Once you’ve determined your functional and non-functional requirements it’s time to assemble your RFP.  Begin with an overview of your company, what it does, how long it’s been in business, what it specializes in, and what sets it apart from its competitors.

Next provide an overview of the opportunity for prospective vendors.  Explain what you expect the relationship with the vendor to be, and set the expectations of the prospective relationship before moving on to your requirements.

The key to writing requirements is to be thorough without being redundant or repetitive.  You can do this by reducing your requirements into core functions.  For example, if one of your requirements is for the vendor to have the ability to trigger a Welcome message when someone completes a subscription form and another requirement is to trigger a message when someone completes a survey form, you can reduce this requirement to “Platform must support form-triggered messaging”.

Remember that what we’re looking for is function, not application of a function.  While you might feel that you are being thorough, what you’re really doing is adding time to the process as you add unnecessary pages to your RFP. 

The vendor is going to give you the same answer for each application of a core function that you list appended with the iteration of that function that you listed.  Vendors will not be impressed by your thoroughness, but will more often see you as either inexperienced or high-maintenance.  While either of those might be true, the RFP isn’t the place you want to be displayed.

After listing your functional and non-functional requirements, describe and list what types of messages, campaigns, and programs your company sends.  Provide examples in an addendum to your RFP.  You may also want to include an advanced message that you may not have but would like to, and would like to see in a product demonstration.  If so remember to stay reasonable and not over extend your organizations ability to support such a message.

When listing your messages add some volume projections.  While some vendors offer a flat rate, the common denominator will always be CPM pricing.  If you are including flat-rate pricing vendors, be sure to include the size of you database in records, not bytes.  Include all of the records that you will be hosting on the vendor platform; active, inactive, opted-in, opted-out, etc.

Next add your submission guidelines including upon what criteria you will be basing your final decision.  Provide your evaluation process and your planned schedule, and list who will be involved in the selection process and their roles.  And don’t forget to tell them where to send their proposals and direct any questions.

Here is a sample of the layout and structure we use in all of our RFPs:

(Your Company Name)
Email Marketing Service Provider
Request for Proposal

Make a confidentially statement right away.  This is also a good place to ask if any clients or affiliates pose a conflict of interest.

About (Your Company)

Use this area to explain who your company is and what it does.  You want the vendor to see you as a valuable prospect.   

  • Use bullets to highlight things about your organization
  • Everybody likes bullets. 
  • State when you expect the project to be completed by. 

Overview of Opportunity & Requirements

Relationship with Email Service Provider

  • Explain or bullet what you expect the relationship with the vendor to be.
  • This is where you will set expectations of the relationship.


  • Here is where you will list your functional and non-functional requirements:

»   Functional requirements are what you expect the vendor platform to DO

»   Example: The platform must integrate with Web Analytics

»  If you use a specific analytics tool be sure to list it

»   Non-Functional requirements are what you expect the platform to BE

»   Example: The platform must be user-friendly with intuitive navigation

                                   »  If you can explain what “user-friendly” is all the better. 
                                       What’s “friendly” to one isn’t to all

  • Use top-level bullets like, “Technology must provide/support the following features:”

»   Then list the features

»   And sub features

»  And sub features if necessary

Email Campaigns

Describe and list what types of messages you send:

  • Daily Offers

»    Daily triggered email campaign with targeted discount/coupon offers.
»    Subscription activated with Your Company registration.
»    Content dynamically populated from backend database

  • Transactional Emails

»   Receipts
»  Confirmations
»  Notifications
»  Lost Password

(Project some message volumes)

Projected Email Volume

Campaign Type

Q2 ‘13

Q3 ‘13

Q4 ‘13

Q1 ‘14


Daily Offer






Transactional Emails






Lifecycle Programs


















RFP Submission Guidelines

Define your submission guidelines and on what criteria you will base your final decision.

  • Ask about the company

»   Company name and address
»   Description of how/why you are uniquely qualified to partner with Your Company Name

  • Ask about their technology

»   Describe system architecture

  • How/who will manage your account

»   Describe the account management and customer support model 

  • How much will it cost

»   Provide an outline of your pricing structures and options  

  • What else do you want to know

»   API documentation (and any other white paper or guidelines on data integration options)

Selection Process & Schedule

Explain your evaluation process and your planned schedule.

Describe who will be involved in the process and their roles.

Describe your schedule and timeline

Tell them where to send proposals or ask questions:

Give examples of current messages.  Put together your most complicated message or program and ask for it to be duplicated for the demo.