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The Interview: TF7’s Process for Vetting Clients

From the desk of: Brian Bauman


For creative agencies, there are hundreds of ways to meet new clients – ranging from handshakes at conferences to referrals to formal RFP processes. While meeting new clients is important, we believe the process of deciding whether (and how) to work with a new client—or not—is even more crucial. The vetting process sets the tone for the client-agency relationship, and ultimately determines how effective we will be as a creative partner. So we make every effort to get it right.

A Conversation, Not A Checklist

We don’t vet clients with a  rigid, checklist-style methodology. We think of it more like an interview. We want to get to know the prospective client and want them to know us. We want interplay that reveals the mutual compatibility of both parties.  We want our perfect match.

It should be a process of discovery rather than a sprint to “sign-on-the-line.”

We find that what brands want and what they need are often two different things.

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The Tyranny of the RFP

RFPs are a reality of the industry. As anyone who’s drafted or responded to one can tell you, they are the antithesis of free-flowing dialogue.

This isn’t a shot against the role of procurement within an organization. They have an important job to do. But for all of its efficiency, the RFP process is inherently limiting, and its narrow focus creates too many blind spots for us to do our job effectively.

RFPs are about finding specific solutions to specific business problems. But what if the underlying issue isn’t addressed by the scope of the RFP? What if the right questions aren’t being asked? We find that what brands want and what they need are often two different things.  A vetting process that emphasizes dialogue and conversation rather than proposals and best-and-final bids will uncover better approaches, and ultimately deliver better results.

An Open Dialogue

So here’s what we do: we talk. We ask questions. They ask questions. They share goals, objectives, compelling rationale, past successes and failures. We talk about our process, how we do things differently and what we’ve seen in the past that’s similar to their current challenges. Together, we map out a way forward, begin to put together research and then formulate a strategy.

We want to bond with our clients and to operate as an extension of their team. And having a vetting process that looks more like other agencies’ onboarding processes is the ideal way of going deep enough to understand the situation and align on objectives. It’s how we build a relationship that works.

And trust us when we say it will work for you too.

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