Finding the perfect marketing agency for your organization can be challenging when there is a sea of options to choose from. The agency you partner with shouldn’t just help you achieve your goals, their values should align seamlessly with your company to act as an extension of your team. This is where marketing requests for proposals, or marketing RFPs, come into play.
Crafting RFPs can pose a challenge due to their time-consuming nature, but some companies might not even know what to look for or how to create a comprehensive guide for agencies to build their proposals in the first place. As a growth marketing agency, we understand the importance of finding the perfect fit for your marketing efforts. It’s not a one-size-fits-all process and every digital marketing agency has a different approach to achieving success.
While a marketing RFP is not always necessary, it can be a valuable tool for businesses looking to create a partnership with an agency they trust. But, if you don’t know where to start, you’re in luck! In this blog, we’ll explain what a marketing RFP is, when you might need one, and how to choose the agency you want to work with.
To help, we’ve also created this comprehensive marketing RFP template that you can download and use as a guide.
Before we can dive into how to write a marketing RFP, we have to understand what an RFP is. An RFP or a request for proposal is a document from your company that details the needs for a project and can help you filter through prospective agencies to see which ones can best fit your needs. This differs from RFIs, which focus more on getting additional information from agencies before completing their RFPs, and RFQs, which are for companies that know exactly what services they’re looking for and want quotes from agencies. If you’re overwhelmed with the acronyms we’ve thrown your way, don’t worry—check out our blog that helps explain the difference between RFIs, RFQs, and RFPs.
When putting together an RFP, you want to get granular—include specific goals, timelines, and any budget constraints that could impact expectations. It’s also important to set them up for success by asking for specifics on their end like the full scope of work (SOW) and deliverables required for agencies to craft a proposal that fits your needs.
When you’re crafting an RFP for marketing services, one of the things to avoid is asking agencies for a completed strategy. An agency can only provide a strategy if you can provide full access to your company's systems, and full strategies can only be built after analyzing your previous efforts and historical data. Marketwake’s CEO, Brooke MacLean, suggests:
The agency you choose to work with should feel like an extension of your team. While you do want them to offer a different perspective, you still want to find the right connection to maintain a long-term partnership.
To tell the truth, most businesses will never need an RFP. A lot of times when brands are looking to work with an agency, they may use referrals, scour the web, or even see ads targeted toward them to help make their decision. This can probably help you get pretty far in the process. After scheduling a few intro calls and receiving a handful of proposals, you’ll move forward with an agency or move on to the next one.
However, there are times when you may need a more comprehensive understanding of the agencies you want to work with. Or, you may have a budget that makes it worth it for agencies to jump through hoops and fight for your brand. Here are some ways to know if you need a marketing RFP:
If your brand meets any of these factors, it may be worth it for you to start sending out marketing RFPs to the agencies that interest you.
Remember, agencies correlate the depth of RFP requests with the price you are willing to pay for the work. In other words, more complexity means a higher price tag.
That being said, if you have a very long, intricate, or detailed RFP process, assume you should have a large enough budget to warrant it. Ideally, you should place your budget within the RFP. If you don’t, ask yourself if your budget warrants this detailed of an RFP you are requesting. Often, it doesn’t, and a simple conversation plus a proposal will suffice.
Also, an agency may spend 50 to 80 hours answering your RFP. This is substantial, unbillable time. Don’t make agencies jump through hoops that you have no intention of hiring them for. If you’ve already selected an agency but are required to submit an RFP for your process, make it succinct so agencies don’t waste hours of valuable time on an RFP they have no shot in winning.
So, you’ve decided an RFP works best for you. You’ve sent out your marketing RFPs, received a few proposals…what do you do now? How do you choose an agency that works best for you? Below we have outlined the steps—from building the marketing RFP to evaluating responses—that will help you find a team to partner with, not just a vendor that might meet your needs.
Depending on the complexity of your project and how many people will be involved in the review process, your marketing RFP can span anywhere between a few weeks to a few months. Here’s a suggested timeline breakdown of what this could look like:
Now that you have an idea of what your timeline looks like, let's get into the nitty-gritty of what your RFP should look like.
