Have you ever received a delivery notification for a package, but have no idea what it is? You don’t know how big it is, who it’s from, or, especially, why you’ve received it. All you know is that there’s something from FedEx waiting at your front door.
So you stay at work, pushing this mysterious delivery to the back of your mind as best you can, staring at the clock waiting for the moment you can rush home and open the darn thing.
That’s how I feel when Demo Duck is lucky enough to receive a Video Production Request for Proposal, or RFP. As soon as it hits our inbox with the subject line beckoning out “Request for proposal” my eyes widen and my heart beats a bit faster.
Who sent it? How did they find us? What cool videos are they looking to create? And how can Demo Duck help make their vision a reality?
As our client base has evolved, along with the explainer video industry, and as we've worked on more nonprofit video productions, we're now receiving a few of these video production RFPs on a monthly basis – to the point where I know that the contents of which, like any FedEx package, can vary greatly.
Some are one page. Others are eighteen. Many provide dates and budget numbers. A few keep things ambiguous. While all RFPs are appreciated and fun to get, the goal of this post is to give corporate video producers a glimpse of what we recommend for an efficient agency search process, beginning with an effective RFP brief.
So here are six items – questions, info requests, etc. – Demo Duck recommends including in your video Request for Proposal. For the sake of time, we’ll exclude some basic items like your company background, overall project details, budgets, and key dates. Let’s dive in!
1. Add links to style references
I know it can be frustrating when sourcing video production agencies to get a firm grasp on pricing quickly, but that’s because the price tag is so contingent on the style. For the sake of getting more accurate bids, it’s a good idea to include a few examples of the type of videos you’re looking to create. These can be links to testimonial videos you’re fond of, commercial video productions from your past, or even a few static design elements that will inform the animated explainer video style. If you’re looking for some inspiration or resources for this check out Wine After Coffee, Motionographer, Vimeo Staff Picks, or take a stroll through Behance.
But what if you don’t know this yet? Well, it doesn’t need to be set in stone, but at least provide the recipients of the RFP some high level direction (at the bare minimum, specify 2D, 3D, and/or live action). Also, while it may feel obvious because you’re sending the RFP only to animation companies or production companies that specialize in live action, it’s sometimes difficult for us to be sure of the style when reading some words in a PDF (especially when you work in as many styles as we do Demo Duck). Adding references will prevent you from getting the same question a dozen times from all the prospective video agencies. Actually, let’s talk more about “all” those agencies.
2. Include the number of video agencies you expect to receive bids from
Look, I get it. You want to keep this number close to the vest in order to get a bunch of bids from a wide range the video production agencies. The more you get, the pickier you can be, and you don’t want to scare anyone off by listing an off-putting number.
However, if you’re being intentional in the sending of your RFPs you’ll actually see a greater response rate when video production companies have a sense of how many people they’re competing with. Based on our past experiences without being given a number, we always assume it’s a lot, which reduces the likelihood, and excitement, of responding. If you provide transparency into this figure, I’m willing to bet you’ll see a higher quality of bids.
3. Ask about the agency’s revision process
Do you want to be hands-on or hands-off on this video production? Chances are, somewhere in between, but you’re not really sure how that would look. Rather than assuming some sort of revision process will be built into production, just ask, or be clear on your expectations. For example, if you know you’ll always need a round of legal review, make sure to state that so it can be worked in the timeline.
There will be a fair amount of overlap here, somewhere between 1-2 rounds at each stage of production, which makes this maybe the most disposable item on this list, but it’s still a good idea to set expectations on both sides, prior to making a selection.
4. Request client references or partnership references
In a prior life, I worked in recruiting and, frankly, had pretty mixed feelings about asking for referrals. Would they even be honest with me? Does the candidate coach them? What’s to gain here?
But unlike hiring someone to your team, you’re not hearing from a personal connection to the agency (in most instances, at least). Asking for references also assures you that they have a few clients willing to go to bat for them and that they aren’t burning bridges left and right. This can be a request for client video testimonials, statistics on past long term client relationships (length of engagement, video budgets, etc.), or just some contact info in order to reach out on your own. While you may expect to get a glowing review, talking to references can be a good way to get real anecdotal feedback on things like, how the agency collaborates, what the concepting process looks like, realistic timelines, etc.
5. Request the video agency describe what it does better than anyone else
Of course you’ll want a quick background on the agency that’s responding to the RFP even if you’ve already sorted through their portfolio and website. However, we enjoy it when someone sort of puts us on the spot and asks what we do best, or different, in comparison to the other agencies out there.
Outside of learning more about this potential partner and where they shine, it also gives you some early insight into how well they communicate value propositions, especially important in the case of educational or explainer video content.
6. Ask about the video agency’s team make-up
This one is pretty straightforward – who is on the video agency team and what do they do? For larger projects, we recommend taking this a step further and asking who on the team would be involved in the specific potential project at hand.
This helps you better understand the video agency structure, how they utilize various freelance talent throughout production, and allows agencies to add some personality and individuality to their responses through their people. We’re not big fans for resume requests though (lots of individual and personal prep needed there), but if required, think of swapping to asking for Linkedin profile links instead.
The RFP Process
So that’s the rundown on the ideal Video Request for Proposal, at least in the eyes of Demo Duck. So do you just send that RFP, wipe your hands, and await for the top-notch bids to roll in? Perhaps. But in terms of the selection process, here’s our preferred order of things:
- RFP sent by client to various video production agencies (ideally <10 agencies)
- RFP reviewed by agency (~2-3 days)
- Call between company and agency to discuss and clarify RFP contents
- RFP filled out / proposal created & sent by agency
- Finalists selected by company
- Proposal presented via video conference or in-person meeting
- All bidders notified of the decision (don’t leave your agencies hanging!)
- Demo Duck selected!
We appreciate that handing the reins of a large video production project, not to mention tens of thousands of dollars, over to a few strangers is no easy feat. After several years of RFPs and client conversations, we’ve found that the above pieces of information and selection process can remove doubt from the decision, amp up the excitement, and, ultimately, lead to a better production in general.
At the end of the day, receiving bids should be just exciting as receiving the RFP and it’s all about how you package it together.