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Six Tips for a Better RFP To Yield Better Results

Recently the process of responding to an RFP (request for proposal) had me to thinking “there has to be a better way for businesses to select an agency.” But what would that look like?
Here are a few ideas for you or the company you work for to consider

  1. Limit how many RFP’s you send out to no more than five agencies. This will cut down on how much time you need to spend reviewing and interviewing agencies. In return, if agencies know on the front end that you are limiting your search, you will get a better response from those within your search, as the odds of earning your business are better and therefore the agency can better justify the 10 to 20 hours expended on answering the RFP.

  2. As much as you want us to understand your business, take some time to understand ours. Be willing to be flexible if the agency comes back with a different idea than you asked for. For example, don’t let the technology you are comfortable with or that is within your office drive a specific project such as digital marketing or the reconstruction of a website. Today’s technology changes swiftly, and it is to your benefit to take advantage of the agency’s knowledge by remaining flexible.

  3. Often the questions posed in a RFP are not the right questions. For example, a recent RFP we answered asked for the credentials of our client references. We wondered what that had to do with the quality of our work, or our ability to deliver? We can understand wanting to understand our ability to work with diverse industries, large or small but our clients’ credentials? A better question might look like a college essay question such as, “identify a specific project where a challenge needed to be met and how your agency met that challenge.” This will give you a better understanding of the creative process, as well as a measured return on investment for the client.

  4. When the chosen agency’s answer to the RFP will be based solely on price, be up front about it. Don’t hide it around a softer consideration, such as a portfolio review of work. If the budget will be your biggest consideration, rather than ask for pricing from the agencies on various projects, you might consider stating what the budget is and asking the agencies what they can accomplish within the budget.

  5. Be clear as to the depth of services you are expecting from an agency and whether it matters if it is all handled in house or outsourced. Many agencies are one-stop shops, but more still (especially smaller firms) are not. Neither is wrong or right. Often the way an agency operates has to do with scale or efficiencies in delivering a finished product.

    The marketing and advertising world is changing rapidly, driven by emerging technologies and multi-channel communications streams. This has resulted in the creation of firms that offer very specialized services such as social media marketing or digital marketing. It may be to your advantage to work with an agency that will outsource to a firm with a sub specialty.  

  6. Don’t make an agency responding to your RFP read between the lines. If you want an item specifically addressed, state that. If a project is further down the road, leave it off the RFP. Once a relationship is established with a selected firm, the list of tasks will likely change anyway as strategy or creative concepts dictate.

In the end, agencies and the companies that are their customers, all want the same thing: a positive outcome and great results for their business. A better RFP will help ensure that this happens.