Pitches are a lot like interviewing for your newest member of the team. The agency has the floor to share what they do, what they stand for and where they’ve been. It’s an opportunity for you to quiz them on their experience, dig into their expertise and get a feeling of whether or not they’re the right choice for you. 

Picking the right agency isn’t just about being impressed by their past projects and results, but instead getting excited about being a part of their future story and the potential that comes from working together. Whether you want a partner to do it all, lean on or learn from, finding an agency that’s right for you is no easy feat. 

Which is why, with RFP season well and truly upon us, we have compiled eight key questions to ask marketing and advertising agencies during the tender process. Asking these will clue you into which agencies are keepers, which are able to bring revolutionary approaches to the table, and out of everyone you evaluate, which team is really going to supercharge your strategy, helping you to connect with even more students. So, question number one…

1. How does the agency keep up to date with industry, competitor and geographical trends to inform strategy, identify real-time opportunities and deliver innovative ideas? 
 
Data and insight capabilities are certainly not something to be overlooked. With the future of almost everything being in the hands of whether you can utilize data or not, ensuring your future partner has their finger on this pulse is paramount. During the RFP process, find out what tools or affiliations they would be using to maximize your activity and campaigns from an insights-driven perspective and what the agency does to ensure the teams that would be working on your account stay up to date with the latest and most innovative developments. 

2. Who will be working on my account, why them, and what skills and expertise are in the team?

The individual attributes of the core account team matter. This will help give you a better picture of whether an agency pitches with one team and delivers with another. After all, you don’t want to find yourself being blown away by the RFP team, never to hear from or see them again once the agency is chosen. Find out why the agency has proposed each individual and how their skills are relevant to your needs.

Here you can also ask, as it is likely that the agency will be providing similar services to a number of Higher Education Institutions, how will this team ensure sufficient capacity at typically busy times and cope with conflicting demands? 

This is important because it addresses the concern of what happens if you request changes in the middle of delivering a live campaign and how responsive the team will likely be. After all, constant optimization is critical in any campaign.

3. How does the agency keep ahead of youth marketing trends, both within and outside of the Higher Education realm?
 
Similar to that of insight and data-related questions, what audience access does the agency have, and how does this boil down to the segmentation they can offer you? How do they stay up to date as an agency, and make sure their recommendations are relevant to the very latest Gen Z behaviors and motivations? The last thing you need is a great campaign, delivered on last year’s platform.

4. How will our institution be onboarded and how will this partnership be built to grow and last? 
 
From the proposals, you want to get a feel of how things will kick off should the green light be given. It’s all well and good checking out the latest case studies or impressive campaign results, getting a feel of their expertise and skills – but how will the agency ensure your partnership gets off on the right foot? If proprietary technology is involved, is there 1-2-1 training involved for you and your team? Will you be walked through the different reporting tools and metrics? Will various introductions be booked in so your team and theirs can seamlessly mesh together? And how will they carry this across your organization?

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5. What is the strategy behind the recommendations?

Just like interviewing a potential candidate for an open role, the majority of what’s covered is past experience or hypotheticals. No one can know what challenges and barriers will come up in the course of your partnership - of course, there are preparations and contingency plans to put in place to minimize any potential disruption - but naturally, things happen. 

So, how can you test that the agency pitching in front of you has the chops to take on any problem placed in front of them, and come out on top?

It’s looking to the rationale and strategy of course. How did they approach a campaign that wasn’t performing? How did they deal with a client changing their mind halfway through? What was the thought process behind these platforms when looking to target a new audience? Take a look under the hood, go beyond the slides put in front of you, and understand why the agency does things the way they do.

6. How much emphasis does the agency put on innovation?
 
The world is constantly evolving and the digital world shifts at an even faster speed. Think Meta’s targeting changes, or Google’s decision to move onto GA4. Your agency needs to be one step ahead, ready to embrace whatever curveball the online realm throws at you, leading you through to success. 

As we move towards a user privacy era, how will the agency adapt to this change and future-proof your tracking, targeting, and optimization capabilities?  

And what about emerging markets and changing demographics, how will these challenges be addressed? Asking the agency what innovation means to them and how they constantly evolve is a sure way of tackling some of these questions.

7. How will my campaigns be delivered, monitored, and reported?

You may like what you’re seeing in the proposal or during the pitch, but remember to ask how stages of the project will be delivered. Every agency has its own way of working. Some like regular meetings, while others prefer speaking over the phone. Then looking further into the partnership’s life, how are campaigns reported and fed back to you? All these questions are incredibly important to hash out during the RFP process, as they will very much affect your team’s day-to-day work, should the agency's way of working not quite mesh with yours.

8. Does the agency genuinely want your business?

This is the most crucial question. Ask yourself if there’s personalization in the proposal, passion in the pitch, or are you just another logo in their agency roster. Aim to determine whether the whole agency (besides the five to ten people you might meet formally) is genuinely behind it.

The right agency will be an extension of your team and a positive voice at the table, working together to achieve collective goals. Their hearts and minds have to be in it. And it’s a question just as important as any of the previous ones.

And, there you have it - eight questions you should ask a marketing agency during the RFP process. It goes without saying that pricing is a huge driver in any decision, which should be carefully baked into any evaluation. And, of course, never overlook the all-important case study. These will really showcase your bidders’ capabilities with real-life examples that demonstrate the true impact they’ve provided to their clients.
 
If you would like to discuss any future partnerships with Net Natives, feel free to get in touch with our team and start the conversation. Say hello here