Your boss has given the green light to begin the exploration for new website.
Then your boss adds that you have to put together an RFP.
Cue sad trombone.
A new website design project sounds awesome, but RFPs can be confusing, frustrating, and take up a ton of time. We've also seen our fair share of terrible RFPs that include incorrect or outdated information. Who has time to make sure that you're RFP is perfectly up-to-date?
Have no fear. We're here to help.
In this blog post, we've equipped you with the tools, including an RFP template, to master this process and save time.
What is an RFP?
An RFP, or "Request for Proposal," is a document that compiles all of the criteria needed for a successful website project. It can include project background information, company history, budget information, just to name a few items.
Is an RFP required for a website project?
From an agency perspective, no. In fact, our recommendation is to avoid it if possible. But we understand that leadership in your company might find the RFP to be a valuable tool in selecting your next website vendor.
What to include in a website RFP?
This section covers all of the components that we recommend including in your RFP. If you're ready to dive in, grab our handy RFP template and jump right on in.
Brief Company Introduction
This should be a quick introduction about the brand. Keep it short by giving basic information. If this introduction is a challenge to create, consider going through a branding and messaging project first.
We are very excited to be planning a website redesign in the next 3 months. [INSERT BANK NAME] has been an integral part of the community for 90 years. Our expert staff combined with our extensive product offerings, meets you where you're at in your life journey.
Our current website is not serving our needs and we would like to work with an agency that can help us achieve our goals with a new website.
Business Goals for Website
A website is more than just a beautiful design and some content. It's a living, breathing entity that should be providing value for the organization. Starting a project with tangible goals in mind, helps your agency guide you in the process in making strategic decisions to help you reach those goals.
Every bank should have two categories for business goals: Customer Acquisition and Customer Delight.
Customer acquisition goals are the goals that align with getting new customers.
Customer delight goals are the goals that align with serving your current customers.
Be specific with these goals and determine how you're going to measure them and prove success. If you can't determine how you're going to measure success, it's likely not a strong goal.
We would like our new website to supplement our existing marketing efforts by providing stronger lead generation for sales team and increasing our visibility to our prospects.
Our business goals for customer acquisition include:
- Increase website traffic by 50% in the next 12 months
- Increase website lead generation from an average of 5 leads per month to 20 leads per month
- Improve our search engine rankings for topics that our audience frequently searches
Our business goals for customer delight include:
- Provide easy access to online banking, loan payments, and financial education resources
- Increase customer communication to weekly touch points that meet our customers at their preferred communication channel.
Current Marketing Efforts
The more your agency can dive into your current marketing efforts, the more they'll learn about your current marketing landscape. Are you engaging in more traditional efforts vs. digital efforts? Are you spending money on advertising? All of this affects the website in one way or another.
Our current marketing efforts include the following:
- Google AdWords
- Print Ads (list publications)
- Community Sponsorships
- Social Media (list channels)
Problems with Current Website and Reasons for Change
If you aren't experiencing any problems with your current website, that's great! If you are, providing specific items help your agency address those problems in the future.
Our current website is not supporting our needs at this time. It was created 4 years ago and we have evolved since then. The issues with our current website and the reasons we are looking for change include:
- Our current website is built on Joomla/Drupal/etc. which is not easy for our marketing team to use. We have to ask IT for help with basic tasks and we would like a more robust CMS that gives us more control over content and marketing campaign
- Our current website is not responsive and therefore does not deliver a comfortable experience on mobile devices
- Our current website was built with a “brochure” mindset, but today we are engaging in inbound marketing activities and we would like a set of web tools that supports more assertive marketing tactics like landing pages, online forms, blogging, and other inbound marketing tactics
- The design of our current website is dated and does not follow the design trends of today
- The content and structure of our current website is dated and does not reflect the evolution of our strategy over the past few years
Audience and Buyer Personas
Buyer personas are fictional representations of your target marketing. One Example might be “newly married couple” or “teenager getting a first job”. Try to be as specific as possible when describing who you want to target with your website. It's not uncommon for banks to have 15-20 different personas.
If you don't have buyer personas written out, now is a good time to quickly document them. If time doesn't allow for that, general demographic information is helpful.
Our audience is made up of the following personas:
- Tina Teenager
- Tina is excited about getting her first job. She's ready to open her first checking account to set up her direct deposit.
- Erin Entrepreneur
- Erin is an entrepreneur at heart. She's always starting new businesses and needs a trustworthy financial institution to support her business needs.
