Why RFPs Don’t Work When Selecting a Marketing Agency

Request for Proposal, or otherwise shortened as RFPs, stand for pre-determined checklists. You use them when selecting a marketing agency. But this is one of the worst formulas a business can choose to use.

Selecting a marketing agency through RFPs may make sense at first until you look again closely. RFPs only work when the selection process doesn’t involve a ‘creativity’ component. It works when you’re making selections based on formal qualifications. For instance, if you have a checklist of pricing, features, business terms, and options, an RFP will help you evaluate each potential candidate based on these merits and aspects.

So, if you’re buying furniture, insurance, and healthcare systems, RFPs might be the best way to go. But not at all when you’re selecting a marketing agency. Quite frankly, the reason you’ll opt for one marketing agency over another barely relies on the objectives. The decision mostly bases on creativity. This is the main thing you’re supposed to look at. But the downside is that you can’t quantify creativity. And that’s why it would be better to avoid using RFPs when selecting the right marketing agency. Here are some of the other reasons why RFPs don’t work when selecting a marketing agency:

RFPs Use Tactics and Not Strategies

There’s a problem when you’re using tactics in the selection process against using strategies. Any marketing agency might have the right tactics but fail to have methods. When talking about design, you need to remember that they’re different from tactics. Strategies have to be relevant in the long term and more about creativity than tactics.

SEO, article writing, and social media management are some of the tactics of any right marketing agency. But a fantastic marketing agency has mastered the art of using all of these tools to ensure that they help you convert. It’s not just about using tools but using them well. A set of pliers can drive a nail into the wood but is that its function? Similarly, any marketing agency can claim to handle SEO or manage social media campaigns. But the question is, are they specialized for the job?

It Rests All of the Decisions on the Agency

When you use RFPs, it’s like you’re directing all of the agency’s critical decisions rather than you being the one to decide. Undoubtedly, the agency should come up with the right course for marketing. However, that should depend on your goals and what you want to achieve in the market.

RFP questions focus on what you already know, and this can easily create bias in the selection. Using RFP questions is like placing the question ‘1+1=?’ and expecting that anyone would give a different answer from 2. What even is the probability of that happening? But if you let the agencies use their creativity in providing solutions or formulating a response, it becomes a lot easier to pick the right candidate.

An RFP assumes that you know what you want already, even if you don’t have a clue. This is because you give the nature of the engagement, methodology, and scope. When you’re looking for someone to advise about the course of action and other important aspects of the business, then an RFP is the last thing that can help you achieve that. And even if it can, how can you measure such an attribute?

Ignores the Intangibles When Selecting a Marketing Agency

The kind of relationship you’ll have with a marketing agency isn’t just about pricing and quality, and it’s equally about intangibles. You need to have a connection with the agency that works for you. And this is something difficult to establish when using an RFP.

Compared to working with other suppliers, the working relationship needs to be personal and emotional. You can understand a particular marketing agency’s capabilities and creativity from looking at their previous clients doesn’t mean that you can quantify it.

Some aspects, such as the cultural perspective, are hard to understand when using an RFP as a decision-making model. You can’t tell an agency’s spirit and dedication from the use of an RFP.

Therefore, RFPs prevent the client’s real understanding of an agency based on what matters. Knowing variables such as how long they have been in service is barely enough to make such a decision. You need to ensure that they can meet your goals and work by your principles. How much are they willing to believe in your dreams and ambitions as a company? What sets them apart from the others, which can actually help you move to the next direction or trajectory? You need to ask yourself such questions if you plan to get a successful relationship with the right agency.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, RFPs are very ineffective when you’re selecting a marketing agency. Therefore, take your time and analyze each one of them to land on the best partner.