Free RFP template: 125+ questions to ask to evaluate marketing automation platforms

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Jax Connelly
23min read
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Imagine you’re shopping around for a new martech platform for your ecommerce website. You’ve narrowed down your options to Vendor A and Vendor B.

Vendor A can accomplish your top business priority as well as several other lower priorities, but only at a shallow depth. Vendor B can accomplish your top business priority easily, efficiently, and at a far greater depth—but they can’t accomplish 1-2 of your lower priorities.

Which vendor earns your business?

This kind of stumper is exactly the kind of question a request for proposal (RFP) is designed to answer.

According to Statista, there were nearly 10K martech solutions available worldwide at the beginning of 2022—up from 8K in 2020 and less than 4K in 2016. Which means if you’re currently in the market for a new ecommerce CRM, ERP, or marketing automation platform, evaluating your options can be incredibly overwhelming, time-consuming, and expensive.

With an RFP, you can narrow down the playing field to only the vendors and service providers whose solutions align with your particular business needs—and standardize the evaluation process so that the selection you make is the most objective selection possible.

Once selected, request a sandbox in which to test your required functionality. It’ll help you overcome providers that may have the right features, but are so challenging day-to-day that you’ll end up getting nothing done—solving a critical gap of traditional RFPs: achievability.

What is an RFP in ecommerce marketing?

RFP360 defines an RFP as “a formal, questionnaire-style document issued to prospective vendors from an organization that intends to buy a product or service.”

The RFP document:

  • Defines the scope of a problem your business is trying to solve with this ecommerce project or purchase
  • Outlines business objectives and goals
  • Poses questions about how each vendor’s solution will help you achieve those goals
  • Establishes parameters around the bidding process and timing

In ecommerce marketing, an RFP is a useful tool for standardizing your marketing platform evaluation criteria against a handful of potential vendors. Whether your online store is on Shopify, Magento, BigCommerce, or is a fully custom build, if you’re using an RFP to better compare and understand your marketing options, you’re responsible for evaluating:

  • The soundness of the proposals you receive
  • The financial health of each vendor
  • Each vendor’s ability to meet your business / technical requirements and expectations
The beauty of an RFP is that it forces you to clearly articulate exactly what business need you’re trying to address.

The beauty of an RFP is that it forces you to clearly articulate exactly what business need you’re trying to address—in clear, actionable language with measurable criteria—so that different vendors can more accurately identify whether their product or service is capable of meeting, or hopefully exceeding, your expectations.

3 reasons ecommerce brands use RFPs to evaluate their marketing platform options

Essentially, you write an RFP in order to provide all the information necessary to attract the potential partner that’s most capable of solving your business problem. But an RFP isn’t appropriate for every situation.

When selecting a new platform or software vendor, says Jon Palmer, senior product marketing manager at Klaviyo, “RFPs that aren’t well focused on business outcomes are generally not the most efficient use of time or energy.”

Meanwhile, “RFPs you build from scratch can create added unnecessary overhead—largely because they are not good at capturing the various intangibles that are incredibly important in making these decisions,” Palmer explains.

Whether those intangibles are the platform’s ease of use, the vendor’s experience working with companies like yours, or what Palmer calls their “pace of innovation and future growth trajectory,” a typical martech RFP tends to be heavily feature-focused—“which leads to a lot of yes or no responses that lose the nuance of how those features are executed day-to-day,” he explains.

A typical martech RFP tends to be heavily feature-focused—which leads to a lot of yes or no responses that lose the nuance of how those features are executed day-to-day.
Jon Palmer
Senior product marketing manager, Klaviyo

Done wrong, then, an RFP might leave you combing through submissions from vendors that are completely wrong for the job.

But done right, an RFP not only helps you set clear business goals internally—it also helps you communicate them efficiently and accurately to several vendors that have something valuable to offer, so that you can make the most objective determination possible regarding which one you want to partner with.

With that in mind, here are 3 key reasons ecommerce brands use RFPs to evaluate their options for email and SMS marketing platforms:

1. To get on the same page internally

One of the top benefits of the RFP process is the time, money, and resources you save by setting clear parameters and expectations from the top—and holding your internal team members accountable to them.

