In Defense of the RFP

Written by 5ivecanons Staff

By Guest Author Tom Charde

Just hearing the term “RFP” can make people in our industry squeamish.

RFP responses require a tremendous amount of effort. They cost money, pull staff away from billable client work, and are physically (and mentally) draining. So they can be quite disheartening when you don’t win them.

Early in my agency career I often questioned their value, and wondered why we invested so many resources in them. But over time several insights emerged that eventually changed my mind. The big learning experience for me was that win or lose, your company will gain a lot from the actual process.

For example:

1) It’ll become a practice run for your first project with that client. You’ll do research, learn about their industry, begin to develop strategies, go through budgeting exercises, estimate timelines, and possibly even do spec creative work. This will all come in handy if/when you start working on the account.

2) It’ll help your team develop and fine-tune critical project management skill sets. RFP responses require an incredible amount of thought, focus, detail, thoroughness, discipline, and quality control. (Especially those monster-sized government RFPs.) You’ll carefully read the overview, scope, rules and guidelines — and then reread it a dozen times. You’ll need to adhere to strict instructions and deadlines. There’s no room for error.

3) It’s a great team-building exercise. You won’t be getting paid for the work, so it’ll require drive, passion, patience and perseverance from everyone involved. You’ll learn a lot about yourself, your staff’s chemistry, and your company’s strengths and weakness during the process.

4) You can use the finished product as a template for future RFP responses. While the project details will need to be customized, the agency information (overview, team, process, experience, portfolio, etc) can easily be repackaged, thus reducing the amount of heavy lifting you’ll need to do on subsequent responses.

5) It’ll make you more efficient at the process. If it’s your first one, it may seem like a ton of work — and you’ll question why you’re putting yourself through it all. But if you stay on your game and continue to involve the agency in RFPs it’ll become more of a routine than a tireless endeavor.

Submitting RFPs is a numbers game. Even if you only win one out of five, that one win can turn into your largest account, your favorite client, your best creative work, a great case study, valuable relationships, and referrals to other new business.

As for the other four? You may not have won the accounts, but the lessons and learnings that your team acquired will prove to be valuable for years to come.