You may have a spider’s web of vendors supplying your brand assets, everything from business cards to uniforms to outdoor signage. Regional offices may have their preferred local providers. Or perhaps you’ve inherited a group of suppliers as part of a merger.
Because of its scope and scale, a rebrand presents the ideal opportunity to consolidate your roster of vendors. You’ll need highly capable, cost-conscious partners to help replace all branded assets, all at once, on a tight budget. Although it may seem counterintuitive to carve out the time when your team is under this kind of pressure, a well-managed request for proposal (RFP) process that identifies a qualified roster of vendors is essential — both now and over the future of the brand.
This approved network reduces costs through economies of scale. It ensures that every branded asset is produced through the same processes and to the same quality standards. Most important, that consistency enhances consumer confidence in the brand and its promises, because it looks and feels the same everywhere they encounter it.
Why Brand Standards Aren’t Enough
Your branding agency no doubt prepared a comprehensive standards manual that includes the appropriate fonts, colors, orientations, and specifications for the new identity. Yet those guidelines aren’t enough to ensure a high level of consistency.
Consider signage: Sometimes a logo is challenging to construct in 3D, specifically getting the right “fade” effect; brand guidelines may dictate how it should look but don’t address the complexity of production and fabrication. Different manufacturers may do their best to achieve the desired effect, but it may not be executed consistently unless you can identify a single qualified vendor that can unfailingly produce the right results.
Without proper procurement practices layered on top of brand guidelines, you’ll get different looks across all brand touchpoints, which erodes the brand.
How to Choose Preferred Vendors
An RFP process allows you to review and select qualified vendors that everyone in the company can use. As a result, you control the consistency of the brand’s physical representation: Business cards, print collateral, and promotional giveaways all look the same — now and in the future. Colors and materials match. Uniforms and vehicles are standardized. Interior and exterior signage align from location to location.
This consolidation effort may meet with resistance from internal teams that have used their favorite local print shops to make sales brochures for years. But in addition to ensuring quality and consistency, the bidding process ensures you’ll get the best pricing across the entire company. And even in cases when you have a preferred vendor, you may be able to get them to sharpen their pencil when preparing cost estimates. Unifying the order process across the company drives down cost per item, qualifies for volume discounts, and yields significant price reduction.
Overseeing a rebrand RFP process can be time-consuming, and you may need to enlist outside consultation to manage it quickly and efficiently. (In fact, this is a key component of the Plan and Prepare phase of our work with our clients.) But the exercise enables you to: First, compare vendors’ capabilities and pricing, apples to apples. Second, make selections objectively, reviewing results and analyzing what you see without putting an emotional lens on decision-making. And finally, build consensus around the selections, presenting information generated in the RFP and engaging support for your decision-making process.
5 Tactics for Creating Effective RFPs
- Create an inventory of assets, class by class. Get into the details: the size and number of pages in product literature, the makes and models of fleet vehicles, types and locations of signage.
- Identify the proposed standards outlined in your brand guidelines. These help vendors understand the production requirements, including technical specs, material choices, and printing method.
- Consider an array of vendors. Start the vetting process by eliminating those that don’t have the capacity and capability you’re looking for. Do they have locations where you need service? Have you worked with them previously? Do they have required licenses or certifications? Does their production technology meet your needs? Are they out of your price range?
- Choose the vendors you’ll invite to submit proposals. Know that some may decline to participate, so have backups if needed. Your goal is to have responses from 4 to 6 vendors per class of branded assets; this gives you enough options without overwhelming you with choices.
- Ensure that the RFP is thorough and asks all the right questions. That means developing a structured RFP. It should include qualitative and quantitative questions you want to ask. Depending on the specific situation, a comprehensive RFP may have as few as five or as many as 100+ questions. BrandActive brings 20 years of experience along with our database of benchmarks, powered by AI. [ADD LINK} to this essential process.
Qualitative questions should cover these broad categories:
- Company background and financial stability
- Process and policies, including tools like a portal or dashboard for project management
- Account invoicing and billing, including invoicing and tracking
- Ordering and shipping
- Service and delivery
Quantitative questions gather information on costs, such as pricing for individual items which may include discounts for larger orders; engineering charges and permit fees; manufacturing and installation costs; shipping charges, and taxes.
Expect that vendors will have questions for you, so allow adequate time and a clear process for follow-up. Furthermore, allow for adequate time for your vendors to provide a thorough and thoughtful response. Rushing the process results in errors, poor quality responses. Good vendors may even drop out of the process.
Finally, develop a simple grading system so that you can evaluate the proposals. Import responses into a spreadsheet so you can see all of the input together and make detailed comparisons. Determine in advance what answer meets your expectations for each question, what exceeds your expectations, and what’s a deal-breaker. If you’ve taken the above steps correctly, the evaluation and selection process should be fairly straightforward and objective.
When we applied these best practices to rebranding a fleet at an energy company, the payoff was huge: 72% savings over the initial cost estimate. A major contributor was the rigorous competitive bidding process for both decal manufacture and installation. But the story doesn’t end with cost savings.
Establishing a lineup of approved vendors ensures that even the most challenging color match or complex logo design can be applied consistently across brand touchpoints. It streamlines and expedites the rollout of the rebrand in a well-coordinated fashion. It establishes a high standard of excellence for your new brand with customers. Most important, it enables your team to deliver a superior return on your organization’s investment in the rebrand.