A well-written RFP can “organize your team and peers around the process and help you with various internal scheduling and stakeholders when meeting with vendors,” Palmer explains.

2. To get on the same page with vendors

Seeking assistance and ecommerce solutions beyond the walls of your business has its risks, particularly when it comes to explaining exactly what you need done—and how.

A good RFP helps close gaps in understanding between what your business needs and what a vendor can accomplish, and also allows you to reduce new vendor risk by vetting their practices before agreeing to work with them.

In addition to fostering clear communication with potential technology partners, an RFP “will show that the decision you’ve made is the best one for your business’s overall priorities and help provide these details to vendors in a clear and concise way when you’re going through the assessment,” Palmer explains.

3. To make sure you’re comparing apples to apples, not apples to oranges

Part of the magic of the RFP process is how it opens your business up to a world of possibilities you may not have been aware of before. It’s a smart way to increase healthy competition, gain a variety of perspectives on the best way to solve your problem, and link up with dream vendors that might otherwise be flying under your radar.

Ironically, that heightened competition is also exactly what makes an RFP document even more necessary.

During the RFP process, the vendors that are vying for your attention are aiming to impress. They’re prepared to give you their shiniest sales pitch.

By asking a standardized set of questions of every vendor, you not only streamline the process of comparison into something more organized and unbiased. You also keep the spotlight on the problems your business is looking to solve—not whatever each vendor thinks is most important, based on their own offering’s biggest selling points.

You also keep the spotlight on the problems your business is looking to solve—not whatever each vendor thinks is most important, based on their own offering’s biggest selling points.

As Kat Boogaard puts it at Wrike, “the RFP is more than just an ‘ask.’ It should also provide enough details about the project so that the aspiring bidders can provide an accurate estimate of what it would take to finish it. The more accurate the RFP is, the more likely it is to solicit bids that line up with real-world results.”

How to create an RFP: 122 questions to ask + sample RFP template

OK, you’re convinced—an RFP is an easy tool for standardizing evaluation criteria against a handful of marketing platform vendors. But how do you actually put one together?

In order to make sure the product a vendor is offering aligns with your business goals, your RFP should generally consist of two parts:

  1. The body or cover letter, which frames the business need that is the focus of the RFP
  2. The questions, which all bidders must answer in order to be considered for the job

Here’s a peek at what should appear in each of those sections.

Sections to include in the body of an RFP

Your first task when writing an RFP is to communicate your business’s story, needs around this particular project or purchase, and what you’re looking for in your next marketing platform. These sections are usually best communicated in a Word doc, Google doc, or PDF.

Palmer outlines several crucial components of the body of an RFP:

Business overview

This section should include:

  • Company name, mission, and background information
  • Your company’s value proposition in the market
  • Your company’s big-picture business goals
  • Relevant past purchases or projects

Lead stakeholder identification

This section should include:

  • Name of key contact person or stakeholders
  • Their contact information (phone number, email, etc.)
  • Their communication preferences

Statement of purpose

This section should include:

  • Macro and micro project goals, deliverables, and key milestones
  • An explanation of what your next marketing platform needs to accomplish
  • A breakdown of how you want your next marketing platform to contribute to your overarching business goals

Scope of work

In this section, answer questions like:

  • What are the issues or challenges you’re facing with your current solution that you need your next marketing platform to solve?
  • How are these problems impacting your business?
  • What does your existing tech stack look like?
  • Which elements are changing during this process and which are staying the same?
  • What is your budget for this replatforming and for ongoing upgrades?

Anticipated roadblocks

This section should outline the key hurdles you expect to face during the process of adopting new ecommerce platform marketing technology. For example:

  • Do you have a limited budget?
  • Is a large part of your tech stack custom-coded, which could make integration difficult?
  • Will a key stakeholder be on leave during the implementation timeframe?

Being honest and transparent about what might go wrong, here, will ensure your vendors enter their proposals with eyes wide open.

