless carrier’. Maybe next time At&t.
Category: Conversation Starters
Runner up in this category goes to #oomf (one of my followers), with #nowplaying taking home to trophy. #blessed rounds out the three with #quote not far behind. Maybe next year #MRKT3311 will earn a spot.
Category: TV and Movies
Thanks to social TV and movie watching this award was an easy one to give away. Family Guy wins top spot followed by Big Brother. American Dad placed third, in front of Hey Arnold and American Idol. Surprisingly the most tweeted about movie of 2012 was Think Like a Man, right in front the of Hunger Games with The Avengers rounding out third place.

Category: Sports
With no big surprise #NFL takes home the cup with #Nascar in second followed by #MLB. #replacementsrefs received an honourable mention with the most tweets in September as well as #Olympics with most tweets in July and August.

Category: Food
Who know people loved pancakes this much. The number one most tweeted about food of 2012 was #IHOP, with #Starbucks in second and #Waffle House in third.

Category: Retweet
Now for the award of the year, most retweeted tweet. The award goes to (drum roll) President Obama’s victory tweet on election night. Not only does this tweet win most retweet tweet of the year, but also takes home the grand prize of most tweet retweeted ever!
Thanks everyone and good night


Other links of interest:

Facebook page for soup?

Recently Campbell’s has launch a new line of soups for the ‘20 something’ called “Campbell’s Go”. These soups are sold in microwavable packages and include such flavors as:

  • Coconut Curry with Chicken and Shiitake Mushrooms
  • Moroccan Style Chicken with Chickpeas
  • Chicken and Quinoa with Poblano Chilies
  • Spicy Chorizo and Pulled Chicken with Black Beans
  • Golden Lentil with Madras Curry
  • Creamy Red Pepper with Smoked Gouda

To best reach the ’20 something’ target market Campbell’s has incorporated a hung amount of digital content into their marketing plan including, Facebook and Tumblr pages for each flavour and daily posts on Buzz Feed under the title “Campbell’s Go™ soups”. They have also begun sponsoring Buzz Feed’s ‘Nom Nom’ feed.  Campbell’s has also teamed up with Spotlight digital music service and developed play lists based on each flavour and has sponsored the latest instalment of Angry Birds the Star Wars edition.

My question is, is it worth it? Do ‘20 somethings’ buy soup from a grocery store? Or is that done by the primary grocery shopper, usually a parent. And when they do buy soup from a grocery store I would assume is it a ‘20 something’ like me, living on their own with a strike food budget.  I know when I shop for food I am forced to look at the price, and usually can’t afford flashy soups with their own play lists and Facebook pages.


Other links of interest: 

Interest Graph vs. Social Graph

Like the Social Graph, which connects people based on who they know, the Interest Graph also connects people with a different common denominator. The difference occurs in the reason or source of the connection. An Interest Graph will connect people based on their interests including; hobbies, passions and curiosities without knowing each other or having any pre-existing relationship.

The idea of connecting people based on their interest through social media was first seen on Twitter.  Twitter was created in 2006 and according to an article written by Dr. Tony Hirst, “Twitter, as it grows rapidly in public consciousness as the place (or “backchannel”) to chat around live events as diverse as television and radio broadcasts, conferences, and “trending” hashtags, increasingly provides a snapshot of “the interest graph”. Twitter has become the place in the digital world where users are interacting on the bases of the idea of connecting with people based on interest, rather than relationships,

This concept of Interest Graph has become the basis for a number of different social media platforms including;

  • Pinterest, an online photo sharing website which allows the user to following other user’s photo galleries (pin boards) with the same interest.
  • Quora an online question-and-answer website created and edited by users allowing people to discuss topics that interest them .
  • Thumb a place where users can give their opinions of other users photos asking for feedback and recommendations.

