We know… We know… This may be an unpopular opinion, but hear us out. Both brands and agencies should be focused on making sure the relationship is the right fit for your current organization. The cost of getting this relationship wrong is too significant for both brands and agencies. Doing a thorough vetting process allows for the insights needed to make this big decision.

Maybe an old agency is actually the right fit, or maybe you will be surprised by what else is possible. There’s only one way to know for sure.

Why brands should take the time to make sure you have the right partnerships in place:

Most marketers have worked with previous agencies at some point in their career and may have even worked at agencies themselves. It is really easy to go back to who and what you know. Of course, there are circumstances when repeat business relationships work. Often times, this is not the case.

Here is why:

  1. Your business needs at your new company are likely different than the business needs of your previous company. Even if you’re in a similar industry or are going after a similar audience, your company and your team may have different strategic, global support, operating, services and expertise needs
  2. The agency team will likely not be the same team. So much about what makes a successful agency/client relationship is about the actual people on your team. You may not get to work with the same team, as they may not have the bandwidth or may no longer be at that specific agency
  3. Budget misalignment. Your account might not be the right fit for the agency from a budget perspective. If you’re too big or too small for the agency, it can create an imbalanced relationship from the start

The truth is, running a thorough RFP takes time and energy, but it is worth it. As marketers, you have so much on your plate to begin with – wearing multiple hats across your organization, many goals and internal stakeholders, and so much that needs to be done. You’re under more pressure than ever to show the effectiveness of your marketing investments and how your programs impact business growth. Your current role may depend on this.

You need to be able to rely on your agency to be your true partner.

Cutting corners in the RFP process will likely result in having to run it again (and again), wasting much more of your valuable time and much more of your company’s valuable money. Not to mention, onboarding a new agency is no easy feat.

Aligning your business needs with an agency that truly excels in the services you require is the

foundation for establishing a true partnership. From there, trust and chemistry can be built. Allow yourself the opportunity to properly assess the agency landscape to find their right partner for your current business. You may be pleasantly surprised and learn a great deal of valuable information. The time spent during the RFP process is worth the headaches it will save you in the long run.

Take the time to get this big decision right. You’ll be glad you did.

To our agency friends:

We understand that agencies organically grow your business through repeat customers and referrals. We are not intending to take away from this. That said, if the agency is also focused on making sure the client is the right fit for your organization, you should be cautious about soiling a long-term relationship for a short-term win.

We also understand that the RFP process is a significant time investment for agencies. This is why agencies should be declining to participate in an RFP that doesn’t fit the core expertise of your agency. You should be very picky about the type of business you are choosing to pursue and only go after business that fundamentally matches the expertise of your team and your global operating model.

You should ask yourselves these questions before deciding to participate:

  • Is the scope the right match for the services you provide?
  • Is the budget appropriate for your agency?
  • Do you have the bandwidth to properly service this scope/account?
  • Is this the right type of client for your agency?

If the answer is no to any of the above, consider walking away from the business.

If the answer is yes to the above, the RFP process is most thorough way for both the client and the agency to truly assess if this is the right relationship. In this spirit, agencies should (dare we say) welcome the RFP process. This way, you can also determine if the client needs and temperament match your agency.

While in theory it is great to win business, winning business that isn’t a fit for your agency causes a great deal of pain, low morale, burnt out teams and turnover. An agency’s people are your greatest resource. You shouldn’t risk losing your team for the wrong type of client.

Protect your people the integrity of your agency. This will bring the right types of brands and partnerships into your business.

Do you agree yet?

Before entering into any long term committed relationship (especially one that involves a great deal of time, money and energy), both brands and agencies should make sure that this is the right fit for all parties. Even if prior relationships exist, making sure that this scope (at this current moment) is the right fit is worth it. The RFP process is a fair way to level the playing field so that both sides can truly assess if this is currently the right partnership.

The focus for all relationships should be about the fit, rather than the win.