Detailed selection criteria

In this section, answer questions like:

  • How will you make your final selection?
  • What must each vendor absolutely include in their proposal in order to be seriously considered? For example:
    • Years of experience
    • Industry expertise
    • Ability to address business goals / objectives

Be specific, here—it will not only help vendors align their proposals with your needs, but will also make the selection process easier for you and your in-house team.

Logistical parameters

This section should include:

  • Formatting guidelines
  • Submission requirements and deadline
  • Targeted selection dates
  • Project timeline

“Anything else?”

It can be a “good test,” Palmer says, to build a section into your RFP that explicitly asks each vendor to share recommendations and additional use cases “that could impact their business, how they would implement them alongside the ones already outlined, and why,” he says.

You might ask, “Are there any key topics we left off entirely, and what would those be? Why should we deem them important to our assessment?” Palmer points out. “Then, you can decide if these are relevant or not and provide that feedback along the way.”

Questions to ask on your ecommerce marketing platform RFP

Even with the most buttoned-up RFP in the world, selecting a new marketing platform is still a daunting process—and a lot of it comes down to asking the right questions. But with so many moving parts to consider, it’s hard to know where to start.

“At the end of the day, when you’re choosing a technology vendor for a marketing platform, this is a fairly mature space,” Palmer points out. “There are a lot of baseline things that any vendor must be able to execute on.”

To help you get things moving in the right direction, consider these sample questions from a few suggested categories, as well as an example of an requirements section.

Take what’s useful, modify what’s partially useful, and leave the rest.


  • You must provide us with a test/sandbox environment as part of the RFP and RFP demo process so we can experience your technology and these capabilities for ourselves.
  • The test environment must allow me to input mock data to allow my team to effectively test the product.
  • You must provide a comprehensive pricing structure, unique to our business, detailing what’s included in platform charges and what capabilities or features will require additional charges.
    • Please lay out all potential service line items (e.g. implementation costs, technical support hourly rates, customer support rates, premium support packages, premium deliverability packages, etc.)
  • You must provide a realistic timeline of implementation that details how quickly our business will be able to be fully onboard with your platform after and begin sending messages with live flows, IP warming, and end-to-end integrations.

Company overview

  • How many employees do you have and in what regions?
    • How does this compare to 12 and 24 months ago?
  • Where is your business headquartered?
  • Has your business raised rounds of funding?
  • How many customers do you have?
  • What percent of your customers work in eCommerce or Retail?
  • How many new features have shipped in the last 12 months?
    • What are the 2-3 most impactful ones you’d highlight?

Marketing channels

  • What tools does your system have to create personalized emails?
  • Do you support transactional and mass email campaigns?
  • Do you provide guided email IP warming?
  • Are you able to integrate inbound SMS messages with {{insert helpdesk platform}}?
  • Do you offer short codes to SMS customers, and do you offer international SMS short codes?
  • Can I send SMS to my customers in different countries?
  • How do you ensure email and SMS deliverability and reliability?
  • How scalable is your SMS infrastructure to accommodate large message volume?
  • What measures do you have in place to ensure SMS compliance?
  • Do you provide two-way messaging?
    • In what countries?
    • Do you provide automated responses?
  • What is your pricing structure for SMS services?
    • Are carrier fees included?
    • Do you charge for inbound messages?
    • How do you charge for MMS?
  • How do you measure attribution?
    • Do you support multi-channel attribution for email and SMS?
    • Do you support custom attribution windows for email and SMS?
  • Do you support transactional as well as marketing SMS?
  • Do you provide pre-built automations for email and SMS?
  • Do you support back in stock automations for email and SMS?
  • Do you support price drop alerts for email and SMS?
  • What customer data is available for me to personalize SMS messages?
  • Are you able to have email, SMS, and mobile push messages in the same automation?
  • Are marketers able to create new triggered automations, edit an automation’s logic splits/branches, and add new email/SMS/push messages without relying on developers?
  • Can you capture email and SMS opt-ins along with additional 1st party customer data over multiple steps in sign-up forms?
  • Do you offer product reviews?
    • How does the platform enable us to effectively handle the timing of review requests? Can I make sure requests don’t conflict with other marketing messages?
    • How can I leverage reviews data across other marketing channels (email and SMS)?
    • How can I use reviews data for segmentation and personalization?