As previously mentioned the Interest Graph differs from the Social Graph. I believe in the future the line that separates the two kinds of relationships will become blurred. Users of Social Media will begin to integrate the people they interact with that on their Social Graph with the people they met through their Interest Graphs. In other words, there will no longer be a distinction between friends they “know” on Facebook and friends they met through their interest on Social Media platforms such as Quroa or Pinterest. This has already begun to happen the other way, where users follow the friends they know on Facebook on Interest Graph based social media platforms. A certain degree of it is already happening by people using groups on Facebook (Ex: Birth without Fear, a Facebook group of mothers who post comments and pictures about their experiences as a new mother). I predict the relationships will go beyond becoming friends on Facebook, but becoming friends who physical interact. This has already begun to happen with the creation of meet up groups, where a group of people interested in something will physically meet up and participate in an activity. I predict on the near future this meet up group style will become a social norm and the questions will no longer be “how do you know them?” but “what interest do you guys share?”.


Other links of interest:


How to use Social Content

We talk about marketers using content on social media platforms like it’s a new thing, but according to Lee Oden author of the article 5 Deadly Sins of Social Content the “B2B world has used content to romance customers across long buying cycles with great success for many years. But with increased importance among consumers, search engines, and social platforms, online marketers are emphasizing content in the marketing mix now more than ever.”

The article suggests there are 5 common mistakes made when using social media content and why they are important to avoid.

  1. Have a plan

Like anything else in marketing (or business for that matter), there needs to be a strategy. The article states that “experimenting with social media applications and platforms is a practical first step” but, it cannot be seen as a strategy. The article makes an excellent point in mentioning that the strategy should not be ‘set in stone’ but rather be adaptable and able to keep up with the changes of that particular social media platform, or changes in technology in general. I think this is very important to note because the social media landscape changed daily and this uncertainly forces the strategy to be solid and fool proof as possible, some things I believe makes for a great strategy.

  1. Take it personally

The article states that “companies that view social media platforms simply as a distribution channel fail to create value for the very audiences they’re trying to reach.” This mistake is often made by companies.  Examples can be found very easily during a 15 minute surfing session on Facebook or Twitter. The article says “people don’t typically use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, blogging, Pinterest, and other social applications for keeping tabs on corporate press releases, product announcements, and promotions. Reasons for social media usage are most often personal.” When I think about myself using Facebook or Twitter my main goal for usage is to keep in contact with friends and family (Facebook) or get the news in real time (Twitter). I am not actively looking for ads, deals or promotions on my favourite products or services. Oden suggest “marketers can achieve much better success with social content by empathizing with customer needs, interests, goals, and pain points.”  The good news here is that not many companies are doing this properly so that leaves room for the companies to do it right and get notices (and sales) because of it.

  1. It’s a community, not dictatorship

The social media community has proven to be fickle and sometimes illogical. The reason I say this is that it seems the common laws of marketing are not always followed in the space, and it is often difficult to predict the outcome. The article suggest “provide(ing) something of value before expecting anything in return.” and  “it’s smart to find out more specifically what consumers and those who influence them find valuable as inspiration for a social content plan.” This idea or model is built on that fact that it’s a ‘give and take’ relationship that by providing customer with something of value (content) they will be more likely to give something back to the company, wither that be a simple thought of a purchase, trail run of a product or complete loyalty to a brand.

  1. Promote it, even if it has legs

The article suggest “a lot of marketing budgets have invested in creating content for companies but many purists feel that great content should be left to attract attention based purely on the quality of the information. There’s a feeling that if content is really good, it will attract traffic and engagement all on it’s own.” This may sounds like a no brainer but its easy to assume that everyone in the community will think the content is as great as you do, and will love it just the same. That might be true, but the content still needs to be promoted and supported through other ways. The article states “with a hub and spoke publishing model, themed content is published into a repository that represents a “go to” resource for topics that the brand wants to be known for. At the same time, that content can be promoted through spokes or social channels among communities that are interested.” I think this is also a way to be seen as an information authority at the same time as showcasing great content through multiple channels.

  1. It never stops changing

As previously mentioned the social media platforms are always going to be changing and having an adaptable strategy is important. But it is also important to continuously monitor and analyse the content that is published on these platforms. The article states “As the community grows, even more sharing of links and traffic is involved with brand content. The increase in engagement, search visibility, and social sharing provides a rich set of data with which the brand can improve content creation. It’s a cycle of hypothesis, implementation, and analysis that can improve how effectively a brand is able to refine social content effectiveness at inspiring business outcomes.”


