04 | 30 | 2024

Streamlining the RFP Process: One B2B Agency’s Perspective

Written by

Dave Foster

Share us on your social channels.

Over 30 years, AvreaFoster has responded to hundreds of RFPs and I’ve been a part of shaping nearly all of them. Throughout the years, we’ve learned a thing or two about what makes a good — and a bad — RFP. Here’s some advice for B2B marketing teams embarking on the RFP process.

What Do Successful RFPs Have in Common?

Ideally, the process is an information exchange that sets up the relationship to come. The client shares their objectives, requirements and priorities very clearly. And the responses enable them to assess each agency’s qualifications. Planning and implementing a great RFP can be labor-intensive. But it pays off when you’re able to evaluate proposals more efficiently and select the best agency partner.


Businesses might consider an RFI (request for information) if they’re notifying agencies about a future RFP (request for proposal) or if they need very specialized information to identify agencies as candidates. Most companies can bypass RFIs by creating a simple grid of “must-haves.” For instance, ask yourself: Do you require experience in your industry? A specific capability? Local presence? A focus on B2B branding and marketing? This data can be found on agency websites and client lists. Conversations with colleagues and referrals are invaluable.

There are some potential pitfalls. Recently, I spoke with an executive who sent an RFI to 10 agencies. He confessed that he hadn’t thought about how long it would take his team to read the responses. They could have saved a lot of time for themselves and the agencies by narrowing the list and streamlining the information they requested.

You’re ready to launch your RFP when you’ve done your homework and identified a short roster of potential agency partners. The most effective RFPs start with five or six agencies in a precisely managed process.

Comparing Apples to Apples

Creating your RFP content takes effort. Agencies want to understand your requirements for the business relationship and the scope of work. Collecting and organizing these specifics is a strategic investment. The more structured and complete the RFP, the more parallel the agency responses will be — helping you make a side-by-side comparison. Agencies will be less likely to add information if they already know what you need to make your decision.


Agencies also will appreciate details. We want to know when, where and in what format we’re delivering the RFP. But, more importantly, we want to know that we’re a match on the big topics like budget and timeline. If your project must be completed in six months for a certain budget, defining that upfront allows us to propose appropriate solutions. It also means that if we can’t meet your budget or schedule, we can rule ourselves out.

Bottom line, well-organized RFP content is at the heart of an efficient process.

The RFP Process, Step by Step

Setting clear expectations throughout is another key to getting what you want from your RFP.



Work backward. Most RFPs require several weeks for development: a week for distribution, two to four weeks for responses, time for an internal evaluation, a few days for on-site presentations by the finalists, and your decision. Depending on the client, 90-120 days is a good guideline. Allowing agencies ample time to respond thoughtfully is essential. We want to show our best work.



You’ll provide critical background and ask questions to gauge the competency and fit of the potential agency partners. Break it into manageable sections, such as:

  • Project overview and executive summary — why you are doing this now.
  • Company background — history of the company, successes and challenges.
  • Project objectives — what you want to accomplish.
  • Scope of work — exactly what you are requesting.
  • Timing of the project — known deadlines.
  • Mandatory objectives.
  • Potential complications or roadblocks.
  • Budget or budget range.
  • Agency information desired, such as an overview with capabilities for the project, relevant case studies, references, and bios of the team members who would work on the project.
  • Evaluation criteria, incorporating a description of your ideal agency partner.
  • RFP schedule with milestone deadlines and decision date.



Once your RFP goes out, you’ll want to follow your schedule for evaluating the responses. Select the top two or three agencies to make final presentations. Hopefully, the details for the presentations were outlined in your RFP, including what information you’re requesting in the initial response and what you will ask for in the presentation stage. This helps everyone focus on a deeper dive into the proposed solution as well as cultural fit.



Using the criteria set out in the RFP, stakeholders should have a roadmap that guides the process and delivers the data they need to choose the most capable and compatible agency partner.

Handy Tips and Touchy Topics

Now that you have a good sense of the steps it takes to run a successful RFP, here are some additional tips to guide you through the process.

Fielding Questions

Clients worry about the best way to field questions from agencies during the RFP. Understandably, they want to keep things fair and not waste time. Some opt to hold a conference call for all participants. In our experience, that can be awkward. It works better to build an independent “question and answer” step into the RFP process and schedule. Include a deadline for questions to be submitted and a date when answers to all questions will be distributed to everyone.

Spec Work

Requesting spec creative or strategy is a sensitive topic. First, it’s asking a business to provide its services for free. At AvreaFoster, we don’t cut corners when it comes to our work, especially new business. A spec assignment requires an investment in time and expertise. Some agencies may extract themselves from an RFP that requires spec due to their existing commitments. On the client side, a full creative brief would need to be prepared separately from the RFP, which is a time-consuming process.

Assessing Capabilities

Rather than spec creative, a better (and less controversial) option is to ask for case studies or examples of work that are relevant to the project within the RFP. Another option is to ask agencies to respond to an exercise in which they offer up an approach to a specific problem. This provides agencies with an opportunity to showcase how they think and allows clients to compare the different approaches.

The Chemistry Test

Finally, a valuable byproduct of the process is that both parties get to know one another’s style. At AvreaFoster, we call this the “chemistry test.” Meeting as a team, either in person or in a videoconference setting, is an easy way to ask questions, test the waters and assess each other’s cultures. It’s amazing what can transpire through casual conversations about your challenges at hand.

In Closing

It’s an exciting opportunity to participate in a well-managed RFP. The process gives us a chance to meet new people, learn about their business and, hopefully, have an opportunity to contribute to a company’s success.

Do you have an RFP that requires the expertise of a B2B branding and digital marketing partner? We’d love to participate. Still have questions about the RFP process? Send me an email at and we can set up a time to talk.

Keep learning.

We’re always learning, too, and are happy to share what we know.


Creating More Effective Case Studies — A Plea to B2B Brands


B2B Brand Vision, Mission And Values: How They Differ And Why They Matter

Middle-aged man in suit and glasses standing by the window in the AvreaFoster conference room looking out at the city.

Proven Strategies to Align B2B Sales and Marketing Teams

A group of B2B sales and marketing team members are ArveaFoster smiling.

Amplify your brand and grow your business.