Creating a Keyword List That Returns Your Best RFP Matches

Keyword List Creation
Think like a buyer. You are viewing a blog article by The Bid Lab's learning center, "Creating a Keyword List That Returns Your Best RFP Matches." Consult with The Bid Lab to see how to position yourself for a winning RFP.

Keywords play an important role in growing your business. They impact your visibility, discoverability and even your bottom line. It’s common knowledge from a marketing perspective that keywords affect how customers find your business.

Yet, this isn’t the only way keywords help propel your company’s growth. You may not realize that when it comes to RFPs, they’re also essential to how your business finds bidding opportunities

In an ideal world, every government procurement office would utilize a standardized list of keyword descriptors for purchasing everything they need. If that were the case, your business could simply query its category in Google to easily see all the open RFPs that match your strategy. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. There are hundreds of databases, portals and search functions that make finding and returning RFPs no easy task. If it was, more businesses would be competing for public bidding opportunities. 

Because of this, it’s important to carefully consider which keywords you use to find RFPs. In this article, we share tips to help you think like a buyer. This will help you create and define a targeted RFP keyword list and grow your business in the public sector. 

1. Hone in on what best describes your offering.

Like finding a needle in a haystack, the broader your keyword search, the harder it will be to find RFPs that align with your strategy. Many times, if you were to describe your company, the first descriptors that come to mind are typically umbrella terms that don’t speak to specific capabilities. In the same way, avoid using keywords that are too general. That’s because they tend to return a large number of irrelevant results. 

For example, an IT business might begin their RFP search in a government database with “IT support”. This keyword is too broad and in this case returns over 2,000 results.

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You are viewing a blog article by The Bid Lab: "Creating a Keyword List That Returns Your Best RFP Matches."

As you can see, determining a set of focused keywords that describe the RFPs you want to bid on is essential to not only your time, but your brainpower as well! For this reason, it’s important to pinpoint those keywords that align with your business bidding strategy. 

2. Ask the right questions to better position your business.

As an initial step, a brainstorming session is a worthwhile task to create a focused list. Here are some questions to get you thinking about your target keywords and help you narrow down your search return:

  • What does your business specialize in? Keyword descriptors should be specific to the services or products you directly provide. As an example, the above IT business could specialize in “cybersecurity”, “penetration testing” or “java programming”. 
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As shown above, when entering “penetration testing” in the search field, the results quickly narrow from over 2,000 to only 15. The more you concentrate on what it is you specialize in, the fewer RFPs you’ll have to sift through to find potential matching opportunities.

  • Use your small business designation to help narrow your search. The federal government designates 23% of prime contracting dollars for small businesses. This includes businesses who qualify in categories including veteran-, women-, and minority-owned, among others. Utilizing these designations will limit competition on certain contracts to only the small businesses that qualify. This in turn sifts out the larger contracts for which your business isn’t eligible. 

Learn about the Small Disadvantaged Business designation and how to register here.

  • What area(s) does your business serve? You want to find RFP opportunities in areas where you can logistically provide your product or service. Therefore, location is an important factor to consider when searching for RFPs. Noting the locality, state or region in your keyword list will focus your RFP search to only areas you service or want to service in the future. This is especially important when searching for local contracts. 

3. Utilize the “Related searches” function to refine your keyword list. 

While we don’t suggest using Google as your primary RFP resource, there’s a benefit it offers that can help you refine your keywords. 

Sometimes, instead of using those overly general descriptors mentioned above, the opposite can happen: We get tunnel vision when creating a list of keywords that describe our business. This can limit the available opportunities as the list may be too narrow and focus on a single field. To seek inspiration, try utilizing Google’s ‘Related searches’ function to help you extend your keyword list and search for other related broad topics. 

For example, if your service provides “family education programs”, the function returns high-level results that can provide guidance to add to or refine your list. 

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Related keyphrase: think like a buyer

4. Think like a buyer and research RFPs similar to your specialty.

At the time an offeror issues an RFP, they have an understanding of their project and what it takes to fulfill it. This information can sometimes come from requesting information prior to the RFP via RFIs.  But, the buyer is typically not the Subject Matter Expert. In this way, their RFP title may not always indicate the solution they actually need. So, you’ll never predict with 100% accuracy the keywords buyers have in mind when building the RFP. This is why it’s important to cast a little wider of a net and expand your opportunities.  

For instance, a “water utility software” company may utilize those exact keywords in their search query. But, that may return very few RFP opportunities. Yet, after researching an RFP for “water system maintenance”, they find the buyer is actually seeking a ‘new software system’. As it turns out, the RFP presents a good opportunity for their response. For this reason, expanding your keyword search and researching other RFPs that are similar to your offering may result in unexpected surprises that benefit your company.

5. Treat your keyword list as a “living document”. 

Your keyword list is an integral part of your RFP search strategy and process, and it should evolve over time. When you find RFPs that align with your goals, take note of which keywords the agency uses to seek your service(s). Or, if certain keywords are not returning relevant RFPs, choose to refine or eliminate them to produce more fruitful search returns. Furthermore, as your business innovates its offering, so should your list. You’ll find that if you stay on top of curating your list, over time your keywords will present great opportunities, thus eliminating the wasted effort of reading RFPs that don’t align with your strategy. 

Finally, you may find that your RFP search requires more time, resources or experience than you and your team are able to provide. If that’s the case, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for help. At The Bid Lab, we not only assist our clients in finding RFPs that strategically align with their business needs, but we also help manage their responses to ensure their submission is on time, on point and on the shortlist. Schedule a free consultation with us today! You can also call us at 1-844-4BIDLAB or email us at respond@thebidlab.com. Let us help you fulfill your search for the perfect RFP for your business.