Event Recap: Taking a Human Approach to the Agency RFP Process

On Tuesday, August 23rd, ThinkNW hosted a lively conversation about how agencies are creating and sustaining successful client-agency relationships by taking a human approach to the RFP process.

Overview: You’re looking for an agency to help position your company to build awareness, generate more leads and sales opportunities, and grow revenue. But more than that, you’re asking them to be a trusted partner.

You’re relying on their expertise and experiences, but the traditional RFP (request for proposal) process creates a cattle call approach by putting all of the agencies in the same type of box and then evaluating each box without nuance. And, in many cases, removing subjective elements of decision-making – emphasizing the quantitative facts to make an objective decision.

When it comes to working with an agency, many of the most important aspects really hinge on human factors: creativity, knowledge, skill, thought processes, and communication styles. So shouldn’t the RFP process require subjective judgments that assess the real skills necessary to deliver your transformational success?

The panel tackled questions including:

  • What are the disadvantages of an RFP for both the client and vendor?
  • What has your organization done to bring relationships/human connection to the client RFP process?
  • What can RFP issuing organizations do to ensure they are asking the right questions? (Lisa) (Brian)
  • Who do you like to involve when you’re working on an RFP, and what does your process look like?
  • How can potential clients educate themselves and find resources to understand the services and level of service an agency can provide within certain budget parameters?


Moderator: Alan Hwang, Vice President of Growth – Gravitate

Alan Hwang is a growth marketing expert with an entrepreneurial mindset. Through the creation of a start-up e-commerce brand and a demand generation agency, Hwang has gained hands-on experience in scaling businesses across multiple industries. After the acquisition of his agency, Hwang became vice president of growth for Gravitate, helping clients, from start-ups to fortune 500 companies, generate new revenue through digital marketing.


Brian Gotts, Founder & CEO, Serenity Studios

Brian Gotts is the Founder & CEO of Serenity Studios, a boutique creative agency in Portland, focused on crafting authentic content and experiences for all audiences. As a lifelong learner, Brian is obsessed with asking and answering the “why” to just about everything; in service of creating a more intuitive experience for people. Throughout its first decade of existence, Serenity has elevated many notable clients, including OHSU, the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, the University of Oregon, Providence Heart Institute, and NASA, helping them to express their mission and brand in more authentic ways. Outside of work, Brian enjoys sci-fi video games and movies, cheering for the Trailblazers, gardening, and exploring everything the Pacific Northwest has to offer with his wife, dogs, and cat.

Miguel Lopez Ixta, Senior Business Development Manager, North America – 72andSunny

Miguel is a first-generation college graduate coming from a family of five who immigrated to the U.S. from Michoacán, Mexico in 2001. He went to grade school in Woodburn, Oregon. After high school, he attended George Fox University. During his time there, he advocated for marginalized communities to continue to pursue higher education. Therefore, he interned at TRIO as a counselor to help high school students be successful in school. He graduated from George Fox with a degree in Marketing.

He began his career at Wieden and Kennedy, where he worked in the media department and soon after shifted into the new business team. During his time at Wieden, he touched various brands, including Turbo Tax, Old Spice, Secret, Chiquita Banana, Visa, amongst others. Recently, he began a new position at 72andSunny LA, where he plays a key role in the business development team. In his free time, Miguel enjoys spending time with his 2-year-old baby, playing soccer, or fishing. If he isn’t enjoying some self-time, he is busy freelancing with Latinx creative agencies or editing episodes of his podcast, “La Receta.”

Lisa Zakroff, Head of Creative Partnerships – Mekanism

After 15 years in Los Angeles, leading brand campaigns for clients including Target, Volkswagen, Nintendo, Burger King, Saturn, and DIRECTV, Lisa moved to Seattle in 2017 to lead and grow Mekanism’s newest office, which had only one client at the time (Alaska Airlines). Under Lisa’s leadership, the Seattle office has added new clients to its roster, including Amazon (Kids+, XCM, Small Business Empowerment, Seller Communities), GoodRx, MOD Pizza, Papa Murphy’s, and Greater Seattle Partners. As part of executive leadership at Mekanism, she has played an integral role in the agency’s success leading up to its acquisition by Quebec-based Plus Company earlier this month. She’s a Jeep-driving #boymom from Detroit who is always down for a round of Karaoke.

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