The Unspoken Evil of the RFP
The Unspoken Evil Of The RFP
The Unspoken Evil Of The RFP

The RFP must die.

Or at least the way the process has evolved in today’s marketing world should. On the surface, it seems innocuous. A company or organization issues an request for proposal (sometimes masked as a ‘request for quote’) to several agencies, consultants for firms. They sometimes include ridiculous assignments jammed into even more ridiculous time frames and even sometimes have the audacity for the responder to commence work on creative concepts and ideas that solve the prospective client’s communications problem.

Then the company collects the RFPs, steals the ideas and doesn’t even change the account from the agency they were working with.

If you work in advertising and this hasn’t happened to you, how’s day three on the job?

RFPs from government agencies have spiraled out of control to a level that’s beyond even discussing. I recently received an RFP from a government agency that was 58 pages in length and somewhere along page 29 mentioned they wanted ideas to activate around (and I quote), “so-called social media.”

While I resisted the urge to reply to the contact person with a loud and swift, “Go to hell,” I didn’t respond.

The Problem With RFPs

Agencies want new business. Clients know this and have learned over the years that agencies will jump through crazy hoops to get it. Clients want fresh ideas. Agencies know this and will sometimes undercut their own value by sharing some of those in an RFP or pitch for new business. Clients have learned over the years that there are more agencies in need of new business than there are great ideas, so they use the imbalance to their advantage.

The majority of RFPs, in fact all but one that I’ve ever seen, require creative concepts in order for the agency to be in consideration. The one that I saw that didn’t, I wrote for a client.

This is nothing short of extortion. Especially when the RFP stipulates (which it normally does, or the agency is dumb enough to) the ideas are transferred and owned by the client regardless of the agency’s win or loss of the business.

So clients take advantage of agencies. Agencies know if they don’t adhere to the idea giveaway, their competition gladly will, so they have little choice but to participate.

The brand is to blame for asking for work without pay. The agency is to blame for giving away work without demanding compensation.

But neither side is likely to take the high road on the ethical side of things, so we have ourselves a Catch 22.

The Only Hope

All that an agency can hope for is market share or diversification of revenue that is so overwhelming they don’t need the new business bad enough.

In early 2009, while still working with Doe-Anderson, a great full-service advertising agency in Louisville, I had the task of putting together a digital marketing dream team of partners for a major brand. I hand-picked several of the top boutique firms specializing in social media, email marketing, search engine optimization, mobile marketing and design and called them each to talk about participating in my little RFP process. I clarified that I would not ask for their creative work, that I only wanted to hear how they would approach solving the communications problem at hand and how they would fit in with a large, multiple-agency team to work on behalf of the client. From that information, I would ask them each several questions and then choose the firm in each category I felt was the best fit for our needs.

When I called one of the companies I was told, “I’m sorry, we don’t respond to RFPs.”

Half of me screamed, “WHAT? DO YOU KNOW WHICH BRAND YOU’RE PASSING ON?” And the other half screamed, “GOT ANY OPENINGS?!”

It turns out that particular firm had developed several products around its niche and had the advantageous position to only work with companies they wanted to work with. They told me they don’t respond to RFPs because if the client in question wants the best in the business, they don’t need to compare and contrast, they just hire them. They only wanted to work with people who wanted to work with them. Period.

On one hand, it reeks of arrogance. Here’s hoping they never fall off that pedestal and need clients. On the other hand, it’s where I would want my agency or consultancy to be and I admire the hell of them for taking that stand.

If only everyone did.

The Solution

Like any long-standing, traditional process that has morphed into a problem (i.e. – health care, government bureaucracy, doctor’s visits) there’s no one solution to the RFP problem. It will take a combination of a lot of things to fix:

  • Companies and brands need to recognize that creative concepts are an agency’s bread and butter and shouldn’t be asked for without compensation
  • Agencies need to place a better value on their work and either ask for compensation, ownership or refuse to provide creative concepts
  • Agencies that undercut competitors by violating that stance should be penalized somehow

Will any of that happen? Probably not. Ad agency and PR firm creative concepts aren’t exactly earth-shattering utilities that need some sort of regulation.

