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RFP, Request for Pain

June 30, 2010

I hate RFPs. I do. And I am not going to apologize for saying that. They are giant sucks on resources, time, and money and I don’t think at the end there is really a true winner. Sure these are or can be a necessary evil; however I do believe there is a better way to handle acquiring new business or working with a new agency.

From the agency side we get these giant 50+ page RFPs that are the equivalent of one massive book report. Name your sources, what’s your point of view on the story, what research did you do to understand chapter 10, etc., etc. Blah. Then the debating begins, do we give spec, do we all dress the same way and present in interpretative dance, what about sock puppets? And through all of this, we are working, working on business we are getting paid to do, going home to families or the neighborhood watering hole, and all the time wondering, “are they really going to switch?” And that is the hardest part. You have to believe everyone on the RFP list isn’t receiving this as an exercise but as a process of change. You’d be surprised at how often the incumbent is again; the agency.

From the client side, to my point above, if you are going to send one of these out, then you’d better be serious about change. And if you have hit that point, I hope you have gone to your current agency and communicated boldly about your expectations. Are they too expensive, are they not delivering, is your AE a giant condescending pain? You might be surprised how quickly a fix is found if you draw a line in the sand. For those situations where there isn’t a fix and you do go down that path and you know anything about the agencies in town, you’ll know whom to talk too. And do just that. Hell, let them buy you lunch, let them talk about strategy and process, most importantly listen yourself and look for a fit. You are still buying their personality and people. Then ask the two or three groups you felt you wouldn’t mind sitting across the table from for the next X amount of time and get serious. You’ll be efficient and maybe even at that point you’ll already have a favorite whose job it is to not lose the business.

So to RFP or not RFP, that is the question. Thoughts?

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