Stop RFPing, Start POCing: How a Proof of Concept Prioritizes Value & Minimizes Risk

By Kellye Snodgrass

If you’re ready to dive into the ESP market, how do you start your search for the perfect match? Traditionally, the request for proposal (RFP) reigned supreme.

In theory, the RFP process sounds great: Your team puts out a request and vendors come to you with proposals of what they can deliver. It’s like having an army of suitors knocking down your door.

In practice, the RFP process is not nearly as desirable as it sounds.

4 Problems with the RFP Process

The RFP process has become something of a vicious cycle that makes change (which can already be difficult to accept) a downright painful process. On top of that, RFPs mean that your team won’t see any value for months.

Four problems, in particular, stand out when it comes to the RFP process:

  1. RFPs prioritize checking boxes over solving business problems. Most RFPs include a list of technology requirements that vendors must meet to be considered. However, they rarely include anything around business goals the technology should solve. As a result, RFPs tend to elevate checking boxes over meeting key needs.
  2. RFPs happen in a vacuum. RFPs typically don’t provide any context on the existing technology stack into which the new solution must fit. This situation can end up causing problems down the line when your marketing team must get on an IT backlog to understand how the new tool will work with the technology already in place.
  3. The RFP process takes months of work. From putting together the request and sending it out, to giving vendors time to respond and then going through their proposals, it takes a lot of time and effort just to get to the point of having two or three top contenders. Add on another couple months to compare the top choices and sign the contract, and you have several months of work before implementation even begins.
  4. The end of the RFP process isn’t actually the end. Once the RFP process is over, there’s still a long road ahead, as most traditional ESPs require a months-long implementation process just to get a few campaigns live. And expanding beyond those initial few campaigns takes even more implementation work. This means it can be over six months before seeing any kind of returns. On top of that, if things aren’t quite meshing with the new technology, your team has to start all over again with the RFP process before the previous one winds down.

Prioritize Value and Simplify Change with a Proof of Concept

Fortunately, there is a better way to make a change: Moving forward with a proof of concept (POC).

A POC offers a significant improvement over the RFP model by prioritizing value and minimizing the risk (and pain) associated with change. It does so in six ways:

  1. Emphasizing immediate value. Traditionally, introducing a new ESP was fairly complicated and even meant months of time during which high performing campaigns weren’t running. A POC changes that by allowing you to go live on the new system with a few test campaigns while your old ESP runs in the background. And if you do decide to make the switch, the full ramp up to your new ESP will be far easier since you already have the initial work done. As a result, a POC significantly improves the time to value when it comes to going live on a new ESP.
  2. Prioritizing key business goals. A POC allows you to move away from the feature checklist of the RFP world in favor of deep alignment with business goals. Specifically, because a POC allows you to test the new solution before going all in, you can measure campaign performance and see firsthand how platform workflows align with your business goals.
  3. Giving insight into revenue lift. In addition to providing concrete proof of performance toward key business goals, a POC also provides insight into potential revenue lift and the speed to seeing those returns. This type of measurement is critical to ensuring short and long term success on a new ESP.
  4. Providing a taste of the vendor relationship. With a POC, you get a taste of the level of support you can expect to receive from the ESP’s team. This firsthand experience is particularly important since having a vendor that can also serve as a strategic partner often proves a huge success factor.
  5. Securing internal buy-in. Securing and maintaining buy-in for the ESP will be critical to any change efforts and the long term success of your program. A POC provides an enormous advantage here, as it offers irrefutable evidence of potential performance gains and ROI.
  6. Lowering the cost of change. Finally, due to all of the other benefits listed here, a POC reduces the cost of change in terms of time, money and people resources.

Are You Ready to Make a Change? Stop RFPing, Start POCing

What else do you need to consider as you map out the future of your email marketing program and search for a modern ESP to help grow your business? Find out everything you need to know in our Ultimate Guide to ESP Selection for the Modern Retail Marketer.

Kellye Snodgrass

Kellye is a member of the Product Marketing and Operations team and is one of Bluecore's first Product Marketing hires. She's spent most of her career in marketing technology with a special focus in the eCommerce space. When she's not online shopping on one of our customers' stores, she loves to write about data-driven retail marketing strategies that not only drive performance, but are easy to implement