But sooner or later agencies are going to realize the cost-benefit of the dog-and-pony show isn’t in their favor and stop responding. If you think the current state of marketing is bad now, just wait until the crappy firms get all the business.

In that scenario, everyone loses.

Mitch Ditkoff has some more rational ideas for improving the RFP process over at The Heart of Innovation I hope you brand-side folks will consider as well.

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About the Author

Jason Falls
Jason Falls is the founder of Social Media Explorer and one of the most notable and outspoken voices in the social media marketing industry. He is a noted marketing keynote speaker, author of two books and unapologetic bourbon aficionado. He can also be found at
  • Trevor

    Why don’t agencies just have prospects sign NDAs before submitting RFPs? A prospect acting in good faith shouldn’t have a problem signing a reasonably-worded NDA.

  • Signify

    I keep seeing this happen in municipal government and school districts. I’d like to print your article in all the local/global news media. Unfortunately, on a local level, this works. A freebie becomes a Board, Committee, or Commission appointment; business contracts no matter how bad the “qualifier” is – there is always a payoff, or – as you state – theft without compensation. It seems that no one wants to do the leg work. I am astounded that there is nearly always evidence that the business, municipality, school board – what have you – hasn’t even done a web search for information.

  • UXdude

    More than 4 years later and I google this “RFP” scenario after receiving several from a lead aggregation service.

    I keep it really simple in my consultancy; we DO NOT entertain RFP’s, Design Competitions or Pitch-Off’s. EVER.

    If a firm wants to hold a roadmapping session, then that is fine. I attach a fee to it, set up Cisco WebMeet, hold a 30 min. Q&A with the primary stakeholders or executives and give a detailed delverable of their problems and actionable solutions to implement. Case closed.

    No more RFP. I enjoy making income and helping actual clients who value what we do–much better :)

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  • Sam Frank

    This is a great article. My firm, Arrow Root Media, has been finding work via RFPs now for a few years, and only a few of them have actually come to fruition. Like Metallica, Sad, but true. Keep up the great posts.

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  • Jobrien

    Thank you for writing this. I really appreciate your thoughts on this.

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  • Wow. Wouldn’t it be so much easier if they just held a design competition. No word of an RFP, but a easy to enter design competition, open to everyone with a Mac or PC and Photoshop. What a great ground leveling exercise that will help expose fresh talent, while bi-passing all these stuffy agencies with their requirements for payment and some kind of remuneration for those many years of experience and talent. Yes – a design competition, that’s the answer!

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  • Sometimes you need to take RFPs a bit less seriously, while also being more selective in which you choose to pursue. The RFP Drinking Game should help with that:

    Please drink responsibly!

  • I recently worked on a project where we envisioned that companies would hire a coalition of agencies and then we would give the money wasted on RFP's to charity. Didn't happen. Won't happen. And I'm not sure we want it to — what's the alternaitve? reverse auctions? Worse!

    I think any time you have a proposal mandating what customers need to do you are setting yourself up fro problems. I suffer from the RFQ waste just like you do but that is our world so we need to adapt and figure it out. We can't live in a world wishing our customers were different. : )

  • Craig Kessler

    Completely agree although things won't change anytime soon. Surprised there are no sort of legal responsibilities that can be taken if a client takes an idea and run. It almost seems like an RFP should include legal verbiage to protect an agency from having ideas and promotions stolen.

  • davevandewalle

    Good article, like your thinking.

    Let me be the first to ask for another image, though – I don't want to see someone who appears to be thinking about taking their own life. http://www.suicidepreventionli…/ is a good resource.

    Seriously – I know the goal is attention-grabbing imagery, but I'd love to see cheesy clip art instead.

