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How to Write an RFP for a Promotion Engine?
Kate Banasik
Kate Banasik
December 7, 2021
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How to Write an RFP for a Promotion Engine? 

What is a promotion engine?

A promotion engine, otherwise known as promotion management software or offer management software, is a software platform that helps marketers manage, distribute, secure, and track digital offers. They can usually support different types of sales promotions, like digital coupons, automatic discounts, gift cards, referral or loyalty programs, even giveaways. 

Promotion engine – what are your options? 

There are a couple of options if you are looking for a promotion management system. You can either build or buy one. When it comes to outsourcing a promotion engine, it can be either a part of a bigger, monolithic software suite, usually paired with an e-commerce platform or a CRM system or a standalone solution that can be integrated with your existing technology stack. When it comes to standalone promotion management software (not sold in a package with other platforms), the top-of-breed technology solutions are API-based so that they can fit into composable software architecture, connecting easily with other software solutions. I recommend the last option as it (among other benefits) prepares you for any future digital channels, can be integrated easily with any new software, usually features a pay-as-you-go pricing model, and can be easily scaled up or down, as needed. It is usually the fastest to integrate, giving you the quickest time to market for your campaigns. 

If you decide to buy a monolithic suite or to pay for a SaaS solution, you will need to choose the right vendor and prepare an RFP. 

What is an RFP?

Companies may issue an RFP, or a request for proposal, when choosing a vendor or service provider to work with. This document outlines project specifics, such as scope and price, and asks potential vendors to come back with a bid for the work. Multiple bids are then compared to help determine the best choice.

What information to collect for the RFP purposes? 

If you discover the need for a promotion management system in your organization, you should not jump straight into writing RFPs. First, you should do a bit of internal and external research to know what to include in your RFP and what to ask your bidders about. Here is a shortlist of topics you should research before writing a promotion engine RFP:

1. Collect the information on your current and planned technology stack 

As the promotion engine needs to be connectable with your current and future technology stack, you need to make a comprehensive list of software you are using and planning to use. You should then add this information to your RFP so that  bidders can confirm whether their software can be integrated with such a stack. 

The list should include, for example, major programming languages used, an e-commerce platform in place, CMS, mobile app(s), CRM or CDP systems, PIM systems, personalization tools (CEP, for example), tagging and tracking tools, distribution platforms (for example, email or SMS distribution providers), POS and web analytics or BI tools.

2. Get to know the most important features of a promotion engine 

You should know what is currently possible to do using promotion engines. And for that, you need to have some background knowledge before approaching your colleagues to collect their needs. This way, you will be able to propose some options to them and ask them what is the must-have and nice-to-have in their perspective. It will also help you to define what to look for in the potential vendors. We have written a blog post enlisting the most important functionalities to think of

You should also check the top vendors on the market to compile the initial list of requirements that you can later prioritize based on the needs of your organization. You can also use the RFP template linked below as a potential list of features to pick from. 

3. Discuss the needs of various teams internally 

To collect the list of non-functional and functional requirements, you should discuss the requirements with your colleagues in relevant departments. A couple of ideas on what to discuss and with whom: 

Marketing/sales team: 

  • List of use cases the software should cover. 
  • The promotion types and promotion limits they would like to use. Targeting and personalization options they need. 
  • List of distribution channels and tools they are using or planning to use for the promotions-related communication. 
  • Their branding and customization needs.
  • Analytics tools they are using, reports they wish to have available from the promotion engine software. 
  • The predicted number of customers who would be using the promotions per month, to estimate the needed performance from the promotional software.
  • Previous technology stack used for running the promotions (this information should be also confirmed with the IT department). 
  • The kind of front-end they want to use for the promotions, for example, out-of-the-box options like landing pages or UI widgets. 

IT team/product team: 

  • List of existing and planned technology stack. 
  • Non-functional requirements for SaaS software purchases, for example, related to hosting, data processing, maintenance, scalability, security, and performance. 
  • The capacity for integrating the promotional software (this will help you define how much time you can allocate to integrating the solution as well as whether you have to find the provider that offers more support, more out-of-the-box integrations with your stack, or can even take over the integration work).

