RFP: Request for Personalization
As a marketing/communications agency we occasionally discover an intriguing project that seems like a great fit, but that comes with a demanding, time-intensive, services-dictated request for proposal, or RFP. Right now, especially, no one wants to leave any stone unturned when it comes to new business, but allocation of resources, client-agency fit and solving challenges still reign supreme. Like other boutique agencies we know as well as some of our clients, for us at Rezonant, RFP projects don’t typically align with our approach and style—and for good reason.
Often smaller agencies decline RFPs on principle, but bandwidth is typically the bigger issue. A proper RFP response could be a chance to shine, but doing it right takes time. A LOT of time—and resources. Will the reward outweigh the risk? Often not. Many of today’s boutique agencies are focused on streamlining the process of delivering thoughtful solutions to current clients rather than answering a rigid RFP.
We also know from experience on the agency and client side that if you want problems solved, then true listening to those problems needs to come first. Often, companies distribute RFPs for due diligence even when they already have a partner in mind. And what’s more at odds with problem-solving? They’re typically sent without ever having had human conversations with potential players.
Likewise, an RFP may come down to price or how best an agency mirrors what the company releasing the RFP already thinks, rather than shedding light on new possibilities, processes and efficiencies.
It’s no surprise, then, that this process feels outdated in our industry, in particular, in today’s fast-paced, solutions-oriented marketplace. Understandably, RFPs have been in use and successful for some 60+ years by large entities such as government municipalities, architecture/engineering/construction companies and non-profits. But in other realms, what do they really do?
At worst, they measure vendors side-by-side on price and capability. While the RFP might serve a niche purpose of narrowing down goods or services, RFPs don’t typically (effectively) align with professional services like marketing, branding and communications.
Most importantly: Consulting and creative services are relationship-based businesses—the best of which are driven by big ideas, solid strategies, innovation and customization. And what’s behind relationships? People. You have to find an agency that fits.
RFPs de-personalize and limit the process by dictating a scope based on what a company thinks it needs. If a company knows it needs marketing help—and it wants the best results—why not have collaborative, open discussions about challenges, and then see how potential partners would address these challenges and what approaches they would take?
That doesn’t mean that an agency vying for new business is exempt from demonstrating real value or proficiency. But determining which marketing agency or professional to work with on creative services like branding, messaging and design should be predicated on which solution makes the most sense (often ones you haven’t even thought of on an RFP) and who you really want to collaborate with—not just who can deliver a shiny RFP response and come in on budget.
What we’d like to underscore is this: If your company is using a RFP model, you will get what you pay for. Just know that you may be excluding or discounting a partnership that could deliver on more than just the project at hand.
Want some tips on choosing an agency outside an RFP? Stay tuned. In the meantime, please reach out to us at Rezonant any time with your marketing/communications challenges.