For all of my fellow agency stalwarts, the RFP process has become the biggest running joke of the industry. There’s no bigger waste of agency resources than putting perfectly competent agency strategists to the task of responding to one of these preposterous documents – that is if your even lucky it shows up as a document. Its time we finally killed off this laborious and time-sucking process once and for all.
You know the scenario: Lets say you work as a strategist at one of the top 5 search engine marketing agencies, or web dev agencies. You get an email from some marketing manager at, lets say, Union Carbide, requesting a response to their RFP for a new Paid Media agency. Then the trip to hell begins. First of all, I dont remember the last time I read an RFP document that actually made any sense. Vague, undefined goals, no real understanding of how agency services are delivered or managed, preposterous assumptions, and no room for any possibility of communicating your agency differentiation are common place. And any attempt to get the Marketing Manager (lets call her Jennifer) on the phone to decipher the codec is thwarted and used against you in any future discussions (you can almost see the criteria spreadsheet Jennifer has open on her desktop – with categories for “cooperation” ,”attitude”).
So, what is really going on here? RFPs are a ruse. Designed by frightened bureaucrats, and nutless marketing execs, RFPS are a satanic tool designed to set a group of highly trained agency professionals off on a fruitless quest to compete with one another to ultimately help them figure out, define and solve their marketing strategy so they can just pick the agency that has the personal relationship with their CEO. When you think of the sheer dollar value of the information that these guys end up with after 3 months of detailed RFP responses and PowerPoint presentations, its no wonder these guys continue this process. Its the cheapest way to get the best counsel. And nobody wins. Union Carbide ultimately selects the agency that is likely least qualified (lets face it, they were picked long before the RFP was ever written) and all five agencies end up with a group of spent, pissed and dejected service people who wonder why they were just abused like that for 3 months.
Its time we take charge and end this ridiculous time and resource wasting ritual.