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How to Write a Brand Tracking RFP

Putting together a high-quality brand tracking RFP is no easy task. These key factors are required in an effective RFP to ensure you get the best proposals to evaluate.
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How to Write a Brand Tracking RFP

Brand trackers are a large undertaking in many ways — from ensuring a quality design for the right study, to deciding the best KPIs for your company, to choosing the best-fit partner to guide you, there’s a lot to consider at every step of the process. Your journey to success begins with a great brand tracking RFP.

A thoughtfully designed brand tracking RFP will ultimately produce the best proposals for you to evaluate. Strong brand tracking proposals can help you spark innovation, tap into new data sources, identify more effective ways to present and disseminate findings, and more.

Armed with these best practices, you and your suppliers will save time and effort, as the clarity of your RFP will be the North Star that guides the efforts of everyone involved.

Before you draft your brand tracking RFP, determine what you seek to measure

It’s important to ensure that you are clear on what your tracker needs to be, what it is expected to deliver to your organization. Below are some questions you will need to consider:

How do your brand health tracking and ad tracking goals compare?

Consider your brand vs. advertising measurement objectives: is your goal to measure overall brand health? Or the performance of specific marketing efforts? Maybe it’s both?

This factor can affect the design and length of interviews. For example, if you plan to test specific marketing efforts, then advertising or marketing recall and diagnostic questions should be included in the survey.

How does your brand category move?

Consider the seasonality of your business or category. Brand tracking companies need to know whether purchase behavior and category engagement are cyclical, and if category sales are heavier during critical periods. These and other factors may impact the  cadence and timing of when you’ll field your survey.

If retail spend is higher during the holiday shopping season, for example, then fielding a survey during this time will produce different scores than during a shopping period that you know is generally quieter.

What is your brand’s marketing strategy?

Is your customer target a niche group, or are you targeting the general market? Or maybe you have more than one audience group? For example, are you communicating to a very specific segment of B2B decision makers, or talking to a broader Millennial audience?

Having a distinctive target audience will influence the sample design, brand tracking methods, and the ability to accurately and successfully measure efforts among your core media target(s).

Planning your brand tracking RFP to properly engage suppliers

The type and quality of responses you receive will be a function of the RFP you issue. This goes beyond merely stating your specifications and assumptions.

Consider these questions:

How much flexibility do you want to give brand tracking companies?

Often, we see RFPs asking for methodological suggestions when the client already has a specific set of elements in mind. Do you want a set of “apples to apples” proposals that can be directly compared to each other, or do you truly seek creative thinking? Either way, the more up-front you can be, the more likely tracking companies are to hit the nail on the head the first time around.

Are your brand tracking goals and requirements realistic for your budget?

We all invest time and energy to use resources wisely; but ultimately, your budget needs to fit the scope of the tracker. Nobody benefits from scoping work against an overly ambitious wish list that will never be funded.

In that spirit, we believe it’s wise to share your budget range with your brand tracking suppliers in the RFP. This will safeguard against over- or under-scoping your tracker based on guesswork or assumptions that cannot realistically be acted on.

What metrics will you be comparing the results of your brand tracking studies with?

Sample selection and questionnaire design can be affected if there are previous brand trackers or past metrics you need to trend back to. Past metrics can also impact the pros and cons of building from scratch vs. designing for replicability.

Also consider whether you have current business metrics such as sales, store traffic, or online search data that need to be linked with the brand tracker.

You’ll also want to consider whether you’d like linkage to other data sources (such as third-party or internal sales data) or if you wish to tie your brand tracker to rising trends or future focused socio-cultural shifts. All of these asks will have a material bearing on how suppliers respond to your RFP.

What is your grand vision for your brand tracking studies? 

Define success for your new tracking studies in terms of their impact and role in the business.  From goals to precise deliverables to implementation, think through what your expectations of the agency are for the ideal end result — and consider letting them guide how you get there. It will be most productive for you to focus on outcomes while encouraging suppliers to deliver a plan on how to achieve them as they answer your brand tracking RFP.

Writing your brand tracking RFP to help suppliers deliver great proposals

To obtain the best proposals, it’s critical that your RFP be clear and comprehensive. This is especially important for trackers, not only given the size of the investment, but the fact that it’s an ongoing program that must continue to deliver and inspire your organization.

