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34 Fall 2006 Writer s Lock In the past a marketing research project might have been awarded to a firm simply on the basis of client preferBy Matthew E Singer ence and an informal discussion However in today s marketplace there is an increased focus for proving return on investment for marketing expenditures Procurement departments are becoming more involved in the management and oversight of outsourcing decisions including marketing research services The process of vendor selection is becoming more structured and for many clients more complex As organizations strive to ensure that the highest quality marketing research service is delivered at the most economical price the competitive bidding process is becoming commonplace In this environment the request for proposal RFP plays a vital role shaping the context for vendor selection Clients are employing additional tools to help simplify the vendor selection process the preferred vendor list to reduce the effort required to track varying levels of competencies among vendors and the master agreement to make the establishment of contracts for individual projects less laborintensive for frequently called upon vendors Learn how to craft a winning proposal Although these are proving useful neither is supplanting the RFP The RFP and its value The RFP outlines general research parameters and projectspecific needs It can be delivered in written form e g e mail formal document or verbal form e g telephone conversation voice mail message The client s goal is to submit an RFP to multiple vendors and receive comprehensive proposals that are logically and consistently structured for easy head to head comparison This development process can be labor intensive and requires an expenditure of resources from both parties However the benefits are worth the time and effort See Benefits of proposal sidebar on page 38 Vendor response When you receive an RFP you must plan an effective response one that accomplishes two main objectives 1 furthering your understanding of the client s needs and 2 making a positive impact on the client one that favorably positions your firm for winning the business How can you do this Learn to write a winning proposal The subsequent recommendations involve sequential activities Predictably success will become more common when you follow several suggestions My knowledge comes from collective successes and failures marketing research 35 Executive Summar y In an environment where the vendor selection process is becoming more structured and complicated and competitive bidding is becoming commonplace the request for proposal RFP plays a crucial role When you receive an RFP you must respond effectively with a winning proposal A systematic What are the key questions information needs that research must address What are the vital business decisions that the research findings will affect How will the results be used you to forge new client relationships and expand current What other marketing factors are contributing to the need for research ones Has previous research been conducted on related topics and consistent approach to proposal development allows 1 Reflect on the Client Organizations vary in their reasons for and approaches to outsourcing marketing research Therefore your approach to developing a proposal must incorporate any unique perspectives that define the individuality of a potential client If you have submitted proposals or worked with an organization then you should have a good sense of what contributes to proposal acceptance and why previous proposals were rejected 2 Read and Decipher Don t review the RFP once do it a number of times with an eye toward identifying areas that might require additional clarification from the client Build a checklist Record conclusions that you can safely make based on the RFP s information keep assumptions to a minimum and establish question areas Your checklist serves as a tool for guiding a directed conversation with the client 3 Make Preliminary Contact Before you write a draft arrange for such contact with the RFP s author There are multiple objectives for establishing dialogue at this early stage the most important one is to convey gratitude for considering your firm for the project Confirm that you represent your firm s interest in submitting a proposal establish your desire to gain more specific information about the upcoming marketing research and determine a convenient time to engage in further conversation 4 Use Your Checklist As a Guide The goal of a teleconference is to verify conclusions and address all those question areas from the RFP Use your checklist to ensure that you don t overlook any important issues The following discussion points represent important areas for proposal development that should comprise your checklist Although the flow of the conversation might not exactly reflect this outline you should address each topic with the client Understand the client s objectives Review the project background and proposed objectives with the client to ensure the accuracy of your comprehension Develop a thorough understanding of the information gaps that drive the need for research bring to the surface underlying business issues that must be considered when designing a methodology 36 If not clearly addressed in the RFP discuss objectives with the client Consider asking Fall 2006 Are there secondary or tertiary objectives that also need to be addressed Tip Identify and address all of the key decision points that the research must target Ultimately this additional information will contribute to greater levels of client satisfaction There will be fewer modifications to methodology subsequent to project initiation and a decreased likelihood of cost overruns Pursue a research method Your leeway is restricted when the client outlines the approach to research in specific terms Yet even when the RFP specifies a desired methodology determine how receptive the client might be to receiving additional recommendations especially if you believe a different approach would be better suited to accomplish objectives Consider asking Are specific needs driving the suggested research design outlined in your RFP 1 Are in person interviews the preferred method because you want team members to have the opportunity to observe feedback firsthand or because realtime communication among team members in the back room is an important part of an iterative testing process 2 Are telephone interviews

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