6 Practical Tips for Ad Agency RFP Responses

Heather Witalisz, Business Development Director, Adams & Knight agency, Avon, CT recently asked, “What are some practical tips for small-to midsize ad agencies regarding RFPs?”

RFP responses shouldn’t be a numbers game, especially for small-to midsize ad agencies.

Every agency needs a “simple” system to qualify which of the RFPs they should respond to. Start by asking the right questions:

  • Is the opportunity a right fit for the agency?
  • If we were to get the business can we profitably service the account?
  • What is the budget? Why are they issuing an RFP?
  • Is the incumbent agency participating?
  • Is the client in good financial standing?

You’ll need to develop your own list of qualifying questions and get answers that allows you to evaluate each opportunity.

For those RFP opportunities that your agency decides to provide a response, here are some tips that I hope will be of help:

1. Simplify your internal RFP processes.

Agencies tend to want to” recreate the wheel” with every RFP response. This is totally unnecessary and a great waste of agency time. Develop a concept for the response covers, layout, boxes, cases, etc. that can be used for any response or a concept for certain categories. Keep the response design clean and simple. Make the copy easy to read, visually pleasing and the response covers and content easy to handle.

2. Not only keep a hard copy of your RFP responses but also maintain electronic versions.

In the past I’ve used a password protected section on the agency’s server and had category folders to organize the RFP responses plus folders for often requested items such as staff bios, billings, client list, category experience, processes, associations, billings, etc. A little bit of time spent organizing this kind of information makes the next RFP response much easier.

3. Don’t proceed to layout until you have final copy approval.

Most RFP requests unfortunately don’t follow a particular standard. Questions are often asked in such a way that you can’t just copy and paste information from a previous RFP response. I would maintain copy in a WORD document as it is being written, parts rewritten and edited. Don’t proceed to layout until you have final copy approval. This makes the best use of your creative departments time.

4. Get clarification.

If you don’t understand a question get on the phone ASAP with the primary contact for the RFP response and get clarification. Don’t hesitate to ask additional questions that provide better insight. It never hurts to ask. You’ll be amazed with the inside info you can obtain plus you are building a relationship that can become a vocal advocate for your agency.

5. Remember to speak to your audience.

Who is involved making the selection decisions? Is it the procurement department initially, then the marketing department? If so, each will have different objectives evaluating your agency’s response. For instance, if your beautifully designed response doesn’t make it out of the procurement department all of your agency’s work will be for nought. Also remember your audience by not overloading them with unnecessary information. Show that your agency can be focused and has the  ability to simplify. You’ll be loved for it.

6. Reinforce the “take-away.”

What major ideas or thoughts do you want remembered? There may be a dozen or more RFPs that are to be reviewed by the prospective client. Each response could contain 20 to 80 pages. Their eyes will soon glass over as they attempt to read each response line by line. Be sure your main take-aways stand out and that they will be remembered.

Please don’t hesitate to add tips you have found to be helpful in the comment section below. If you have additional questions please let me know.

About Michael Gass

Consultant | Trainer | Author | Speaker

Since 2007, he has been pioneering the use of social media, inbound and content marketing strategies specifically for agency new business.

He is the founder of Fuel Lines Business Development, LLC, a firm which provides business development training and consulting services to advertising, digital, media and PR agencies.


  1. Hi Michael,

    I’ve written an article on the same topic, but with a few differences:

    Being selective with the RFPs you respond to is the best way to make better use of your time but also increase your win percentage. You can be selective by visiting the RFP Database at http://www.rfpdb.com where you’ll find quite a few RFPs that you might be interested in and simply responding to those that are a good fit.



  2. We wrote a perspective piece on RFP development because of the frequent problems we have seen in RFP’s. We send it to our clients, and it helps: http://www.regroup.us/povpapers/index.html

  3. This topic is quite trendy in the net at the moment. What do you pay the most attention to while choosing what to write about?

  4. Tom O'brien says:


    Missing a few critical screens.

    1. Did we know about this before the RFP was issued?

    2. Does the issuer know us?

    3. RFP’s ain’t free. Why should we respond. You should decline more often than not and then CRUSH the ones you do respond to.


  5. Thanks for the additions Tom. All good points.

  6. We refuse to get involved with RFPs, the vast majority of which tend to be glorified cattle calls. Instead we offer free two hour consultations to prospective clients and make sure that these consultations deliver as much value as possible. The rate of conversion from these consultation is higher, and the work more interesting and fun, than any RFP could ever hope to be.

  7. Thanks for sharing your insights Andreas.

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