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Former MECA Marketing, Communications Director’s New Consultancy to Focus on Human-Centered Strategic Marketing, Advancement and Public Relations Initiatives for Institutional Brands

Portland, ME – Raffi DerSimonian recently announced the launch of DerSimonian, LLC, a full service marketing firm for institutional brands that are seeking to catalyze measurable engagement with their target audiences. Headquartered at the historic U.S. Custom House Portland, Maine’s Old Port district, DerSimonian has partnered with leading digital design firm Eri Design, and video production agency p3 Maine, to offer human-centered strategic marketing solutions that drive measurable constituent engagements.

DerSimonian’s expertise in launching new marketing strategies, communications initiatives, and advancement campaigns combines industry knowledge with award-winning partners.

For more than 20 years Raffi DerSimonian has served national and international organizations in the fields of higher education, cultural arts, economic revitalization, and luxury travel.

While leading the marketing teams at Becker College and Maine College of Art, DerSimonian worked closely with Eri Design’s founder and creative director, Erjon Metohu.

“Working with Raffi as a client, it was evident early on that we had great professional chemistry and that he truly appreciated the importance of optimizing efficiencies while getting to the core of strategically advancing institutional priorities. His diverse leadership experience and seasoned understanding of institutional operations makes him a valuable partner for Eri Design and the institutions we currently serve,” stated Metohu.

DerSimonian has also joined forces with p3 Maine, a leading video production agency with an international client roster.

The partnerships connect DerSimonian’s wide range of services in research, strategy development, branding, writing, public engagement, public relations, media strategy, fundraising, stewardship, annual fund campaigns, writing and audience development with compelling digital design and video production.

Morgan Myer, founding partner at p3 Maine, expressed his excitement in joining forces with DerSimonian to lead their Institutional Video Production efforts. “Raffi brings a wealth of strategic video production insights to our expanding operation and we are looking forward to building upon our already robust portfolio of institutional brands including Harvard Business School, Northeastern University and Portland Museum of Art.”

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How to Write an Effective Website Design RFP (Request for Proposal)

Helpful tips to compare apples to apples when choosing the right partner

Writing a website design Request for Proposal (RFP) can seem like a daunting task. However, you can rest easy knowing that you don’t need to be a digital genius to compose an effective RFP.

A well-written request for proposal is important for your organization when it comes to forming an apples to apples comparison in determining the right web development firm to partner with. After all, your website is without question your most valuable marketing and communications tool.

Your website design RFP should include the following elements:

1. Project Overview

Introduce your organization and overarching project goals. Be brief, as this will serve as a snapshot. For example, what are the top strategic outcomes you hope to achieve with a new and improved web presence? What are your current pain points, etc.

2. Background & Mission

Share an encapsulation of who you are and what drives your organizational mission, vision and core values. This will provide helpful context to responders. It should also yield more thoughtfully written proposals from responding firms.

3. Deliverables & Scope of Work

Articulate your needs clearly and in great detail. It is important to delineate specific aspects of the overall project. This section can be broken down into two categories: must haves vs. nice-to-haves.

Here are a few sample questions to consider when composing this critical section:

  • Will you need photography and video to be included?

  • Do you have the internal resources to tackle copywriting?

  • What are the core functionalities that the new site must feature?

  • Will you need assistance with areas such as web hosting, management, establishing a more viable web governance strategy, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), ADA accessibility, and back-end training?

  • Are there any third-party applications or custom tools that should be factored in?

4. Tech Requirements

In today’s technology-driven world, it should go without saying that your new site must be mobile-optimized and able to integrate new functionalities as your own needs evolve over time. While you can include details of this nature in this section, it is more important to include tech requirements that are unique to your specific project. For example, have you already determined which CMS (Content Management System) is the best fit to meet your needs, or are you looking for a recommendation? What are the third party tools (CRM, calendaring systems, eCommerce, etc.) that will need to seamlessly integrate with the new site? Are there any other technical considerations that would be valuable in shaping the most accurate response possible?

5. Timeline

Timelines are often predicated by budget and enrollment cycles, but sometimes are also arbitrarily defined. It is not uncommon for a large institutional website to take between 6-12 months to build, depending on technical complexities and defined scope. This section is important to allow responding firms the opportunity to assess the viability of delivering the new site on-time.

6. Budget

If you are truly seeking an apples to apples comparison of firms to engage, it is imperative to include a budget. At the very least, including a budget range can help save time — for both you and the responding firm.

If possible, it is also beneficial to include segmented budgets for related elements such as video, photography, and ongoing management. Explicitly stating what you are willing to invest will aid responding firms in identifying priorities. Further discussion around completing the new website in various phases can be led by this information.

7. Criteria for Selection

Each firm that responds to your request for proposal will inevitably possess their own unique set of strengths and points of differentiation. By spelling out your evaluation criteria, it can help avoid the inclusion of elements that you might not care about. Sample criteria for selection can include:

  • Relevant Work Samples (to assess strategic, creative and technical abilities)

  • Client References (to assess credibility)

  • Project Timeline with Major Milestones, Budget & Deliverables (to assess process)

  • In-person Interview (to assess interpersonal dynamics and overall fit of your top choice candidates)

8. Method for Fielding Questions & Primary Point of Contact

While this requires a bit more effort on the front-end, it will ultimately make your life much easier. This is typically conducted in one of two ways:

  • A shared document with all compiled questions (due by a specific date) and responses, or;

  • A live conference call where folks can ask questions in real-time – think ‘real estate open house’ format – it’s less common but can be equally as effective in making sure all questions are answered. This way, you are reviewing the most accurate and properly informed proposals.

It’s always a good idea to deputize one person as the primary point for orchestrating RFP-related questions. While there is almost always a larger team or committee behind selecting the right vendor, this helps to streamline all communication and creates a smoother process for everyone involved.

 

In Summary:


+ KISS (Keep It Seriously Simple)

Some of the most effective website design RFP’s we’ve received have also been the most straightforward. While it is critical to include certain project elements and details, it does not need to include minutia regarding technical specs and so forth;

+ Process, Process, Process

If you are looking to adhere to a specific workflow, be sure to spell that out in your request for proposal. This can help eliminate guesswork for you, your colleagues, and all who decide to participate in the bidding process;

+ Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover

While portfolio and client roster can be important indicators when it comes to finding the right partner, it’s important to not place too much emphasis on this one variable. This can allow room for imagination and pushing boundaries of creative problem-solving;

+ Success Finds the Ready Mind

To this end, it is always in your best interest if you are able to establish consensus internally on important elements of the website including scope, desired features, design elements, and technical specs before the RFP gets sent out.

+ Keep it Loose, but Keep it Tight

While this may sound like a contradiction to #4, it is meant to serve as a reminder that the best outcomes rely on great communication, listening, back and forth, and being open to challenging discussions.

Raffi Der Simonian

A thoughtfully-written RFP is important when forming an apples to apples comparison with your future website partner.

A thoughtfully-written RFP is important when forming an apples to apples comparison with your future website partner.