Iliyana's Blog

Agencies, The End of the RFP Has Come. Are You Still Using Them?

[fa icon="calendar"] 13-Jun-2016 10:00:00 / by Iliyana Stareva

The_death_of_the_RFP.jpgIf you work in an agency, I'm sure you've seen people prepare for new business pitches or you've even either been part of one or run one yourself. Maybe even multiple ones. 

That's often the result of an RFP or a Request For Proposal that companies and their marketing people put through when in search of a new agency. 

You'll see a lot of arguments online about this traditional approach to choosing a new agency that has been going on for over 50-60 years and still seems to be the norm although it's hugely outdated. Some argue that this process is a complete waste of time as it's " too slow for a marketing world that functions at the speed of light".

My favourite detractor of RFPs is Blair Enns and all agency best practices he preaches in his book Win Without Pitching. Alone the name of the book explains the need to move away from RFPs and that it is indeed possible to do so. 

But it's one thing for the agency to change its model of how it wins new business, it's another on the client side. Because it's the clients requesting those RFPs and it's the agencies and other marketing professionals who need to re-educate and teach those clients how much more economic and efficient it could be to develop a better way of finding a new agency than with RFPs. 

Blair Enns' blog pointed me to a TEDx Talk by Cal Harrison that is trying to promote exactly this thought - to re-educate clients on RFPs and how they purchase professional services. He explains this rather ridiculous process really well and gives some serious examples so I'd leave you to enjoy the video first. 



Here's what the video teaches us:  

The Big Reasons Why Clients Should Ditch RFPs: 

  • Millions are being wasted writing and preparing proposals both on the client and the agency side. And it's all unnecessary and there are better ways to spend that money (like the campaign you need itself).
  • With RFPs value goes away and innovation goes away too because agencies that pitch end up worrying about proving the lowest cost to meet all the project requirements.
  • RFPs simply don't work when you need a custom solution. If you are buying commodities where the variables are clear, yes, but not when you've no idea what the best solution for you is. You need an expert in these cases - people who've seen this problem before in this industry and can fix it for you.
  • Low price does not ensure your safety or the efficient and effective value-adding use of your money. 

What Clients Should Ditch RFPs for: 

  • Don't hire professional services based on low price, hire the most qualified instead to bring the best solution to you. In other words, seek true experts. 
  • To find such experts, use QBS or Qualification Based Selection that allows agencies to be innovative and provide high value for a fair price and so to ensure that the solution really solves your problem for the long-term. 

Of course, if you are an agency, saying no to RFPs completely may not work in the verticals you target or your geographical location, but adjusting your style to winning new business and helping clients understand how they can spend their money more efficiently will be key for them to start seeing you as a partner and a knowledgeable expert who wants to provide the best possible value to them. Maybe you only change one thing or two, as long as you prompt your team and your clients to focus on the truly important things instead of wasting time and money writing RFPs.

How do you feel about RFPs? 


Topics: Brands and Business, Agencies

Iliyana Stareva

Written by Iliyana Stareva

Iliyana Stareva is the author of Inbound PR - the book that is transforming the PR industry. She's also a keynote speaker and a consultant in inbound and digital for fast-growing companies and agencies. Currently, Iliyana is Chief of Staff to the EMEA President at ServiceNow. Before that, she held global and EMEA-wide positions at Cisco and HubSpot. She is also certified by the PMI as a Project Management Professional (PMP)®. In her free time, you can find Iliyana writing for her blog, dancing salsa or travelling the world.

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