No one likes writing RFPs, but it's common when you search for a web content management system. Get insider tips for how to simplify this complex process.

How to write an RFP

How to Write a Request for Proposal for Web Content Management

Thu Apr 5, 2018

Many organizations begin their search for a web content management system by sending out a request for proposals to vendors. This is a lengthy, complex process that involves many people and considerations, and is often stressful for everyone involved.

In a recent webinar, I discussed what goes into putting together an RFP, some best practices, and what anyone can do to make the process go more smoothly. But there’s one truth we should probably get out of the way: No one likes RFPs. The vendors don’t like them. The customers don’t like them. In fact, if there’s a way to avoid going to RFP, that’s probably what you should do. If not, read on.

Before you begin writing your RFP

  • Put together a Preparation Committee. Most organizations will have RFP Review Committees but they overlook at the preparation part. This causes other business units within your organization to interject requirements and request right when you are ready to send it out. Get them involved early, make them a part of the requirements gathering
  • Start brainstorming on what you actually need. We all want to get the most technology and features for our money but take the time understand the needs of your business. The reasons behind why a certain feature is requested. This will help you focus your RFP on what your business actually needs and not everything under the CMS sun.
  • Know what you can afford. If you know you only have enough funds for a bicycle, there is no point in test driving a Mercedes.
  • Do initial research of vendors, watch some demos. This will both help you and the vendor save some time and efforts. Seeing initial demos of vendors will help clarify the needs of the organization and create a relationship between the two parties. This process will also allow you eliminate some vendors (that may not be the right fit) right off the bet. Again, saving you and the vendor time and money.

Always write your own RFP questions

Don’t pull questions directly from a template. Most RFP templates are written by vendors, for the benefits of the vendor. Not the customer. You can use the questions in a template as a starting point, and as a way to learn how questions might stack the odds in a vendor’s favor. But you should always consider how to rephrase them in a way that speaks to your specific needs.

Here are some quick question writing tips:

  • Avoid the “Yes”, “No”, “With Customization” responses
  • If you ask a vague question, you will get a vague answer. Be specific.
  • Always ask for use cases, scenarios and screenshots
  • Focus your questions on the benefit of a feature rather than the feature itself.

Host a Pre-Bid Meeting

Conduct a pre-bid meeting following the launch of the RFP. It gives you a chance to get a better impression of the vendors, and to clear up any questions they find confusing, give them insights into the project, and also a quick way to eliminate technologies that are clearly not the right fit.

If you have the option, have vendors attend an on-site pre-bid meeting. This will allow you to get to know the vendor better. If not, a conference call is usually sufficient, and could leave you with better vendor relationships and maybe even fewer contenders—and fewer proposals to review.

Don’t Settle for a Vendor’s Scoring Criteria

First off, don’t let the vendor do the scoring for you. I have seen many formula-based spreadsheets where scoring techniques where based on the vendor’s 1-5 response rating. The vendor will always do what they need to do put 5 as a response. Instead, take each response independently and assign a percentage to the response as to how much of the requirement that particular response is fulfilling.

Also, bring other business units in. Allow them to score the same responses from their point of view. Take an average at the end. This takes more time and effort, but will get you a more accurate result.

And Once Your RFP Is Ready...

Send it our way! We would be happy to review it for you. If we believe we are the right fit for what you are looking for, we can turn it around pretty quickly! In the meantime, I'm always happy to show you a demo of Percussion.


Kemal Demirhisar Percussion Software
Kemal Demirhisar
Manager of Solutions Engineering | Percussion Software

Originally from Istanbul, Turkey, Kemal is the hub that connects prospective customers to product management, and engineering to sales. If you've seen a demo of Percussion CMS, Kemal was probably your presenter. A passionate digital marketer with mastery of code, he is a web content management expert with experience in social, web design and development, building engagement, SEO, and anything Google.