The Publisher’s Ultimate Guide to Winning Content RFPs

The desire to ditch the request for proposal has never been higher in the content marketing industry.

In recent years, the request for proposal (RFP) has been called outdated, ineffective and even much-hated. When it comes to bidding on them, many publishers feel that the risk doesn’t match the reward. Only 50% of RFPs result in a win, according to HubSpot, resulting in wasted time and unfairly raised hopes for those on the receiving end.  

Despite concerns about the efficacy of the RFP, 95% of companies still use them — so it’s safe to say that they won’t be eradicated anytime soon. Rather than taking the RFP to the chopping block, publishers should consider updating their response process to adhere to the industry’s increasingly idea-driven landscape. Additionally, knowing what agencies look for (and what they view as the biggest mistakes) on an RFP can give you a leg up in the race to win a bid. All the agencies we spoke with rated quality of content and guaranteed performance as the most important evaluation criteria for selecting branded content publishing partners. Including products like display banners ranked least important on their list. 

Here at Pressboard, this changing attitude towards RFPs got us thinking. Based on our own research and data, and the input of some of our key agency partners, we’ve compiled the ultimate guide to responding to — and winning — RFPs. 

Qualifying an RFP 

Once you’ve gotten yourself on the exclusive list of publishers who receive RFPs to bid on, you need to make sure that you’re spending your time answering ones you’re most likely to win. While HubSpot pegs the number of RFPs that result in a win at 50%, colloquially, it can be a lot lower. In our years of experience responding to RFPs, we’ve averaged a 30-50% success rate. Part of our success is due to our ability to filter the campaigns we’re most likely to win and ensure our solutions are a good fit for the client’s program. 

Though qualifying an RFP will depend on your team’s unique abilities and capacity, here’s a quick checklist to consider whenever you receive a new request: 

  • Timeline: Does your team have enough time to respond to the RFP? Does the proposed timeline give you enough time to deliver the product? 
  • Budget: Does the budget allow you to fulfill the request while making a profit? If not, consider whether there’s a different business model you can sell this campaign under in order to ensure its profitability. 
  • Deliverables: Are you able to fulfill a significant part of the requested deliverables with your products? You need to address each of the objectives/KPIs outlined within the RFP to be eligible for consideration. 
  • Relationship: Have you worked with this agency or brand before? Are you likely to win their business again? 
  • Experience: Is this a vertical that you’ve had success in before? Do you have examples you can send along to demonstrate your skill? 
  • Capacity/ResourcesDo you have a team member (or team members) at the ready to respond to the RFP? Do they have all the resources they need to adequately answer the agency’s or brand’s questions? 

If the answer to most of these questions is yes, then the RFP is qualified — meaning you have more than a good chance of winning the client’s business. The next step is transforming your chances from good to great. We’ve put together the essential guide to responding to RFPs, which will help you streamline your response process, spotlight your most unique and valuable offerings and ultimately, earn more business. 

For more details on how to effectively and efficiently respond to an RFP, with advice from experts at agencies including McCannMedia Experts, The Media Kitchen, Starcom Canada, Reprise Digital and The Story Lab, download our comprehensive guide here. 

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