It’s hard to say no to RFPs. If you work in a large organization, Requests For Proposals are as standard as planning committees, timesheets and tall bosses with executive-style hair parted just so at the side. It just feels right, if you’re about to invest a million dollars of budget, to use a hefty form to start the search.
Until you realize: That form is dulling your mind.
Eric Karjaluoto wrote brilliantly last fall that RFPs should die, noting they are bad for the business managers who rely on them. Why? Because if you define exactly what you want, you are not getting a new idea. The process of discovery, Eric wrote, often guides the solution.
RFPs are most distasteful when used to bid for marketing, advertising, or design services. You know: “I’d like to take 25 ads, please, and make them as cheap as possible.” Wrong-o. Effective marketing planning is a bit like family therapy. You enlist an outside expert to understand the issues, explore the problems, and work jointly on solutions. You don’t get good counseling, or marketing, or branding, or creative design, by ordering it like paper from the Staples catalog.
Our own agency just got an RFP today from a large government entity with a huge budget, and we have three specific ideas on media planning that we’re certain would give them a 30% lift in performance. Hint: These guys aren’t doing anything on the internet, and we know how to make that work.
And so … we’re not going to bid. Sorry, gov’t sirs, your RFP asked for cheap advertising — lowest-cost quote wins — and our ideas on getting you results just won’t fit inside your RFP box.