Legal team: 

  • Any legal or security requirements for the software, especially regarding privacy and data protection.

Customer Service team: 

  • What kind of information they may need to check in the promotional software to support customer claims and questions? 

Finance team: 

  • What is the planned budget for the tool? What are the payment terms and conditions that the company expects from software vendors? 

Based on the conversations you have had with all the departments, you can come up with the number of user accounts you would need for your organization, as well as the workflows and user roles needed. 

4. Define your budget

You should check what budget your organization wants to spend on the promotion engine. If there is no defined budget and you are just looking into possibilities and options, that is also fine. Knowing it upfront can help you speed up the process and exclude some vendors in the first round of the RFP. 

5. Check the required offer formats 

You should check with the Purchasing team if there are any guidelines on the required format of the offers or presentations. For example, what should be included in the price offer or what your preferred terms and means of payment are. Maybe your Purchasing department has a ready RFP template or even RFP response template a vendor should fill out. This can save you lots of time and allows you to focus on specifying only the functional and non-functional requirements. 

How to write an RFP for a promotion engine? 

In my experience, a basic request for proposals for a promotion management software has the following chapters: 

  1. Glossary – if you are using any terms that are specific to your organization or you know these terms are defined differently by different vendors (for example, you have checked their website, demo, or documentation and you see they use various terms to describe the same feature), it is best to create a glossary of terms to make sure all the bidders will understand your requirements.
  2. Company details – you should give a list of your company details, including contact details to the person who is responsible for the RFP (procurement contact person). This can be you or someone from your Purchasing department or both. 
  3. Company description – you should describe your company, products and services offered, target audience, and markets.
  4. Company technology stack – you should describe and list the software technologies you have in place that would be interacting with the promotion engine. 
  5. Project/use case description – you should describe the project (promotional scenarios) in more detail so that the bidders can fully understand how you intend to use their software. If you have any budget restrictions, you should specify them.
  6. Non-functional requirements – you should list all the non-functional requirements you have. Non-functional requirements are all requirements not directly connected with the core function of the software (in this case, promotion management). This can include, for example, legal, security, scalability, privacy, or technological requirements. You can split them by must-haves, nice-to-haves, and future needs for more clarity.
  7. Functional requirements – you should list all the functional requirements that you have. Functional requirements are the requirements directly related to the core functionality of the software, in this case, related to promotion management. 
  8. Use cases – if you have use cases for very specific promotional scenarios you want to run, you should list them with all the limitations you would like to introduce and ask bidders whether these use cases can be covered by their software.
  9. Vendor company information – you should prepare a short questionnaire asking for basic vendor company information. 
  10. Price proposal – you should provide a format in which you want the prices to be delivered (template) or a vendor questionnaire asking all questions about pricing you have. 
  11. Submission guidelines – this section should describe in which format and where the proposals should be submitted. It should also enlist all deliverables required from the bidders. 
  12. Timeline – you should specify the RFP deadlines, both on your and bidders’ side. 
  13. Confidentiality agreement – you can add a confidentiality clause to the RFP or you can send a confidentiality agreement prior to sending the RFP document to the bidders. 

Choosing the right vendor

Choosing the right vendor may be up to you or the Purchasing department. You should decide who covers your current needs best for the lowest possible cost but you should also consider the options for scalability, for example geographical (location, language, currency), performance, usage scalability as well as the options for expansion of the promotional scenarios. The cheapest option covering your current needs, if you need to change it due to changing needs, can cost you more (time and effort spent on launching a new RFP, integrating and migrating to a new solution, re-training the teams) than going with a more expensive vendor straight away. Choose a solution that will prepare you for what the future may bring. The more flexibility, agility, and scalability you have, the better. 

Free, editable promotion engine RFP template

Here you can find a free, editable RFP template for promotion management software where we cover functional and non-functional requirements, focusing on automatic promotions and discount coupons (if you need other types of campaigns like referral, loyalty, gift cards, or giveaways, you would need to add more functional requirements specifying your needs). You can use it as a source of inspiration or copy and paste some sections into your own RFP template. 

RFP Template in the doc format
RFP template in the spreadsheet format

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