Agency Proposals Are Not Worth The Paper They Are Printed On

Most agencies don’t know your business and the quirks that come with it!

Question: So how can an external agency possibly provide a relevant, realistic and useful proposal without fully understanding your business?

Answer: Quite simply, they can’t!

The archaic proposal process is flawed. It’s time things changed.

Picture this…

A business decides they cannot manage all the marketing inhouse as they are looking for growth and they simply don’t have the expertise in-house.

So, they go out to tender or request proposals from a selection of agencies. How do they find these agencies? Well, normally in a few ways:

  • They do a search for a local agency
  • They look at multiple agencies websites to see if they have experience working with clients like them (this is also a problem)
  • They ask for referrals to agencies from business partners or friends
  • They use an agency they have used before (at least they know what they are getting, even if it was underwhelming!)

They select 4 or 5 agencies and provide them with a brief (where the clue is in the word – it’s brief) and they get 4 or 5 proposals back, all of which purely focus on the “bit” that specific agency is (supposedly) good at, or is their core offering. It makes sense, an agency will not often tell you that they can’t do what you need – they will normally try to sell you their service instead!

  • So the programmatic agency focuses their strategy on display ads and awareness
  • The search agency purely focuses on PPC and SEO
  • The media buying agency may look at a mix of channels but all paid for ads

Equally, none of them know about your business and true goals and targets and the motivation behind them, so all proposals come back with a fairly wishy washy response to the initial brief – and they’re brief.

That means that the proposals may all be a little different – they focus on different things and have varied costs and they don’t really meet the point. CONFUSING!

So when you are choosing an agency or looking for proposals, what should you be looking for? How do you know what to do, who to choose, who to trust and what, more importantly, is the right option for your business?

There must be a holistic view of your business and the future plans.

Before providing any kind of proposal, a good agency NEEDS to know more about you and how the business works. Also, where the priorities lie and what true revenues and CPA’s you need to achieve.

Often these can be shielded by the client, and understandably. This is crucial business data, you don’t want it getting into just anyone’s hands.

However, without sharing the details, proposals are simply pie in the sky guesses or sales pitches.

Only with this level of detail can anyone propose how much you should be spending and on what in order to get to where you want to be.

So, where does this leave you?

Well, my advice would be, if you are looking for a new agency or partner, ditch the vague brief.

Your time would be better spent on compiling a document clearly outlining your goals and challenges. Where is the business currently, where do you want to be and by when, how much do you need to achieve to get there, and what are you looking to invest to achieve that?

Even if you don’t have all the answers, this should be a longer term plan of where you are trying to get to, before you even begin planning your strategy to get there.

Following this, you need to think about what skills and expertise you have inhouse, what time you have inhouse to do the work required.

Are you looking to hire and if so how long will those recruits take to get up to speed? From here you will have a clearer idea of where the gaps lie and the support you require.

Once you know this you have options:

  1. Seek out a number of agencies as per my notes above, or
  2. You can come and speak to my team. An initial 20 to 30 minute call and we will be able to establish the most appropriate route for you to take.

So, bin the generic proposal route, think about what you need and therefore what it is you are paying for – and good luck.

Rachel Mepham
With over 15 years’ experience in Digital Marketing, Rachel heads up the team at Digital Clarity. With a deep skill set in the Paid Search, Social Media and Analytics, Rachel is regarded by both clients and peers as one of the most experienced and prolific women in the UK digital space. Her approach and application to digital strategy planning has been used by some of the biggest brands as well as leading advertising and marketing agencies.