- Sam Savings
- Sam is in his 30s and majorly thinking about the future. College, retirement, next home. He wants to make sure he has the best financial set up to maximize his savings.
- Greg Graduate
- Greg has just graduated from college, has his first entry-level job, stressed about student loan debt and needs a new car. Greg is looking for resources to help him get started in the process.
We would like our audience to engage with our website in the following ways:
- Use the website as an information source to help them in their business or personal financial goals
- Download our resources and attend webinars that we host
- Give us contact information over time so we can build a profile on our personas and reach out to them later to open conversations
- Share our content with their networks so we can reach new prospects by referral
Assumptions of Best Practices
Every agency has their own set of best practices. It's best to outline what you expect to start the conversation in the sales process to eliminate surprises later.
Since we are carefully selecting only the best agencies to talk to, we are fully expecting that best practices will be followed as we create our new website. However, to ensure that our expectations are clear we would like to communicate the following assumptions as we select an agency:
- We expect that our new website will be fully-responsive so that our website visitor enjoy a great experience on any device, including smart phones and tablets.
- We expect that our new website will be built to render properly on all major web browsers up to two versions back.
- We would like our website to be accessible to users with disabilities and we would like to be structured to follow ADA guidelines.
- We would expect our website go undergo a code review and internal quality assurance process by the agency before delivery and launch to ensure that errors are minimized.
- We expect that our agency will have a proven project management process in place.
- While we understand that a large part of SEO is a factor of content strategy and not necessarily website structure, we do expect that our website will be built to be search engine friendly and ready to be properly indexed.
- We expect that our agency will use 301 redirects to help us avoid losing too much traffic from already-indexed pages.
- We expect the agency to collaborate with our third-party platforms to ensure a seamless user experience.
Examples of Websites You Admire
As you compile your research, make a list of websites that you like to give the agency an idea of what you're looking for. Don't feel like you have to limit this to financial institution examples in this list. Include specifics about what you're drawn to about this website, including functionality.
Extra credit: I find it helpful if you include websites you absolutely hate, but it's not necessary.
Though we want our new website to be unique and bold, our team has been drawn to the following websites as examples that we admire:
- This website includes the easy access to online banking
- We like how the products are structured into Personal and Business Banking
- This financial education microsite aligns with what we would like to implement 12 months following a new website design.
- The design is clean with lots of white space.The photography is striking. High quality photography is important to us and we're prepared to make the appropriate investment in that element.
Desired Functionality and Website Tools
This section is pretty straight-forward. What do you want your site to do? What are the components that you need to hit your goals?
As we have identified our business goals and personas and determined how we would like our audience to engage with our new website, we have identified the following uses cases for functionality on our website:
- Online banking: it is necessary to seamlessly integrate with our third-party online banking system.
- Blog: we would like a blog on our website that allow us to publish articles on a regular basis to educate our users and build more traffic to our website.
- Landing pages: we would like the ability to create landing pages to capture leads and offer downloadable resources.
- Pillar pages: we would like to provide our users in-depth resource pages containing financial wellness information and to help with our SEO.
- Website search: we would like our users to be able easily search for the content their looking for via a website search bar.
- Email marketing integration: we would like to capture emails via the website to subscribe to our newsletter.
- Online forms: we would our website to allows us to build online forms without the need for programming knowledge. We would like these forms to be secure (behind SSL) as needed.
- Workflow: we would like a workflow process so that certain team members can edit content and then submit it for approval by a manager or supervisor before it goes live on the website.
- Navigation control: we would like the ability to add and remove web pages as well as control our website navigation through the Content Management System.
- Financial calculators: we would like to build calculators to offer as a resource alongside our financial wellness education. We are open to utilizing third-party systems.
Required Third-party Integrations
Every bank website involves third-party integrations. Provide a comprehensive list to the agency. Include any items that you'll be adding in the next 12 months.
If you haven't identified the third-party, but you know what you need it to do, include that in your list. A specialized agency will be able to make recommendations.
Along with the functional areas described previously, we would like the website to integrate with the following existing third-party tools already in use (or planned) by our organization:
- Salesforce: when a web form is submitted on our website, we would like the contact information and form data to flow into Salesforce so that our sales team can start analyzing the lead.
- Eventbrite: we would like to embed Eventbrite events on our website to allow people to register for events.
- Live Chat: we would like to integrate live chat on our website so that our website visitors can get real-time help as they view our content.