    • Fair criticism Dave. Certainly not intended to offend. Will remove

      asap (mobile at the moment).

      • davevandewalle

        Thanks, Jason…I appreciate that. And, again, great, thought-provoking


      • Jeremy Powers

        As a former board member for AFSP, I sincerely appreciate the edit also. You would be surprised at how few people would respond to these types of request.

  • […] The RFP must die […]
    in this first sentense everything has been said! i completely agree with the author and some of the comments! but i suppose everyone understands that it won't be that easy, to 'kill' something like this thing is almost impossible i think!

  • Jsonnhalter

    I couldn't agree more. I've been in the business for 35 years and haven't yet seen any creative(ours or the competitors) ever used from a pitch. Clients try to force creative out of a one way communication. Our process is collaborative and how can you get any input from the client side when the assignments are so vague?
    The newest trick clients are using are reverse auctions to get your prices down. Yes they want “Creative” but are only willing to pay a certain amount. They are trying to commoditizing the agency business saying we're all the same.
    Tim Williams is always trying to get all of us to get away from hourly charges and bill the client for the value you bring to the table. Unfortunately many big marketing departments are either run by the CFO or Purchasing. Not a good trend for the future.

    • Just giving a little insight into the “other side” of thinking…. I own a Business that has to keep marketing costs(design, print, mail lists, yellow pages, magazines etc..) to 10% of gross. All of these aspects usually need a designer, or advertiser to deliver our message. How does my company know where, who to trust our budget with without some sort of guage of competency? ALL will say that they can create the BEST image. ALL will say that their ideas for lead generation are the BEST. ALL will say they have the best medium for delivery. Yet, we as the Business owners, have no true idea of what the designer, advertiser can deliver until we have already spent the money and are now waiting to see if we were mislead. It seems to me, that this particular industry can get paid irregardless of delivered promises or effective designs, advertisements etc. While I only get paid if I actually do what I was hired to do.
      You state we only want to pay a certain amount. Yes, we have a budget to stay within, otherwise we lose money and fail. You like the idea of charging for the VALUE you bring. I like it too except I, the business owner, is the only one that knows what that value is. Going back to my 10% of gross budget, my average ticket item is $350. This means we can only spend $35 to land a job. Keeping numbers simple, a 1000 piece mailer campaign costs us about $300 with print, mail-list, and postage. This campaign has to produce $3000 or it is digging into other areas of expense. Usually it has to come from profit or owner salary as most other expenses are fixed. So, what happens when we as a business owner find that the “creative” designs we were told would insure we would get a better response rate doesn't deliver? Or the “creative” mailing list selection doesn't deliver? Or the many other “creative” mediums we get sold don't deliver?
      Very interesting to say the least. I do like the idea of only paying for the VALUE a “creative” brings. In my case, it would be based on the actual numbers. So, if an ad agency took over all my marketing and they only produce $150k in business for the year, It would only be worth $15k for me. And they would have to eat the postages, printing costs, advertisement rates etc. See, we are forced to seek out companies that will put thier money where their mouth is. I personally have lost thousands of dollars to poor advertising, marketing ventures due to paying upfront for service that simply did not deliver. And the fallback they all use is… timing, maybe we didn't continue with the campaign long enough, maybe we had the wrong pricing, maybe it was our ato action… blah, blah, blah.
      I say that there are so many folks in your industry that are only in the business of selling a dream or simply selling space on a magazine page. What we as business owners are wanting to buy are leads/phone calls. I don't want to see my name in a magazine. I am not vain. I want phone calls seeking my services. A “creative” that will promise that with a guarantee will get ALL of my business. A “creative” so confident in their skills, that they can offer that gurantee. Otherwise, they themselves know that just maybe, their designs or ideas really aren't worth what they are charging. Base worth on the true numbers. Do those designs and ideas give the business owner a 10:1 return on their investment in the designer or idea maker?
      Just sayin'.

