Help Us Help You: Putting Together a Better Agency RFP
By Mandi Kane, APR, Media Relations Director
Searching for a new marketing agency is a lot like dating. In both cases, the goal is to find the ideal partner who complements you in a way that allows you to be your absolute best. However, like the journey to find your soulmate, issuing a Request for Proposals (RFP) to find your next agency partner can be a challenge. If you’re preparing to venture into the RFP world, here are some tips to help find your perfect match:
Get Honest with Yourself
Self-awareness is critical to starting any relationship off on the right foot, but it’s particularly important as you start evaluating agencies. In order for the partnership to be successful, you need to be very clear about not just your goals, but also your weaknesses. The strongest bonds are rooted in vulnerability, and it’s no different here. When you’re honest about your needs and expectations, and can articulate them clearly, we’re in a better position to provide recommendations that are going to more closely align with the results you’re seeking.
Be Clear about What You’re Looking For
What are you looking for in an agency? Are you looking for an agency that’s integrated? What capabilities are important to you? Are you looking for someone who has experience in your industry? What qualifications matter to you for the team you’ll be working with? Do you want to be involved in collaboration, or do you trust the agency to develop recommendations without you? Spend some time thinking about the qualities, and even values, that matter to you in an agency partner, and give agencies the opportunity to prove they’re the right fit.
Be Realistic About Your Problem, But Be Flexible About the Solution
A lot of times, when an RFP process isn’t successful, it’s because the client tried to put in an order for what they wanted, instead of describing a problem and allowing an agency to evaluate the needs and respond accordingly. Please, allow us to be the experts and share what we think you need through strategic recommendations. I promise, you’ll be happier with your results.
Provide as Much Information as Possible
While the best agencies put a ton of research into their proposals, to get the best responses from your prospects, you should help by including as much background information as you can about your business, your target customers, your products, and – most importantly – your budget. It’s okay not to know all of this this because that’s where we come in – except your budget, we at least need a ballpark – but give us everything you’ve got. The input equals the output. If this makes you feel uncomfortable, you can always ask the agencies who are responding to your RFP to sign non-disclosure agreements.
A lot of times, despite your best efforts, there will be a need for clarification. Most RFP processes allow for a question period, when all the competing agencies submit their questions, and then the client provides the answers to all the candidates. This is most common with government contracts that require a lot of transparency. However, even if you’re not a government agency, be approachable and as open with information if you can be. We want to do great work for you, and we know what we need from you to do it.
Allow Enough Time for the Process
Agencies take new business incredibly seriously, and we always relish the opportunity to wow a prospective client. We put a lot of time, thought, strategy, and creativity into crafting the perfect proposal, and while we sometimes do our best work under pressure, you’ll get better responses with establishing a realistic timeline for your RFP process. While “realistic” admittedly depends on the size and scope of the project, I encourage you to allow at least 30 days for agencies to respond to your RFP.
RFPs can be stressful for everyone involved, but with honesty and clear communication, you can be well on your way to finding the agency of your dreams.