Challenge Them!

The Challenge Document.

The Challenge Document is a document we use during agency searches during the final stage of the review.

At that point, we’ve narrowed the list down to a group of (typically) 3 final agencies for the marketer to review.

So at this point, we want to define for the agencies what it is we want them to come in and present.

Just like the method we use for initial screening and RFI requests, we ask agencies to dig deeper when in final pitch presentations.

Getting at the functional things that make up an agency is all good and should be done.  Asking things about their capabilities, their team, the team that’s going to work on your account are all important.

All things to ask agencies to present.

But just like the RFI.  This is a chance for you to separate out the best-in-class from the really really solid firms.

In most cases, all three of the agencies we put in front of marketers in a final pitch presentation could prove great partners.

But it’s the agencies that really dig deep to make that marketer feel like they get their situation and have addressed situations just like it – in a creative and thoughtful way – is what wins the day.

So in your own “Challenge Document”, ask agencies to work a bit.  Make the Challenge Document very focused on the situations you’re dealing with today so you can understand how they’ve addressed similar situations with other clients.

Just finished up a Challenge Document for a search we’re in the final stages of.  Here is a sample of some of the questions we’re asking agencies to base their presentations around:

  • Provide an example of where you have helped a client build a digital marketing program from close to ground zero.
  • Help us understand where you helped advance a client’s business by proactively bringing new thinking/ technologies to the table.
  • Please provide an example of where you have helped a client better utilize media to more effectively target consumers and build a stronger relationship with the consumers of its brand.
  • Describe how you approach testing & optimization.
  • Assuming you have $2M to spend in paid digital media for the brand, please present your best thinking behind a media plan for the brand.
  • If you were tasked to build a social strategy for this brand, what might it look like?
  • And assuming you were tasked to build out an SEO strategy for this brand to significantly increase organic traffic, what would it look like?

So hopefully helpful.  Give some thought when inviting agencies in to present.  If all you do is have them present capabilities, they will all mostly look alike.

Push them.

Make them think.


Mark is a 30-year veteran of the consumer packaged goods, advertising, and marketing service industry. Mark started his career at DDB Needham in Chicago prior to earning his MBA from the J.L. Kellogg Business School at Northwestern where he majored in Marketing and Economics. Prior to starting RSW/US in 2005, Mark was General Manager for AcuPOLL, a global research consultancy. Sneider worked in Marketing for S.C. Johnson and KAO Brands. Sneider has been invited to speak at numerous Agency events and network conferences domestically and internationally including the 4A’s, Magnet, NAMA, TAAN, and MCAN. Sneider has been featured in prominent industry publications including Adweek, Media Post, e-Marketer, and Forbes. When not working (which often seems like not often), Mark likes to run miles, go to church, and just chill with a hard copy issue of Fast Company.

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