- Mailchimp: we would like users to be able to subscribe to our email marketing channel.
When thinking about a website design project, content is often afterthought. Our recommendation is that you tackle the content up front and work with your agency to determine the best course of action.
You should divide up the content into two categories: Content Creation and Content Migration.
Content creation is writing or editing content.
Content migration is placing the content into the new website.
Both of these options take time and you need to determine if you have the resources on your team to take this on. A 300 page website takes about 75 hours to place content and style it.
Find the number of pages on your site by typing “site:www.yourdomain.com” into Google and looking at the number of pages returned at the top.
Our current website has approximately 300 pages of content.
[CONTENT SCENARIO 1]
We would like to have most of our content re-written. Our content is stale and does not reflect our current goals. As part of this website project, we will need our agency partner to write new content for most of the website.
[CONTENT SCENARIO 2]
We would like to have some of our content re-written. Our content is stale and does not reflect our current goals. As part of this website project, we will need our agency partner to write new content for the major areas of the website. We will supply content for 80% of the website but we would like the remaining 20% to be re-written for us.
[CONTENT SCENARIO 3]
We will supply all content for the new website. We will need our agency partner to provide migration for 100% of our existing content or the new content that we provide.
[CONTENT SCENARIO 4]
In order to keep costs lower, we will be happy to migrate content ourselves provided we receive training on how to do so.
How Your Team Will Use The Website
Knowing how your team will use the website will help determine how things should be built, content management system recommendations, and understanding what's most important in your day-to-day operation.
The following use cases describe how our team anticipates using the new website. The examples are segments by job role.
- Log into the website every day to post new content and work through a running todo list of updates.
- Post a new blog article at least once a week.
- Share content via social media from the website a few times per week.
- Set up events on the website each month and manage online registrations.
- Approve submitted content through the workflow system after reviewing.
- Review analytics weekly.
- Assist other team members with website issues.
- Occasionally write blog posts to submit to marketing director for review.
- Review analytics and offer feedback to marketing director.
- Assist with writing copy for email campaigns.
- Share blog content with prospects to help answer questions.
- Subscribe prospects to email list after gaining permission.
- Work with marketing team to craft customized email campaigns to prospect lists.
Ongoing Marketing Support
This is where you need to decide who is going to use the website as a marketing tool. Are you going to do everything in-house? Are you going to ask your agency to help? Who is going to be responsible for executing digital marketing? Most organizations have not figured this part out yet so this is what we recommend putting in the RFP as a logical part of the process.
After the website is complete, we understand that it must be used as marketing tool if we want it to be successful. While we plan to handle marketing in-house at this time, we are open to considering help from an agency.
As part of the website project, we would like to hire our agency to create a digital marketing plan that will give us a 12-month roadmap that we can use to reach our goals and including tactics like SEO, social media, content, and email. As we launch the website, we would like to have a plan to go with it that includes options for us doing everything in-house and also options for partnering with our agency. This consulting should be quoted as an option in the agreement.
Content Management System (CMS)
Selecting a content management system, or CMS, is one of the most important decisions you'll make in this process. You want to make sure that you're able to control as much as possible without having to rely on your IT team or agency for assistance.
Don’t go into it tied to one particular CMS. Be open to choosing the right tool for the job, not the CMS that you hear the most about. Provide your needs in a CMS. Your agency will help guide you down the correct path.
We would like our website to be built on an easy to use, reliable CMS that allows us to focus on content and marketing without worrying about technical issues. We are not tied to one specific CMS but we do have the following needs from a CMS:
- Should be user-friendly to the point that anyone can learn to use it (even non-technical people)
- Should have the flexibility to allow the implementation of directories, online databases, and other ways of displaying content that goes beyond a simple “web page”.
- Should allow complete control over website navigation.
- Security should be a focus of the CMS. We would like a CMS that has a proven track record for security, 2-step verification and/or allows IP address login restriction, and has a process for addressing any intrusions or security issues.
- Multi-user access levels. We would like to be able to provide fine-tuned access levels to different users. For example, we would like to be able to provide certain users limited access to certain areas of the site while providing other users complete access. We would also like to be able to restrict certain users to “read only” access or restrict other functions.
- Responsive admin portal. We would like a CMS that has a fully-responsive administrative interface so that we can (as needed) manage the website through tablets and smart phones.
- We would like a CMS that is cloud-hosted and maintained for us. We would our agency partner or the CMS provider to provide all upgrades, maintenance releases, and patches as part of our agreement.
