You have a list of marketing agencies you think you might want to work with. What comes next? Should you use an RFP? And who should you talk with first?
If you have created a shortlist of agencies to contact (read our post here if you need help), you've probably done a lot of thinking about what you are looking for and what kind of agency would be a fit for your company. Once you get to this point, there are two more issues to consider before you pick up the phone.
Agencies hate RFPs, and many refuse to respond to them altogether.
At S4, we rarely respond to RFPs, and even then the ones we respond to are usually tailored to us. In most cases, RFPs are constructed by a group internally and have vague goals and inappropriate requirements. The standard pattern for the RFP process (RFP is distributed, agencies submit questions, questions are answered, proposals are submitted, a short list of agencies is interviewed, company makes selection) makes it impossible to determine if there is a good fit between the company and the agency. In almost every case, estimates and pricing must be submitted, at best, without truly understanding the engagement and, at worst, completely disagreeing about the process and structure of the engagement outlined in the RFP.
From the agency’s perspective, RFPs are expensive to respond to and, in many cases, there’s an agency with an inside track. Often preference is given to the cheapest agency, not the one best suited to the engagement.
I’m probably somewhat biased here, but I recommend finding an agency whose work and message you like and speaking with them first instead of setting up a half dozen meetings with a host of agencies.
This allows the sales process for both sides to be focused on evaluating the culture fit and beginning a collaborative relationship focused on learning and problem solving right away. If it’s not a perfect fit, then set up a meeting with the next agency on the list and so on.
In my experience, when a company is meeting with a lot of agencies, they aren’t able to bring all the internal stakeholders to each meeting. This results in a lot of the internal review and decision making process inside the company being based on the physical proposal, which, in my opinion isn’t a recipe for success.
Excerpted from Pitching a Fit: A Guide for Choosing the Right Marketing Agency by Chris Olberding.
Chris Olberding is a mediocre ukulele player who owns more Funko Pop figures than any grown man should. In spite of this, he has run a successful agency for the past 10 years by providing creative vision and strategic guidance to the S4 team. Chris has been recognized as one of Jacksonville Business Journal’s 40 Under 40, and S4 has been named to the Gator 100, a list of the 100 fastest-growing businesses owned or run by a UF alumni, for the last two years.