[This post was also posted on Rizen's 314 Blog.]
This one is tough to write. A couple of my favorite clients are the result of Rizen Creative responding to an RFP (that’s "request for proposal," for those who don’t speak in acronyms). RFPs are used by organizations to efficiently (for the RFP issuer, at least) get details about services, prices, etc. from vendors and ostensibly initiate a sort of bidding war.
In an effort to prove accountability and reduce favoritism/corruption/nepotism government organizations are often required by law to go through the RFP process. Fine. So what I’m about to write only applies to those NOT forced by threat of arrest to issue RFPs:
A true underdog should never issue an RFP.
Underdogs and RFPs don’t mix for many reasons:
1| RFPs are inherently selfish. 90% of the effort, thinking and creativity involved in RFPs is pushed from the issuer to the respondent. Healthy relationships (with your girlfriend, parents, friends or creative agency) don’t begin so one-sided.
2| RFPs attempt to get something for nothing. Or at least something for real cheap. TANSTAAFL: There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. It’s a law of economics. Sorry.
3| RFPs encourage bait and switch. What is promised and what is delivered often bear no resemblance. RFPs encourages those who respond to act as politicians – what great ideas come from politicians?
4| RFPs reward the wrong things. Answer right, win the business. Firms who are forced to respond to a lot of RFPs hire specialists who know little about the craft, but do know how to write RFP responses. In even more cases, RFPs reward “gamblers” who have the time/insanity to throw man hours at responding to an RFP.
5| RFPs ignore the most important part of any working relationship. The relationship. As in a state of connectedness between people. Remember those? You like the good ones.
6| RFPs are inefficient. The basics (How much does this sorta thing cost? Do you have capacity? What’s your approach? Are you qualified?) can be answered through referrals, web site research, and a couple of emails. If you're in charge of your organizations marketing and don't already have a focused list of companies that would likely be a good fit for you, you're not paying enough attention.
7| RFPs make everything a commodity. By definition, extraordinary service and work isn't.
8| RFPs provide false sense of impartiality. Points or no points. Committee or no committee. Process or no process. The decision will be made by humans. Humans suck at impartiality. In fact, that's what makes us useful. To pretend otherwise is idiotic.
9| RFPs provide a false sense of confidence. Just because you put a lot of time, energy and money into something doesn’t make it great. It just helps you to convince yourself that it's great.
10| RFPs limit your options. To those that are on your list. To those that actually have the time and inclination (at that very moment) to respond. To those that don’t despise RFPs.
I know what you’re thinking: sore loser. Damn right!
I am sick and tired of selling my soul to complete RFPs when the decision was really predetermined (*shock*). I am sick of being asked to solicited for estimates and proposals with no opportunity to meet the humans I’m going to be working with. I am sick and tired of being asked to give my team’s brilliant, money-making, customer-endearing ideas away for free.
So I’m not going to do it.
But please, still send us your RFPs. We promise you will get a response, just not the one you expected.