The Conundrum of the RFP

July 18, 2017   /   by  Diane Callihan

An RFP May Not Be the Best Way to Find an Agency

As someone who has worked for a number of digital marketing agencies over my career, nothing strikes dread in my heart quite like receiving an RFP.

On one hand, an RFP (Request for Proposal) is exciting and ripe with possibility. We are being given a chance to bid on a project! This could be a fabulous opportunity to work with an amazing client! Let’s do this!

On the other hand, it’s kinda like going into a final exam and finding out it is all essay: Explain in detail what your company has been doing over the past decade. Provide at least a dozen detailed examples of work you’ve done in the following categories. Describe your business philosophy in a minimum of 600 words.

The weird thing is, if you were choosing a neurosurgeon to operate on you, you wouldn’t have your prospective surgeon write an essay to prove they were qualified. You’d just say, "Hey, that guy’s a neurosurgeon, and he’s been doing it for a while. My uncle recommended him; he must know what he’s doing."

I get that businesses want to hire the best agency for them, but I also know that the best RFP response doesn’t necessarily equal the best work. A great RFP response may just mean that an agency has a dedicated proposal writer and lots of boilerplate to pull from.

Here at Roger West, we don’t have either of those things. If we receive an RFP (thanks for thinking of us!), we don’t automatically bid on it. We see if we’d be a good fit for the job. Our CEO sets up a phone meeting with the prospect and asks some questions before we decide whether or not to draft a response.

Because hey – we’re not a huge agency. Everyone here is working on client work. Having someone write up a 30+ page RFP response from scratch is going to take time we don’t necessarily have to spare. Plus, it’s a gamble. Maybe the company already had someone in mind to do the job, and just sent out RFPs to follow protocol. And we don't win 'em all.

Does Anyone Like this Process?

I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure no one enjoys writing an RFP, writing the responses or reading through them. So, why do we all put ourselves through this? It seems like some vestige from corporate America that doesn’t really belong in the creative realm.

If you’re hiring a company to do design an awesome website, do you really care about their business philosophy or mission statement or what kind of tree they would be? Probably not. You probably just want to see if you like their work, meet with them and see if they seem like they’re smart, capable and fun to work with.

For that, we’d be happy to spend some time with you.

Want to see if we’re right for your project? Let’s Talk.

Diane Callihan

Diane Callihan

With more than 20 years of experience writing for some of the country’s top brands, Diane helped to shape Roger West’s content strategy, lead generation, and PR efforts as Director of Marketing. She currently serves as President of Callihan Content Creation.