Reinvent the Process
To emphasize reciprocal strategic collaboration over vendor relationships, consider reinventing the RFP process. This evolution
should allow agencies to issue a Request for Client (RFC) in response to the client's RFP and provide for the mutual exchange
of information. As a result, both parties could transparently evaluate the potential partnership opportunity to determine
if they are the right fit prior to addressing the RFP in full.
Here's what a RFC should include:
Client expectations from their agency partner Specifics would be provided on how clients manage their agency relationships. Clients would also define what makes them an
ideal client for the agency. For example, questions might include: Are decisions collaborative? Is strategic input important
or is the agency expected to focus on execution of internally defined strategies? Would the client describe its management
team's receptivity to risk-taking as being more conservative or less so? What level of access will the agency have to client
market intelligence, other information, and resources? What does "integration" mean to the client? What is the client's experience
in working with agencies? How will day-to-day decisions be handled?
A definition of the business opportunity Clients would elaborate on the business opportunity and its value, including the unique challenge and interest the business
opportunity presents beyond the financials. For example, what does the client find exciting about its particular business
opportunity? Would the opportunity benefit from outside-the-box creativity? What type of agency team and levels of staff would
be an ideal fit for the business opportunity?
Reasons for selecting the agency to present Clients would do their homework prior to identifying the agencies for the RFP and would already be familiar with the agency's
culture and work, through research and discussion with peers in the industry. Questions would address why the client feels
that its organization is an ideal match to the agency's culture and business approach and identify what about the agency's
style, work, or people appeals to the client for this particular opportunity.
Selection criteria and other considerations Transparency regarding the client's selection criteria could be achieved by asking, among other questions: What other agencies
are being considered? Has the client ever partnered with any of the agencies being evaluated? Is agency size or location a
factor? Is the client looking for a full service agency or one that provides specialty services?
Beyond the RFC process, client RFPs would provide more comprehensive information such as company and brand business goals,
market research findings and other relevant intelligence, and anticipated scope of work (e.g., financial, length of engagement).
Mutual Exchange, Mutual Benefit
A mutual exchange and vetting process conducted in advance of proposed presentations would help clients (and agencies) narrow
the field to those contenders that provide the best fit initially, in terms of chemistry and culture. It would help agencies
to appropriately allocate time and resources to fit the business opportunity and start the partnership on the right foot by:
- Ensuring a fair process for both client and agency
- Initiating a relationship based on mutual transparency and respect
- Demonstrating the commitment of both parties
- Expediting the search process and eliminating the 'cattle call' scenario
- Creating an environment that simulates a partnering relationship at the start as another evaluation factor for fit
Once clear direction and expectations are set, the fun can really begin! The remainder of the process can be a truly productive
engagement and interactive dialogue that eliminates generic responses. Furthermore, it begins to home in on an agency partner
that will provide the best ideas, strategic thinking, innovative approaches, and creative talent to benefit the client's business
for the long term.
Jin Li Frick is managing director of The Core Nation, Inc., parent company to Core-Create, Inc., and Alpha & Omega Worldwide in New Jersey,
and Brandkarma in California. She can be reached at email@example.com