The Do’s and Don’ts of the RFP Process

When clients have marketing challenges, they often look to an agency for help. Often the best way to determine if a marketing agency is qualified to deliver quality work on time and within budget and scope is through a Request for Proposal (RFP).

Outlining the current problem with requirements and in-depth questions prepares a client to evaluate, select, and onboard the most fitting agency. At the end of the day, a good proposal leads to a better agency-client relationship.

The Do’s of the RFP Process

Be Specific

For the most effective solutions, clients need to clearly outline the company’s goals, needs, budget range, and limitations in the RFP. It is important to be as detailed as possible without restraining the agency’s innovative proposed solutions.  

Ask Questions

The whole point of the RFP is to select the best agency for the job. Choosing the  lowest bid may not lead to a beneficial decision or healthy agency-client relationship down the road. Ask in depth, thorough questions to get a feel for the agency and their capabilities. Removing the pricing data from the equation during the evaluation process may help remove bias.

Engage in meaningful discussion with the list of possible vendors. The agency benefits from counseling the client by showing off their expertise and forming a foundational relationship with the client and the client receives extra help in achieving their objectives.

Give Leeway

A section for alternative solutions allows the agency wiggle room to go beyond the ask, push creative boundaries, and display their abilities without any limitations.


Before submitting the RFP, clients should collect preliminary research from diversified sources - internet searches, industry experts, colleagues, even Setup - to validate whether or not the agency prepared a fairly priced and reasonable proposal.

Be Patient

The initial conversation with comprehensive questions may help the client select a qualified and fitting agency, but, with every new relationship, it is natural to encounter hiccups. The client must understand the limitations of bringing in a new partner and be patient. When onboarding the agency, be sure to provide context of the internal dynamics and processes of the company and where the agency fills gaps.

The Don’ts of the RFP Process

Create RFP Fodder

If the brand already knows which agency they would like to work with, then they should not waste other agencies’ time with an RFP process. RFPs take a significant amount of time, effort, and resources for the agency - work that they could devote to their current clients. Stringing them along is more hurtful than helpful.

Request An RFP Without B.A.N.T.

Before creating an RFP and evaluating any vendor options, brands need to sit down and detail everything - the budget, authority, need, and timeline - or B.A.N.T.

The more the client knows about themselves, the more prepared they are to ask for assistance.

Focus Solely on Price

Getting caught up on the lowest price can distract the client from choosing the agency that is best suited for the project at hand. Determine an ideal cost range and focus on the agencies that are reasonable for that range. Investing in a quality idea from the beginning could save money in the long run.

Hire An Agency Without Core Capabilities That Match Needs

In order to make viable recommendations to the client, the agency should not have to lean on a third party product or integration to have a core understanding of the business. Hiring an experienced agency that isn’t learning on the client’s dime will ease the process and lead to a more successful partnership.

Request Spec. Work

While requesting “spec. work” (work to solve the marketing problem without pay and before discovery) may seem like a good way to “understand how the agency thinks,” it is not beneficial for either party.

Agencies waste a lot of time and effort on spec. work which is, essentially, free work for clients. Spec. ideas are vulnerable to theft by the client and rarely fully represent the agency’s capabilities. Because multiple conversations and processes go into understanding the client’s business, the minimal collaboration between agency and client leads to spec. work that often misses the mark. Agencies often just execute the client ask rather than expanding boundaries and finding real solutions.  

By asking the agency to take part in the silly charade, the client risks receiving poorly fleshed out ideas and scaring away capable agencies.

Click here to learn everything you need to know about the RFP process (& access our free RFP template!).

The Request for Proposal (RFP) is a bid of the specifications brands want completed by an agency or vendor. It includes the scope, budget, and project guidelines. By providing an articulate and specific RFP, brands will choose agencies that lead to a healthier and longer relationship and successful project.