A modest proposal for the agency RFP

A modest proposal for the agency RFP

May 14, 2018

Having been in the ad game for over fifteen years now, I know a thing or two about responding to RFPs. Or RFQs. Or RFIs. Or RFwhatevers. Point is, I’ve witnessed my fair share of documents submitted by B2B marketers who wish to work with a new agency in some capacity. While I’m not the biggest fan, I at least understand and can appreciate its purpose – to provide some level of standardization in an otherwise frenzied evaluation process, thus making it easier for clients to compare potential agencies apples-to-apples.

But let’s set the record straight. Yes, we are in it for the long-term, too, despite what others may tell you:

“Part of the problem with today’s commonly practiced agency search process is that agencies and B2B marketers have different objectives from the get-go. B2B marketers are looking for a long-term relationship with an agency. Agencies, on the other hand, are more mercenary; initially, they are looking for a transaction, not a deep relationship. They are simply looking to win the pitch.”

Avi Dan, contributor, Forbes Magazine

With all due respect to the author and his credentials, this thinking is profoundly incorrect. This isn’t The Bachelorette. Agencies who move forward to the next round aren’t given a rose, and our motivation isn’t “simply… to win.”

The main issue with an RFP process does not lie in “differing objectives” between client and agency either; it lies in a process that usually measures the wrong things. Receiving a 40-page proposal response, for example, ultimately tells you one thing – B2B agencies know how to write really good proposals. That assumes, of course, the entire piece is read from cover-to-cover, too.

Instead of relying on a system that’s largely ineffective, I would encourage B2B marketers to submit a small business assignment to agencies as a healthy alternative. Pick something small for us to focus our time and attention. Seek assistance for something you’re genuinely facing right now. Clients will not only receive helpful ideas in doing so, they will also see how a B2B agency applies their industry expertise, knowledge of the audience and process to solve complex problems. And isn’t that ultimately the point?

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