Pro Strategies for Handling RFPs

While it’s exciting to see tons of new opportunities opening up of late, new business pitches have long been a pain point for many. We set out to uncover the best approaches to RFPs, and how companies of all sizes approach this resource-heavy task. Read on for five pro tips for managing the RFP process.

Cartier Precious Garage, MKG

Share company case studies

“After years of beating my head against the wall with how to handle proposals due to spending so much time and energy away from paying clients and giving away ideas for free, I decided to stop the madness. I now send a company deck that includes case studies. If it means the client doesn't hire me, it's not the right client for me. So far, it's proven extremely effective in signing business. Show them what you've done. Not what you're going to do.” -Molly Schoneveld, President, The Storied Group

Ask the right questions 

“First things first, let's talk about the brands you're reaching out to or are reaching out to you. It's important to ask yourself some very pointed questions: Do you love this brand or could you love this brand? Do they fit well with the roster of clients you currently have? Working with clients is like dating, and ideally you're going to get pretty serious and have a long term monogamous relationship, so you better be enthusiastic and interested in getting to know them better. We always ask, ‘would we have dinner with this client?’ and it means we want to work with brands and people whose values and goals align with ours.

Also, be upfront when asking about budgets. Everyone always says ‘we don't have money’ or they have a lot of money and it is super tempting money, but you have to also consider what it would cost for you to do a good job and feel good about doing it. If they are not in a range that makes sense for those two things,  don't even entertain the conversation.” -Melissa Rosenfield, Founder, IFP Communications

Put your people over profitability 

“There are so many factors to consider when deciding which RFPs to pursue, especially now in the rapidly evolving global marketing landscape. Budget and timeline are obvious ones, but at the end of the day we try to select opportunities that our team will be excited to work on, and we aim to work with like-minded brands whose values align with ours. At MKG, we strive to create brand actions that engage our clients’ audience, drive business, and make a positive impact on the world around us. We find that this not only makes the work better, but also cultivates a more fulfilling agency environment, leading to higher retention and ultimately better results. Strategically managing RFPs is just as much about profitability as it is about the people behind the proposals.” -Reina Basu, Director of Business Development, MKG

Make sure it’s a match

“My specific approach is to be reactive when it comes to new business. I strictly do not approach – it is all via word of mouth or referrals. We have been very lucky! The RFP outreach has been so frenzied lately, which is both exciting and sometimes daunting. Once we decide a brand is right for the PURPLE portfolio, we take a look at the RFP needs and involve any of our international or regional offices if need be. We love to share a bit more about the PURPLE brand as well as a few case studies that relate to the product. Quite honestly I find in many cases that the chemistry meeting is equally important to the deck. Brands can tell (and so can we) when the match is there.” -Kathleen Barnea Spink, Executive Vice President, PURPLE

Be selective – and transparent 

“At Demonstrate, we typically do not participate in brand RFP processes, unless there is a direct connection with the brand or a key stakeholder in the company we’ve previously worked with. It’s so often an exercise in futility and frankly speaking, as a boutique sized agency, we much prefer to focus on our client partners, who value our strategic marketing and communications skill set.

If we do reply to blind requests for RFP, we’re always transparent as to our process. We’ll take a brief informational meeting and provide a proposal that includes our agency resource fees for a phase one assignment: discovery + immersion. Additionally, we provide a robust overview with relevant client partner case studies to provide more background on our recent experiences.

While our approach to RFPs may be a bit unorthodox from typical agency life, we believe it delivers on our ability to be insightful strategic thinkers, capable storytellers with digital acumen and also masterful at building relationships. After all, you don’t reveal all of your secrets on a first date, do you?”  -Joey Hodges, Founder & CEO, Demonstrate 

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