Jul 18 2011
We get numerous Requests for Proposals (RFPs) each year. They vary widely — from a new branding campaign, to initiating an ongoing public relations program, to promoting a significant anniversary for a non-profit organization.
How do you know it’s worth your time and effort to answer the RFP? You don’t; but at least you can narrow your odds. Try to find out how many received the RFP. Our rule of thumb is eight agencies or less – and we may consider submitting. When the Port Authority was looking for an agency to handle a special project a few years ago, they held a Question/Answer meeting where about 100 folks showed up. Needless to say, we didn’t submit. Another consideration is prior experience in addressing the anticipated outcomes in the RFP. If you’ve done it well for someone else, you likely have an edge in the “shoot-out.”
I was once asked by a national trade association to fly to Chicago to make a presentation when they were looking for a new agency. I knew the executive director and made one comment, “I will only attend if you guarantee you are going to select an agency at the end of the day.” Ultimately, we didn’t get the work, but he did engage an agency.
I ask for that agreement because we’ve filled out a lot of RFP’s over the years only to find out later that the group decided to do nothing at all. That’s a lot of work for nothing; not just for our agency, but multiply it by eight or ten other groups who also submitted.
Recently, a service organization put us and eight other agencies through the hoops for a rebranding campaign. Six months later we learned they were “moving in a different direction.” I should have been suspicious when their RFP requested mountains of information, including organization charts of who would be performing the work. It was obvious they had used a “canned” RFP format that would have been appropriate for a multi-million dollar project, but this was a relatively small project. We only submitted because we fulfilled the second consideration –having had previous experience with this type of client.
On the flip side, I’ve also been on the requesting end of RFP’s as an officer for a non-profit organization. I recently put one out to only three agencies, all of a scale that fit the needs of the non-profit. Each knew that only three had received the RFP. Surprisingly, only one responded, saying they weren’t interested.
Some agencies rationalize not responding by saying it detracts from their clients’ ongoing work. Why go to the expense of doing speculative concepts and creative work, with a likely less-than-10-percent chance of getting the job?
So, do you invest the time to answer an RFP that may or may not ever be funded? If you do, try to narrow your odds. If you don’t, take that time to deliver an even better product or service to your existing clients. Odds are, they’ll notice and want to do even more work with you.
About that rebranding campaign –when I told my business partner that we didn’t get the work, his response was, “Good. They weren’t the kind of client you would want to work with anyway.”
He was right.
Ralph Yearick is CEO of Yearick-Millea, a full-service business-to-business marketing communications agency. You can reach him at 412-323-9320, or email@example.com
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