3 thoughts on “It’s Time for Clients to Change the Agency RFP Process.

  1. Hank: Good approach– and it can work, particularly if the company can outline a specific problem or market challenge as a test. Last year I led a PR agency new biz pitch that featured a six-minute video discussing the launch of a mobile app. The video was fast, fun, and loaded with content– the prospective client was able to hear the pros and cons of different positioning and media options, and get a feel for the development process. The approach was a win-win for all concerned! /Michael

  2. The ad biz is a giant slush pile and clients do indeed view agencies as replaceable cogs… and rightly so.

    Most agencies (marketing firms of all stripes) are order taker generalists. Order takers are usually the ones wasting their time and money trying to win business from an RFP that’s been distributed to dozens of agencies. Order takers are the ones who tell the prospective client they offer “full-service”, or “integrated communication services”.

    I agree the RFP process is the worst of all possible business development scenarios… where you have little if no power in the buying process…

    Business development is not about the “tactic” you use to tell your story to a prospect. (you tube videos,etc.) Business development is about skillfully positioning your firm as an expert in a specialized discipline. Building your reputation over time as “the firm” to go to for the specialized solution highly valued by a late-stage client to be buyer! Firms with specialized expertise are “value creators” and always commanding premium fees and whose opportunities exceed their capacity.

    If you receive an RFP from a prospect, your business development is passive. An RFP means your firm is “one of many” interchangable suppliers of tactical stuff.

    Here’s my advise on handling an RFP when they show up (from consultants or the client directly).

    1) qualify the opportunity… if the client”s RFP demonstrates that they have done their homework and “invited” a small handful of specialized firms in for a “paid” conversation, and the client has the money and authority to meet your minimum fee, chances are it might be worth pursuing.

    2) if you determine the opportunity is worth pursuing, begin the vetting process to determine if you are a good fit … will your firm be allowed to make an impact on the client’s business? Does the client seek and respect your strategic advice and guidance and be willing to pay for it? Do you share a common set of “business values”? Does the opportunity represent business at a profit for your firm? Why are they seeking a new partner? (remember, whatever a client will do with you, they’ll do to you.)

    3) NEVER provide your high value thinking for free as a way of demonstrating your worthiness for the gig. Value creator firms save their best thinking for paying clients. Clients who respect the value of their relationship with their partners will never expect them to part with their best thinking for free.

    4) Your proposal (solution to the problem) should be the words coming out of your mouth. As a result of your expertise and deeper conversations on their issue, make an assessment, propose a recommended course of action, tell them what it will cost…then say “if this meets with your approval, our office will prepare the paper-work for your acceptance and we’re good to go”. NEVER leave your proposal to languish on the prospect’s desk, or worse, have them “shop it around”.

    You can build your business by design or by chance… order-taker or value creator…which one do you want to be?

  3. Totally agree that video is awesome way to cut through the clutter. We recently won a huge account and credit the fact that we produced a 6 min video describing exactly why we are the best agency for the job. They didn’t ask for a video, and we ran the risk than they might not even see it. We simply included a note with a link in the obligatory written response.

    We didn’t have the most experience in that market, weren’t the largest agency and didn’t have more awards, but the video (especially at that stage) clearly communicated our enthusiasm, creativity and capabilities in a “show don’t tell” way that can’t be beaten by a written response.

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