By: Adam Stone

How to write a Request for Proposal for a retail automotive website

As I write this I am waiting in an airport terminal waiting for my flight to go to Orlando for another Digital Dealer Conference, energized as ever, as this time I head down to tell dealers about my new company Octane Marketing Marketing (Jaystone Marketing changed their name to Octane Marketing in October 2017). Three years I ago I was in a similar spot, had just started as Director of Marketing for Prime Motor Group and was assigned with writing a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a new website provider and to identify ten to twelve vendors to review as part of the process.

In my prior life at Toyota Motor Sales, USA RFP’s were not only very common, they were used for almost all procurement decisions. In retail automotive, writing a RFP is more of the exception than the rule. With dealership website technology changing so rapidly and the amount of companies changing, consolidating and growing the way they are, you are doing your company a disservice if you don’t use a RFP to select your next website provider. By using a RFP process, you will learn more about your next partner, increase your negotiation leverage significantly and ultimately make the most informed decision.

So how do you write a RFP? Like everything in life, there is more than one way to skin a cat. That said, I have a formula that I have always used and will be simple for you to use as well. Here is an outline of what your RFP should look like:


Background information on dealership

  • Leadership team and history of ownership
  • Location(s)
  • Brand(s)
  • Accolades and Awards


  • Why do you need/want a new website?
  • What features must it have?
  • What business goals must it help you achieve?
  • When do you need it by?


Round 1 – Written application due 1 week after receiving RFP. Have provider’s describe their approach to the following topics:

  1. Responsive vs. Adaptive Design
  2. SEO
  3. Site architecture
  4. Inventory search capability (multi-filter?)
  5. SRP design
  6. VDP design
  7. Blog integration
  8. CRM lead routing
  9. Analytics platform
  10. URL conventions – specifically how it relates to Google
  11. Analytics tracking
  12. Customer service
  13. e.g. how long will it take provider to add plug-ins or ad tracking code or pixels
  14. Dedicated vs designated support
  15. Google speed test (click here)
  16. Specials (Inventory, offers, service offers)
  17. Service Scheduling
  18. Careers pages
  19. Online transaction integration
    3 to 5-year product pipeline
  20. OEM relationships
  21. OEM compliance
  22. List 5 dealer references

Round 2 – Virtual presentation for top 5 to 7 applicants

  1. Request members from upper management, operations team, and sales team to be present on presentation
  2. Limit to 1 hour – force them to show you the most important differentiators of their company and platform
  3. Have them demo at least 3 different current sites that they have built
  4. Do it at a time that works well for you even if the company is in a different time zone. See if they will adjust for your schedule.

Round 3 – Bring top 3 into your facility for a 2-hour in-person review

  1. Must have ownership and upper management present at store.


  1. Restate purpose of RFP and the most important things you are looking for in a website
  2. Provide contact info for all Round submissions and if providers have any questions.
  3. Wish them all good luck in the process

I hope that this outline will help you as you write your Request for Proposal for a new website provider. If you would like to see some examples of actual RFP’s I have written for dealers in the past please email me at and I will send some to you. Best of luck in your search and make 2016 your best year yet.

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