Customer data platform (CDP)

  • We described our current tech stack in our RFP overview. Which of these systems do you have out-of-box integrations to? 
  • Are there any limits to the data types and/or data structure to what I can pass into your system? 
  • How does your solution unify identities from offline, online, SMS, email, mobile, and 3rd party apps into a single profile? 
  • How many custom properties and attributes can you store on a single user profile? 
  • Does your CDP provide data storage?
    • Are there any hard limits in terms of data storage?
    • Does your CDP require a data warehouse to store data? 
  • Do you have a limit on the number of criteria that can be used simultaneously in one segmentation? 
  • Do you allow segmentation based on data from third-party integrations?
  • Do you have limits on how far back you can look for data in segmentation?
  • Can you ingest flat files at scale via SFTP or another solution? 
  • Can you transform data to enforce data hygiene and standardization? 
  • Do you have API access to power onsite personalization? 
  • Can you sync data outbound in real-time via webhooks? 
  • Can you sync data to your data warehouse? (if applicable)


  • What is your company perspective on AI?
  • What problems do you solve with AI and what results can I expect?
  • What’s your AI roadmap and how are you planning to innovate AI capabilities for the future? 
  • Would I have access to predictive analytics? If so, how accurate are they?
    • Can we predict a customer’s lifetime value? If so, how can we use this data?
    • Can we predict the date a customer will purchase next? How can we use this data?
    • Can we predict a customer’s likelihood to churn? How can we use this data?
  • How are you enabling testing and optimization in your today?
    • How does your current platform help us warm our sending infrastructure?
      • What guidance does your platform offer for IP warming? 
    • How are you keeping customers up to date with the latest industry benchmarks?
      • How can we learn what metrics we need to improve?
    • Are we able to A/B test the following without any coding knowledge?
      • Content & display timing for sign-up forms
      • Email subject line/content in campaigns and flows
      • SMS content in campaigns and flows
      • Timing of flows
    • Do you offer send time optimization? How does your model account for statistical significance?
  • Do you have generative AI capabilities to help create the following:
    • Segments
    • Email content & subject lines
    • SMS campaigns
    • Responses to reviews

Developer experience & tools

  • Does your platform have APIs available for integration? 
  • What API standards do you follow (JSON:API, GraphQL, etc.)?
  • What programming languages do you support?
  • Do you offer pre-built client libraries for your APIs?

Analytics & reporting

  • How do you help me understand what good engagement and purchase performance should be for my unique brand?
  • Who do you compare us to for your benchmarks and how is this determined?
  • Can you schedule reports or do they have to be run manually?
  • Can you track conversions across email, SMS and push?
  • Can you compare conversions broken out by channel?
  • Can you customize the attribution window for each marketing channel?
  • Can you track the growth of a segment over time? 
  • Can you see what customers were added/dropped to a segment?
  • Do you have access to out-of-the-box models for customer behavior, like RFM? 
  • How can you use insights from customer behavior models like, RFM, in segmentation and personalization? 
  • Can you create customer journey funnels based on a customer’s engagement across your tech stack and website? 
  • Can you customize prediction windows for lifetime value? 
  • Can you compare audiences (and their respective performance) against each other? 
  • Can you create custom metrics for accurate reporting and attribution?

Security & infrastructure

  • Do you have baseline security certifications (privacy shield, trustE, SOC2, ISO 27001)?
  • What security policies are you able to provide?
    • Information Security Policy
    • Business Continuity Policy
    • Acceptable Use Policy
  • What controls do you have to restrict access to PII for users and for vendors?

Compliance, consent, and data privacy

  • How does your platform handle compliance?
  • What type of abuse prevention system do you have in place to protect your customers from potential fraud?
  • What safeguards are in place to ensure your customers are complying with data privacy laws, including international data privacy laws such as GDPR and CCPA?
  • What type of regulations do you enforce regarding the types of lists allowed to be uploaded to the platform?
  • What measures do you have in place to ensure customers are compliant on SMS? Do you enforce the following:
    • Collecting consent
    • Mobile terms of service
    • Proper disclosure language
    • Automatic consent checks
    • Remove recycled or inactive phone numbers
  • How does your organization stay up to date with changes in compliance, consent, and data privacy?


