Marketers Need More 30-Day RFPs

The following was previously published in an earlier edition of Marketing Insider.

The cost of agency reviews is a hot topic these days, with the Association of National Advertisers and the American Association of Advertising Agencies putting the average for brands and agencies at $1 million to $1.2 million per pitch. What’s not quantified as deeply is the opportunity cost, though marketers did cite slowdowns in new and everyday campaign and product activity due to the internal demands of an RFP. The added weight of offboarding an incumbent and onboarding a new agency can mean that a brand won’t benefit from new ideas and optimal agency support for six to nine months.

That’s one thing for full-blown RFPs focused on long-term, complex agency-of-record relationships that are often managed by a seasoned search consultant. Yet a large percentage of other RFPs are run internally to fuel immediate, targeted brand needs. Speed is vital in these RFPs, which function both as immediate hires and partner tryouts. They can be done in 30 days. Here’s how.



Investigate up front. Before the RFP, pick a short list from agency websites, media, and social channels. Qualify them on key services, relevant work, thought leadership, and culture. This way you can trim the capabilities stage, and issue NDAs immediately.

Chemistry first. Put the last thing first. Week one, have a straightforward conversation either in-person or via video call. Focus on who you are as teams – why you’re successful, how you work – and listen for like-mindedness. If you hear and feel your teams syncing, you have a finalist because you’ve identified the most powerful component.

Keep briefs brief. Week two, brief agencies on your business challenges, marketing priorities, precise scope and fee of the project, and your work style. Ditch the 50-page deck for a five-page brief that’s short to both prepare and present. Focus on the big issues and opportunities.

Reduce spec work. Week three, have agencies share initial strategy, not full presentations. Get specific on how they understand your problem, see a solution, and plan to implement it. If this is done properly, you’ll get a great sense of the agency’s talent, thinking and working style.  There’s no time or need for extensive spec work.

Get granular on scope. Week four, clarify scope and answer final questions with the winner, so you’re underway with a signed statement of work, and partnering together officially the next week.

There is a role for both robust, consultant-led RFPs and 30-day agency evaluations that serve speed to market. The latter can lessen the drag on the brand business and bring agencies’ actual teams to the process because the work is immediate (read: no more bait and switch).

The first oath in medicine is “do no harm.” We can apply that statement to a new way of selecting partners where we can move important projects forward rapidly without compromising your brand’s other priorities.


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