Other links of interest:

Corporate Blogging Done Right

My company recently decided it was time to join the blogging world. Naturally working in such a large company there was a number of different opinions concerning what the blog should be about, what kind of information it should included and how it will increase the bottom line. After hearing /watching these conversations I decided to look into corporate blog best practices.  Below are a few best practices I think that are important outlined in an article titled “10 tips for corporate blogging” on written by Erica Sallow.

Establish a Content Theme and Editorial Guidelines

Establishing a content theme and editorial guidelines allows the reader to have a clear understanding of what the blog is about and why they should care to read it. The article recommends to “chose a blog name and theme that fits well with your company’s expertise, but don’t be afraid to branch out into a larger space.” I believe by doing this the company is able to position themselves as the information authority by blogging about the company’s expertise but also communicating they are innovative by discussing and new ideas and changes.

Editorial guideline are a great place to start when hashing out what fits in the blog and allows the writer to stay on track and always delivery well thought out content.

Choose a Blogging Team and Process

Being that blogging is a form of content marketing, the content of a blog must be perfect (or close to it). By choosing a team of core bloggers with great writing skills and outgoing attitudes the blogs will be reflect these features and as  create engaging and interesting content..

The article outlines two options regarding the process the blogger (and/or blogger team) must follow.  One, having an editor or a group of editors and two, allowing the bloggers to post at their own will. I believe it is important to have an editor to make sure the blog doesn’t ‘miss the mark’ in terms of content, and make sure it supports the company’s brand. Also, any writer will tell you it is difficult to edit and fact check their own work. That being said, I believe a best practice is to have an editor.

Humanize your Company

This relates to choosing a blogging team and process. The article suggests “think(ing) of it (the blog) as a conversation between people, not between a brand and one person.” Be allowing blogger to have their own by-line on blogs is makes the communication feel more like a conversation with an expert, rather than a monotone ‘how to manual’ from a brand. The article also suggest allowing the blogger to have their own voice and writing style. While this can be beneficial I believe the voice or writing style needs to be complementary to the brand.

Avoid PR and Marketing

This is often hard to do because a blog essentially a marketing tool. The article suggests “if (the blog is) maintained correctly, it will act as a repository of real analysis and opinions provided by your company’s fine employees.” You often see corporate blogs writing about new promotions or upcoming sales. The article suggests “stay(ing) away from trying to sell your readers. There are appropriate venues for that, and your blog shouldn’t be one of them.” It is important to keep this in mind when choosing a blogging team and/or creating an editorial calendar.

Welcome Criticism

The article suggests to “make it a policy to welcome criticism, thinking of it as an opportunity for feedback and improvement.” This is a best practice that I believe can be applied to anything done in the corporate world, or life for that matter. Being that blogging is a form of social media welcoming criticism and dealing with negative feedback is part of the game and can be very useful when done right.

Outline a Comment Policy

The article warns “if you open up your blog for full feedback (which you should), you will get a variety of comments — constructive, complimentary, hateful, and spam. Be prepared for everything.” The article suggest creating a comment policy that will help your team deal with each comment in the correct way and make sure everyone else on the team is doing the same thing. The article suggests having a process when deciding when to reply, delete, by pass or answer a comment. I believe it is important to answer every comment and only removing comments with offensive language or inappropriate content. Each comment presents an opportunity for customer relationship management, risk management or customer engagement.

Get Social

By adding social media share tools to your blog you are allowing your “readers to promote your work” according to the article. The article also suggests passing on comments to the appropriate person in the company and having them respond to the customer while maintaining the same personal tone. I think is this great advice because it shows that the blog is not just a place for friendly posts and updates but rather a genuine communication tool that allows the customer to reach further into the company if they would like. By responding in a personal way the company is able to strengthen these new relationships and hopefully generate a positive brand image (and sales).

The article also suggests “promoting your social presence on your blog, by implementing links, buttons and widgets that link to your social profiles. This will enable readers to stay connected with you across platforms.” In my opinion this only works if it is done consistency. When using social media it is important to choose tools that are complementary to increase you social media presence and perceived know how.

Having a Strategy

It is easy to get lost in the social media world and to only use tools because they are available, or worse, because everyone else is doing it. Think anything else in business a bog needs a clear strategy that can guide the blog through times of industry and technology change.


Other links of interest:

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