Rethinking Agency Selection: Streamlining the Search

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“Marketer with well-known brands, seeks hardworking, imaginative agency.

For consideration, successful candidates must be prepared to answer detailed questions about their past, and then many hypothetical questions about proposed future relationship.

Finalists must then share financial history and be willing to sign alluring prenup.”

Imagine (just for a moment…) you’d read an invitation like that!

Well,  traditional agency selection process can be lengthy and cumbersome: Procurement written RFPs often send out detailed questionnaires to evaluate a large pool of agencies. Then, a select few are invited to submit even more detailed proposals, which may or may not involve unpaid speculative work. Finally, after negotiations and contract finalization, the project kicks off.

Not surprisingly, this approach is ripe for an overhaul. Marketers and agencies are calling for a more streamlined and effective way to find the right agency partner. Thankfully, there are several alternative methods available.

The caveat? Marketers need to be more invested in the search process. This means dedicating time and effort to self-reflection and crafting a clear project vision. But the payoff is significant: fostering long-term, successful partnerships with agencies.

Ready to explore new approaches? Let’s dive in…

Ditch the RFI – Do Your Research

Instead of relying on lengthy RFIs, invest time in understanding the agency landscape. RFIs shouldn’t replace your knowledge of the market or become a checkbox exercise.

Get Help Narrowing The Field

If you’re unsure of the current agency landscape, consider partnering with an agency search consultant. They can help identify agencies with the specific expertise you need while avoiding conflicts of interest.

Dig Deeper

Knowing what you truly seek in an agency is crucial but often trickier than it seems. Understanding your organization and why you need a new agency is a good start. Dig deeper by defining the qualities that will enhance your marketing efforts. “Creative” is a common request, but it often masks a deeper issue. Why isn’t your current agency considered creative? What hinders their creativity?

Look For Underlying Issues

There’s usually a reason behind a perceived lack of creativity – missing insights, unclear briefs, communication breakdowns, or misaligned objectives. Identifying these root causes may lead you to prioritize different agency attributes than you initially thought.

The Secret Ingredient

A stellar agency can look great on paper, but the real magic lies in the chemistry between you and them. Just like a bad interview, a mismatch can doom the partnership.

Price Isn’t Everything  

If high costs are driving your agency review, ditch the RFI/RFP. The search itself isn’t flawed; you need a market value analysis to determine fair pricing. Look beyond cost and define what value means for you in an agency. Do you prioritize strategy, transparency, creativity, or something else entirely? Understanding this is crucial to finding the right fit.


Yes, there’s a but. Perhaps several ‘buts’ because not all marketing organizations are ready or capable of walking away from the RFI, RFP process.

The Road to Streamlining: Self-awareness is key. A more streamlined agency search requires significant introspection. Factors like organizational structure, company policies, procurement needs, international alignment, and even internal politics all influence a marketer’s ability to move away from the RFI/RFP model.

Even with ideal internal conditions, abandoning the traditional process can be disastrous without proper self-analysis. Organizations need to understand their needs and the reasons behind their current approach. Skipping this step risks replacing a familiar process with unforeseen challenges.

So, is it time to say goodbye to RFI/RFPs?

Perhaps. But before making the leap, marketers should invest in introspection to determine if their organization is truly ready for a more streamlined approach.

Stephan Argent is Founder and Principal at Listenmore Inc  offering confidential advisory to marketers looking for truly independent insight and advice they can’t find anywhere else. Read more like this on our blog Marketing Unscrewed / follow me @StephanArgent

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