Writing a Request for Information (RFI) or Request for Proposal (RFP) to buy promotional items is a big task. If you’ve got one on your calendar, it means you’re looking to leverage buying power for the good of your organization. Whether you’re looking to buy logoed pens for tradeshow season, or leverage an entire year’s worth of corporate work wear, employee recognition gifts and quality promotional items; your RFP is a time consuming process that should start with the end in mind. So here are some helpful things to do before you write your RFP.

One way to save time developing an RFP is to identify and contact 10 vendors prior to the RFP invitation. You may have several vendors on file from previous orders, but we recommend a quick online search to add a few more promotional item companies into your mix. Look for promotional product companies that keep an up-to-date website with web stores. Consider the “newness” of the site (yes we make up words at Jungle all of the time!). Does the site look like it was made in 1999 or last year? Is the site helpful to you or just a business card?  If it’s helpful, you’ll see an active news or blog section full of ideas and tips. This is also a great way to size-up a company – literally. Is this a husband and wife company started last year or does this company have established roots? Barrier to entry can be low with promotional sales companies so look for longevity, technology and creativity in these vendors.

Once you’re on their site, use a form and fill out your contact information. See how long it takes a company to respond and in what format. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Do you get an auto-responder email? 
  • Is there an expectation on when you’ll hear from them?
  • Does someone call you right away? 
  • Does it take a few days to hear from that company? 
  • Did your contact info go into a black hole? 
  • Do you have to turn off their non-stop salesy emails?
  • Is there evidence of community involvement?
  • Are there industry or professional certifications?
  • Is the company consultative in their approach or are they order takers?

We suggest having a few questions ready for their sales team too. These questions should not be the standard info from your RFP like employee size, revenue and years in business; but more nuanced questions about idea generation, creativity for promotional items and general knowledge of quality employee gifts and the event planning that often goes with promotional item purchases.

Did you know filtered water bottles are all the rage this year? You will with this type of exercise!

Once you’ve done your initial outreach. Take any new information you learned and develop questions and criteria from them. This helps separate the field beyond rank and file questions and gives you first-hand experience with the vendors’ people and processes.

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