Stop Responding To RFPs and Charge For Those Ideas

Some people may call me crazy, arrogant, or even egotistical for not wanting to give away ideas for free, but the reality is RFPs are a crap shoot...and full of crap. You rarely know who you are competing against. The prospective client may be willing to sacrifice quality in order to save money. They also may only be putting together the RFP for organizational procedure sake, when in reality they already know which agency they like the most and want to award the contract to. There are too many variables as to why you may or may not be selected and when it comes to investing the time, money, and man hours in responding to the RFP ---it is not worth it.

A few years back a former mentor of mine requested that I put together a proposal for a new business venture he and his business partner where starting. I spent a couple days researching, formulating ideas, and crafting campaign call to actions. I bundled together an awesome package deal, which at the time I was really low balling myself. I knew he and his partner had the money to pay seeing they both were extremely well off. I turned over the proposal in which I worked so hard on and I knew that they were going to roll with me on that project.

Then a week goes by and no response. A couple emails sent out to follow up--and nothing. Then about two weeks later I received a call from my mentor saying that they decided not to utilize me for the proposal because it was at a higher price point they were ready to spend. I was a little disappointed, but understanding.

About a month later I began to see all the ideas, recommendations, video concepts, and strategic branding rolling out for their business via social media. Their brand was growing quickly and the business received a lot of awareness. They took the ideas, hired a bunch of college students as interns and payed them with pizza and "experience". What did I receive? ZERO...not even a thank you or slice of pizza! I haven't spoke to the former mentor since.

After that experience I learned a valuable lesson. Ideas have a lot of value when leveraged. I also learned that most agencies don't spend as much time and resources on a proposal unless they know they have a high chance of winning. Many RFP's are responded to with vague solutions and what the company will offer. How does this add value to the prospect?

If business prospects want me to submit a proposal, I now offer what I call a "Project Evaluation".

Project Evaluations are a great win-win solution and offer far more value than your standard RFP response. The prospective client invests a small amount by paying a flat rate fee for us to evaluate their project. Our evaluations includes research, market analysis, and jammed packed with ideas on how to improve their brand or alleviate the pain point they are having within their organization. They are a roadmap to success.

We spend a great amount of time on these evaluations, unlike putting together cookie cutter responses or half ass solutions because we don't want to waste time.

Understanding that often times prospective clients don't know exactly what they need for success, a Project Evaluation is a great way to put them on the right path. It offers an opportunity to build a relationship with the prospect by allowing them to dip a toe in the water instead of cannon balling in and investing five or more figures.

When agreeing to a Project Evaluation we put their investment towards the overall project fee and by doing so they are not spending more than they have to. It increases your chances of receiving the work because you have not only set the foundation of a working relationship, you have now proven your worth, and the client has proven that they value your time and input. If they choose to go else where with the evaluation they invested very little in comparison to hiring for an overall project. They now have ideas and a roadmap to take to different vendors or use internally.

As you can see, it is a great win-win solution. Prospects receive much needed guidance and we are getting paid for our ideas.

These days it is rare that my agency responds to a RFP. We rarely pitch companies beyond doing a simple introduction of who we are, what we do, and how we might be a great partner for them. This may be a foolish perspective seeing we are still growing and have much to prove; however, we value our time. We have had success with the Project Evaluation method and it tends to lead to full projects and better working relationships.

If you are struggling with winning RFPs understand that you are not alone. It is a tough game to play and it is not for everyone. I encourage you to try offering a Project Evaluation and start getting paid for those valuable ideas.

If you are interested in a Project Evaluation don't hesitate to reach out!

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Challenging The System,


Louis Byrd