As a full service agency, Celtic has received our fair share of good RFPs from potential clients. These well-crafted documents provide a great foundation to address the new client’s primary marketing needs with a goal of finding a GREAT agency partner. With open, honest dialogue, clients and agencies can work together, creating outstanding work focused on company growth.
Here are five important points to consider as you prepare your RFP.
1. Clarify the Agency’s Role
Review your in-house team and define the marketing needs you will outsource to the new agency. Will the agency help in planning? Is relevant industry experience critical? What services do you need for execution? It is important that your agency partner has the expertise to create the most effective solutions and the talent to deliver on the services required. We have seen clients who have worked with agencies on great ideas but when the rubber needed to hit the road, the agency simply didn’t have the staff to bring the ideas to life in a timely fashion.
Talk about the budget. As a client, you will need to openly discuss money with your agency, so start early. By providing a budget guide you give them information to plan resources. It will also help you understand how the agency bills and manages budgets. Perhaps the biggest mistake in any agency review is holding back on financial discussions.
2. Reach Out to Agencies With Relevant Experience
Every client wants new ideas and inspired creative but having an agency without any meaningful experience or success in your industry is usually too big a leap. Define things like size of agency, what experience you would like their team to have, and which services are critical.
Write down all the criteria, ask colleagues for referrals, and then do a little web surfing to create a list of candidates. We recommend that you engage no more than five to seven agencies in your search. Plan to narrow down to three finalists for in-person presentations.
3. Have a Discovery Call & Don’t Ask for Creative
Before the agencies start to send in their responses, offer to host a Q&A conference call. It’s important to talk with their team to gain insight on how they manage the process and if they really understand your market and needs. This is a relationship-first business so discovery and conversation will provide insight on how their personality fits with your team.
Agencies are tentative when asked to submit speculative creative. Many have been burned with presenting work for potential clients who are just fishing for ideas. There is a learning curve to your business and marketplace, and great creative needs access to research and knowledge that is deeper than the RFP. You should get a clear sense of their creative process and successes from their client roster, case studies and references.
4. Provide Clear Instructions & a Reasonable Timeline
Your team will want to compare and contrast the RFP submissions. By developing clear review criteria, you will be able to evaluate and rate the agency responses with ease. Once you receive the feedback, narrow down the presentations to your top two or three candidates.
Remember to provide two to three weeks for the agencies to respond. Just as it took you time to create your RFP, it also takes time to compile a comprehensive response. Include a clear timeline of dates for deliverables and decisions.
You will need to assign an in-house review team of no more than five. Have them weigh in on your RFP draft. If your company has procurement and legal, make sure to include a representative on the team. These professionals have valuable experience with the process of engagement and can help streamline the final contracts.
5. Finish Strong
One of the greatest disappointments for any agency is a potential client who never communicates their decision. Even if the agency is not selected, it is critical to meet the decision deadlines and inform all respondents. It’s a small world in marketing and it goes to the company’s reputation how you manage the search process.