Saturday, March 7, 2009

Building Consensus One Byline at a Time

Yesterday, I continued my crusade to fix the client/agency RFP process by publishing my POV in iMediaConnection. iMedia cover stories are typically extended pieces broken into tiles for easier consumption. Mine clocked in at a svelt 1,850+ words across 5 tiles. Here's the first...

10 ways to improve the client/agency RFP process

By Aaron Goldman

Article Highlights:
-Here's why it's time for the current RFP to RIP
-Will compiling a master list of how big each agency is and who they serve help solve the problem?
-How can we streamline the process behind all the RFIs, RFQs, RFPs?

Having spent more than 10 years responding to client and agency RFPs, I've come to the conclusion that the RFP should be renamed "CYA." While the intention behind the RFP is good -- creating a structured process whereby solutions can be evaluated objectively -- the execution is not. And it is often a complicated, time-consuming process in which firms wildly overpromise and are judged largely on price.

For the client, it's truly CYA, with rigid scorecards that allow all constituents to rate agencies and determine a winner. For the agency, it's another form of CYA altogether -- as in "See ya! Sold you the dream, now here's the team."

Typically, the formal RFP process plays out as follows:

The client scans lists of AdAge rankings, RECMA billings, or the Gunn Report to determine 15-20 shops they want to consider. The client issues an RFI for agencies to fill out some basic info, and agency new biz teams respond.

The client whittles the list down to five to seven shops to receive an RFP. The client sends questionnaires for the agencies to complete, along with requests for case studies, reels, references, etc. Each agency new biz team pulls client service, strategy, and creative personnel off billable accounts to compile the deliverables.

The client, or more appropriately, the client's scorecard, determines three finalists. The agencies trot out executives, senior strategy personnel, and anyone with a Ph.D. for the final presentation. The agency shows spec creative, media plans, and fancy dashboards. The client and agency haggle over scope and price. The client awards the business. Both sides feel slighted. The agency scrambles to staff the account.

The client rinses and repeats every three years, and to quote the "Mad Men" character Roger Sterling: "The day you sign a client is the day you start losing them."

Needless to say, it's time for the current RFP process to RIP. The following are 10 ways I think we can improve the system.

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