Here’s a scenario that most of us can relate to… You’ve been tasked with finding a marketing or website agency for your company. While conducting this search, you still need to complete your day-to-day responsibilities. There are schedules to coordinate, budgets to get approved and quite a bit on the line to find the RIGHT partner.
History tells you to write a Request for Proposal (RFP) in this scenario, but I’m here to challenge that thought process.
As a traditional method of vendor selection, the RFP has its time and place. However, as you have probably noticed, there are some major disadvantages to the process that usually end up costing you time, money and a lot of frustration.
Here are a few other (read: more exciting) ideas to help you find the right partner that meets your specific goals.
1. Strategy Contest
There’s some risk involved in this approach, but in my opinion, it’s worth it. You’ll need to identify the business goal that you’re trying to solve for (lead generation, brand awareness, etc.) and allow prospective agencies to apply to pitch a strategy. The trick here is that you’ll be paying all of the agencies a small amount of money to come up with this initial strategy, and then judge the agencies based on their approach and how they engage with you throughout the process. The winning agency is then awarded the larger project.
This is appealing to agencies because it shows that you’re willing to invest in the process. It builds trust from the beginning and the agency doesn’t fear the uncertainty of investing time and energy into a pitch with the chance of not being selected.
2. Hire an agency search consultant
You’re busy and RFPs are difficult documents to write. There are experts out there who have written hundreds (if not thousands) of RFPs in their careers. They have an established network of agency contacts around the country and can match your goals with the right agency. They take control of the whole process and engage your team as needed, allowing you to focus on your regular role and responsibilities.
3. Interviews, workshops and discussions
This process is most similar to a traditional RFP process, but it ditches the pen and paper a little bit. Too often, organizations judge agencies based on a document. This new approach focuses on constructive conversations about the project, learning about culture fit between the organizations and collaboratively pin-pointing the scope of work.
Once the scope of work is identified through these conversations, there might need to be a step at the end of the process where you’ll need to compare proposals, but good ol’ fashioned conversation should be the focus in the agency selection process.
The RFP is an antiquated, time-intensive process that doesn't necessarily yield the best results. By being creative in your approach to vendor selection, you get an innovative solution that both you and the vendor can be proud of, saving your company time, money and a great deal of headaches.