John Sellwood, Global Commercial Director at Search Laboratory



Having clear commercial objectives

Before engaging with an agency, it is important to have clear objectives and goals in place. Digital KPIs should link back to your commercial objectives – what does your business need to achieve its goals? Knowing your commercial goals can help an agency design a strategy that will drive tangible business benefits.


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Allowing for pre-submission conversations

Even if your RFP covers all the necessary information – company background, requirements, scoring system, budgets, timeline, it is important to allow agencies to get in touch and discuss your RFP before the submission date to ensure everything has been outlined and understood thoroughly. This also allows both the client and the agency to ensure the values and partnership styles are a match.


A scoring system

Including a scoring system helps agencies to prioritise your goals and build a strategy around this. When writing an RFP, consider what is most important to the business and stakeholders involved and weight these accordingly. Including this scoring system in the RFP helps the agencies to focus on the elements that are important, as well as identify whether or not they are going to be a good fit early on.


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Every agency is different, including their target clients and minimum budget commitments. Stating your budget and minimum contract duration clearly in the RFP will help agencies assess whether or not the relationship is the right fit.


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Other guidance

Provide agencies with as much access to data as possible, as this allows them to identify real challenges and then propose a strategy which will drive genuine results. Without data, the accuracy of a proposal is greatly reduced. Providing data upfront also means the onboarding process runs much smoother as teams already have access to data.

Give agencies a reasonable length of time to respond. While the RFP process can be a good chance to see how agencies respond to deadlines, having a tight turnaround prevents agencies from carrying out the appropriate analysis which is needed to provide an accurate strategy. An RFP is also a good chance to set expectations of the working relationship from both sides, and having extremely short deadlines and unrealistic expectations can put agencies off from working with a client.

Be realistic about “meeting the full team” early in the process. The RFP process can take months, especially if it is being sent to a long list of agencies, and it is difficult for agencies to commit certain team members that far in advance. If meeting certain people is critical to the decision-making process, explain this upfront so that agencies can organise this.


John Sellwood is Global Commercial Director at Search Laboratory. As GO! Network members they help brands grow their presence at home and internationally by getting digital marketing right. If you’d like to learn more about our agency network or get advice on specific challenges, get in touch here