How to Write an RFP for Outsourced Marketing

EAG, May 21, 2020

Outsourcing marketing services is a rapidly growing trend. Now, more than ever, company leaders are looking for ways to expand their marketing capacity without hiring additional employees. Similar to writing a Request for Proposal (RFP) for an advertising agency, outsourced marketing RFPs also must be carefully written to attract an agency that can meet your needs.

So, you want to outsource your marketing. Before you begin writing your RFP, here are seven tips to get the most from your search for an outsourcing partner.

Decide if an RFP is Really Required to Get the Outsourced Marketing Services You Want

There are few advertising agencies that specialize in outsourced marketing. With limited options out there, finding a Kansas City marketing agency with the staff and skills to offer a full range of services can be a challenge. Since comparing outsourcing companies is often like comparing apples to oranges, an RFP is a great way to simplify the process.

That being said, an RFP for an advertising agency or an outsourced marketing company can also be an unnecessary practice.

Many companies that issue an RFP use the process to gather information rather than to evaluate potential marketing partners. They do this because they haven’t really prepared themselves to conduct an RFP in a productive way.

If you have not yet fully prepared yourself to conduct an RFP, including knowing the costs involved in outsourcing marketing, wait. There’s no reason to waste your time or the time of others.


Know Your Needs

A Request for Proposal must define what you need as specifically as possible. This can be tricky because many companies wanting to outsource marketing are doing so for the first time. They may have developed a need for additional marketing manpower, lost a key marketing employee or need to supplement existing in-house skills.

To define your needs, prepare as if you were hiring the perfect marketing team member. What skills do you need? What experience do you require? How will this new role integrate with your current marketing resources? How will you compensate this new position and what are your measures of success?

An experienced marketing company will know how to guide you in determining what skills are best outsourced and what should remain in-house.

It’s Okay to Explore Outsourcing if You are Not Ready to Commit

For an advertising agency or marketing company, there are few things more frustrating than investing the time and effort into responding to an RFP for a company that is not yet committed to outsourcing. But if this is your first foray into outsourcing as a solution for your marketing, kicking a few tires before you buy is expected.

If a potential marketing partner chooses not to participate in your RFP because you are still in the consideration stage, then perhaps they aren’t the right partner for you. Outsourcing marketing programs is still an evolving service and science. Expect to search for awhile before landing on an experienced, willing partner.

Marketing Experience Matters. Experience in Your Industry Matters Less.

Don’t limit your search to outsource marketing companies that specialize only in your industry. Subject matter expertise and fresh thinking matter, which can easily come from an agency partner outside your field.

What matters most is that the outsource marketing companies you consider have the bench strength and expertise in the skills you need most. For example, if your digital marketing campaigns need help, hiring a firm with Google-certified experience is a definite yes. Be certain the companies you consider have the experts and tools necessary to be successful.

Size Matters

Big fish, little pond. You know the how the story goes.

When hiring an advertising agency, a small boutique agency might be the perfect fit. Similarly, for a robust brand you may need the services of a large, full-service agency.

When hiring an outsourced marketing partner, correlation between size and suitability matters more. That’s because the reason you outsource marketing is to acquire multiple skills, the kind you would find in a fully developed in-house marketing department.

Expecting to find a company with few employees that know all the disciplines needed in contemporary marketing is like trying to find a unicorn. Writers write. Designers design. Search marketers don’t make good programmers. And programmers seldom double as account managers.

It is very important that a company positioning itself as an outsource marketing department has the depth and skill necessary to operate like one.

Look for an Outsource Partner Who Fits Culturally

There are many industries where outsourcing is the norm. Accounting firms, human resources companies and many others have adapted to the outsourcing model for a long time. The best partnerships share some common cultural values.

For outsourced marketing, being a cultural match is a necessity.

How do you determine if a potential partner fits your style and temperament in an RFP? That’s tricky, but extremely necessary.

In your RFP ask for case histories or stories of success and failure. Within these stories you will note trends in how your potential partner responds to adversity, overcomes challenge and communicates with their clients.

Most importantly, talk to references and ask them specifically about culture. Marketing relationships between client and partner can and should be intimate. After all, the marketing company is often the voice of your company. Make sure it’s the right voice for you.

Know Your Budget

Don’t leave agencies responding to your RFP guessing. Budgets shouldn’t be secrets. Too often, companies searching for an outsourced marketing partner aren’t fully prepared to conduct an effective search because they don’t have their budget locked down.

Budget shouldn’t be a result of the RFP process; it should be one of the requirements outlined in the RFP. It is the responsibility of the potential marketing partners to tell you how they would best spend your money and accomplish your goals. A good outsourced marketing partner should be trusted to help you build the perfect plan around your budget. That’s where the partnership starts.

EAG Advertising & Marketing has participated in many Request for Proposals from companies around the nation. We respect the process and its importance to the companies conducting the search. Outsourcing marketing is a big step. Take steps cautiously with preparation and look forward to the journey.


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