Contrary to the popular belief that the request for proposal (or RFP) process is the bread and butter of most purchasing departments, many web designing and marketing agencies are simply taking a pass on it. Why? Mainly because agencies now realize that there is another side to the “opportunities” that these RFPs supposedly offer.
Most companies require web design and marketing agencies to send a request for proposal before hiring their services. While some firms are genuinely interested in finding the best partner, these are formalities for many organizations who have already shortlisted their agencies. So how do you know their real intention?
Besides, it is tough to crack a deal. You are not the only agency receiving these long, nicely organized RFPs that scream money and opportunity. Several other agencies have also received the same document and are probably ready to put their best foot forward.
So without even bothering whether RFPs are good or bad, we prefer to pass most of them, regardless of the perceived opportunities that they boast about. Instead, we enjoy working with businesses that are exciting in terms of work scope, budget and long-term relationships. Although we look for opportunities that offer all three, those with one of two of these factors excite us as well. But as said, we prefer to overlook RFPs that fail to promise any of these factors.
Business Opportunities that Excite Us
At Imaginovation, we look for clients who are clear on their scope and messaging, open to discussing budgets during the RFP process, and have a long-term vision.
As a web designing and digital marketing company that thrives on innovation, we are enthusiastic about brands that are exciting to work with. Brands that are ready to redefine the status quo and experiment in their ways not only to gain market attention, but also to create a legacy ignite our passion.
Such projects get our team members excited and they spend hours working to prepare high value strategies that meet the requirements and the bottom line of our clients.
In addition, we really enjoy working with clients who are ready to discuss the budget right on Day 1. And why not! We, like any other businesses are here to grow and new business prospects excite us both in terms of money and growth opportunities. Evaluating the budget is therefore an integral part of our workflow before getting into the RFP process. And there are more than one reasons why budget matters in the RFP process. Consider the following:
- It helps us to understand the scope in terms of affordability and flexibility
- It gives us a clear picture about how the client is hoping to spend their money and what they expect in return
- It helps us prioritize our efforts to help clients achieve their objectives
Truth to be told, projects that have significant budget offer more room for brainstorming, igniting creativity and using better resources. With that being said, we do encourage brainstorming and creativity in projects with smaller budgets, but the focus remains on customizing the strategy in such a way that it fits the budget.
Unfortunately most RFPs don’t disclose budgets, thinking that it will kill cost saving opportunities for the company.
But do you really think web design and marketing companies like ours change their rates based on your budgets? Absolutely not. Even agencies that offer cookie-cutter solutions often have a pricing page where you can get a fair idea of how much your project is likely to cost. As for the best-of-the-breed companies that offer customized solutions based on your business requirements, the difference in budgets can at the most change the volume of services.
It therefore makes no sense for clients to shy away from disclosing their budget range in the RFPs. In fact, clients who do it the other way around allow us to respond more effectively and accurately to their request for proposal.
Finally, we look for new business opportunities that allow room for long-term relationships. For us, it is utmost important to understand our clients’ brands and their target audiences. We strive to create a win-win situation where our clients’ success paves the way for our growth and success. If the ongoing client relationship isn’t profitable from the very beginning, it is hardly a good venture to invest in.
RFPs, on the other hand, aren’t designed to establish long-term relationships. They only speak about the business requirements and opportunities. But when you focus more on trying to build ongoing relationships, it better serves your interests as well as reputation in the long haul.
Building a Healthy, Long-Term Relationship with Clients
And now for the view from the other side. If you’re an agency, here’s what it takes to make sure you choose and retain the best clients, and build lasting partnerships with them.
1. Know Each Other
Honestly, we don’t follow a traditional pitching process. While business relationships are formal, we focus more on the human side while we make connections with potential clients. We aim to forge a partnership by understanding their goals, objectives, needs, dreams, core business problems, and business dynamics in order to find out how we can help them. We look for shared values that invariably lead to long-term partnerships.
2. Get Real
Having just a personal touch during the RFP process is not enough to build a long-term relationship. Sometimes you need to get into a real project, albeit a short-term one, to understand the compatibility and show your real value. We often suggest our potential clients to go for a beta test before moving ahead on a major project; doing a small test project allows them to assess our capabilities and get a better idea of the value we can provide. No false promises involved.
3. Be Transparent
Winning the pitch is just the beginning of a healthy, long-term relationship. And transparency is essential here, irrespective of the outcome. It plays a key role in fostering a sense of mutual respect. For example, if you think the project’s scope or requirements are beyond your capabilities, but you really want to work with the brand, it is better to be upfront. Tell them about both your willingness and your limitations. Maybe you won’t get the project at all, but you will earn their respect with your honesty. Chances are, they might offer you a part-project that is within your capabilities or approach you later for another project.
The goal is to be clear about your intentions. Also, don’t make false promises based on unverified data in terms of costs, time and resources – even if you win the pitch, you are more likely to mess up during the execution process.
Sometimes, it is better to let go of some opportunities if they fail to serve your purpose. Always be clear from the start during the proposal stage to save both sides the time and money. Also, choose only those opportunities that you can pursue diligently. That’s how we work. Of course, acquiring new clients and business growth are important to us, but we want to do it the right way.