As a creative I understand and appreciate the need for a good RFP. And how rare a ‘great’ RFP is. When I saw that there was a panel called “OMG YOUR RFP IS KILLING ME!” I immediately started running to Hall B to see what insight the panel has. Right away I liked the diversity of the panel. Someone from both the agency side and client side. I’m thinking, man will this panel be a back and forth of the good and bad of RFP development. Perhaps a heated debate where the agency is pushing for more information from the client and a stronger position. While the client is battling for more strategic thinking and more alignment with their brand messaging. So I hunkered down. Hoping for the battle to begin. And I waited. And waited. Soon I realized this wasn’t going how I’d hoped.

It was a bulleted powerpoint presentation on breakdowns of time and cost of RFP’s and what the return is or could be based on your RFP efficiency. Their bland white slide with black type Power Point deck was meant to be a call out to how bland RFP decks typically are. If your agency is doing this type of slide formatting you may be lost. Didn’t resonate  for me. As I continued to watch the slides and discussion, I soon got over my disappointment of not seeing the Agency vs Client battle ground. The information I was being fed was still relevant.

The case study they provided was insightful as they talked about the RFP being not only project requirements but cultural snapshots of the target audience. I’m glad they pointed this out. For me as a creative I may not be the target audience. The  RFP should help give me some insight into that audience. It’s necessary and will lead you to having not just a good RFP but a great one. I would be willing to bet the agency’s your sending that RFP out to will give you better ideas and better strategy. Which should make it easier to choose who you will assign the job to.
The more I soaked up the information the better the payoff. Some other great insights include

“Limit presentations to 4 agencies vs. 6″  - This to me is so true. Nothing’s worse from an agency perspective that knowing your going up against a large number of agencies. The smaller to pool, the more likely you’ll be able to differentiate yourself.

“No spec work!”  -  It was nice that they pointed this out..If you mention the word creative in the RFP. I can tell you the agency is going big on the creative work. That means near close to final spec work in the presentation.

“Be open: Ask if it’s really worth your time to respond. Are vendors with existing relationships under consideration?” – This is an interesting point. I like the gusto of being forward and realizing that it may not be the best fit client. And asking them why they came to your agency is a good way to understand if you are really in the running or just on the list to fill a certain number.

In closing it’s a good reminder of how I should approach SxSW. It walked in with a clear preconception of what I wanted to see on a panel and came out pleasantly surprised and informed. I have a feeling this is going to happen a lot in Austin over the next 7 days. I need to be a sponge not a brick. I’m truly excited to take this insight back to my agency and our New Business pitches and how to better understand the RFP and give us a better chance of success. I’ll post some of the slides below from the panel and hopefully you can get some insight from them as I have.

“A personal relationship at the end of the day is better than a paper one.”