4 Tips for sharpening your higher education marketing RFP

At Elliance, we receive countless higher education request for proposals (RFPs).  Knowing that colleges and universities put together RFPs semi-annually at best, it’s no surprise that some lack clarity. However, the best way to get exactly what you want is to make your RFP crystal clear.

Here, are the four most common issues as well as the advice on avoiding them:

1. End Goals: When stating the goals, focus on the ends rather than the means. For example, a goal to “refine program webpages” could be a means to many ends, from improved page conversion to establishing brand consistency. Eliminate the guesswork by stating direct and deliberate end goals in your RFP. To get to the heart of the matter, consider questions such as what problem are you trying to solve, what do you want more of, and why now?

2. Strategy vs. Implementation: A common ambiguity in the higher education RFPs is whether an institution is looking for only the marketing plan/strategy or the strategy and implementation. Be clear on whether you intend to implement the plan —whole or in part — in-house or have an agency partner do so. If you are looking for a consulting engagement be sure to state this explicitly.

3. Undermining the Brand: While many higher education RFPs acknowledge that the college/university brand is suffering; few recognize that such an issue may require a separate engagement. Often, RFPs attempt to package multiple issues as a single enrollment challenge. One way to acknowledge this situation in an RFP is to dedicate a separate section for each engagement, accompanied by its corresponding objectives and deliverables.

4. Matching Deliverables: Listing the deliverables in an RPF is very helpful as it reaffirms stated goals and informs pricing. However, a common inconsistency is that the deliverables do not match the project scope. For example, a brand-focused RFP should not abruptly introduce “campaign strategies” as a deliverable. All deliverables should have a basis in the scope. One way to spot this issue is to check for newly introduced terms under the deliverables that were not mentioned in prior sections of the RFP.

Above all, being open to communicate — whether via phone or email — will help address most ambiguities, which in turn will inform accurate pricing and improve the overall project outcome.