Answers from the Front Lines

It’s almost summer! That time of year when a young boy's fancy turns to responding to natural search RFP's (okay, well for some of us at least). You see, I write this as we are in the midst of putting together a multitude of request for proposals for natural search.

The requests vary quite a bit. Some are very detail oriented and some cut right to the chase. My personal involvement in these over the years has always been to make sure the Strategic Partnership and Client Service teams have the necessary technical and case study background. At that point, it's in their capable hands to package and merchandise the RFP in a way that accurately portrays Resolution's service offerings without overselling or laying too much out up front.

I'll be totally honest, the extent of my sales background consists of selling refrigerators and laundry machines at Sears in my college days. In other words, while I have an absurd understanding of the inner-workings of an R134a based condenser (and those just sold themselves let me tell you), I lay no claim to having sales expertise :-)

However, the selling process in natural search RFP’s is intriguing to me. I usually only work with the technical aspects, but I know that’s only part of what goes into them. As an SEO professional, I can see how, on one hand, you want the client to understand your subject matter expertise. At the same time, you don't want to 'give away the farm' so to speak.

I wrote a blog that pontificated on this very subject. Then I read that blog back to myself on a flight from New York last week and saw how uninteresting it is to read as an outsider. So I went straight to the source via Lauren Mittleman, who is Manager of Strategic Partnerships here at RM. She is on the frontlines of hundreds of natural search RFP's (as well as paid) and deals with the balances I'm talking about daily. I asked Lauren three big questions on the subject, and here are her answers:

1. On average, how long does it take RM to get all the information together for a natural search RFP? What questions/items tend to take the longest to formulate a response to?

It absolutely varies based on the RFP and how much detail the questions are looking for. All RFPs need to address the company on an individual basis to take into consideration its specific challenges and needs. We need to take a deep dive into the client’s site, so the analysis can take anywhere from a day to a week to complete depending on the complexity of the site.

2. For natural search RFPs, do you think there is a juggling act between getting specific with responses and not ‘giving away too much up front’? If so, why? If not, why?

Whether it is an SEO or PPC RFP, you must always be considerate of this balance. You want to assure the client that your company has the expertise and proven success to provide unparalleled SEO service offerings, but you cannot reveal all the intricate strategies that go into managing these campaigns. To that point, it would be nearly impossible for us to relay all the information that our SEO experts impart on our client service teams to guide our clients to optimal natural rankings.

RFPs are tricky because you provide such detailed insight into campaign creation and management that if you reveal too much, you are essentially providing a step-by-step guide to the client to implement the strategies themselves or to pass along to another firm.

3. If you were going to put out an RFP for natural search, based on all the RFP’s you’ve seen come along, what would be the one question you absolutely WOULDN’T put in there? Why? On the flip side, what is something you’ve seen in an RFP that you’d absolutely make sure to ask and why?

To follow the path of my previous response, one question that is difficult is in regards to what our exact, step-by-step process entails. Like I said before, we want to show them what we will do, but not provide a detailed scope that could be made public. The balance must be maintained to convey our expertise and still keep our competitive advantage.

A good question that, surprisingly, is not asked very often is what our philosophy/methodology is. Often, RFPs get so specific and so tactical that clients don’t really get a feeling for who the agency is and what we are all about, which really sets us apart from the competition. When questions like this are not asked, we try to pepper in those beliefs with direct answers that are founded in our holistic approach. This way we are able to tell the story of Resolution Media’s unique approach to the search landscape.

Posted by: Dave McAnally, Product Specialist, Natural Search


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