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RFP Responses: 5 Simple Reminders for Success
By: Don McLean
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When a Request for Proposal (RFP) comes in from a potential client to your ad agency, you feel one of two things. Either you are excited for the opportunity or you are dreading the long hours it will take to complete. No matter how you feel about it, it is always important to set yourself up for success.

Setting yourself up for success may not seem like something you have to pay attention to. Of course, everyone wants to succeed in their career. However, if you approach RFP responses without a proven process you may be doomed. There are entire companies out there who are dedicated to helping you navigate the RFP process; believe me, I have spoken with them. Here are five steps that will help you respond to RFPs more effectively:

  1. Read, Read, Read: Read the entire request. So many times, people get excited over the opportunity and begin glossing over things. Do not assume the text is standard or that you have seen it before. Carefully take your time to read this document because there may be a few things such as type of submission or how the footer should look that could disqualify you from the process. Miss one of these things and they will just throw your response out. It may sound harsh, but it happens. I will say it again: read it. After all, you want them to read your response.
  2. Timing: Set a schedule and give your team the wrong due dates. Yes, you read that correctly. Set your team up for success by giving a one-day buffer, minimum. There are many steps to completing an RFP response. If one person turns their review or updated text in a day, or even a few hours, late, it throws off the whole team. A solid buffer is always needed. Now, the team will readjust to make up for the lost time, so do not be so quick to give up your day just yet. There is always something at the last minute you may need that extra day for.
  3. Define Responsibilities: Divide and conquer. So many times there are one or two people that try to complete the RFP response all by themselves. This is not the key to success. Build a strong team first and foremost. Not everyone has to be involved for the entire process, but many people can be involved for parts of the process. Different sections can come from different internal Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). This allows the coordinator of the process to be able to focus more on making the response more cohesive and less focused on just "filling it out."
  4. Re-Read: Re-read the entire proposal once you think it is complete, including drop-in text, to make sure it works. Drop-in text is a good way to save time, especially when you're offering services that are more standardized. However, you want to make sure the proposal has a cohesive story. Have other internal stakeholders perform clean reads as well. They may be able to add some last-minute polish to the response that you would not catch otherwise.
  5. Quality Control: Let someone not involved in the response read it and perform an independent quality check. For best results, a quality checklist and formal process for review should be in place. One of the most obvious but important checks is to make sure no other company name is included. It almost sounds too obvious but it happens more than you probably even realize.

A good RFP response could win you business that may last far beyond your years with an advertising agency. These five steps will help you ensure that there are no simple hiccups that may disclude your ad agency from the process. The creative part of the response is up to you. What would you consider as the sixth simple reminder for RFP success?

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About the Author
Don McLean, MBA is an account supervisor at Airfoil Group, an independent marketing and public relations firm serving tech companies and innovation-centric brands with offices in Detroit, New York and Silicon Valley. Follow Don on twitter at@mclean_don.  
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