Here’s a basic outline of what your marketing RFP should include:
While this can vary depending on your needs, the one thing to remember is that being clear and concise is key. While you want to give enough details for companies to understand your goals and efforts, you don’t want to be too extensive. Instead, provide opportunities for them to clarify any questions if they come up.
It’s impossible for an agency to provide a full strategy right from the get go. This requires access to your systems, analysis of past efforts and results, thorough research into your audience, and a ton more that should begin once you have agreed to partner with an agency. Asking this from them so early on is seen as seen as bad practice and will never give you the substance you want.
While you shouldn’t ask for a full marketing strategy, you should try and ascertain the agencies approach to building a strategy. Be sure to ask how they align each tactic and if there is anything you have seen from what they have presented to you that you might want to change.
While agencies should be giving you their best in an RFP, you have to do a little bit of work too. What you’re asking for shouldn’t be too much in a short amount of time. A realistic timeline will provide better results overall and create a strong partnership between you and the agency that doesn’t harbour resentment.
The questions you want to address in your marketing RFP may vary for different reasons. You might have specific needs within your business or industry that you can address in these questions. Based on our years of experience in the field, we’ve also provided five game-changing questions to help you find the right agency. You can learn more about each of them in our blog, but here’s a quick overview:
By using these questions you can get a better understanding of each agency—whether its their mission and values or their processes. There aren’t any right or wrong answers, it’s simply about what aligns with your company’s culture and goals.
Once those marketing RFPs are sent out, it's good to have a plan already in place on how to tackle the pitches that come your way. Here are a few components to consider in advance:
One of the more difficult parts of managing the agency pitch process is researching and making a shortlist of the agencies you want to work with. To start this process, we recommend evaluating all your proposals with a scorecard system. Consider how well they answered the ask for your project, if they skipped any questions, and how much attention to detail they put into their proposal. Continue your research beyond the proposals and do a deep dive into the top agencies. Consider their brand and their values. Do they align with yours and the goals you want to achieve? Look at their portfolio, the clients they’ve worked with, and what kinds of services and expertise they offer.
Once you’ve narrowed it down to your top two or three agencies, reach out to them and have them walk through their process. This does two key things, first, it can address any questions you might have from their proposal and allow them to dive deeper into their thinking, and second, it also gives you a chance to see if there is any chemistry between the two of you, after all, you are trying to foster a long-term relationship. This process isn’t that much different from hiring a new employee in your company. If their proposal is like their resume, the interview process will allow you to see more of them, their personality, and their soft skills—and ultimately how that could fit with your company culture.
One big mistake to avoid is eliminating options solely based on price. While your budget is an important factor, price is one of the elements that can always be negotiated depending on the agency. Just make sure you focus on who is serving your needs and understands your company best. To get a better understanding of how to outsource marketing successfully check out our blog.
While Marketing RFPs are not always needed, they can be a great way to find the agency that best fits your needs in a sea of options. However, if you have a large budget, a complex project, red tape to get past, and you’re looking to evaluate multiple agencies at the same time, a marketing RFP may be the right choice. To create a well thought out and effective marketing RFP remember to implement a clear plan and process first to make sure you don’t end up wasting valuable time.
As a full-service marketing agency, we understand how important it is for our clients to find a partner that fits their needs. Download our comprehensive Marketing RFP template below to build a successful RFP and help you find the right agency.
A marketing RFP, or request for proposal, is a document your company uses to highlight the needs for a project. After outlining who you are and what you’re looking for, marketing agencies can use this as a guide to submit proposals.
When writing a marketing RFP the important things to include are an introduction to your company, an overview of the project, your objectives and scope, your desired outcomes, who your target audience is, an additional analysis of your current marketing efforts, a desired budget and timeline, and, finally, the evaluation criteria you will use to assess the agencies that submit proposals.
Marketwake understands that in order to find an agency that fits your needs, you need to craft a strong marketing RFP. Download our marketing RFP template to help you craft one that can help you find our ideal agency.
A successful RFP includes specific details for each element included, while still staying clear and concise. It’s important to clearly define elements like timelines and budget constraints, as well as what you’re looking for in proposals so marketing agencies have a good idea of what to include.
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