What are some best practices for RFP responses?

The new business process requires a lot of time, energy and resources. Make your RFP response stand out by following a few best practices.

The stakes are high when navigating the new business pitch process. It’s hard to know exactly what the prospective client is looking for, and you’re likely competing against highly qualified agencies. Worst of all, despite pouring significant time, energy and resources into the process, there’s a decent chance the prospective client will choose another agency partner. To increase your chances of wowing the prospective client and closing the deal, make sure to keep the following request for proposal (RFP) best practices front of mind when preparing a response.

  1. Closely pay attention to the ask. This seems obvious, but you’d be surprised by how often agencies forget to take key details about company’s current situation and future goals into account. Pay attention and reflect the ask in your RFP response.
  2. Cater to your audience. Find out who will be in the room during the presentation and what role they play at the company. That will help you understand their pain points and priorities. Does one team member include trade show planning on her LinkedIn page? Research which trade shows the company has been at in the past, and address how you could provide support—and make her life easier.
  3. Identify your team and what role each person will play. Clients feel most comfortable when you can clearly paint a picture of how each person will bring value to the account. Better yet, what is their expertise and why are they a fit for the client?
  4. Update your company bio and LinkedIn page. This is particularly important if you are the proposed account lead, as prospective clients may compare you to the other agency leads. If you have experience in a relevant industry or can boast specific results, make sure to include it.
  5. Highlight what you know about and can do for the prospective client. Companies like to know that you have taken the time to research them and have come up with ideas specifically for them. Don’t waste your time dedicating 20 slides to your agency’s history and capabilities. Show them how you can use that experience to enhance their PR program. Also, make sure it’s clear that the ideas you’re presenting don’t sound like they can apply to other companies and industries.
  6. Speaking of which, show enthusiasm! Companies want to hire an agency that exudes passion for their industry. Remember that this is a relationship, and the client team wants you to live and breathe their business like they do.
  7. Be specific about what your relationship will look like. How do you usually communicate with your clients? How do you get up to speed on a new client? What is your 90-day plan? How do you land quick wins? These are all points to address during the RFP process.
  8. Do your research. Beyond scouring the prospective client’s website, blog and news coverage, get an outside perspective. Call relevant customers, analysts and reporters. Read industry news to identify trends and opportunities for thought leadership.
  9. Take advantage of the opportunity to ask questions. Come to the call with your prospective client contact armed with a list of questions from the entire team that is compiling the RFP response. Bring up any aspects that aren’t crystal clear but could impact the program you recommend, such as budget. Also, don’t forget to ask about business goals, product roadmaps and buyer personas. Having access to this info could give you the upper hand on presentation day and allow you to customize your plan that much more.
  10. Identify integration opportunities. Can one theme translate into an eBook, a byline and some blog posts? If the answer is yes, say so. Clients are always looking for ways to strengthen their campaigns while saving time and money.

Remember that choosing an agency is about skill and ability, but it’s also about chemistry and preparation.