Swipe Right for RFPs
An online relationship guide for brands and agencies
So many relationships start online these days, why should a brand-agency relationship be any different?
Alas, too many decision makers (you know who you are) are still uncomfortable pulling the trigger without meeting face-to-face. But let's be honest: the Mad Men days of wining and dining in person are over. If you want to win big—in business, in dating, or frankly in life—you need to be able to close deals and manage relationships online.
To help you feel more confident at digital courtship, I've put together this detailed guide with tips for both brands (hoping to hook up with an agency) and agencies (looking to land an impressive brand they can take home to mom or at least add to their website carousel).
BRAND ADVICE: Making a dating profile
You got out of a bad relationship with your last agency. You tried some self love by taking it in-house, but you're ready to trust people again. It’s time to create an RFP.
Just like building a dating profile, you have to lay out exactly what you need in a partner. Otherwise, you’ll end up awkwardly trying to sneak out of the bathroom on a date you should never have gone on to begin with.
You’d never edit your profile without getting your friends’ opinions first, so here are some tips to help make sure your RFP is on point:
Don't bury the details
Provide a clear overview of the engagement at the start so people know whether you're a match.
Show your cards
Include all of the relevant information, including deliverables, scope, timeline, and—most importantly—at least a rough estimate for budget.
Specify what a win looks like
Don't assume vendors will know what you want. Specify your goals and what you see as a “win” so everyone is on the same page.
Identify the decision makers.
Vendors need to know how and when decisions will be made, and by whom.
AGENCY ADVICE: Don't seem thirsty
Whoa, who is that? SUPER LIKE this one! Let's track down their social profiles and scroll through three years of IG posts!
We know how easy it is to get hot and bothered about a smoking opportunity, especially one that seems to be within your desired budget range. But don't let your hormones / sales goals start driving your courtship process. Responding to an RFP can often be a time and resource consuming process, especially if you want to tailor it to the brand (BTW they like that). Here are some things we always like to do:
ALWAYS schedule a call before you start working on an RFP to make sure it's as good a fit as you think it is.
Learn how many others are in the running so that you know what the competition is like
Figure out if there is an ex (or current!) partner you're competing with, that can be trouble
Ask them what exactly they'd want to see or hear to say yes. It may seem silly, especially since you think they laid it all out in the RFP, but it never hurts to be direct.
Finally, if it is a good fit, make it a special experience. Design a custom cover, learn about their values and mission, show that you care and want to partner.
BRAND ADVICE: Swiping Right
OK, you're back in the game. The qualified candidates are rolling in and several prospects want to be your next partner. How do you know when to swipe right? You have to decide if this is a match based solely on opening lines and a few photos.
Some of these people will still sleep on their mom's couch but they'll swear it's fine. While a few bad apples will get through, here are a few key factors you should look out for before at least considering someone:
Do they have multiple case studies detailing their work?
If you have to ask for case studies they should be able to send them ASAP
Ensure they're not overselling their capabilities
Do they have a COI and if so how will they handle it
AGENCY ADVICE: How to Deal With Ghosting
You’ve been talking awhile. You think it’s going pretty well. Then, all of a sudden, your BAE stops answering the phone.
You’ve been ghosted.
We can all agree, being ignored is the worst feeling and the ghosting can come from either side of a relationship. But agencies are usually the ones left on read after they submit what they felt was a winning RFP response.
If a brand goes Casper on you, don't be afraid of seeming desperate—write back and ask what happened. Even if it's obvious that they went home with someone else, you can still try and find out how you can perform better on your next date. Never pass up on an opportunity to learn something.
BRAND ADVICE: Stop Ghosting
The rule here is simple. Don’t be a jerk. Take the opportunity to offer some closure and constructive criticism so that they can land a date with a better match in the future. Here are things to keep in mind:
It's OK to tell people you're not moving forward, don't fear delivering hard news
If you're worried that they will try to sell you further, make it clear this is a final decision—like a breakup when you make it clear nothing will change your decision
If it's not a final decision, let people know what they can do to stay competitive. This is often when you'll get the best solution—if it's not final how they can have another chance
When delivering a final no, offer constructive feedback on why you made your choice and, if you're able, how they could improve upon their service offerings or sales process. Everyone wants to improve!
BRAND ADVICE: Catfishing
Well, you're back in a new relationship. You met them online, you've been talking for months and you're definitely going to meet up some day when the time's right. Until then, you're happy to give them what they want because you're sure they're the right fit, after all, they said all the right things.
The biggest challenge of online commitments is that without an in-person connection you have no proof this person is really who they say they are until it's too late. That’s why people don’t trust them. We've had several partners come to us because their previous agency seemed like the perfect fit, and one month or one year in, it became clear they’d been catfished.
That said, we shouldn't let a few bad apples ruin online dating. Rather, we should get better at spotting the frauds. Here's how you can challenge your partner to test whether they're a right fit:
Ask for references from their clients
Use your network to ask what they've heard
Know when to cut it off, when the relationship isn't what you think it is, end it
Build in a good out clause in your contract
BRAND & AGENCY ADVICE: Don't hesitate to hook up if the vibe is right
Let's not be prudes. If there's one traditional value we should all feel comfortable leaving behind, it's the idea that you should save yourself for marriage. There's too much on the line when you're talking about a partner who will be with you for years and thousands upon thousands of dollars of projects.
The biggest benefit of the digital age is the wealth of options we have and how free we are to explore them. We recommend to all of our prospective partners that we start with a smaller project with no long-term commitment. Otherwise, how would we know if we're a good fit for each other?
After that, if we do decide we both want to be together longer, it will be an informed decision and not something we're just hoping will work.