Show them, don’t just tell them – the secret to winning RFP responses

January 06, 2021 5 min read

  • Rico Rosa, Customer Success Manager at Permutive

  • Essence recently held a webinar with top publishers to help them better understand what makes a winning response to an RFP. Here’s what they had to say.

    As confidence begins to return and advertisers replenish budgets, publishers can look forward to receiving an increasing number of RFPs for upcoming campaigns. Now, more than ever, it pays to know what the issuing agency or brand is looking for and how to earn new business with a winning response.

    Lauren Kroll and Cate O’Shea from Essence, a global data and measurement-driven full service agency, recently took part in a webinar hosted for Permutive customers, designed to help publishers cut through the noise and deliver compelling RFP responses.

    The advice starts with understanding the goal of the campaign, which should normally be at the top of any RFP. Good points to look out for here are whether the client is aiming at raising awareness or consideration, or driving sales and measuring Cost Per Acquisition (CPA).

    An audience first approach is crucial

    Then, once a publisher has a grip on the goals, they need to look at the most important part of the RFP – the audience. The response has to show a clear understanding of whom the advertiser wants to reach and demonstrate that the proposed publications have a high reach for this group of customers.

    The key here is to make it very clear that you have the requested audiences by providing data on the relevant audiences across your site, or portfolio of properties. A generic reference to being able to delve into first-party data is not sufficient. An advertiser wants to see proof that you appeal to the type of customer they are looking to attract.

    They also need to know how you are going to open up that audience. How can the advertiser buy inventory from you? Which DSPs or SSPs are the online properties compatible with?

    Provide detail on pricing

    A typical RFP will ask about the cost of running a campaign with a publishing group. Here, the response needs to include information about  the CPM and how that CPM is justified. If it’s less expensive or more expensive than a typical average, the reasoning behind that pricing level must be made clear.

    When it comes to pricing, and building a potential media plan, never be afraid to invite the advertiser to spend more. Perhaps you have a tipping point where a certain level of spend unlocks more competitive pricing or access to different inventory. An advertiser will want to see options and what the pricing will look like if the campaign is scaled up.

    Seek clarity, over email

    Any RFP is obviously a two-way process and the advice from Essence is that publishers should get transparency on how their response will be evaluated. It is only right that a publisher should be aware on what grounds their pitch may succeed or fail. So, if it is not made crystal clear how the response is going to be evaluated, a recipient should feel free to email the advertiser or agency sending out the RFP.

    Email is the key channel here because, as Essence’s experts revealed, it is unlikely an agency will have time to arrange meetings or calls with publishers during the RFP process.

    Show them with visuals

    When it comes to a successful RFP the advice was very simple. The PowerPoint response to the proposal will nearly always be looked at ahead of the Excel sheet containing the proposed media plan. It is here where publishers have an opportunity to excite an advertiser and their agency.

    The Essence team gave an example of a successful, highly visual PDF which stood out for its beautiful design. The response gave verifiable figures on the audience the publisher was providing and blew away anyone who saw it. The presentation was only five slides long but was so well designed and included precise wording on who was being targeted, where they would be reached and for how much. Crucially, it featured mock-up adverts against the likely look and feel of the editorial the campaign would run alongside.

    Just as importantly, it included case studies of where an advertiser with a similar audience requirement had worked with the publisher with detailed insight into how the activity was executed and the results.

    Building relationships

    Not every RFP response can convince an advertiser or agency that a publisher is the right partner for the proposed activity. However, the communication around a pitch can help build relationships that mean a publisher may not have been a fit for one campaign, but they can ensure they are remembered when a more apt project comes along.

    In fact, if a publisher is not successful, the Essence team suggests they keep in contact, letting an advertiser or agency know when they have a new capability or have run a highly successful campaign. Being proactive and staying in regular communication is essential for publishers to develop stronger relationships and stay top of mind.

    So, even those who are not successful can use an RFP as a potential calling card for another project because, as the team made clear, there are always new campaigns on the horizon and existing projects will often alter course. Nothing is set in stone, so those who have reached out and kept in touch will be in a good position when priorities shift to an area where they are a better fit.

    RFP tops tips:

    1. Do your research on what the advertiser wants, who they are targeting

    2. Align your recommendation to their goal or KPIs

    3. Keep it short and sweet. Be visual, show them what a campaign could look like

    4. Summarise your approach and proposal in a concise email

    5. Follow the request but don’t be afraid to get creative and suggest something additional

    6. Share detail on how your portfolio of sites can add value to a campaign

    7. Show your audience aligns with the request

    8. Ask questions but keep them to the point

    9. Include case studies which align with the campaign’s objectives