By Brianne Miller, Business Development
Not many acronyms strike fear into my heart like RFP (Request for Proposal) does. I’ve had quite a few to deal with over the past month, and have made some observations on the process…
- It’s not a “request.” Really. It’s more like a demand. The best RFPs include a little wiggle room for creativity and the worst ask for 12 pages of arcane data like how many printers are in the HQ.
- You can get thrown out for a typo – if your page number didn’t populate correctly, catch it. If not…see ‘ya!
- Seize your opportunity! I just filled out a government RFP with strict space limitations – while that might be a challenge, it certainly helps you boil your message down to its essence.
- Don’t add extras – if it’s not asked for, don’t include it. One of our client contacts told me that an RFP response (30+ pages!) included three sentences per staff bio instead of the asked-for two. The recycle bin was happy…the responder wasn’t.
5. Think it through before you even start. Is this business you want? Need? Have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning? RFP responses can take days to compile – that’s valuable time you can spend finding other business.
So how do you feel about RFPs? Or do you have a great tip for responses? Let me know in the comments below or tweet @LandisComm.
7 thoughts on “RFP PDQ!”
Very rarely do we respond to RFPs, as we often see them being thinly veiled attempts for a purchasing department to “check the boxes” for other quotes or to gain pricing leverage on an incumbent agency that the client has no intention of leaving.
If you are a client and issue an RFP, many agencies will not take you seriously unless: 1) you provide an estimated budget for the program; 2) you are willing to let the participating agencies know what other agencies have been invited to propose; 3) you are excluding the incumbent/previous agency from bidding. Another warning sign: when the corporate purchasing department is running the RFP process, rather than just participating.
Brianne, good thoughts. My biggest complaint about RFPs? They leave out the most important information: the budget! Clients are doing both themselves and agencies a disservice without identifying budget. Why? Many agency folks who aren’t appropriate will respond to the RFP and later decide they can’t do it for the budget and clients will have to sift through unnecessary information. Note to clients: you’re not going to get a better “deal” by not articulating a budget from the very beginning. Get that budget approval first before you go through the arduous task of looking for the right agency. Cheers, David
This sounds like a “fun” process. Ha! Curious, is there a secret sauce for finding RFP opportunities in the first place?
As you know, I love to play with acronyms:
Really fun/fabulous/fantastic proposal!
Ripe for picking (us)!
Ready for party – after we win.
Sounds like it can be a frustrating process – making it all the more sweeter when you win the new business!
Glad we have such a smart pro at LCI tackling these RFPs!
I would start with #5! The win rate for RFPs is actually quite low. Remember, many groups send out RFPs because they have to by law/regulation, even though they’re quite satisfied with their current PR/Comm representation.
I would only pursue RFPs for DREAM accounts that you’re dying to bring in and work on.
In the meantime, I’d write a strategic, active Business Development Plan, where you identify and pursue the clients you actually want, who’ll help you achieve your agency vision, who’ll pay you so you can make a fair profit, and who’ll need you more in two years than they do now.
Other things to consider in creating a plan are 1)Which are the industry categories in which we have real expertise (because clients don’t hire you because you do everything: They hire you because they believe you’re experts in your field, and know more than they do!) and 2) What are the services/practice areas that we really do better than other agencies? (And we have the case studies and delighted clients to back up that claim)
I’ve done a few blog posts in this regard, but would only share them here with your permission.
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