      • How about researching a designer/company who’s work you like and offering them the project while disclosing your budget up-front? The worst they can say is no, and nobody wastes anyone’s time.

  • Agree. RFPs need to revamp priorities or just fade away and here's why…
    Inevitably, when Corporate America seeks a PR agency to support their communications effort, the Request for Proposals (RFP) sent out, asks for critical capabilities that can help a company sift through the myriad of options available and narrow them down to the few that make sense for their specific needs. Clearly, relevant experience always matters, as does specific industry knowledge, followed by creativity, a sense of a “safe choice” based on an agency’s reputation within the PR industry and, of course, simple basic skills. But in my many years as a PR professional, I have noted that there is one critical component that is largely overlooked in RFPs. Little consideration is given to the matter of judgment, as in critical judgment, “poor” or “sound” judgment, which can be the greatest differentiator — impacting all qualifications.

    If “sound” judgment is defined as the capacity to assess situations or circumstances shrewdly and to draw sound conclusions, or as the process of forming an evaluation by discerning and comparing the options at hand and then forming an opinion objectively and wisely, especially in matters that affect outcomes, then Corporate America would do well to take note and cleverly search out the individual and collective wisdom of each agency as part of their decision-making process.

  • Jsandler

    Companies that don't know what they want but are told to figure it out go the RFP route. I strongly feel it is a big waste of time and all agencies should get paid to answer them. Any of you agencies out there want new business the easy way, contact me. I own an agency, run an agency network and am a consultant to agencies.

    Jasmine Sandler

  • The RFP seems to be a holdover (kinda like MS Exchange server) from more bureaucratic days, and no one really knows any better, except people who know how to shortchange the agencies. Any more, we respond to them unless they require concepts or creative work up front.

    The last time we gave concepts the client stole our ideas and signed another vendor to execute. Never again. Government RFPs are just as bad because there can be backroom deals going on. It's not a level playing field. Potential new vendors are usually just wasting their time. The gov't agencies are still forced to send out an RFP, even if they know who they are going to hire.

  • Let's also not forget that RFPs are a weapon. Working in corporate, I saw RFPs gathered to make a current agency not only drop their price, but do more at the demand of the client with the ideas the client got from the RFPs!

    I have also seen RFPs as a political ploy. I submitted an RFP against one other competitor for a project. The other competitor had absolutely no experience in the project, but was a current agency. Kind of like above, the current agency won.

    I do believe this: If you know your way around RFPs you can see this stuff coming. And Jason, you're absolutely right to say, “No thank you” when you see this type of behavior. It's not worth the cost of effort.

  • I disliked the RFP process whether I was on the agency side or the client side of the discussion. Jason nailed the agency side here; lots of wasted time and opportunity, although I never had ideas stolen (maybe our ideas weren't that good?). The client side was always a fight between the purchasing department and using our existing creative relationships to either start the project or find the appropriate resource; existing relationships always won out for me because they were a known entity that wanted to do a good job even if they recommended using another company for their expertise. RFPs are good for rigorously defining the work required, but the personal and capability match are much more important than any RFP response.

    The only thing worse than RFPs is using the reverse auction process, something that purchasing departments enjoyed inflicting on us a few years back. I felt dirty just participating, even though I had no choice, watching agencies and production companies bid down the price to where they must have been working for free once the project was complete.

  • Thanks, Jason!

    More and more, quality and credible firms — one that I like to think I can bunch mine along — are refusing to enter the RFP process at all. We simply don't any more. I have on several occasions responded very directly to a prospect (especially if it's the government) that “You already know who you're going to pick, so I have no incentive to help you adhere to your outdated procurement process.” Thinking you're going to win is folly because it's not the point of their process.

    If I were a client, I would also wonder “Why do have time to respond? Aren't you busy?”

