What we learned in launching the RFC

On February 17, 2012, we quietly launched an alternative to the much-maligned RFP called the Request for Consideration or RFC. The aim of the RFC is to provide a better way for buyers and sellers of digital media to connect and collaborate on media plans. The goal of the RFC is to eliminate the hassles of the RFP while encouraging more innovation.  We also launched two products support the new RFC method: (1) Media Magnet for Media Planners and (2) Compass for Publishers.

As with any new product launch, listening and adapting is the key to success. I never get anything right on the first try. Here’s what we’ve learned from agencies and publishers since introducing the RFC seven weeks ago.

What we learned from Agencies

As any sales rep will attest, it’s not easy getting a meeting with a media director. They are incredibly busy people with jammed calendars. Despite their busy schedules, many have asked us to come in to show them and their teams the RFC and Media Magnet. I think they’ve invited us mainly because they hate the RFP and are hungry for an alternative.

So far, 31 leading digital agencies have begun using Media Magnet and 6 more are being set up this week. I’m very pleased with the initial adoption by these great companies and grateful for working with them to improve the industry workflow.  I’m also happy to report that 100% of the agencies we’ve met with have signed on to try Media Magnet.

In initially introducing Media Magnet, we presented agencies with two key benefits: efficiency and innovation. We discovered a third unforeseen benefit through these initial discussions: organization of proposals. One of the challenges that agencies face is tracking and managing of all the proposals they get. We thought it was a given that the Media Magnet should be good at organizing information. We did not realize how much of an improvement it was over existing systems (emails, file servers, etc.). So, we are now including organization as a key benefit.

We learned that agencies want a lot of visibility and control. That’s not really a surprise. In our initial implementation, the list of publishers who received campaign alerts was not displayed. Media planners need to be able to see this list and to be able to control it.  They want to be able to add and remove publishers from the list.

We made a mistake in positioning Media Magnet as a standalone product that runs alongside other RFP tools. We assumed that every agency already had good RFP automation.  Since Media Magnet implements a fundamentally different process (the RFC), our initial approach was to say, “keep using whatever you are using today for RFPs and use Media Magnet to source additional ideas with minimal effort with the RFC.” But this has resulted in proposals coming in from two different directions. Media Planners want all their proposals from all sources in one place.  They don’t want to get proposals from RFPs one way and proposals from RFCs another way.

We also learned that Media Magnet should be extended to support the RFP process. As one media director put it, “You are selling the product short by limiting it to the RFC. You could easily add RFP capabilities.” Easier said than done, but the point was well-taken. It makes sense to be able to run RFPs and RFCs through a single interface.

We’re now in the process of building version 2.0 of Media Magnet, which incorporates the initial learnings: transparency and control of alerts and RFP automation. We’re already pretty far along with the development and it should be out by the end of this month (exact date TBD).

What we learned from Publishers

Publishers are also willing to try out the RFC.  Hundreds of publishers are already getting campaign alerts.  22 publishers have already signed up for “Pro” Compass accounts which gives them access to the Campaign Navigator and all the campaigns on the system. Another 27 have requested free trials and are in the process of getting set up.

Publishers are impressed by the clean and simple design of the product. However, to our dismay, they don’t care about technology.  As one ad sales rep put it, “The last thing I need is another system to log into.” What they care most about is qualified sales leads.  They like when they get an email saying, “Here’s a new campaign that matches your inventory. Check it out.”

We’ve no significant product enhancement requests from publishers. What they want is more sales leads. Publishers want us to ramp up the number of campaigns in the system.  There’s only been a trickle of campaigns so far because we are just starting to get agencies up and running on the system.  You can expect a significant increase in the coming weeks.  Until that trickle becomes a flow, publishers will continue to get free access to Compass.

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