There are many benefits to outsourcing your digital marketing to an agency. Access to a dedicated team with digital channel expertise, no need to recruit and train new employees, use of the best tech without monthly licensing fees, beneficial partnerships with third-party platforms, and more. However, hiring a digital marketing agency is a significant investment. That’s why finding one that perfectly matches what your company wants to achieve is essential. And creating a specific, representative digital marketing RFP can seem quite daunting.
To make hiring an agency easier, we share tips on creating an effective digital marketing Request for Proposal (RFP) document and critical questions to ask to identify an agency’s suitability. Plus, we’ve created a free downloadable RFP template that you can customize to suit the individual needs of your business.
Most digital marketing agencies fall into two camps: niche (also known as specialist agencies), or full service. Niche or specialist agencies specialize in managing one channel (for example, web development) and every employee has experience and expertise in this service. Full-service agencies manage multiple channels, often taking an integrated approach, and each channel has its own team full of channel experts. Full-service agencies also have specialisms.
For example, Search Laboratory offers full-service digital marketing and we have teams of experts in every channel from Pay-Per-Click (PPC) to Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). We are also international marketing specialists, which means we are better equipped to help businesses expand globally, than other full-service digital marketing agencies who do not have the same experience, expertise and qualifications as we do.
It is beneficial to work with a digital marketing agency that has experience working with clients in a similar sector as you. This is because they already know what works (and what doesn’t) in your sector and are likely to have made strong relationships with key people in your industry too.
An agency might specialize and work with just one sector, for example medicine, or they might work across multiple sectors. But through having several clients in one industry, still have specialist knowledge of your sector.
All businesses have values and beliefs which influence their brand culture, and it’s important to find an agency whose culture and beliefs complement yours. Finding a digital agency with a similar culture and values to your own ensures they can act as an extension of your brand; the work they are required to do is a natural fit for the work they believe in.
Digital marketing agencies tend to have a budget in mind that they like to work with. Finding an agency who looks after similar-sized businesses and handles similar-sized budgets means you are more likely to work with experts who are capable of delivering your campaigns.
A Request For Proposal (RFP) is a document you can use as part of the pitching process. It allows you to get details about the digital agency you are interested in working with, so you can gage if they will make a good fit.
Digital marketing RFPs typically include:
An RFP is your chance to thoroughly vet marketing agencies before inviting them to pitch. A good RFP will weed out any agencies that are not a good match, so it’s important that your RFP brief contains as much detail as possible.
The questions you choose to ask will deliver in-depth insight on everything you need to know. Without detailed information on who you are and what you want to achieve, agencies are made to take a stab in the dark with their answers – meaning your RFP document may not be a true representation of their skills and approach.
We’ve been asked to complete hundreds of RFPs – some have been good, others have not been so good. And it is this process that has helped us understand exactly what makes a digital marketing request for proposal document great.
Working with an agency is a two-way relationship, and the request for proposal process is just as much an opportunity for a digital agency to confirm you are a good fit, as it is for you to review them. Providing a thorough overview of your organization will help each agency that is pitching assess if the scope of work is suitable for them.
Look to include as part of your RFP:
A digital marketing agency should act as an extension of your in-house team. So if there is anything your marketing department needs to know; the agency needs to know too.
The challenges you face will partly determine the strategy used to reach your business goals. That is why it is important you include all your internal and external challenges in your brief. What this will do is help the marketing agency identify where and how to prioritize their efforts.
Anything that might impact the work – from technical issues onsite, to increasing competition from online marketplaces, outlining your challenges will help an agency determine where they can add value.
Your marketing RFP should detail exactly what services you are looking for from a digital agency and what you hope to get from this activity. Be as specific as possible – ‘We want to increase our PPC revenue by X% in the next X months’ is more useful and will influence answers much better than ‘We want someone to manage our PPC’.
Your digital marketing request for proposal needs to portray not just the services required, but the exact results you want to gain from the work – in terms of digital KPIs but also your wider business objectives. Understanding the distance between your current position and your desired outcome is crucial in building an effective digital marketing strategy.
Sharing the timeline for the scope of work ensures that any agencies who do not have the capacity to complete the work within the timeframe are filtered out. Your budget and expected time frame will play a huge part in the digital strategy that is proposed.
Being clear with these factors upfront allows each agency to propose a strategy they feel best uses the budget to reach your goals, rather than presenting a strategy which is out of budget and will later need to be scaled back.
Your request for proposal should explain the criteria you will use to select an agency partner, as well as any scoring systems that will be used. Responding to RFPs can require a lot of work from multiple people. So by including this information in the RFP, you will prevent unsuitable agencies from applying, saving both parties time.
An agency needs to know exactly what information you want from them, so they can write a cohesive answer for the RFP. Vague questions are likely to get vague answers that do not truly reflect the digital agency’s capabilities, or how they would specifically service your needs. It’s also difficult to compare the answers from different agencies when broad or generic questions are used, as they may be interpreted differently.
When compiling your questions, think about how what you want to know (e.g. their approach to a channel) can be related back to what you hope to achieve. This can be done by either creating specific questions throughout (e.g. How would you approach X to do Y?) or outlining objectives in the brief and asking the agency to refer back to these objectives when answering each question.
To make writing an effective digital RFP even easier, we have created an right for proposal template, which can be customized to suit your needs. Within the template are example questions across all digital services; these can be kept in and used as they are, tailored to specific work requirements you have, or removed and alternative questions added in.
By using our digital marketing RFP template and the above tips, you should have no trouble creating the ideal document to help you narrow down potential agencies to invite to pitch.