    I'm also hearing from the client side that they are truly looking for partners who can help them think differently about their businesses. They understand increasingly that creative concepts are well down the line of a strategic process, so much so that I've actually heard more than once that if an agency comes in with creative “complete” it's actually an insult to the process of great ideas which should be lead by a keen understanding of business objectives, audience desires, advocacy models and consumer engagement elements, internal support and training needs, and, finally, creative solutions. You can't — or shouldn't — sell the last element to get at the other previous ones.

    Or…said in another way…you don't start with a baby and wonder about pregnancy.

    (Did I just say that?)

  • Jason, I couldn't agree with you more. I am often on the pitch team when we decide to respond to competitive pitches. We've got a policy around here of only responding to RFPs when they are an exact match for our capabilities, we have some kind of inside track or know the client well, and the company has the reasonable ability not to default on their bills. There is nothing worse than getting one of those damn mass mailed RFPs that basically says…you have one week to give us a thorough marketing plan, budget, a creative strategy and executions and a social media/pr plan. You've never even met the client, you have no way of having lunch or trying to pick THEIR brain so you can even give them a decent proposal. You have no idea the political landscape of the client's organization. You're just throwing your time and resources down a big black hole.

    I understand that clients need to get a feel for the agency they would be working with. If they want a good RFP response, they should do THEIR HOMEWORK in advance. Get to Ad Club, PR Club Social Media Club and socialize with people in the biz. Figure out who they like and who would be a best fit for them. Approach no more than three with a proposal that asks for strategy only. Then make a choice and stick with it. You come to an agency for comprehensive care and services. Most agencies are pretty careful about their billing because a pissed off client can take millions out the door and cost them their jobs. I don't think clients fully appreciate the razor's edge most agencies are dancing on.

    Look, if you want goods for the lowest price, go hire yourself a bunch of freelancers. (Nothing against them, mind you, I was one for many years) You can be the one trying to string them all together into a coordinated effort. See how long it takes you to pull your hair out.

    I could go on and on. But I think you will enjoy this video much better. It's really hilarious:…/

  • Couldn't agree more. I wrote a blog post about this about a year ago called RFP Hell.

    We're trying to get away from responding to RFPs entirely, but it's difficult especially where we're in a city where most of the business comes either from government or Universities or both. We do try to take a creative approach in how we choose to submit an RFP, but it's not always possible. We never do spec work for RFPs though.

    Here's the post if you're interested.…/

  • Great post Jason.
    Based on this problem, we became much better at asking strategic discovery questions. Example:
    If the company/agency is looking for a quotation ASAP, that's a red flag. It means they're shopping around.
    I know this is difficult to explain but a good sign that your ideas won't get stolen is when the prospect “makes sense” and it's not in a rush. Also, if you are not talking to the decision maker and it's just someone in the front line, that's another red flag. The task he/she was given was to ask around and report back with the best proposal/price.

  • Arnold Shaw

    Sounds awfully naive; like someone waking from a deep sleep of decades. Problem is well described. The solution presented is a non-starter. The answer probably lies in agencies refusing to participate. However, it is fatuous to think of a unified agency front to eliminate this deeply entrenched practice. Opinions are helpful when they tell me something I didn't know before.

  • deelirium

    I'm not going to say anything one way or another about RFPs, but I will say that almost every time I've outsourced, it was a very frustrating marriage. Maybe it's me just not communicating very well what our organization needs are, but the bottom line lesson I've learned is, “You can't outsource giving a s***.”

  • Sradick

    As someone who works for a government contractor, I thank you for writing this Jason – glad to hear someone in the industry calling attention to this broken process too. While you bemoan the problems inherent in asking agencies to give away their creative concepts, there's another side to the RFP that's just as frustrating. It's the RFP that states the problem they're having, but then, in excruciating detail, states the tasks they want you to perform to solve that problem, regardless of whether or not these tasks will actually solve the problem or not. But, because each response is specifically graded on these pre-identified areas, inserting any sort of creativity or innovation is actually penalized.

