What’s wrong with the following scenario?
You wake up one morning feeling unlike yourself. You’re not exactly sure what the problem is, as you’ve never experienced a pain quite like this. You spend a few moments Googling, but suddenly you feel worse, as a flood of varying information is increasing your anxiety level.
Knowing you need help, you call a doctor. You state to her that you’ve diagnosed yourself with a case of XYZ, and you instruct what your treatment plan will be.
Obviously, no one behaves this way when encountering a health issue. It would be insane.
For the doctor, it would be malpractice. “Prescription without diagnosis is malpractice.”
This common saying in the healthcare industry clearly shows just how dangerous this scenario can be. If your friend told you they were going to use this approach in their medical care, you would passionately plead with them to rethink their decision, and to at least hear out a doctor before making any decisions.
In the marketing industry, the RFP process is all too often identical to this scenario.
A marketing director, DMM, CMO, or some similar person identifies a problem. Perhaps they’re generating fewer leads than last year, or a new product launch hasn’t gone as well as management hoped. Spurred by the pains of this problem, they create a RFP for what they believe will ease the pain and suffering.
Maybe they need a new website, or maybe they need help with SEM. Sure, this marketing professional is smart, and is familiar with “best practices,” but most of their time is spent on their current business and many other responsibilities. It is understandably impossible for them to match the expertise of an agency that designs websites or manages SEM on a daily basis.
Regardless, they devise a RFP for a website that they believe they need. They go through their contacts for the "web people" they’ve met over the years, they collect a few more names from a quick Google search, and fire off the RFP to the group. They’re essentially saying, "Here is what I want. I don’t care about what you think. I have no interest in a fresh perspective from an expert. Just tell me what my 'prescription' will cost to implement.'"
Reread the last few paragraphs, and let this sink in. I hope that after reading this, you’ll never look at the RFP process the same way again.
Multiple studies show that the most important factor to businesses when hiring a marketing agency is not price. Rather, a collection of information about the agency, the experience in their space, the talent and more. Unfortunately, the RFP process can often eliminate these critical components necessary to make the right decision.
The RFP does not allow an agency's expertise and proven process to shine through.
If price is the single most important factor to you when hiring an agency, then the RFP process will save you time and allow you to easily identify the least expensive provider.
However, if you’re concerned with getting the correct diagnosis, and a prescription that heals your ailments, then the RFP process is doomed to fail and end just as badly as the patient that attempts to self-treat themselves.
Sometimes people tell me that I only dislike RFPs as it makes it more difficult for us to charge higher prices. While there are certainly agencies in my industry that make all of us look bad, there are many agencies that sincerely care about their customers and the work they do for them. We really do want to do great work, and I feel that only a consultative process along with agency transparency allows that to happen.
I understand that the process I’m recommending takes more of your time, and that the RFP process is very tempting. However, I ask you: isn’t it worth it to spend a few more hours at the beginning of a project to ensure you’ve done all you can to get the results you want? I think your business deserves that.
Your business’ health will thank you.
Today's guest post comes from Zach Jones, President and Owner of Ascend Web Strategy. Zach has been in the web/digital industry since the 1990s, when he was in junior high school. After high school graduation, Zach transitioned from freelancer to agency owner. Few people have as much experience with the web as Zach.
His agency, Ascend Web Strategy, is known for getting results for specialty businesses across the United States. Businesses that have unique areas of focus love working with Ascend, thanks to an approach that spends incredible amounts of time on each client. A philosophy that limits how many new clients are accepted ensures unbeatable service, quality, and performance.