Confession: I really dislike RFPs. I know many marketers dislike them as well, but see them as a necessary evil. In actuality, they are completely avoidable.
When marketers are looking for agency partners, oftentimes an RFP process is put in place to guide the decision making. But what’s missing in the RFP process is the most important part of a partnership, which is the open dialogue between brand and agency. As a rule, brands don’t hand agencies a brief and send them off to develop creative in isolation. Rather, they expect agency partners to be true partners in the full sense of the term – engaging and collaborating with a brand’s internal team throughout the process. This is the exact opposite of the RFP process.
In my experience, the standard hiring process that requires a manager to assess a job candidate based on a few conversations is one of the hardest things to do right and always a risk. Working with a new hire for just one hour always reveals more to me about their fit and potential than the longest interview ever could. That’s why some of our best, most dedicated employees started with us as freelancers or interns. After working together for a month or two, we’re confident we are the right fit for each other. Selecting a new agency is a far more complex and difficult decision with greater business consequences than one new hire, and being able to test out the real working relationship first seems like a distinctly better option.
By applying this hiring approach to agency relationships, it’s a win-win for marketers. When selecting a social media agency, use this opportunity to try working on a short-term basis (usually three months) before signing up for a full year partnership. This gives marketing teams and agencies an opportunity to evaluate the partnership with very little risk and maximum potential.
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