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Master the RFP Process: Start with your Needs Analysis

Sep 1, 2019 10:27:00 AM

By Roy Wollen, President, Hansa Marketing Services.


The Request for Proposal (RFP) process should always begin with a definition of success.

How many RFP processes have you written or answered in your career? I think I’ve been lucky; I’ve worked with hundreds. Sounds fun, but I can always tell the ones that are really just templates.  There's practically no effort invested. They most likely came from procurement departments shopping for the best price. These don't inspire people to put their best foot forward.

From my experience, the best RFPs begin with a solid understanding of needs. While the needs analysis is a project in and of itself

If you don’t begin with this analysis, watch out! The pitfall is you relinquish control to the vendor. Don’t forget that they are eager to visit you, whip out a spiffy demo, and have you fall in love with a pretty (inter)face. The RFP process is neither a technology showcase nor a procurement exercise. My point: Make sure you do a needs analysis before you send out the RFP., you must allocate the time to evaluating and clearly defining what you are looking for in a vendor.

As an example, imagine you’re looking to outsource your customer database. Any engagement should begin with a discussion about what you would gain by outsourcing in the first place. In this case, I feel there are five overall competencies I’d be searching for in a vendor. I’ll use these as the basis for my needs analysis:

  • Expertise and stewardship in managing data 
  • Deep experience in marketing campaign implementation
  • Analytical capabilities if needed
  • Dashboards, reports and smart tools to provide query access (not just for power users)
  • Strategic consulting and advice bundled in, no extra charge (really)

Remember, each of these capabilities includes key ingredients, so structure your needs in detail. If you do the work, your needs analysis will not sit on a shelf. It will pay off before the first vendor presentation, solidify senior executive support, and give you something to go back to after the solution is implemented. This puts you in the driver’s seat. 

Continue with Hansa's 9-Step Process

After you articulate your requirements, what are the next steps? Here is an outline of my nine-steps for a successful RFP process:


  1. Needs Analysis
  2. Strategy Development
  3. Create RFP
  4. Collect Vendor Replies, Initiate Interviews, and Complete your Scorecard
  5. Due Diligence
  6. Financial Analysis and ROI Assessment
  7. Risk Analysis
  8. Negotiations
  9. Vendor Selection and Contract Signatures, including Service Level Agreement


RFP Analysis Whitepaper: Download Now

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About the Author: Roy Wollen is president of Hansa Marketing Services and an expert in data-driven marketing.

With his prior roles at HP, Bloomingdale's and Experian, Roy brings 25 years of analytics and marketing experience to clients in numerous industries.

Roy has a Master of Science degree from Northwestern University's Integrated Marketing Communications program and is an adjunct professor at DePaul University in Chicago. Contact Roy Wollen at

Roy Wollen
Written by Roy Wollen

Roy Wollen is President of Hansa Marketing Services, a CDP Marketing agency. Roy has led some of the top marketers in industries such as Direct to Consumer, travel, financial services, B2B and retail. Roy is a consultant at heart and focuses on solving client problems using marketing technology and analytics. Roy is also Lecturer at Northwestern’s Medill School of Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC). Roy teaches Marketing Metrics, B2B Marketing and Digital Analytics. Roy’s academic work focuses on data-driven marketing and marketing measurement. The common theme is proving the value of marketing investments, customer data and measuring business outcomes. Roy earned a Master of Science degree from Medill IMC and is a speaker at industry conferences and events.