  • scottclark

    I think that a conditional-refund RFP process may work well… I use it for SEO audits. That is, in order to provide a comprehensive proposal, you will bill for your time. If the client accepts the work, then a portion of the RFP payment is applied to the work done (roughly equivalent to the hours that would be spent on keyword research, competitive research, etc.)

  • Moe

    Thanks for addressing this delicate issue. It's a puzzling dilema. I can appreciate the buyer's situation, but I too have lost in the creative RFP circuit. While this happened a while back, it still smarts. My RFP was used to secure grant funding for a large non-profit. They were awarded the grant, and I got “thank you very much, but we're going with someone else”

  • Michael

    Wow – ring the bell for the agencies. From a client aside perspective everything from your first word is just wrong wrong wrong and arrogant. To see you speak of extortion – Agencies have for too long creamed off a fortune from unsuspecting clients and charged people for the privilege of asking how their work is progressing. I have no sympathy for your position.

    • Perhaps it's just a matter of perspective, then. I can certainly see a

      client side attitude that agencies might nickel and dime and over-charge.

      Not saying they don't. But to expect creative work up front for nothing than

      the hope of working with the client (a practice which is now prevalent in

      marketing today in both of our countries) is nothing short of arrogant and

      wrong wrong wrong, too.

  • Vince

    The RFP process can be similar to introductory meetings. A potential client want to “pick your brain” for an hour, wants to know what you will specifically do for them and then takes the ideas without hiring you. I guess one key would be to know that you would successfully implement the ideas better than anyone else. Another, which is impossible in the RFP process, is to charge for everything. “Free” can be found on your blog.

  • It seems that every month another expert writes an article on how RFPs are bad for business, RFPs are a bad idea, top 10 lists of why you hate them, RFPs should be done away with because they increase risk and cost, and that RFPs will soon be extinct.

    We find them to be one of the most democratic, meritorious, and pragmatic approaches to procurement and purchasing. They're not a full proof solution, and often times they are run poorly, but that's exactly why we recommend that you be selective in the RFPs you respond to. Read more here:

    • I would offer that if you're constantly barraged with people writing about

      how they hate RFPs, that there might be a problem with your perspective.

      You're a database company for RFPs, right? So you make money off the RFP

      process somehow?

      I don't disrespect your opinion, certainly, but you have to admit a bit of

      bias here, right?

      Thank you for the balance to the conversation. But having lived through the

      RFP process with and for several agencies and clients, at least in the

      marketing world, the process has become adulterated enough to not be those

      wonder things you say it can be.

      • If you don't like the process, don't play it! Leave the RFPs to other people, you won't be missed. If a company asks for spec creative, walk away. If you feel the process is rigged for a vendor, walk away. If the budget is too little, the deadlines too tight, and the vibe isn't right, walk away.

        It has little to do with the RFP process, and more about the organization USING the process. A good organization can run a fair and competitive process, and we've helped lots of organizations learn how to run a fair and competitive process:

        The long and short of it is RFPs might not be your cup of tea. Win your business some other way and leave RFPs to those who have learned to play the process well using tools such as a good Go/No-Go decision tree.

        • “Leave the RFPs to other people, you won't be missed.”

          Wow. A bit harsh, no? Seems to me that Jason is presenting a pretty valid argument for why the current RFP process may be broken. He even takes it to the next step and offers some possible solutions.

          I just received a 28 page RFP that will likely take me (and our team) 40+ people hours to complete. Is it worth our time? Maybe. Is there another way for us to showcase our expertise and ability to meet the client's needs? Very likely.

          DJ Waldow
          Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory


          • David

            I don't think it's harsh at all; if you don't like RFPs, don't respond! But is it really the PROCESS that is broken, or is it just being misused?