- We would like our agency partner to provide unlimited support and training for our team so that any time we need help using the CMS we can call/email and get training.
- We would like a CMS that is being updated and improve on a continuous basis. Though we are approaching this project with optimism and a long-term partnership in mind, we would like to work with a CMS that has an established agency support ecosystem so that we are not locked into one agency. If we decide to part ways we want to be able to find another agency that supports the CMS that our website is hosted on.We would like the CMS to be hosted on a PCI-compliant platform for security.
Consult your technology team if you'd like assistance with this section. They should be able to help guide you on best practices and standards for your company.
You'll want to consider if cloud based hosting or on-site hosting is necessary. Cloud-based hosting takes the pressure off of your IT team and places the risk elsewhere. On-site hosting can be a good option if your team is large enough to implement this system. Remember that if a website is hosted on-site, that means your IT team is responsible if anything happens.
In some cases, the CMS might dictate that the hosting be one or the other. That will be something to consider in this process.
We understand the pros and cons of cloud hosting vs. on-site hosting. Our preference is cloud hosting. You will be required to provide security documentation.
Desired Cultural Fit
We are big believers in finding partnerships and not just a client-vendor relationship. Finding an agency that aligns with your cultural mindset can mean the difference of a positive experience or a negative experience.
We understand that technical and marketing expertise is not everything. We want to work with an agency that is a good cultural fit for us. We know that a bad cultural fit can slow down and even hurt a website project while a good cultural fit will help us be successful and reach a positive outcome.
It is also important to us because it’s our desire to engage in a long-term partnership and we want to partner with a team that feels like an extension of our own team.
We are looking for the following attributes when working with an agency:
- Passion. We want to work with a team that genuinely loves what they do.
- Longevity and experience. We want to work with an agency that has a lot of experience and has successfully completed hundreds of website projects.
- Open communication. We want to be able to communicate openly about questions, concerns, ideas, and anything that will help us work better together.
- Desire to problem-solve. We know that there will be hiccups and speed bumps along the way and we want to work with an agency that is ready to tackle issues with a creative mind and find creative solutions.
- Marketing experience. We want to work with an agency that not only has technical expertise but that also had marketing expertise (and certifications) so that you can help us make good marketing decisions as we create our new website.
- Usability expertise. We want to work with an agency that has expertise in usability so that we can develop site maps and workflows that serve our audience well.
Don't be afraid to be clear about your budget. Many RFPs dodge this issue altogether which means you will end up wasting your time with unqualified agencies. You don’t have to commit to anything right now. Just be honest about the range you can work in.
If you’re a smaller financial institution, your range might be $15,000 - $20,000. If you’re a larger organization with more complex needs, it might be $30,000 - $150,000. It’s really important to come up with a starting point so you can be as efficient as possible.
If your budget is $5,000 then you don’t want to waste time on agencies that do $50,000 projects. If your budget is $100,000 you don’t want to waste time talking to boutique agencies that max out at $10,000 projects. They could never handle your needs.
We understand that it will take some collaboration to arrive at a budget that is comfortable for everyone. However, we have tentatively established a budget range of $30,000 - $60,000 for our website redesign project.
While we understand that this is a large range, we know that there are many choices
I'm going to be frank here. You're never going to follow the timeline you set out in a website selection process. It never happens.
Instead just provide your clear process and be transparent with the agencies you're having a conversation with. Communication is key.
We recommend incorporating discovery calls/conversations in your process because no two proposals will be the exact same. These conversations will help you get to know the agency team and allow the agency team to dive into specific questions they might have about your RFP.
We are thrilled that you have chosen to consider working with us and we look forward to finding a good fit for everyone. The following is our process for choosing an agency:
- Create short list of agencies to send RFP to based on reviewing their websites
- Send RFP to selected agencies and request response with intent to participate
- Schedule discovery calls with agencies that respond with intent to participate
- Narrow down list of agencies based on discovery calls
- Schedule assessment meetings or presentations with selected agencies in which we will work together to get to know capabilities and background as well as tighten the scope of the project
- Request proposals / agreements from selected agencies
- Schedule meetings to review agreements together and negotiate terms and scope
- Review agreements and select agency
We understand that this is only a guideline and we are happy to be flexible within this framework. We also commit to making sure the appropriate decision makers are present at all meetings during the selection process so that we can make a fully-informed decision.
A website project is exciting and fun. Don't let the RFP process bring down the spirit of taking your banking website to the next level. Grab the template and get started!