Marketing Requests for Proposals can be a complex undertaking. You need to communicate the wants and needs of your stakeholder group, provide guidelines for creative work, and detail the necessary information about your brand and messaging, while also ensuring that you are getting the key data you need to evaluate a supplier’s proposal. Finding the balance between the Marketing and Procurement components of the RFP can be a challenging task.
Here are a few key components to consider when building out your RFP document.
It is important to provide an overview of your company as part of the RFP document – the size, number of locations, and service offerings, for example. While the agencies should be doing their own research on your organization, it is helpful to hear how you describe your organization and what information you consider to be the most important. This will help agencies better understand who you are as an organization, which in turn will help them craft a more customized proposal.
In addition to sharing company information, you may also want to provide some background on why you are running this sourcing event.
Is there a new brand or product being launched? Was there a change in strategy?
These details are important to share upfront with an agency as they begin to develop their proposal. It should be noted that this type of background should first be shared during the initial communications with the agencies when you introduce the project, but is important to reiterate in the document as well.
Scope of Work
The scope of work is the most important part of your RFP. This section should communicate what you need the agency to do for you, whether that might be a one-time project or multi-year agency relationship. You should be sure to outline the day-to-day responsibilities of the agency (as well as what is not part of their scope) and any crucial information the agency will need to evaluate the opportunity, such as the volume of campaigns, integrated technologies/systems, number of attendees, and target demographics.
Consider attaching supplemental documents to your RFP to support what you are conveying in the scope of work, such as historical campaigns, artwork, images or other creative content, brand guidelines, or anything else you feel would be helpful for the agency to have as they develop their proposal.
Another component of the project scope is the budget for the agency’s services. There are pros and cons to providing budget information during the RFP process. On one hand, by sharing this information you could potentially lose out on savings opportunities with an agency that could have come in lower than your proposed budget. On the other hand, this does help to set clear expectations across all agencies for the cost of services and minimizes the number of outliers when proposals come in.
Does the agency need to have a background in a specific industry? Should they have the capabilities to work with certain technologies? These details are important to share during the RFP process so agencies better understand how they are being evaluated and what minimum requirements they must meet. This will help to reduce the number of proposals from unqualified agencies.
Whether the agency is preparing a pitch to demonstrate their capabilities or fulfilling a specific assignment, be sure to outline your requirements for those presentations. Agencies prepare pitch decks on a regular basis and have plenty of standard content they can leverage to demonstrate their capabilities, but that information may not answer your questions. Setting the expectations about what should and shouldn’t be included in a presentation is essential to getting the most out of the agency during the pitch to help you make an informed decision.
Setting expectations around presentation timeframe and meeting attendees is also important. This will help to avoid bait-and-switch scenarios where the executive team presents and wins your team over, only to find out after moving forward that they will not actually be the ones working on your account.
While facilities or technology RFP questionnaires ask suppliers about regulations, capabilities, and requirements, the marketing agencies participating in your RFP will be developing pitch decks in addition to your questionnaire; be careful not to duplicate requests or overburden the agency with too many questions in this section.
Although a questionnaire is still an essential part of the RFP, it should focus on evaluating your minimum requirements rather than creative capabilities, which will be covered during the pitch. You don't want agencies declining to participate due to the complexity of your RFP or getting frustrated later in the process because you asked for follow-up information you forgot to request in the initial RFP.
Even if pricing isn't a critical factor in your evaluation process, it's still important to cover during the marketing agency presentations. Be prepared to review the pricing proposal to ensure your internal stakeholders and the marketing agency team members are all aligned on what is - or is not - included in the total cost to avoid any surprises down the line.
Developing a Marketing RFP
Marketing RFPs require you to find the difficult balance between creative and procurement priorities to ensure all parties involved are getting the necessary information to evaluate the opportunity - without overburdening with excessive information and deliverable requests. By setting clear expectations from the beginning, communicating effectively with all agencies involved, and being conscious of agency time and energy investments in your RFP process, you can find the right marketing agency match for your project.
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