How to Write a Marketing Database RFP

If you’re contemplating the purchase of marketing database technology and/or outsourced services, chances are you’ll write a request for proposal to help find a vendor.

Over the years, I’ve been on both sides of the RFP process. I’ve helped companies write RFPs, and I’ve worked for vendors who respond to them. Based on those experiences, here is a checklist of elements that an RFP for a marketing database should address.


· Require all vendors to sign a nondisclosure agreement, and promise not to share vendor responses with other vendors.

· Provide a write-up about your business. Give the vendor as much information as possible about what your company does. Include links to appropriate Web sites.

· Describe your objective in issuing the RFP. What problems are you trying to solve?

· Define your probable schedule for selection of the vendor and deployment of the database.

· Provide a schedule for response. Allow at least three weeks for vendors to prepare their response if you want their best thinking. Clearly define the deadline and give contact information for the person who should receive the RFP response.

· Offer a method for them to ask questions to clarify the RFP. Encourage interaction rather than limiting it. Do not say that you’ll share all questions and answers with all vendors. Often, the questions a vendor asks provide a good indication of their grasp of what your business is all about.

· Encourage vendors to provide any thoughts they have on how to innovate the assignment. Don’t limit their thinking to the words in the RFP. Some vendors can provide solutions that you might not have contemplated.

· Ask for references only after you determine the finalists. There is no reason to spend time contacting references of companies whose offerings do not meet your needs or cost constraints.

· Note that finalists will be invited to make a formal presentation of their capabilities. You’ll want to meet them face to face. Chemistry is important.

· Vendors always want to know who is competing for the business. Unless there is a real reason not to share that information, tell them who is receiving the RFP.

· Indicate that you reserve the right to not act on any of the responses and that vendors are responsible for their own expenses in responding to the RFP.

Vendor information to ask for includes:

· Who owns the company? How long has it been in business?

· What products and services does it offer?

· How many clients does it have? How many employees?

· Who are its top five clients? What percentage of its business does each of the top five represent? How long has each been a client?

· How many marketing databases has it built? How many are running today?

· What is its level of experience in your business? Are there other clients in your category?

· Contact information for the person responsible for the vendor’s response to the RFP.

· What the company believes makes it unique.

Define your needs:

• Clearly define the sources of data that will go into the database and the estimated volume of each source.

· If possible, provide file layouts and data dictionaries with the RFP.

· Describe the types of marketing initiatives you plan to implement using the database. If possible, give examples of typical campaigns in detail.

· Describe the number of campaigns you plan to implement in a year and describe your analytical needs as clearly as possible.

· Ask vendors to define as clearly as possible the level of support they can provide.

· Define your needs regarding account management and strategic input as well as hands-on running of the system for you.

· Ask vendors to assess what internal resources you will need available during initial setup and on an ongoing basis.


· Define the prospect data you will require and the information you need to append to customer records.

· What data sources does the vendor have access to, and where will the data you need come from? Does the vendor own the data or broker it?

· Ask for details about data hygiene. How will vendors ensure that customer and prospect information in the database is accurate and deliverable?

· Ask for innovative ideas vendors may have regarding the sourcing and use of data.

· What analytical services (modeling, profiling, etc.) does the vendor offer?

· What support can it provide for the marketing channels you use?

· Technology:

· Ask for information about what software will be used to deliver campaign management

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