RFP Template for a Content Management System (CMS)

CMS Marketing
by Michael Gerard

Most of us are faced with a new reality when marketing and selling our products and services to buyers, both in the B2B and B2C segments: The buyer’s journey is no longer linear, and it’s more difficult than ever to capture the attention and build the trust of our buyers. Key drivers for this new reality include:

  • A more complex buying process as buying team size and buyer purchase options continue to increase.
  • Buyers are faced with content overload, yet 45% of buying groups’ time is still spent conducting research both online and offline as part of the purchase process. [source]
  • Buyers demand rapid access to information--e.g., 40% of individuals will abandon a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.
  • People expect companies to understand their needs and expectations--73% of them to be exact according to a recent study by Salesforce.com.
  • Customers depend upon many devices and channels to make their purchases. These same buyers expect connected experiences across devices--64% of customers have used multiple devices to start and stop transactions.
  • And finally, let’s not forget that you’re competing against everyone and everything for your customers’ time.

The good news is that providing an inspiring and relevant buyer EXPERIENCE can have a significant impact in addressing the opportunities in this new buyer’s journey reality.

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Over 100 suggested questions to ask your select vendors!

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“84% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services.”

State of the Connected Customer

There’s no better way to provide a better experience to your customers than leveraging the power of new digital experience solutions such as a content management system. In fact, 75% of customers expect companies to use new technologies to create better experiences. [source]

If you are evaluating replacement of your content management system (CMS) or you have already decided to upgrade to a new CMS, your choices are plentiful. And with recent evolution of digital experience technology over the past decade, the better CMS and digital experience platform (DXP) vendors will give your technical and non-technical teams the power to more easily create and deliver personalized digital experiences to your customers on any channel or device. The big question is how to go about evaluating and selecting which vendor to use? The following blog post provides suggestions for:

  1. Selecting a short-list of CMS vendors: How to select a short-list of CMS vendors that are best suited for your company’s needs, both today and in the future;
  2. RFP process: An overview of steps and best practices for creating and executing an RFP process; and
  3. RFP template: An RFP template which provides a base set of questions for you to ask CMS vendors as part of your selection and procurement process. (click here to download this RFP template now)

Download your copy of the 2019 Vendor Selection Matrix for Web Experience Management by Research in Action

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Selecting your Short-List of Vendors

There are many CMS vendors to select from, but the most important starting point is to define your DX vision, what you need to deliver to your customers from a digital experience perspective to be successful, both today and in the future. Understanding the buyer’s journey and how you need to interact with your buyers (including customers) serves as the foundation for your vision. As stated by Peter O’Neill of Research in Action, “develop your vision first, consider people and process, . . . and then focus on technology.” Some questions that can help guide this process include:

Your buyer’s perspective

  • How can you leverage digital experience along the entire buyer’s journey to differentiate your company? This no easy task since today’s buyer’s journey is disparate and fragmented.
  • How is your current CMS meeting these needs today, and more importantly, what is missing?
  • What will you need to do in the future to build trust and engage with your buyers as they shift from prospect to customer to advocate?
  • How complex are the needs of your buyers, and what does your company require to meet and exceed these needs? (e.g., multi-language; need for personalization; connected experiences across devices and channels, both in-store and on-line as applicable)

Technology perspective

  • What is your vision for a digital experience ecosystem/tech stack that will give your company a competitive edge? (i.e., which applications will your CMS need to integrate with)
  • What has prevented you from transforming your digital business, and how can a CMS vendor help to overcome these challenges?
  • Which other applications are you considering to replace in addition to your CMS?
  • Which applications will you keep and/or purchase in the future that will require integration with your CMS? (e.g., digital commerce platform)
  • What core capabilities for experience management to you believe will give you a competitive edge?
  • What are your needs from a security perspective?

Opportunity cost and/or productivity perspective

  • Who is involved in the content orchestration and delivery process today, and which teams do you envision part-taking in this process in the future?
  • What is the greatest impact (positive and negative) on your team’s productivity today as you are delivering digital experiences to your customers? (i.e., where are the greatest opportunities for improvement - such as reducing the need for development resources, or increasing your time to market for deploying new designs or provisioning new applications, channels or devices)

Ultimately, you need to determine why you are replacing your existing CMS, and what the definition of success will be for this project from a business, financial and technology perspective. A survey of 1,500 business and IT managers from across the world conducted by Research in Action indicates that the top three investment areas in the web experience management space are:

  1. Migration to a SaaS platform.
  2. Implementation of a Headless CMS system. [read more: Headless CMS: Everything you Wanted to Know, and learn about The Hybrid CMS: The Next Generation of the Headless CMS]
  3. A “Mobile-first” strategy.

Based upon your vision and people, process and technology needs, you then need to begin whittling down your list of CMS vendors to invite to your RFP process. Additional insight from Research in Action’s study indicates the three top sources of information to create the first pass of a vendor list include:

  1. Research analyst firms’ selection matrices
  2. Websites
  3. Peer contacts

One option to fulfill this short-list process is to require your long-list of vendors to complete a request for information (RFI). An RFI can be a short-list of questions, perhaps selected from your eventual RFQ, that will help you identify the top 3-5 vendors to ask to continue the vendor assessment process.

Request for Proposal Process Steps

Your RFP process must be developed for your organization. Here is a list of steps that will get you started along your journey:

  1. Identify the key stakeholders both within and external to your organization, including what role they will play in the selection process (e.g., executive sponsors; marketing; business owners; content editors; IT/developer professionals; procurement; legal team; external agencies or service providers).
  2. Meet with the team(s) to determine the key selection criteria that should be used for the RFP, identifying corporate or business level criteria as well as criteria from the perspective of each functional area and staff role (e.g., business users; editors; designers; developers).
  3. Agree on a project description, and more importantly, what the key indicators of success will be for deployment of the selected vendor’s application from launch time and beyond.
  4. Map out the scope of the project (e.g., site redesign by a design firm; CMS software procurement; need for professional services for software deployment, integration and customization costs).
  5. Develop an RFP timeline with key milestones.
  6. Determine the budget required for the project, and complete the budget approval process.
  7. Create the RFP template.
  8. Send out the RFP template for completion by your short-list of vendors, clarifying timelines.
  9. Interview your top 2-3 vendors, including meeting their team, understanding their strategy for project completion and receiving a demonstration of their solution, preferably customized to your situation and needs.
  10. Finalize agreement with selected vendor (e.g., negotiate pricing, check references).
  11. Select the winning vendor.

Request for Proposal (RFP) Template

An RFP template should provide a comprehensive set of questions for your CMS vendor to complete that will enable you and your team to assess and compare your top vendors. This RFP should be used to select a final set of vendors that you will invite into your offices for an in-person interview and demonstration(s). Key sections of an RFP include:

  1. RFP Information (about your company and the project)
  2. Vendor Information
    • Basic information about each vendor
    • An opportunity for your vendor to share their company’s background, core competencies, and competitive differentiators.
  3. Business Requirements
  4. Technology Requirements
  5. Security Requirements
  6. Pricing

Download your RFP template with 100+ suggested questions to ask your select vendors across the above-mentioned categories.

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About the author

Michael Gerard
Chief Marketing Officer

gerard@e-Spirit.com