            His solutions aren't solutions. If a RFP asks for spec work, you have a choice whether or not to submit spec work. You can educate the issuer on why asking for spec work is bad (…) and then choose whether or not to submit a proposal. Asking for compensation for a proposal pitch is a nice thought, and something we too advocate (…) but that speaks to a larger process change which is encouraging a RFI first, then a RFP to pre-qualified vendors (a solution that can actually work). And penalizing vendors that choose to do spec? Come on. I think Don Draper handled that problem very well in the episode with Honda (…) But if companies want to waste their time and money doing spec work for every RFP that comes their way, you should be beating them all day long based on the fact you don't have so many wasted resources!

          • David: I still think that comment was harsh, but as always, it's hard to understand tone via a blog comment. That being said, maybe you are right. Maybe it's less the broken process and more the misuse/abuse of the current process. Either way, something needs to change. Agreed?

          • I think that's where natural selection comes into play. If good vendors, vendors who refuse to do work on spec and all of the other gripes that come into play, stay away, then an issuer that does ask for those things will get the 2nd or 3rd tier vendors (and likely suffer the consequences of inferior work, cost overruns, etc.).

            And instead of just throwing away the RFP, send them a form letter for why you are walking away from the project. When their project fails maybe they'll think back to that form letter and learn the lesson for the next time. You can always point them to articles such as this one:

  • I'm a marketing consultant for small, independent businesses that have minimal resources for initiatives. While the process of winning a contract is relatively short and simple at this level, I regularly encounter the something-for-nothing-time-suck situation. Things shake out best when I can present with research, case-studies, competitor successes, and samples of my best work. Would-be clients that respect intelligent dialog and the value of time have proven to be the best partners for any endeavor.

    Great read, thanks Jason.

  • I'm going to take a slightly contrarian position. I think RFPs/the RFP process AS YOU HAVE DESCRIBED IT is garbage, but there is a way to establish an RFP process that is fair, responsible, and leads to a greater chance of success all around. You hint at certain elements of it. I've sought to train some of my clients in how to go about productive vendor selection/management practices (which, in fact, is the broader issue) – and, yes, it's an uphill battle. But the real key is getting to that point where you hand-pick your clients, not vice-versa.

  • RFPs can give birth to new business so we try as much as possible to give a well-defined quote of deliverables and associated fees. The problem lies in RFPs that require free samples or concepts. While the companies requesting these RFPs may harbor no ill intentions, we prefer dealing with businesses that value our time and services.

  • Boy, I couldn't agree more with this. I spent most of my career on the client side, but have been working for an agency for about 9 months. And I can tell you that, as a client, I hated RFPs almost as much as the firms I subjected to them. They are the ugly result of procurement processes run amok. Damn you, six sigma procurement processes! There aren't any defects in the process … except that they waste massive amounts of time, and produce suboptimal results.

    Anyway, I am glad to have joined a practice that has very little interest in or need for RFPs … and am hoping that it stays that way. Thanks, J, for the good insights.

  • Excellent reasoning Jason. I see companies taking the moral high ground with this issue by offering a pitch fee. That usually means asking agencies to hand over ideas at around 1/100th of their market value. A pitch consultant recently boasted to me about how he would never ask an agency to work for free, then offered us a $1,500 pitch fee for $150,000 of work. This is not a step in the right direction as some have claimed – just more of the same. The RFP must die. I hope your post hastens the process.

  • Amen Jason. One thing that I hav been able to accomplish over time is the frequent choice to work with clients I want to work with. I think the number of RFPs you run into is also relative to how you find new customers. I dan't tell you the last time I remember touching an RFP. If I can d it there is no reason a seasoned and established guy like you can't fill his plate ONLY with work from folks who have chosen to work with Jason Falls. If it's not happening yet, it will soon.

    Being heavily in the design & creative field, my company would make little money if we had to create for free up front to win business. Creating is what we do. We dare not undervalue our work by giving it away without a commitment in place. Thanks for bringing up the subject Jason.


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