Publishers, Don’t Let RFPs Drain Your Profits

Blog   |   Operative Team   |   July 22, 2014

This is the story of how we developed our newest product offering: RFP Completion Services.

About eight months ago, we had a conversation with one of the leading sports media publishers that receives over 100 RFPs per month. After a deep-dive evaluation of their ad ops processes, we discovered that their biggest bottleneck lied in filling out these RFPs. More specifically, over 20 account managers across three different regions for local and national markets were processing an average of 80 RFPs a month, and spending up to 8 hours a day filling them out.

The sheer number of transactional RFPs that were being received was keeping them from responding to more lucrative custom requests, costing them potential revenue and lowering their margins.

We were intrigued. At the time, we didn’t touch RFPs. But this issue was one that was affecting all of our publisher clients. So we pulled our services team in and asked them, “Can we take this off their hands?” They put together a new workflow proposal, and we were up and running within four weeks.

How Much Are RFPs Actually Costing You?

According to a recent study done by AdSlot and Digiday, the average North American publisher spends up to 1,600 man hours per month responding to RFPs, costing them 18% of sales to handle what is mostly standard display orders. Plus, out of an average of 23 transactional RFPs responded to per month, 15 of them (65%) are simply lost outright.

The RFP process is not a valuable investment of time. A lot of publishers wish they could just stop responding to them, but unfortunately it’s a necessary evil. For now, at least, that’s how business is done.

Outsourcing RFPs? How Does That Actually Work?

Responding to the majority of cookie-cutter RFPs that you receive is often a process of copying and pasting from one data source to another, especially when it involves line-by-line data entry into systems like MediaVisor or Atlas.

So why not hand off repetitive, transactional RFPs to a partner? That frees up time to focus on the RFPs that actually matter and have higher profit potential, like strategic requests for new media types or ad placements alongside high-profile content — especially in the sports publishing world (think standard run-of-site placements versus exclusive NBA Finals content).

When sales reps and planners are spending their valuable time completing RFPs, it means they aren’t out selling and talking to customers. Publishers are then spending high-ROI resources on data entry – a low-ROI task. And because we could respond more accurately and within fewer hours, they actually win more business by handing off RFPs.

Here’s how we do it:

  1. Workflow Mapping: We develop a custom workflow process with you, which we determine during our on-site discovery sessions. The general workflow starts, of course, with the publisher receiving the RFP along with a blank agency template. The publisher then puts together a plan based on available inventory that meets the advertiser’s needs.
  2. Template Formatting: Publishers send both the agency template and their internal response to Operative. We format the data, pull in missing responses from the media kit, review for errors, and alert the client about discrepancies.
  3. Submit Response to Agency: We send the completed RFP back to the client, who reviews and submits it to their agency client.

The Results of Outsourcing RFPs

Since we first started working with this publishing partner in June of 2013, we’ve completed over 800 RFPs on their behalf. We currently handle 80% of the transactional requests that they receive each month, saving them an average of 200 hours monthly.

Mutual trust is a key component of this partnership’s success. At first, the sales planners had a hard time outsourcing such an important piece of the ad ops workflow, but as we worked to gradually increase the number of RFPs that Operative handles, the publisher team saw firsthand how dedicated we are to maintaining the high quality that their industry-leading brand demands.

Now, they can respond to agencies’ requests faster, and with fewer errors, giving them a competitive advantage against sloppy, delayed responses as well as guaranteeing the presence of future requests.

What’s Next?

Operative’s mission is to work with publishers to reduce their bottom-line operational costs. Offering this new product gives our clients a cost-effective solution to manage their RFP bottlenecks.

As we work with more publishers to outsource this process, our services team is further developing technology-enabled solutions to add more automation to this workflow and mitigate the manual labor involved with RFP data entry.

Want to know more? Learn about our RFP solutions for publishers.