Commentary

Best Practices For Converting An RFP Into An Insertion Order

The measure of success for digital ad sellers is based on one thing: getting insertion orders (I/Os). At the end of the day, it does not matter how many meetings sellers secure with buyers, or how many jean parties they host for clients. These never guarantee that ad sellers will get budgets. The sellers’ sole objective is to convert RFPs into I/Os.

Ad sellers have an incredible challenge in competing for direct buys from agencies. Of course, getting a meeting with agencies and advertisers is part of the battle in building a healthy buyer-seller relationship. But what about the next step, when the RFP lands in their inbox? 

Here’s the media planner’s perspective. We need to find sellers’ contact info, email the RFP, call with details, negotiate and pore over dozens of different versions of Excel files from dozens of different potential partners. Furthermore, we are likely expected to turn around proposals in 48 hours or less. With little room for error, and limited time to deliver, why would publishers leave room for confusion or risk leaving questions unanswered? The easier publishers can make our jobs, the more likely we’d recommend them for the buy.

Below are tips on how to land that I/O:

  • Don’t be afraid to include sizzle that wasn’t asked for. We may not know your capabilities well enough to have thought to ask for a particular product. It’s easier to delete a line item we don’t want, than to have to go back and ask for more information.  Although we often don’t have extra budget to go for that “above and beyond,” there will be times when you can score a bigger budget than originally RFP’d for by including a unique concept.
  • Do include sales collateral that helps justify the cost and efficiency of each line item on your plan. Send case studies that lend themselves to this goal.
  • Don’t send PDFs, but do send information in an editable format so that we can copy and paste as needed into our presentation to the client.
  • Do identify how you can stand out from your competitive set, including research where applicable. How do you behaviorally target? Do you have higher costs than your competition? If so, why?
  • Do overcommunicate. Are you concerned about meeting a deadline? Suggest an alternative timeline you can stick to and provide status updates until you actually submit.
  • Do address each element of the RFP and pay attention to the details. If a line item says “demo targeting M18+,” be sure you are actually able to execute these demo-targeted placements. 
  • Do communicate if your site has a minimum spend requirement or if a plan you are presenting has a special discounted rate that’s contingent on a minimum spend threshold. Clients may cut budgets during multiple iterations in the process based on needs or optimization requests. Publishers that state this information up front can help agencies manage client expectations.
  • Do provide aggressive rates up front, as there is often little time for negotiation. If your rates aren’t competitive right out of the gate, you may be eliminated in the first round.
  • Do offer added value and brand lift studies when the budget warrants it. This can help to lower the overall eCPM and will make a better case for including your offering in the buy. Most important, it’s a great gesture that clients appreciate.
  • Do confirm your receipt of the RFP. It’s imperative for us to know that it isn’t in a black hole and that somebody is working on it. 

In this fast-paced environment, you may have only one chance to get it right. With some thoughtfulness and proactive effort, you can stack the odds in your favor to ensure that your RFP catches fire with buyers who help decide on I/Os. In turn, planners and buyers will thank you for being easy to work with, by thinking of you for the next RFP.

3 comments about "Best Practices For Converting An RFP Into An Insertion Order".
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  1. Ari Rosenberg from Performance Pricing Holdings, LLC, September 12, 2013 at 10:56 a.m.

    Katie, this is simple insight. Please resubmit using more acronyms and complex theories :) Thank you so much for sharing such great advice I am personally bookmarking this column -- I hope you continue to contribute to OPI.

    Ari

  2. Brady B from Digital, September 12, 2013 at 12:29 p.m.

    Hey Katie! Thank you for the undoubted time and effort you’ve put into creating this straight-forward and insightful article. Unfortunately, due to time-budgeting constraints, we won’t be reading it but we’ll keep you in mind for future reads.

    Best,

  3. Dan Ciccone from MEDIAFICIONADO, September 12, 2013 at 4:16 p.m.

    While this is good advice, it would be nice if agencies had similar practices in place after receiving proposals.

    1. Confirm you received the proposal
    2. Communicate when the decision will be made - what date?
    3. If you asked for a proposal, please communicate to all vendors why they did not make a plan - note "budget cuts" is not a reason for not making a plan.
    4. Communicate throughout the process. Do not disappear
    5. There is a difference between adding value and lowering eCPMs.
    6. Never write a vendor off due to rates. They all have different rate structures and pain points - not all CPMs are created equally
    7. Communicate who the competitors are and don't base a competitive set off of a Comscore run. M18-34 who frequent a fashion site likely have different interests/needs than guys who frequent a music site
    8. Don't ask for big, out of the box, thoughtful ideas with 2 day turnarounds. The agency and client worked on a communication strategy for 3 months - don't give vendors 2 days to come up with a creative execution

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