Saturday, April 12, 2014

The RFP Process Is Broken. Here's How To Fix It.

The reality of the RFP.How we select partners is broken. I am constantly dismayed at how the whole process is often optimized to create a sub-par experience for brands and partners alike.

Here are five tips to make the process better for both sides:

1) Set realistic timelines. No one does their best work with a gun to their head. Brilliant work requires time, and your future partner can't do that if the timeline is impossibly short. Ample, realistic timelines will get you better work.

2) Don't run a beauty pageant. There's no reason for 30 agencies to be part of a review. It's exhausting for your future partner, and wastes a lot of everyone's time. In almost all cases, there are a handful of leading shops or technologies, so focus your time on those top candidates. If you must do an RFI, use your expertise to create a shortlist of ten. From those, choose no more than five finalists.

3) Pay the finalists. Paying a small sum to 3-5 finalist partners (I usually spring for $5,000 per finalist) to respond to an RFP signals that you're serious about the project and the process. It also ensures that agencies will put great talent on your proposal. So a small cash outlay upfront can pay big quality dividends later. There's also one more benefit: if you see great ideas from agencies that don't make the cut, and you've paid the agency for the presentation, you're ethically in the clear to use those ideas.

4) Take Charge. Procurement is usually focused on getting the most service for the least cost, and IT is often focused solely on the technology. But you're not choosing just "the agency", you're choosing a partner. You want that partner to be professionally and emotionally invested in your success and be in it for the long haul. Sure, there's money involved, and often technology. But just as important are trust, gut feeling, and chemistry. It's your project, your reputation, and your career. You make the call.

5) Debrief the losers. Partner selection is a process, and someone has to lose. Take the time to hold a debrief call and tell the agency/company why they didn't make the cut. No relationship lasts forever, and doing your part to make products and services better for everyone is not only karmically good, it helps ensure that next time you have an even richer set of choices.

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