Having received hundreds of brand tracking RFPs over the years, we find that our ability to develop winning proposals is a direct function of the clarity clients provide us. In that spirit, here are some specific tips and approaches to implement as you design your RFP:

Articulate and prioritize your objectives

  • Start with business objectives – What decisions or actions will the business take using the outputs of the brand tracking program? Challenge yourself to be more specific than relying on high-level objectives like “grow share” or “boost revenue.”
  • List and prioritize research objectives – What do you seek to explore, measure, test, or prove? Stay clear of methodological details.
  • Avoid a “kitchen sink” approach – Trying to squeeze in too many objectives can sink the ship that is your tracker.
  • Indicate desired outcomes and key success criteria – What does success look like for your tracker? Return to your business objectives for inspiration.
  • Consider obtaining buy-in from your stakeholders on objectives before issuing your RFP – Without it, it can be difficult for your organization to align on the best tracker approach, or even worse, on the implications from the research at the end.

Be specific — otherwise, proposals may miss the mark

  • Define your needs – Is a quarterly point-in-time tracker suitable for your needs, or will an annual measurement suffice? Or, is your category or business such that ongoing data collection with very frequent reporting is required? Be clear on this.
  • Differentiate requirements vs. opportunities for thought partnership – Let vendors know what the strict requirements are and where guidance, recommendations, or creative ideas are welcome.
  • Define your market – Who is a qualified respondent? What about other targets? What quotas are required? Will you provide a sample?
  • State your geographic scope and any methodological requirements – National vs. global? Segments and subgroups?
  • Provide study timing requirements – Lay out key dates, deadlines, and milestones. How quickly do you need data following the close of fieldwork?
  • Specify desired deliverables – In our age of data democratization, what type of reporting do you need? Traditional PowerPoint decks? Microsites and/or infographics? Digital dashboards with query and cross-tab capabilities? Again, specificity is key. It will set the clearest expectations for respondents.
  • Include budget – If you can’t, provide a range or qualitative direction (e.g., good vs. better vs. best). Putting your suppliers in a dark room on budget is an invitation to receive vastly differing responses that only make your job more difficult.
  • Define the budgeting detail/itemization you need Some clients are surprised by the complexity and time required to build budgets for brand tracking studies, particularly global programs. If you require that budgets be provided in a specific format, be sure to provide that up-front in the RFP.

Help your brand tracking supplier to make your life easier

If you want a short memo, tell them so. If your procurement office needs 20 pages of information, explain that, too. 

  • List the capabilities you’re interested in learning more about – Do you have concerns about non-US data quality? Vendors’ IT infrastructure? Listing your areas of interest will help limit irrelevant capabilities slides.
  • Indicate ideal proposal length – If you will review lots of proposals in a short amount of time, set a maximum number of words or pages. Challenging vendors to be concise will also give you a great “preview” of their storytelling abilities.
  • Provide submission instructions – Who should the RFP be sent to? By what date? Do you prefer Word or PowerPoint? Indicate if you want the supplier teams to present their proposals; this is often the very best way to assess the potential for a successful tracking partnership.
  • Lastly, if needed, call your preferred partner to brainstorm, provide any additional context, or answer any last questions.

Your brand tracking studies are only as good as your RFP

Your tracking program is central to your brand’s ongoing health and growth. As the steward of the program, you have great latitude with how you frame your needs, pain points, and objectives — and it all begins with your RFP.

The quality of the proposals you receive will be in direct reflection to the clarity and completeness of your RFP. As such, a superlative RFP will improve your probability of selecting the right partner for your tracker.

About the authors

Eric Asch
As EVP of Material's Insights Division, Eric leads strategic insights needs for clients across several verticals. He has been a marketing and insights professional for over 30 years. He joined Material in 2000, following stints on the client side and with other research and consulting firms. Over the course of his career, Eric has enjoyed roles in strategy development, market research, and competitive intelligence. He holds a B.A. in political science and an M.A. in organizational management.

Read more by Eric Asch
Scott Luck
Scott heads up the tracking discipline at Material managing the company’s largest business unit. He particularly enjoys bringing innovation and evolution to tracking programs to keep them relevant and topical for some of the world’s biggest brands. He has been with Material for about 20 years, serving in multiple capacities during his tenure, with an entertainment research consulting stint in between Material gigs. Prior to launching a career in marketing research, Scott earned a B.S. in journalism at Arizona State University and a MBA from Vanderbilt University, with a dual emphasis on marketing & operations

Read more by Scott Luck
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