The RFP of Tomorrow :: Your Creative People

The RFP of Tomorrow

Kate Redmond
4:17 read

The traditional RFP, or Request for Proposal process was created to assist companies in hiring outside companies purchasing products and services with the idea that one process fits all. It has been used for decades to pair up companies like yours and agencies that serve them. But does a decades-old procurement process still work in today’s ever changing business environment especially when it comes to creative firms where no two are exactly alike?

Here at YCP, our tagline is “Thinking Differently.” This means to challenge the status quo to ensure that you always get the best outcome. When we see something that we think is a better way, we present it to you. That’s called integrity; it’s always doing what’s best for our clients.

You may be tasked with managing the process of vetting agencies for the creation of a new website for your company. Before you turn to a decades-old RFP process, consider these 4 tips.

1. Start with what’s most important - your customers.

Many RFPs begin describing the technical requirements such as programming language, features like a mobile-friendly layout, or dictating a certain content management system. Instead of starting with the technical (something your new partner should be much better versed in making recommendations for), the starting point should always be your audience, your competitive advantages and a marketing strategy. An understanding of each of these three areas is critical to the project’s success. Technology requirements won’t drive in new sales leads; a marketing strategy founded in your audience will.

If you don’t have these three foundations fully fleshed out and ready to send as part of your RFP, hire an agency to work with you to identify these foundational pillars before you begin your project. And if a potential agency partner doesn’t ask you about these key areas at the start of the process, consider that a red flag. They are what will make or break your new site.

2. Take the time to get to know your potential partners.

A traditional RFP process is set up by purchasing to make everyone equal so that you can compare apples to apples and decide on a winner. But think about it - is any creative firm really exactly like the next one? Do they each do everything well? The truth is that every agency is unique and offers something a little different. Take the time to get to know them - and the time to let them get to know you - and you might find the perfect match for what you need - and experience to boot. Don’t rush the process - you may miss the best partner in the end.

Here’s what we would recommend: have a “get to know us” meeting to get to know each of the agencies, establish your goals and objectives, and verify they have the capabilities before getting in too deep into the process. After those meetings, remove those from the process that you don’t feel are a good fit for your company and continue go to the next step with those who you feel have what it takes to partner with you. 

An RFP is similar to a job application where agencies apply to work for you. Personally talk with each of their references and get to know them through the eyes of others. Focus not on the technical requirements but on gleaning valuable insights from the experiences of others.

3. Be up-front with your partners so that they can truly help you.

Every relationship in life is built on trust and your relationship with your agency partner is no exception. Just like every good relationship, trust is developed through openness. Without openness you will start out on the wrong foot. It’s important to be open about your vision, your goals and objectives, and the expectations you have for your new agency partner.

Openness about your project’s budget is the final, yet, critical component of an agency deciding if they want to take you on as a client - if they can accomplish what you want for what you can afford. No one likes to be taken advantage of, but we also know it’s important to be open and up-front about what you can really afford so that the people who serve you know how to help and what phases they should recommend.

Companies and agencies get into a project and then realize down the line that some of the elements presented to wow the client cannot be done in the budget provided.  We’ve received the “cold-feet call” after a misalignment of expectations and budget concerns that reared its head in the middle of an awarded project, and the company decided they actually made a mistake in selecting their agency partner. 

By demonstrating openness from the beginning and clearly communicating expectations upfront, you can avoid this type of situation. That openness will ensure that what you are asking the agency to provide can be done within your budget and that each of the elements you expect are mutually agreed upon in advance.

4. Give them a real-world strategy assignment. 

Once you have shared your outcomes and goals and have narrowed the field down to two or three agencies, ask each of the remaining agencies to work with you to develop a strategy for your project. This strategy is a documented roadmap of what they propose you should do and how it should be rolled out. It should be visionary, but yet have tactical milestones of how things would be rolled out.

It’s important to offer a small budget for their work. Why? First, by investing a little upfront you gain valuable insights and ideas, probably at least one of which you could apply to help your business. That’s an agency giving you value and that should be compensated in a small way. Second, you are able to see how each agency really performs in the real world for you. This could save you in the long run a lot of wasted time and money. And third, no one will give you there best work if they are working for you for free in the “hope” that they might get the job. None of us like to work for free.

Most sales and marketing problems do not have cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all solutions. That’s why it’s important for your agency partner to work alongside of you to brainstorm customized solutions (not at the end of a phone call in a competitive RFP process). Because pricing this customized solution isn’t the same for all, a good agency partner will spend the better part of a week working to develop the scope and then creating customized pricing for you. A price typically follows - not starts - the development of that customized solution.

By the end of this assignment, you will be able to make a decision on who is the best partner for you, not just the cheapest, or the one who has the most charismatic pitch. Pick an agency that understands who you are and where you are going, educates you on the process and has a history of brining the results you need to drive your business forward.

The traditional RFP process doesn’t work anymore but this is the strategy of tomorrow that you should embrace today.


We would love to help you! YCP thinks differently, introducing you to a different approach that begins with your audience and gets results. Our team is made up of all of the key disciplines that are necessary to work together to create a campaign for you that continues to drive your business forward. If we can help with your next project, please reach out to us here.

Filed Under:
Think differently with us.

At YCP, we don't hang our core values on the walls, we internalize them and live them out through the work we accomplish. If this sounds like a team you want to work with, contact us today.

Join the conversation.

Find us on one of the following social platforms to get a sneak peek into new projects, nerf gun wars, and agency life.

thinking differently