Watch Out, Brands – RFPs Aren’t the Answer You’re Looking For

Watch Out, Brands – RFPs Aren’t the Answer You’re Looking For

Rob Vermillion

We get it. Your brand is experiencing challenges or wants to seize upon a significant opportunity, and you don’t have the right resources in-house to tackle them. 

The common answer? Prepare an RFP and send it out to expert firms. 

After a couple of decades in this business, we’re here to tell brands what we all know deep down inside – RFPs suck. Here’s why:


RFPs are impersonal.

In preparation for a significant investment in your brand, do you really want to make a partnership decision based on an aggregated set of written answers from 3-5 firms (heaven help us if it’s more than that!)? Do you really believe you can make an honest and informed decision based on a handful of written responses to your questions? Let’s put things in human terms – there’s tremendous benefit to at least having a get-to-know-you coffee, and a more intimate dinner before we decide to date. 


RFPs are time-consuming.  

For the sake of any brand trying to evolve their brand in a meaningful way, usually at a rapid pace, RFPs are such a time suck. And that time isn’t simply an investment by the firm answering questions; it’s a loss of productivity overall. Just recently, we endured an RFP process laid out by a prospective client who’d been freshly acquired by a much larger entity. The sheer amount of time it took for us to answer their questions, the inevitable time it took them to review multiple proposals, and the drawn-out meeting scheduling with a disparate group of stakeholders eventually put us all in a timing pickle. By decision time, we no longer saw a reasonable path forward to hit the prospect’s unwavering due date. What could we have done in those all-important weeks and months instead to service the real needs of the brand?


RFPs are a gamble.

RFPs, while often comprehensive in their brand narrative, project brief, or other supporting information, often lack in some of the most consequential areas – areas that are far easier to discuss through conversation, like budget, key decision-makers, personalities, and an honest assessment of the organization’s ability to support their brand’s own lofty goals. Clearly, a brand can benefit tremendously by gleaning a first-person understanding of a firm’s inner workings through personal interaction. A point of reference for our perspective is the sheer number of brands that we’ve worked with who went through a lengthy RFP process, only to be disappointed or underwhelmed by the outcome. When we enter the conversation at that point, we find a much more revealing, honest, and vulnerable brand that’s ready to do some real listening rather than prescribing their own solution.


So what’s the alternative for brands thinking about RFPs? 

Simple: find a handful of expert firms and have a conversation. You’ll get to know the people and begin a relationship from a position of mutual understanding and trust, unlocking the full potential of your creative partners and letting you shine in your organization.