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Leadership / Jun 7, 2018

Marketing RFP? Probably not, but thanks.


Geoff Wasserman

Shopping around a marketing RFP? No thanks…But wait. Let us explain why.

No, not because we’re arrogant or don’t need new business. We’ve won RFPs. We’ve lost RFPs. We’ve been the right choice and the wrong choice over the years. Hell, we’ve even written RFPs for clients, and helped them respond to hundreds of their own in their industry.

But here’s what we’ve come to believe and learn over the years: What you get them with is what you keep them with. In fact, we only want one kind of new business and we’re adamant on staying away from any other kind, to protect our culture, our loyal existing clients, and quite frankly our sanity. We want healthy, inspiring, relationship-driven new business. Just because an opportunity for new business is high-paying, high-profile or high-growth opportunity doesn’t make it the right opportunity.

We want to work with and for clients who have the chance to learn who we are, who we’re not, how we respond when we drop a ball, how they respond when we drop a ball. We want mutual respect, ownership of accountability, and seamless and transparent communication.

Over the years, we spent many a late nights (time we should’ve been spending with family or dreaming of ideas for current clients) responding to RFP’s, and anguishing over “I wonder what they mean by….” And, “I wonder why they don’t think they need…” and, “…That’s odd, why would they ask for that service if they haven’t spent the time….”

And then, one day, our leadership team was reflecting over Thanksgiving break about the great relationships we’ve been humbly thankful of being able to have and be trusted advisors and teammates—not vendors—with over the years. And there it was, between the sweet-potato casserole coma and the turkey-and-dressing nap with an RFP due in one week…the AHA moment.

What other healthy relationship starts like this? The meaningful ones don’t. Any time a process is initiated by “I know what I need, I know how I need it and here are my rules, let me tell you what I want and what you need to do if you want my check,” we believe that’s the beginning of an unhealthy relationship.

So we celebrated that RFP as a win. We celebrated, because we decided not to participate in relationships that don’t start the way the ones we covet begin, the ones we cherish, the ones we protect and over-serve.

Good news…there are plenty of good, quality firms out there, doing great work (we’re happy to send you a short list in fact!) who would gladly respond. They write really good RFP’s, and they actually deliver good services too. But we won’t be one of them…we don’t believe you can run as fast as marketing needs to run in the 21st century if you start the relay race handcuffed, in shackles, or not really, really knowing the people you’re handing the baton back-and-forth with on the journey.

And, we believe that the “magic” that forms the foundation of every exceptional agency-client relationship, just like any meaningful relationship, happens in the initial discovery time together. The work will change, but trust, honor and collaboration can’t be vendor-ized.

So if somewhere along the way reading this you’ve had a change of perspective, and you’re at a decision-level in your organization to call off the RFP, or have the courage to tell your boss it’s an antiquated, flawed strategy to choose such an important partner for your business…call us, THAT’S the cup of coffee we can’t wait to have.

Oh, and if we changed your way of thinking after reading this, and you still don’t choose us…well, there’s a lot of incredibly talented groups out there who do what we do, so go with the one that had the chops, the talent, the passion to move your needle, and with whom you felt that connection, that, “Man, I wish I could work with them but the boss said we have to get 3 bids.”

Do it. Buck the system, change the status quo; your vision and your company are worth it.

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