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Paid search, performance marketing, and technology is changing rapidly. We’ve written this article so that brands, marketing departments, and agencies alike can question their current setup and help understand whether they have the processes in place to navigate the industry’s changes.

Why are RFPs important, and what is their current role?

Running a Request for Proposal (RFP) process to find a PPC partner should involve more than asking some templated questions.

 

Your requirements from an agency partner will become more complex over the coming years as we navigate a world with cookie deprecation, complex measurement challenges, more competition from other brands for PPC results, and more effective use of first-party data.

 

The baseline for performance and competition is levelling out, so the brands that want to achieve real incremental growth need to ensure they have the right structure in place to do what the rest of the market won’t.

 

Running the right RFP process, asking the right questions and finding the perfect partner is the first step in ensuring that your brand can navigate the industry in a way where you not only hit your targets but also have fun and build incredible campaigns and relationships along the way.

Going beyond the basics

So, to get more than the average, we need to go beyond the basics during an RFP process.

 

The questions below have been designed to provide you with more insights and information about this constantly evolving channel. Review the list and select which questions you will most likely need answers to.

Questions you should consider asking your PPC agency during the RFP process in 2024

Hands-on paid search questions

1. What are the top 3 areas within an account that are fundamental to ensuring paid search growth? 

2. Many companies are discussing modernising account structures; what does this mean to you?

3. Looking forward two years, what do you think will have fundamentally changed compared to what the industry accepts as the status quo today?

AI questions to consider for your RFP

4. What is your AI policy as an agency? Do you encourage your teams to use it, and do you have any restrictions?

5. Can you give us some recent examples of where you have used AI to help a client? 

6. What current AI projects are you working on as an agency, and what projects would you like to work on in the future? 

7. Customers may use AI in the future to assist in their research journeys; how might your agency help brands when that happens?

8. Do you use AI in your creative asset creation process? 

9. If you do use AI for clients, what is your current disclosure process or policy?

Ability to respond to data questions

10. Let’s say we have a stretch target to grow by 40% year-over-year, and currently, we are achieving 30% growth; please walk us through how your teams would approach this situation.

11. Assuming that our branded keywords’ CPCs have increased +60% YoY, can you walk us through how you would diagnose the cause of this increase and what you would suggest we do next?

12. We have analysed various campaigns within our accounts and found that competitor campaigns are unprofitable for us on a first-order basis; however, we want to continue to run them strategically. In your experience, when would you recommend using competitor bidding, and when would you not?

13. Our total branded search volume has decreased slowly over the last 12 months. Please explain how you would approach this situation and advise us on what to do.

Data management questions

14. We have social, organic, video and app campaign data available. How could you use that to make paid search work better? 

15. Can you give us an example of when you helped a brand understand their customer’s LTV and how you used that data within paid search? 

16. We have a complex purchase journey with customers, can you give us an example of when you helped a brand understand conversion lag and how you used that data to influence your strategy?   

17. Should we use client or server-side conversions for our paid search campaigns? Can you show us how you would help us answer these questions?

18. We have limited data available internally. Can you give us some examples of where you have helped a brand create a new data availability strategy?

19. Can you show us how your teams are structured and how we could access technical team members to help us with data-related questions or projects?

Measurement and incrementality questions

20. We have a good organic search strategy and generate a lot of revenue from SEO. How would you approach the balance between bidding on keywords and queries for which we tend to rank well for anyway?

21. We are currently bidding on branded keywords.  Should we? 

22. How would you approach proving the value of paid search to the business?

23. Can you give us an example of when you helped a brand understand how their customers are researching and completing their purchasing journey and how that changed your strategy? 

24. We believe that different customers vary in profitability levels. Can you walk us through how you would help us solve this challenge and what you would then do with the data?

25. We have an attribution model set up. How could you help us understand if it would need to be adjusted? 

Data privacy and regulatory compliance questions

26. Brands have experienced many regulatory changes in recent years. Can you provide us with your agency’s processes to ensure compliance?

27. Can you give us information regarding your agency’s information security practices and training?

28. Do you offer training to your employees on data protection and compliance?

29. Are you registered with any third-party information security organisations?

30. What projects would you suggest we undertake in the short-to-medium term to ensure we are future-proofing our performance marketing campaigns?

31. Can you give us examples of where you have worked with a CMP or had experience using one to inform data processing?

Team and channel integration questions

32. How do your paid search teams work across our other channels? What rituals would you suggest we set up?

33. How do you navigate the complexities of working across multiple stakeholders from different channels? What processes have you found to work well here? 