  • What steps are in place to ensure our IP address is properly warmed?
  • What anti-abuse and campaign monitoring measures do you have in place to protect your customers?
  • Is your organization able to assist customers who need to configure DMARC authentication policies? 
  • What safeguards are in place to ensure your customers comply with Google and Yahoo sender requirements? Will customers be blocked from sending if they’re not in compliance?
  • Are you able to support setting up branded sending domains?


  • How many tech partners have a pre-built integration with your platform?
  • Do you have a partner program for marketing agencies and system integrators (SIs)?
  • How many agencies and SIs are in your partner program?
  • What are typical projects that are in scope for your agency partners?

Success & support

  • Do you provide onboarding services?
  • What is your average time-to-value (e.g. up-and-running)?
  • What resources are there for new users to learn your software?
  • Are there any additional costs for training resources?
  • How do you support your clients in deliverability? 
  • What hours is your support available?

What is the RFP process?

Once you’ve finalized your RFP and established the questions you want your vendors to answer, Palmer outlines a typical marketing platform RFP process as follows:

1. Introductory meetings with vendors

The first step, which ideally begins 8-9 months before you need to make your final decision, involves setting up 2-3 meetings with 5-10 vendors to “test assumptions and iron out what is available in the market,” Palmer says.

In this stage, more is more. There’s no such thing as TMI in the RFP world. Prioritize your questions and requirements from must-haves to nice-to-haves, and be honest about where you have wiggle room. (This will also make it easier to score vendors once proposals start coming in.)

The goal during this preliminary stage is to “vet vendors for inclusion in the RFP,” Palmer says. “You don’t want to waste time with vendors that don’t resemble a fit. It’s not worth the effort.”

You don’t want to waste time with vendors that don’t resemble a fit. It’s not worth the effort.
Jon Palmer
Senior product marketing manager, Klaviyo

Be careful, Palmer cautions—this step “is actually more work than it seems, and is a huge part of initial due diligence. If you do this part right, you can make the RFP process a lot more efficient and less confusing for everyone involved.”

2. Send out your RFP and prepare to field questions

Palmer says 4-5 is a good number of vendors to start with. Inform them that you’re including them in the process and ask them to participate. Be prepared to field questions about the process with key decision makers, both internally and on the vendor side.

Clear communication is key to getting this part right, Palmer emphasizes. Remember: You’re choosing a partner, not just a vendor to execute a transaction with. “Test this potential partnership throughout the process, especially with the late-stage vendors that look like they could be a fit,” Palmer advises.

Compared to the technical questions you’re asking in your actual RFP, the questions you’re asking during this stage constitute more of a vibe check. Palmer suggests asking questions like:

  • How communicative are they?
  • Do they ask good questions and execute the way they say they will?
  • Do they really understand our core ecommerce requirements?
  • Do they challenge us when it makes sense in a collaborative way as an advisor in their space?

3. Evaluate RFP responses and schedule follow-up meetings

This final stage comes after the submission of proposals. If you have a comprehensive evaluation plan in place prior to the RFP deadline, this step will be much easier. Generally, it involves:

  • Verifying which vendors meet your bare-minimum requirements, and disqualifying any that do not
  • Scoring remaining proposals based on your pre-established evaluation criteria
  • Comparing scores to determine the winner
  • Notifying losing respondents with a debrief
  • Final approval, negotiation, and contract terms

In addition to assessing each proposal based on your pre-established scoring system and reviewing vendor references, Palmer recommends scheduling follow-up presentations and demos with your top choices to “walk through different use cases and functional execution with key stakeholders.”

Schedule follow-up presentations and demos with your top choices to walk through different use cases and functional execution with key stakeholders.
Jon Palmer
Senior product marketing manager, Klaviyo

Some providers, like Klaviyo, will even offer you a sandbox version of the platform, where you can add in your own mock data and test out functionality on your own—giving your team a hands-on opportunity to test the product before buying.

