Watch Now: How to Write the Perfect RFP

Kit Fox

In a blind date, the stakes are usually low. It’s a cup of coffee around the corner or an afternoon cocktail. You want to screen for red flags and cover the essential information before you finish the first round.

We think of RFPs like blind dates. They’re low-risk, efficient ways to see if there’s a client-agency spark or if you need to sneak off while pretending to go to the bathroom. But, just like your opening one-liner, there’s an art (and a bit of science) to the request for proposal process.

In this 20-minute webinar, Altitude’s Chief Strategy Officer Adam Smartschan answers the most common questions we get about RFPs. Watch now to learn what makes a good RFP, how they’re useful to both clients and agencies, and why–before you submit–you should always check your teeth for food debris be transparent about your timing and budget. Or, read on for all the essentials.

7 Common RFP Questions We Get From Clients

Who Should Receive Our RFP?

Look for the agency’s head of business development or “new business.” For us, that’s Louis (you can reach him here). If the agency is smaller or hasn’t filled that position, it’s best to reach out via their standard contact page and ask for the right person. Depending on the size or specialty of the agency, you might not get a response if you send the RFP directly to the CEO, someone else on the C-Suite, or a member of the production team. They aren’t typically primed to look for RFPs, so your message could easily be filtered or missed.

You also need to strategize the total number of agencies to which you plan to send your RFP. We suggest aiming for 5 or fewer. The less agencies you contact, the better the responses–especially if you are transparent in the RFP itself about how many agencies you plan to consider. We’re far more likely to spend time preparing a thorough proposal when we know we are one of only 3-5 agencies in the running. If it’s 100, you might not hear from us.

Do We Need a Pre-Call?

We are huge fans of the pre-call. It helps both parties quickly determine if they are the right fit and provides valuable context for the agency to put its best foot forward.

At the end of the day, though, RFPs are designed to save you time and screen multiple vendors as efficiently as possible. If you choose not to set up pre-calls before submission, make sure your target agencies specialize in the industries and services that align with your goal. If we receive an RFP from a local restaurant wanting to display billboards on the nearby highway, we won’t respond. That’s because we specialize in global B2B clients who serve a niche industry (like the life sciences, manufacturing, and enterprise software), so we wouldn’t be a good fit.

If you need to source agencies that match your needs quickly, a service like Clutch can help curate your list.

What Information Do We Need to Include?

The more detail, the better. Agencies will want to know a few essential details:

  • Who You Are: Provide your elevator pitch, including your products, company size, brief history, and unique selling proposition.
  • Your Marketing Challenge: Share why you need a marketing agency. Don’t just include the specific services you need. Provide a top-level view of your KPIs. Are you looking to increase leads, create a new brand, or launch a new product? Tell us what success looks like for you.
  • Your Goals: More on this later, but provide specific and actionable goals. An agency will then know if they are set up to achieve at the outset.
  • Your Timeline: You need to provide specific dates for when you’d like an agency to respond, when you plan on choosing an agency, when you plan on starting the marketing project, and when you’d like to achieve your specific goals.
  • Your budget: This is crucial and helps an agency know right away if they will make a good fit.

How do We Articulate Our Goals?

Be wary when including specific numbers. A good marketing agency will work with you to set realistic targets that meet your business goals and set the agency up for success. If you do include numbers, justify your reasoning by both explaining why you need to hit them and why you think they are realistic.

Because we aim to work with clients over a long-term partnership, we often won’t respond to RFPs that set unrealistic or unjustified targets. It’s far more useful to include context on the key stakeholders within your business. For example, if you have a super active board (and will need to get their approval for strategies or creative), we’ll want to know.

Do We Need to Include a Budget?

As an agency, we don’t need a number down to the specific dollar. Doing so encourages agencies to stuff a project plan inside of your precise budget rather than strategizing with you to build a scope that meets your business goals.

For example: Could we build a website for $10,000 if you were to include that specific number in the RFP? Absolutely. Would that website include the necessary UX, messaging, and marketing automation to increase leads or build brand awareness? Probably not.

An agency like Altitude will help you build a specific budget with one specific goal in mind–returning tangible value. That might mean investing higher at the outset, but could lead to longer-term, healthier success over time.

That’s why we much prefer a budget range. That helps us determine if we’re inside the ballpark while also giving both parties the flexibility to adjust and refine based on your final objectives.

How Should Agencies Show They’re Qualified?

It’s perfectly reasonable to ask agencies to respond to a situation overview or provide an initial creative pitch. Agencies all have amazing case studies with numbers that prove our success. We can all include fantastic testimonials and work samples. But you want to learn more about how we’d work with you. Asking for a custom response gives you the best peek under the hood, and can offer great insight on fit.

How Long do Agencies Need to Respond?

This depends on how onerous you make the response requirements and how thorough you want your finalists to be. In general, a minimum of two weeks is ideal. But you don’t want to allow much longer than 4 weeks. Urgency indicates that you are serious about finding the right partner. A lengthy timeline might discourage responses because agencies do have their own internal sales cycles and new business goals.

Bonus: Generate an RFP in 5 Minutes With This Tool


Your best chance to get a great proposal starts with great questions (just like any first date). When you craft a strong RFP, you get strong responses that build toward a strong, long-term marketing partnership.

Which is, at the end of the day, what we both want.

Ready to elevate your B2B marketing?

We help leading business-to-business brands hit their marketing goals. Get in touch to learn how Altitude Marketing can help you reach your peak performance.

Kit Fox

Kit Fox is Altitude’s lead internal brand storyteller and content creator. Before joining Altitude in 2024, Kit spent a decade in the publishing industry, where he served as an editor for, Runner’s World. Men's health, and Men’s Journal, special projects director for Hearst Magazines, and director of membership for Lehigh Valley Public Media. He is the co-author of “Mighty Moe: The True Story of a Thirteen-Year-Old Running Revolutionary.”