5 things to consider before sending out that RFP
I’m fortunate to see dozens of requests for proposals in my inbox every week. They arrive in a variety of formats and lengths, but the gist is the same: “Can you help us solve this problem? Tell us why you think you can do it.”
I’ll save for another time the age-old debate about how RFPs should be a thing of the past, and focus on a recent trend: Brands seeking digital transformation that go through an entire agency selection process and then are unable to kick things off.
It’s a bummer for all parties involved—including us agency folks who love what we do and get (very) excited about tackling your toughest problems. So it’s vitally important to ask a few questions before pressing “send” on that RFP email.
What is the single, simple and measurable goal we are trying to achieve?
Building a new application or site has a ton of complexity. There are multiple disciplines and people collaborating across offices and time zones. Knowing the impact you want to create not only provides clarity for internal and agency teams, but allows for you to assess different responses.
One recent RFP in the restaurant space stated the goal was to “digitally transform.” Ambitious? Yes. Specific? Not so much. It left us wondering if the company needed an end-to-end overhaul of its operations and systems, or just a new mobile app.
Another RFP from the same category asked for 30 percent uplift in mobile sales for 2020 (yes, we’re all competing against UberEats now). This specificity enabled our team to quickly rally around a measurable goal and build our case from there.
Is everyone on the RFP bus?
I read “Good to Great” early on, and used Jim Collins’ bus metaphor (“Get the right people on the bus”) more times then I care to count, because it is critical for the shared success of an agency and its partner.
It’s one thing to have differing opinions, but it’s not helpful to have colleagues who are not on board with the project, don’t see the benefit or are not going to be invested in bringing on a new partner.
Once, when a hospitality group sought a new mobile-first experience, its IT department ran the brief due to the technical dependencies. After our first onsite, it was clear not everyone was even aware of the brief or project.
As someone who loves to push initiatives forward, I appreciate the spirit of getting in a room and building a plan. However, this approach might cause strife for your agency partner and get things off on the wrong foot with your coworkers.
If your team isn’t already on the bus, let your agency know. We can align stakeholders by showcasing similar work and its results. The extra step will be well worth it in the end.
Do we have the people we need to do this right?
Product development is not easy. While your partner might be able to take on most of the workload, you’ll still need to pitch in. When a grocery startup recently asked for a quick turnaround on experience design to their mobile app and a website, it was easy to panic. However, its senior leadership dedicated a head of product management (with product owners for each work stream), a project manager to keep the day-to-day on track and another to ensure cross-collaboration. Our team breathed a sigh of relief.
This enabled us to work without disrupting daily operations, to stay on track, to collect and consolidate feedback and involve the right stakeholders at the right time.
Your team will have to juggle assignments. In addition to normal duties, for instance, team leads might have to dedicate up to 25 percent of their time to review and collaborate on project work. If you’re building a new site or app, you’re going to need new content, for which you’ll need support from your content team.
Can we afford this?
Investing time is one aspect of planning. Budget—always a touchy topic—is another.
It’s OK to ask about pricing upfront to get a sense of overall costs. In fact, I love chatting with clients about the landscape of choices, in order to find a good fit for their needs.
It’s frustrating for all parties when there’s a lack of transparency. Scoping out technical applications can be labor-intensive. While exploration is part of the process, be sure to have an honest answer about what you can afford, and if that budget is available to spend.
One media company director, who recently reached out for a new website (back end, front end and global), was doing all the right things to improve a poor user experience.
It was clear that the work was still not fully budgeted. After providing typical costs and similar types of work, the director huddled with her team and earmarked the entire budget for the following year—all in less than three days.
Selecting a partner and project you can afford saves tons of wasted time and frustration.
Are we ready for indefinite change?
Launching a new product is not the end, but the beginning. With true transformation, change will be your constant. You’ll experiment with features, segments and variables and get real-time feedback from customers. Be sure you and your team are ready to learn and quickly adapt.