34. Paid search success is measured by conversions and their efficiency; if you identify that we might need to change how conversions are measured, how would you communicate that to senior management?

Agency culture questions

35. Can you provide us with some information on the team we would be working with, including their interests and unique skills? 

36. What is your approach, as an agency, to training and development?

37. Can you share any case studies you have released that you are particularly proud of and explain why?

38. What types of businesses (and business problems) are of most interest to your agency?

Day-to-day management questions (budgeting, KPIs, project management)

39. If you can see that performance is particularly good, how would you approach asking for more budget or informing us that we could grow the account even more?

40. What processes do you have in place for budget management (across the account as a whole but also across campaigns)? 

41. We are likely to have multiple projects ongoing at any one time; how do you approach project management? 

42. How do you balance the need for quick wins with ensuring we dedicate enough time and resources to longer-term projects? 

43. If we told you that the leads generated through paid search are low quality, how would you react, and what would you do next? 

44. Can you give us some insights into how you approach forecasting? 

45. Have you ever worked directly with a client’s finance team to deliver marketing forecasting? What did you do as part of that process to make it as seamless as possible?

46. Let’s say Google releases a brand new product; how would you approach introducing this to us?

47. We have efficiency targets we need to hit across paid search; how would you ensure that what we are targeting is what we need to achieve to reach our business goals?

48. How do you monitor performance on a daily basis to ensure everything is performing as expected?

49. If performance suddenly spikes overnight or on the weekend, what processes do you have in place to monitor this and what would you do next? 

50. How do you manage team member transitions on or off an account?

Some general questions on the basics of a RFP

What are you looking to get from your PPC RFP?

When kicking off a process to start an RFP (Request for Proposal), the target is to get formal proposals from potential PPC agencies and providers for paid search services for your business. 

 

You hope to find a provider who can meet your needs and requirements and gain a general understanding of what is currently possible within the market. 

 

Most brands create a list of 4-10 agencies with whom to start initial discussions before whittling down the list of potential agencies to go through the process. 

 

Ideally, during the process, you can answer questions related to identifying capabilities across the agencies, the various cost structures, how innovative they are, if they are a cultural fit, and get client references.

What should be included in your PPC RFP?

  • Timelines: Milestones for the RFP process, when feedback will be provided, when the agency will be chosen, and when the relationship will start.
  • Budget: The total PPC spend and/or agency fees range.
  • Objectives: The agency should aim for specific targets within paid search or for the business. These can include conversion targets or the completion of other big PPC projects.
  • Requirements: What channels should be included, and what skills should the team have
  • Selection Criteria: What are you going to judge the agencies on? What are the minimum criteria they should have in place?
  • Current performance and landscape: How is PPC performing for the business, and what teams do you have in place?
  • Company overview: This section provides background on the business, its teams, its history, and its targets over the medium and long term.

Common mistakes made during a PPC RFP process

  • Choosing too many agencies to review. If agencies find out that there are potentially 20 other companies being reviewed, it is likely that they will not want to invest the time and effort to complete the RFP. 
  • Being too rigid with requirements. You might miss working with the perfect agency if they don’t 100% meet all of your requirements. 
  • Not reviewing references. Always ask for client references and follow up with them. Bonus points if you find clients that the agency didn’t provide as references to get additional insights. 
  • Valuing price over quality. Price and cost should be factors in your decisions, but going with the cheapest provider is not usually the best option. 
  • Being too broad with the scope. A very wide scope will likely lead to sub-par responses.
  • Being too complex. Responding to RFPs does take a lot of time for agencies. High-quality agencies may drop out if the process is too complex or lengthy.
  • Not engaging with your agencies. Not responding to questions, or not having conversations will likely lead to poor responses.
  • Ignoring the cultural elements. You will work closely with your agency partners and want to work with humble, smart people who get you and what you do. 

What should you do once you have responses from potential agencies/partners?

So, once you have received responses from your potential agency partners, you should move on to evaluation.

 

Try to make the process as fair as possible, evaluating your potential partners on similar metrics to create a shortlist. A quant and qual scoring per question is key. Create an index score (and weighting) to assess each potential partner. 

 

Ensure you provide feedback to all responses (including the agency you choose and those you didn’t). I can’t stress enough that if you do this correctly, your agencies will love you. Your feedback and transparency here will be greatly appreciated; you never know; your paths might cross again in the future.

 

If you’re interested in working with WeDiscover, contact us to see if we’re the right fit.