Selecting an effective agency partner is one of the single most impactful decisions that CMOs make. Choose wisely and look forward to a strategic partnership that enables your best work; choose poorly and face months, if not years, of subpar performance and agency management headaches.
Selecting an agency is often a high-profile decision among management and peers, which puts added pressure on CMOs to demonstrate a sound process behind their decision. Including a Request for Information (RFI) in your agency selection process helps ensure an efficient and effective Request for Proposal (RFP).
Whereas an RFP requests a scoped proposal focused on a specific challenge, an RFI requests higher-level general information about the agency. An RFI allows you to broaden the overall range of agencies you consider, with the goal of narrowing the number of agencies you include in your RFP phase. Most often RFIs range from five to 25 invitees, with a goal of getting down to three to six qualified agencies to include in the RFP.
A successful RFI stage can surface multiple qualified potential partners and ensure a successful RFP stage. When you consider too narrow a list of potential agency partners in your RFP, you run the risk of going with what you know rather than considering alternative options. Including too many agencies in your RFP, on the other hand, wastes time and resources — especially if you eliminate agencies during the RFP phase not on the basis of their proposal but on easily procured information such as company size or office locations. A well-designed RFI helps you easily compare information about a wide range of prospective agencies, with the goal of eliminating those agencies that do not fit your basic requirements.
A clear RFI also gives the agencies the opportunity to assess if you’re a good fit for their capabilities and culture, and the opportunity to decline to participate if not. Better to know this in the RFI phase than when you’ve narrowed down your list to the three to six agencies for the RFP. Two agencies declining to participate at that point could severely impact your selection process.
Gartner offers research and support throughout the agency selection process, from RFI to RFP and beyond. If you’re a client, a good place to start is “Gartner’s Guide to Maximizing Your Agency Relationships,” or reach out to your AE to set up a one-on-one inquiry with an expert.