January 17, 2019

6 Tips to Assure your Performance Marketing RFP Process is More Effective

Craig McGlynn

What’s the right move for an advertiser in need of expert guidance for their performance marketing channel? In the universe of performance marketing, the RFP (Request for Proposal), if executed correctly, is a great tool to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of an agency. It’s also important to note that the RFP process isn’t just for large advertisers. Small companies, startups and the like will often employ an RFP or similar process when fielding candidate agencies to help with their performance marketing efforts.

Here are some tips and tweaks to make the RFP process less burdensome and more effective:

  1. CREATE A SHORTLIST - Sort out the wheat from the chaff. Rather than employing the cattle call method, make sure you have the right parties at the table first. Finding the right agency to manage your performance marketing efforts is not a quantity game, its a quality game. Invest the time in having an introductory call with a number of agencies and prepare a set list of qualifier questions that will ensure you have legitimate contenders fielding your RFP inquiries. These questions should revolve around:
  • Legitimacy of the agency. Are they big enough? Do they have the right experience and skills? Do they have a good reputation? Do they have a strong target market footprint? What is their client retention and satisfaction rate?
  • Covering all the bases. Do they have fully staffed departments in key areas like BI, Tech and Compliance? Brand integrity, fraud mitigation and data-driven insights and decisions are all reliant on full-time employees staffing these functions at your agency.
  • Experience in your vertical.  Review some case studies on the work they do and make sure they have Account Managers that have experience in your specific (or at least a relevant) business.
  • Budget. Does your program budget align with what they typically charge in fees?
  • Play well with others. How does the agency view other digital channels, and how do they work in concert with them, not competitively against them?
  • Disqualifiers. Any other questions that if answered wrong would be a show-stopper for you.

Think of it like screening job candidates by phone. Just like you wouldn’t bring in every candidate for an interview, why waste time reviewing 15 agency RFP's when after a good phone screen you know there will be 3 players max that can properly manage your account?

2. CREATE A STAKEHOLDER COMMITTEE - Create a small internal committee of stakeholders. From your phone screens, start with creating a grid of the key competencies you require of your agency and how each agency performs against those. Once you have done this, share it with the group and lead an open discussion and vote on your top candidates to create a shortlist of agencies that will be asked to respond to the RFP.

3. ASK CRITICAL QUESTIONS - There is a vast amount of information online about crafting an effective RFP, and as it is a highly customized process, I won't dive into that here. However, I do have just one recommendation - when floating the RFP to your shortlist of candidate agencies, it’s important that you go into the RFP round with these questions permeating everything you ask:

  • Do you understand my business?
  • Can you solve my problems?
  • How do you plan to get me to my targets (not just talk, but actual tactics)?

4. ASSESS THE BEST FIT - In the RFP response review, keep that earlier internal stakeholder team together to review the responses, recognizing that this is both an art and a science. You make sure that the winning agency checks all the boxes of your needs, but also, much like interviewing a job candidate, make sure you find, through phone and even on-site interactions, who you actually want to work with. Make sure the Account Manager who will be assigned to your account is participating in your due diligence. It is of vital importance that you have time to interact with them to ensure that they are a good cultural fit and has chemistry with your point person, as they will be a member of your team.

5. DO A FINAL SCRUB - A well-executed RFP process will have some residual back and forth with the top candidates after reviewing the RFP’s. Questions about tactics, plans and fees will likely keep you in dialogue with the finalists. For these final assessments, cut through the bull by asking the tough questions. Make sure that you are dealing with not only a proactive, professional team in the moment, but that this company is actively trying to set you up for what’s around the corner. Is this an organization that rests on their laurels, or are they doing new and interesting things? What is unique about their value proposition? Having a partner that tests the borders of performance marketing will help you stay ahead of this rapidly changing channel.

6. MAKE SURE THEY ARE LEANING IN - Finally, has agency leadership been present during the process? You want to make sure you haven't just been dealing with a sales team the entire time, but rather the people who will be pulling the levers when the engagement begins. This is important, as it shows that the company is available and motivated.

By adding the type of rigor mentioned above to your RFP process, you should now be in a great position to choose a long-term agency partner to drive your performance marketing efforts.

For a no-strings review of your performance marketing program, reach out to PartnerCentric.