Commentary

How to Find an Agency You'll Love

An RFP (Request for Proposal) may often be referred to as a "Recipe for Pain". They make a search for a marketing agency a "commodity" exercise at the best, and a complete waste of time at the worst - for both client and agency. 

Sure, you can throw a rock and practically hit a PR, digital, creative or any kind of marketing agency. Finding the right one perfectly suited to your situation? That's an entirely different matter. 

Most companies start off by developing an RFP and sending it out to a long list of agencies. They are often surprised by a lackluster response. Perplexing?  

It's similar to the dating scene. Your company may be the belle of the ball and quite the "catch" for any agency. But jumping up on the table announcing availability is not the best way to find that special partner. When you send out an RFP, you've just jumped on the table. 

It takes an enormous amount of work to properly respond to an RFP, which are often perceived by agencies as a "cattle call".  Successful agencies with limited resources need to be selective about whom to pitch and consider their chances of success. 

There's a ton of questions around the reason for the pitch and how the decision will be based that go into the process. Many agencies can be easily eliminated - or better ones identified - without wasting everyone's time. 

If you are thinking about hiring an agency, consider the following best practices:

Do:

  • Wait till you're ready to hire. Things change and focus shifts over time, not least of which budgets. Get management team buy-in, agree on a scope of work and budget range and allocate the time and resources needed.
     
  • Meet before asking for a proposal:  Give the agency the opportunity to ask questions and determine if it's a relationship that's a good fit for them and you will receive a much more enthusiastic and thoughtful response.
     
  • Keep the RFP short and savvy. Brief the agency and give them enough information to properly respond. Include the situation and reason for the pitch, expectations, criteria set and how a decision will be made. 

Don't:

  • Be seduced by the "hottest" or "top ranked" agencies. It's easy to get sold on - and then lost in - a big shop. Get an idea of the size and scope of the agency's clients and look for comparable examples of success.
     
  • Assume a full-service agency is best suited for your needs. Look for core competencies. Specialty firms can offer expertise and value.
     
  • Blindly issue an RFP to a long list. Do your due diligence or hire a consultant to help you develop the right short-list. Only issue an RFP to agencies you've met, felt a fit and would consider hiring.  

Save your team valuable time and headaches and do the research, or work with a search consultancy to get the right agency selection. 

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