April 23, 2024

Corporate Nex Hub

Bringing business progress

How To Change the RFP Process To Meet Customer Needs?

5 min read

Randi Gladstone, Sr Strategy Consultant at Bluecore, explores the transformative shift in martech RFP processes. Marketers now prioritize customer-centricity, abandoning channel-centric approaches to meet evolving needs and achieve business success.

An interesting thing has happened in martech over the past five years – technologies have emerged that don’t fit neatly into channels or specific silos. Take the example of point of sale (POS) systems. Even just a few years ago, a state-of-the-art POS system was designed for the in-store checkout experience, full stop. 

Today, POS systems are designed to work as a flexible connection across any purchase point, from a store to a mobile app to the website. If I walk into Nike to get a new pair of sneakers and they don’t have my size, the sales associate has a tablet that gives her immediate access to global inventory. She can also connect that information to my customer profile so that she can apply any discounts and enter my shipping address to send the shoes right to my door. 

Regardless of these awesome advancements, I encounter marketing teams daily that are still putting out Request for Proposal(RFPs) that are stuck in the past. This prevents them from being able to deliver these seamless multi-channel experiences that not only make customers happy but also make companies more successful. I see too many RFPs set up for failure due to a contract or a persistent business challenge that can’t be addressed with the current state of technology.

The Trouble With Traditional RFPs

RFPs are often doomed from the start. Usually, an RFP gets kicked off for one of two reasons. Either a contract is about to expire, or technology is not interoperable with newer technologies added to the stack more recently. This RFP approach only gives marketers the ability to advance their stack incrementally. They might get something faster or more scalable, but they aren’t taking any big leaps forward.

What’s more, many traditional RFPs are issued to address channel-specific problems and, as a result, perpetuate existing problems. It’s a stack swap versus a strategic enhancement. The email team may not scale personalization beyond recent customers and loyalty members. Or the site merchandising team wants to find a way to increase the percentage of first-time buyers who come back and buy again. An RFP to solve channel needs means that they aren’t breaking out of the old silos that make it so hard to create great customer experiences.

Problems persist with the traditional RFP because IT, engineers, and product needs often lead them. This results in a “feed and integrations” response and deprioritizes ways a prospective technology can support and solve current growth challenges. The business need is often abandoned in pursuit of a technical match.

Take the common example of a CDP. Companies have sunk huge resources into creating a single view of the customer and integrating channel technology into a CDP. The IT team might prioritize a marketing solution that can better leverage first-party CDP data, and they’d miss an entirely different solution that works more dynamically with real-time customer and product behavior tracking, which could drive higher revenue for the business. 

See More: How to Navigate Pandemic Chaos with Revenue Intelligence

Marketer-first RFPs Yield Customer-first Tech

A better RFP process originates differently. Marketers should be putting together an RFP when there is a need that a marketer can not fulfill with the technology they have. And they need to think about these needs from the customer perspective — not the channel perspective.

Marketers should lead an RFP with the questions they consistently try to answer yet fail to address. It’s important to look for the RFP process to address the gaps and barriers that prevent successful strategy execution, like challenges around decreased customer retention, lifetime value, and ROI. 

For example, rather than start with the statement, “I need a new ESP because my contract is up, and I want better email personalization,” marketers should say, “I need to talk to some technology companies that are good at scaling marketing personalization so I can create more relevant experiences for my customers and drive higher LTV.”

Key elements marketers can change

The customer may or may not care about email, so why should new personalization capabilities be limited to that one channel? Shouldn’t a vendor have to connect a capability to core company metrics? 

There are a few elements of the RFP process that marketers can change to make RFPs more successful:

1. Identify the deeper problem: If personalization on email isn’t scaling, the problem might not be email. Marketers should investigate to get to the root of the issue and think about it more broadly. Perhaps accessing customer data is too difficult, or systems aren’t talking to each other effectively. 

2. Always look for reasons to improve: Don’t wait for an RFP to audit existing technology. Marketers should continuously assess barriers and roadblocks that prevent achieving a desired outcome. The current scenario of Google’s third-party cookie deprecation should lead marketers to understand their identification resolution and recognition capabilities as they explore ways to increase first-party data capture. This need should be outlined in an upcoming martech assessment.

3. Evolve from channel focus to customer focus: Consider the customer’s behavior. Customer engagement and lifecycles are not linear, nor are they siloed, and as such, an RFP focus on channel-specific technology will perpetuate existing needs for increased relevance at the unique customer level where, when, and with what they choose to engage with your brand. The goal should be to deliver value to customers so they like the brand and buy more. Younger generationsOpens a new window