150+ Questions for Your Marketing Automation RFP


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Summary: I’ve posted a list of nearly 200 RFP questions that I hope many people will adopt to their own needs. If it’s used widely, buyers and vendors both benefit.

Death, taxes and RFPs. For business software vendors, all three are equally inevitable – and it’s not clear which they dislike most. In my on-going humble efforts to serve the industry, I’ve posted nearly 200 detailed questions that could serve as the backbone for many RFPs. The list is available in the Resources section at www.raabguide.com; it’s free once you register.)

The thought here is that everyone would benefit if many buyers worked from a standard list. Vendors could prepare one set of answers and buyers would get faster and more reliable responses to a thorough set of questions.

I do have a minor ulterior motive in posting this list. Those of you familiar with the Raab Guide to Demand Generation Systems know it already contains very detailed information on major vendors (Aprimo, Eloqua, Genius.com, Manticore Technology, Marketbright, Marketo, Neolane and Silverpop). But preparing each entry takes a tremendous amount of work and, frankly, it’s hard to make sense of the results. So I’ve come up with a list of mostly yes/no questions that highlight key differences among vendors. This is much easier to prepare and probably easier for buyers to use. I’ve sent this list to two dozen vendors and will publish the results in a new report as soon as the replies come back. Posting the list will encourage the vendors to participate, since they can expect other people to ask the same questions.

Obviously I wouldn’t have planned the new report if I didn’t think it was worthwhile. Still, the approach has several drawbacks. Here’s how I’m dealing with them.

– It relies on the vendors to answer accurately. Outright puffery aside, written questions are open to interpretation and you can bet the vendors will give themselves the benefit of any doubt. The best I could do was to make the questions as specific as possible. Here’s a typical example:

share assets across campaigns: marketing materials such as templates, emails, Web pages and forms, content blocks and links can be shared across campaigns. “Sharing” means the component is stored outside of a specific campaign in a central repository which is accessed during campaign development. The system may either create an independent copy of the item for each campaign, meaning changes to the local copy or the master do not affect each other, or it can establish a link between the campaign and the master copy, meaning any change to the master will be reflected in all campaigns using that item.

Hopefully this is precise enough that a “yes” actually means something. I’ve also described a couple of alternative ways of solving the problem, in the hope that this will encourage buyers to dig deeper on their own.

– The list is generic. Buyers have different needs. Each will care about only some of the questions on the list and about other questions I’ve left out. Of course, I can (and just did) warn buyers to select the items that matter to them. Beyond that, I’m creating separate weights for how important each answer is to small, medium and large marketing departments. That will let my final report include summary scores that help identify which vendors are best suited for each type of buyer.

Naturally, people will disagree with some of my weights. But that’s a healthy debate. In fact, prioritizing requirements is the most important discussion buyers can have when selecting a product. So bring it on.

– Not everything can be scored. Usability, vendor support and reliability are just some items that are hard to capture in yes/no questions. They also can change pretty rapidly. I can’t offer a solution other than to stress the importance of buyers doing their own research through demonstrations (based on their own scenarios), reference checking and conversations with other users.

In theory it should be possible for social media to provide a public forum for such issues. But I don’t see a way to do this without having self-interested parties distort the results. Suggestions, anyone?

* * *

Speaking of suggestions, I’m sure people will think of questions that should be added. I actually have a few myself. Changes will have to wait because the current set has already gone out to vendors. But if this concept generally works, we can expect future iterations of both the report and the master list. So there will be time for updates. If this really takes off, perhaps the list can be maintained in a communal form such as a Wiki. Raab Associates does not need to own this.

Indeed, a truly ideal solution would be for vendors to post their answers on their own Web sites. That would give buyers clear, consistent information without issuing a RFP at all. I’m not holding my breath for that one, however.

In any case, please download the list, use it as you see fit, and let me know what happens. As near as I can tell, everybody wins.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


  1. David, great resource requiring a lot of work on your part – kudos. Any concerns that this will lead to “feature shopping” and to companies thinking that they need certain bells and whistles they didn’t even know were available? Or features becoming “must have” criteria just because a marketer thinks it would be “pretty neat” to have?

    In my experience, 80-90 percent of companies’ basic functional needs for automating lead management are fairly similar. Specific features arise in conversation mostly when MA vendors are pushing a particular function as “critical” because they know it’s something the “other guy” doesn’t provide.

    Also, what about other, admittedly more subjective criteria that don’t appear on your list? Ease of use, for example? Or partner ecosystem? Or quality and responsiveness of service? I notice you include “vendor stability” but the criteria (30+ customers, 30+ employees) are fairly nominal IMHO. This space, as you’re well aware, is going through some fairly significant consolidation, and the vendor landscape is going to look pretty different even 12 months from now.


  2. Hi Howard,

    I agree with all those concerns. It’s up to buyers to decide what they truly need. One reason I published the list is to help people see that there are too many options to simply ask for them all. Hopefully this will encourage them to do the hard work of setting priorities. I’ll address this more directly in the final reports, with suggested weights for each item and with general advice on dealing with subjective factors (usability, partners, etc.) in the selection process.

    “Feature shopping” has always been a problem among software buyers. Software as a Service probably makes it worse because it reduces the up-front investment, and thus makes it seem that a careful selection process is less important. I’m hoping that as the B2B marketing automation industry matures, new buyers will be more prone to a thoughtful process if only because they recognize how much experience has been accumulated by others.


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