Five Reasons RFPs are Flawed

Looking to lease creative gray matter? Rethink the RFP route. 

A request for proposal (RFP for short) is the method by which many businesses choose to attract multiple agencies to one point in time for a given project. Basically, it allows companies to submit projects to a common forum, (such as for agencies to view and bid on. It’s a relatively effortless (read lazy) way for companies to chum for creative sharks.

Having participated in the RFP process many times over the years, I’ve gained valuable insight into how creativity is measured in the marketplace. Insight that has informed the Rdeca Group stance. Simply put, we will not respond to an RFP regardless of its purported cachet, creative challenge or financial reward.

The following is a distilled list of reasons why RFPs are flawed. It should serve not only as a cautionary tale for creative professionals, but should also provide a set of considerations for the companies who seek to hire them.

The most valuable asset any agency has to offer a prospective client is proprietary thought.

Sean Mellis Rdeca Group

We need to get to know one another.

Getting to the heart of a client’s needs requires open dialogue, not clairvoyance. The main flaw with the RFP process is that it forces someone skilled in the art and science of communication design to generalize, assume, and craft a one-size-fits-all response.

In a proper discoveries meeting, the first question we ask some pretty important questions. What problems are they trying to solve by hiring an agency? What are their goals for a given project? Who is their audience? Then we engage in real conversation. We ask questions and we listen. We learn about their pain before we tell them how we’re going to solve it.

An RFP, by comparison, disallows this vital data mining. We need to truly understand your situation before we can propose a practical solution.

Creative discussions are nuanced.

The most valuable asset any agency has to offer a prospective client is proprietary thought. Right out of the gate, a rigid RFP hinders the client’s ability to leverage this asset. The firm should be hired not merely to execute a set of tactical deliverables, but to consult on their strategic underpinnings.

We’ve gained valuable experience over many years in the business. Clients who help us fully understand their objectives – and who invite us to the table early on – benefit greatly from this experience. We will invariably come to the table with perspectives and strategies our clients haven’t yet considered.

Personalities matter.

Any type of business deal is a relationship. As with any relationship, disparate personalities will cause conflict. One of the first things you’re likely to learn from a conversation is whether or not you’re picking up what the agency is laying down. What might be an excellent fit for one client might be terrible for another. An RFP response is unlikely to reveal such intangibles. But an initial discoveries meeting (ours are free by the way) will.

Our body of work speaks for itself

All those in the market for creative talent are well-advised to do their homework. Look at local agency sites. Browse their blog posts. Call up their clients. Are they happy with the work? Have they realized value from their investment? Conducting this simple focus group will allow you to narrow your consideration set. Reading an RFP response will not.

Great agencies are too busy to respond

The cardinal reason Rdeca Group steers clear of the whole belaboured RFP process is because our gray matter is already being leased. On any given day, we’re engaged with businesses who invest in our time-honed talents because they understand the business value of our specialized output. Our legacy clients also have pre-proven expectations.

Just because Rdeca Group doesn’t believe in the RFP process (at least as it applies to creative projects) doesn’t mean we’re not open to making new business relationships. But it does mean that we’re skilled and seasoned enough to not have to mosh dive for them.