Here are some use cases to inspire you:

  • Ask how to create a sign-up form that gathers email, phone, and birthday in 3 steps. Then, ask how to take these subscribers and set up an automated birthday flow targeting them on their preferred channel of email or SMS.
  • Ask how to build a segment of users who 1) are located within 150 miles of your distribution center, 2) have purchased or viewed a category where you have excess inventory, and 3) are actively engaged with email or SMS.
  • Ask how to use analytics to identify that your abandoned cart flow is underperforming in comparison to your peers. Then, ask how to easily set up auto-winner A/B tests with various examples of email subject lines and how to drag product recommendations into the templates.
  • Ask how to take shipping data from your shipping/returns SaaS provider and trigger review request automations for your review provider only after a customer has received a shipment.
  • Ask how a non-technical marketer can add the product name to the subject line of an abandoned cart email. Then, ask how to add a dynamic image into the SMS message with the item abandoned in that same multi-channel abandoned cart flow, and view the multi-channel reporting to see how it’s driving conversions on your online store.

And don’t cut ties with the losing vendors until the bitter end. Even after you’ve narrowed it down to the winning vendor, it’s wise to perform a “technical deep dive on integration and proposed architecture to understand the timeline and level of effort for both go live and ongoing support,” Palmer suggests. “There may need to be more than one technical due diligence session.”

Switching marketing platforms: a match-making long game

Remember the “would you rather” from the beginning of this article? Vendor A can accomplish your top priority as well as several other lower priorities, but only at a shallow depth. Vendor B can accomplish your top priority easily, efficiently, and at a far greater depth, but they can’t accomplish 1-2 of your lower priorities.

According to Palmer—and, hopefully, you, now that you’ve learned what you’ve learned about the RFP process—the choice is clear. “Sure, every vendor says they can do XYZ,” Palmer points out. “But in order of importance, Vendor B will end up making you more successful.”

A master of all is a master of none.

The reason for that is simple: A master of all is a master of none. Vendor A might technically check all your boxes, but Vendor B has a better handle on what it’ll take to solve your specific business’s biggest problems.

An RFP is, by nature, a formalized approach to a complex, nuanced problem. So “don’t get caught up in the feature list checkboxes,” Palmer advises. Focus, instead, on “business impact tied to the success of the team and your revenues.”

Don’t get caught up in the feature list checkboxes. Focus, instead, on business impact tied to the success of the team and your revenues.
Jon Palmer
Senior product marketing manager, Klaviyo

On a similar note: “Try to bet on not getting stuck with a stagnant vendor that will leave you behind in a year or two,” Palmer adds. “Then you’ll have to do the whole thing over again.”

RFP template FAQs

Why should I use an RFP template?

Using an RFP template offers several advantages. It helps ensure consistency and completeness in your RFPs, streamlines workflow, saves time by providing a framework to follow, and ensures that essential information is included. Effective RFP templates also assist in aligning the RFP structure with industry best practices and allow for easier comparison of proposals received.

Can I use an RFP template for different types of projects or industries?

Yes, RFP templates are great for all types of project management. They can be adapted for different types of projects or industries. While the core structure and sections may remain consistent, you should customize the content and requirements based on the scope of the project or industry standards.

Are there any legal considerations when using an RFP template?

Yes, there can be legal considerations when using an RFP template. It’s important to ensure that the template aligns with your organization’s legal and procurement policies. If necessary, consult with legal or procurement experts to review and modify the template to comply with applicable laws, regulations, and internal requirements. This is especially important with free templates.

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Jax Connelly
Jax Connelly
Lead editor
Jax Connelly (they/she), lead editor at Klaviyo, started their career doing SEO at a small digital ad agency and spent most of their twenties managing a financial magazine for a trade association based in Washington, DC. Most recently, she studied and taught writing at Columbia College Chicago during the peak years of the pandemic. Outside of their day job, Jax is an award-winning creative writer who has received honors including 4 Notables in the Best American Essays series, contest awards from publications like Nowhere Magazine and Prairie Schooner, and a residency from the Ragdale Foundation. Jax lives in Chicago a block away from Lake Michigan with her elderly Jack Russell Terrier, Cloo.