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Why We May Not Respond To Your RFP

If you've recently requested a quote from us for a project that included an RFP, you've probably heard us say something to the effect of "Thanks for reaching out BUT we don't typically respond to RFPs.

Ultimately, we believe there is a better way to select and engage with a digital partner where conversations replace presentations. Pointless busywork on both sides is replaced with candor, honesty and rapport building to determine if the fit is right for both of our companies. 

Many of you understand this and might secretly hate the RFP process too. Have no fear; this is a safe space - we can chat all about it and commiserate together. Others of you may be unaware of the absurdity of the process OR are in an industry where you simply have no choice. If this is the case, welcome! This article is for you.

First, let's make one thing clear. Though we hate the inefficiency and inherent waste associated with the RFP process, we want to be clear that not responding isn't because we don't like you or aren't interested in learning more about the opportunity. If you've perused our site, like our vibe, and have invited us to participate, you're cool in our book. We would actually love to learn more about your project, tell you a little bit about us, and see if we might be a good fit for your project - we just rarely begin relationships with an RFP.  

This being said, since you've gone to the trouble of creating and submitting some kind of RFP document/process, we feel we owe you some reasoning behind why we may not respond.

RFPs inspire digital malpractice.

You're potentially about to invest a lot of money into your digital project and partner. This investment impacts where you and your business go, and the clients you'll attract, potentially for years. We believe a digital partner should be accountable for the results of a project. Accountability is only fair and reasonable when, like a good doctor, an agency is allowed to properly diagnose the problem before prescribing solutions. The RFP process effectively neuters qualified agencies from bringing their discovery process and expertise to your project and forces those that choose to participate to blindly diagnose solutions, costs, and estimates without a clear understanding of what challenges may be at play. Hence, digital malpractice.

Your time is valuable.

You don't quite know us yet, but we are highly empathetic people. We would not wish the RFP review process that you're about to go through even on our worst enemies (yes, we're looking at you IE 11 users!). We also know your time is valuable, and you could be doing SO many better things. By not responding, it's one less book you have to read. That should save you and your team a lot of time too, right?

Our time is valuable, too.

If you've ever been on the receiving end of an RFP, you'll know that most of them request participants to understand each business's unique RFP process, format, logistics, and more importantly, the pitfalls that have to be avoided to not get disqualified immediately during the process. This takes a TON of time. While some agencies may be staring at the phone waiting for it to ring, that's (humbly) not us. We are normally very busy and would rather spend our time having real discussions with organizations like yours to see how we can help and support those clients who trust us to help them evolve - so much more fun than jumping through RFP hoops where the odds are grossly against us.

We don’t work for free.

We have a hard and fast rule that we don't work for free. We wouldn't ask that of your team and we kindly ask for the same respect and consideration. At the end of the day, we are a small business, employ a highly trained staff of experts, and the incredibly vague RFP process disrespects both our creative thinking and unique perspective. It asks for free work and free ideas and would force us to prescribe solutions before we fully understand where you are and where we could go together.

Blind dates suck.

Let's be honest - very rarely do one-sided, myopic relationships fair well. On the other hand, most harmonious and successful relationships are transparent, collaborative, and include mutual trust and candor where both sides are happy-dancing the night away. We are picky about who we work with and it doesn't make sense for us to spend weeks writing "War and Peace" (AND make you read it) if we can quickly see if there might be a "fit at first conversation." We need a chance to determine the fit for ourselves. If the chemistry isn't there after a quick chat, let's both be honest about it and get back out there.

We're not a commodity shop. 

We sell "business evolution," not commodities. If you're looking to simply check the proverbial box, an RFP may be the right approach as there are tons of theme hackers, offshore companies, website chop shops, and other cookie-cutter community sites that are happy to give you the same product they have given to all of their clients for years. These are the same tools and approaches that have turned the web into a wasteland of homogeny. If this sounds like what you're looking for, we're definitely not the right fit. If you endeavor to be different and innovative and you're looking for a guide to pull back the digital curtain on ideas that can help your business grow beyond what you ever thought possible, we should definitely chat. 

"How much?" No idea.

Your RFP probably asks, "How much?". It's obviously important, but the honest truth is that no one really knows. Providing an up-front price without a proper discovery will fall into three categories.

Option 1: "Surprise!" - An agency grossly underprices your project to be the lowest bidder. This will inevitably lead to excessive corner-cutting during the project or an onslaught of change orders, and scope increases after you’re engaged. You were expecting that, right? 

Option 2: "Damn, we overpaid." - An agency grossly overprices the project with enough padding for the truckload of unknowns that live in every RFP and never really get answered during their Q&A sessions. Here, some innovative ideas might have a chance to make it into the project, but you'll either be paying way more than you should OR they'll be quickly disqualified.  

Option 3: "The We/They Lose" - An agency tries it's best to be honest and shoot you straight about costs only to later find out the unknowns were a lot larger than anticipated. If the scope can't be increased, the project is gutted of valuable features or the agency takes a bath which often results in layoffs or, worse, closed doors. Both make for a poor ongoing relationship.

We hate mediocrity.

The gift of every creative firm is its "vision" - the ability to see around corners and create something innovative and fresh that solves real business problems. And, like true artists, no two digital agencies will ever see your project the same way or deliver that same product. RFPs stifle your prospective partner's vision, handcuff your project's potential impact, and highly encourage unparalleled mediocrity. They are simply a race against the clock to check all your boxes in an attempt to create an easier apples-to-apples comparison of pieces that have nothing to do with what your project could be.

We believe in conversations over presentations.

Yes, we have a slide deck template (somewhere), but we don't use it that often. As a wise man from Canada once said, "You can be present, or you can present." We choose the former. We choose authentic conversations over presentations of the same materials that currently exist on this website. You really don't want us to re-read it to you, do you? If we're going to help you, we're going to be real, be honest, and need the ability to lead. We guarantee there will be no sales pitch or pressure to buy. The faster we both get to "Yes" or "No," the better.

Your hands might be tied. Ours are not.

We fully understand that you may be required to solicit proposals. It's not your fault, and we aren't mad at you. We just know there is a better way. If your hands are tied, we would strongly recommend taking a small step forward with us - let us help you properly gather the requirements and build the diagnostic materials for your RFP that actually make sense to agencies. Then you can start a procurement process that will be backed by research and data that provides a common ground for qualified participants and more easily allows your team to compare apples-to-apples. 

Looking for a better approach?

We can help.

If you're unsure about what an RFP alternative looks like or how it can make a difference, consider replacing the risky, long-term engagement of your RFP process with our trusted Digital Diagnostic. You’ll come away with an online roadmap that significantly lowers project risk, scope creep, grumpy stakeholders, and sets you up for a successful outcome - even if it's not with us. Guaranteed.

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