Insider tips to guide your B2B marketing RFP development
by Randy Mitchell, Creative Director
I am about to violate a sacred rule. I’m going to give you a look behind the curtain of the agency world.
What is the clandestine topic that is such a taboo? B2B Marketing RFP development. Specifically, the candid opinions agency and industry insiders have about RFPs.
First, a word of warning: Our insiders are not shy. They have pointed views on why some RFPs are truly effective and why others are destined to fail.
So let’s get started with this inside story before the marketing police show up at my door.
Wrong first impression
If someone put you on the spot, how would you describe your company? That’s often the first hurdle in the B2B marketing RFP development process. Unfortunately, it’s also a chance to send the wrong message.
The insiders agree.
“Marketers will form their own impression of your company. Many times, it will be the wrong impression. It’s up to you to define who you truly are, what you do and whom you serve. That should be up front in your RFP for every agency to read. It starts the process on the right path.”
“I always tell companies to talk about their values in the RFP. This may sound like a “soft” inclusion in the middle of a fact- and metric-driven document, but it serves a meaningful purpose. By describing your values, you’re more likely to find an agency that’s a good value fit for your goals, culture and processes.”
“A marketing RFP is an employment ad. Think about it: you’re basically trying to find the right candidate for a job that needs to get done. So be honest about your company and “the job.” Tell the agencies what you really need and you’ll stand a much better chance of getting it.”
The takeaway here is clear: Any prospective marketing agency will do a web search on your company. But the information they find may be outdated or not aligned with your future goals or culture. To avoid this pitfall, make sure your marketing RFP development cuts through the unnecessary content and offers the pure essentials about your company, your values and your objectives.
The bottom line battle
One of the most debated areas in RFP development is budget. Some marketing RFPs are open about a program’s projected budget. Others want the agency to offer their best guesstimate for doing the work.
Agency pricing is another area that elicits sharp opinions. RFPs usually demand pricing for services like strategy, creative and account management. That can set off some fireworks.
“We never share our pricing unless there is a program budget from the other side. However, if the RFP offers the budget, the agency should follow suit with their figures.
“Some agencies balk at giving pricing. But that makes it seem like they’re hiding something.”
“If your company’s budget truly is an unknown when you reach RFP development, at least provide a ballpark range. Remember, you are seeking a professional service and asking for an agency to put their time and efforts into your RFP.”
“I believe you should be more general in your pricing because line items can be a slippery slope. Instead of focusing on what matters, agencies can get into a price competition over specific line items. Nobody wins in that scenario.”
Clearly, there are two sides to this story. The prospective client wants to see if agency pricing is in line with their marketing budget. But the agency needs some type of budget for a benchmark. We can’t possibly settle this debate here. Instead, let’s visit another hot button RFP issue.
If you have initiated or responded to marketing RFPs, the following statement should be familiar: “Include case studies of work you have done for businesses that are similar to ours.”
Responding with a couple of good case studies seems reasonable. But this simple request can give agencies migraines. The issue isn’t the actual case studies; any good shop will have them on hand. The challenge is determining relevancy.
“Agencies struggle over what a relevant case study is for an RFP. That’s why it pays to keep this in mind: No program is exactly like the prospective client’s.”
“To me, the best case study is one that opens eyes to a new approach or a better process.”
“When we get the request for ‘perfectly aligned case studies,’ I am always tempted to reply: ‘Sorry, but we don’t have case studies for a business that’s just like yours. If we did, we would already be in competition with you.’”
The strongest RFP case studies tell the story of the most relevant work, regardless of perfect industry alignment. For example, an established manufacturing company that wants to build a lead generation program doesn’t need an unrelated manufacturing case study. Instead, a successful lead generation program case study from another industry will prove much more relevant.
Valuable resource for your next B2B marketing RFP
Here is a final insider’s tip: Start your next RFP with a proven template.
There is a new customizable B2B marketing RFP template that will help streamline the entire RFP process. You can use it for a new marketing program, agency search, website redesign or any other upcoming RFP you need to develop. And you can download it today, right here.