There is not a lot of love out there for the RFP. I came across this well-written post filled with respect for the agency-client relationship and disdain for the RFP. I love their list of very valid points, so I thought of a few to expand upon. I won’t bore you with my opinion on how pathetic the RFP process is as a standard business practice and how even the best written RFPs and their responses will likely fail to identify the best agency to serve your company’s brand. I will leave it with that one sentence, and let you draw your conclusions. (As a side note, if you also have ideas on how we can be the champions for killing the RFP and promote a platform that will revolutionize our industry – @ me.)
So to add to their thoughts, and because I don’t see the end to RFPs in the near future – here are some personal requests to consider when you’re writing the RFP intended to help your company select a digital agency to launch the next phase of your business:
- Do your homework. The more work that you and your team put into creating a well written, organized and detailed RFP, the more thoughtful and valuable the responses will be. Your team should invest a meaningful amount of time identifying your pain points, where your business has gone off track and how your stakeholders want to see business turn around. Have sales slipped? Why? Who’s accountable or what? Have you been successful up to this point without integrating social media, display or search engine marketing but you want to reach your customers online now? Are your traditional marketing channels drying up or becoming too costly? Do your best to provide as many of these types of details as you possibly can in the RFP.
- Be as detailed as possible. I see so many RFPs that sum up the purpose of the RFP in one paragraph and tell me nothing in any detail about the company, the team, information on previous marketing, advertising or branding efforts, assets that you have already established versus material that needs to be created, the reasons for time lines, budgets. If your team put your heads together and you learned that you don’t know what you need, you just know that your business is not where it could be – then put THAT in the RFP. Here’s the kicker though – your best investment will be to pay an agency to work with your team to discover the solutions that will right your ship and fuel your success. That should then be Phase 1 defined in your RFP.
- Don’t ask for free work. Ahh, the “wow me factor.” I obviously want my agency to impress you with our response to your request, and I am excited for the opportunity to share our ideas with your team. However, asking us to submit concepts or produce work at this stage of your decision making process is not good form. (Besides, if you haven’t done a good job with #1 and #2 – then how will we ever hit the mark?) The AIGA has their opinion on “spec work” which I agree with. Every designer or new business developer has a story about how their work was ripped off in an RFP process. I understand why a company would ask for ideas or spec work to be submitted with an RFP response, but the reality is that it’s not fair practice, and it can make potential partners feel like the company views them on a subordinate level at the start. Instead, ask the agencies to show you relevant work that they have created, the challenges that they faced and problems that they solved. Their previous work should wow you.
In reality, the company issuing the RFP needs help solving real business problems, and the agency has the experience to offer valuable solutions; respect for what each party brings to the relationship is best. Responding to RFPs comes at a cost of non-billable work hours to the agencies but the investment is worth it when an opportunity to collaborate comes along that can show a real mutual benefit for a strategic partnership. (I wish it wouldn’t come as an RFP but we’ll change the world tomorrow.) We should have a deep respect for one another and a passion for the work that each company does. As your agency, my business is going to grow with your company’s success.
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