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Real Fast and Perfect: RFPs in the Digital Age - 7/23/2014 -


Real Fast and Perfect: RFPs in the Digital Age

Getting bids for servicing your associationís various media products goes more smoothly if you establish priorities first.

By Nancy Gordon

Even in this age of multi-platform communications, bidding out for media printing/production services doesnít have to be scary. Two experts in the process presented their methods at Association Media & Publishingís Annual Meeting 2014 in May with their session, "Real Fast and Perfect: RFPs in the Digital Age.Ē

Joanne Harap, president of consulting firm Production Matters, and Nicole Harris, vice president of the National Glass Association, quickly established that with a clear vision of your publishing needs, the whole process flows smoothly. The fact that you might want to go multi-platform for the first time doesnít change the process. You are basically just adding factors to be considered.

As with any project, youíll start by identifying your priorities:

  • What do you want to achieve with an RFP?
  • Are you looking for better service, lower costs, better print quality, different mail services, new platforms, and/or some other goal?
  • Who are the stakeholders who should be involved in the process?

The presenters emphasized that to do the process right, youíll want to leave enough time to gather all the information you need to make a sound decision. For instance, if your goal is to have a new printer before the end of the fiscal year, donít start the process one month before your deadline. Build a timeline that includes initial planning and data gathering, selecting appropriate vendors, creating the RFP documents, reviewing bids, selecting finalists, viewing vendor presentations, conducting plant tours, and final negotiations.

  • Some important take-aways from the session:
  • Make sure your bids allow you to compare apples to apples ó donít hesitate to ask the vendor to re-format the bid to your needs.
  • If you really like a particular printer but they donít offer a particular service, ask if they can arrange partnering with other vendors to enable them to deliver what you need.
  • When evaluating bids, donít just look at overall costs ó see where the cost differences are and why.
  • Pay attention to non-quantifiable aspects. For instance:
             - How much homework does each candidate do before their presentation?
             - How well does the culture of the vendor match your organizationís?
             - How do workers at the plant interact with each other and with you?
  • For the serious finalists, communicate variances and ask for pricing concessions that might be available through such factors as:
             - Terms of the contract
             - Signing bonus
             - Payment terms
             - Scheduling changes.

Finally, the presenters stressed that the process isnít over once a new vendor is selected. Be prepared to thoroughly review the first finished product and first invoice, and then discuss variances with the vendor. Schedule a quarterly review and evaluate whether you are still on point with your publishing vision.

Nancy L. Gordon is managing editor for Health Care Compliance Association, Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics.


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