Why we don’t respond to RFPs

If you’re reading this, it’s likely because you’ve sent us an RFP, and either myself or Luke has sent you here.

We’re sure you have good reasons for sending it, and we respect your need to avoid wasting time on agencies that may be unsuitable for your business goals. But we won’t be responding to your RFP, and we’d like to explain why.

1.    We’ve had to make some tough decisions to get our priorities straight.
While we understand that you want to make an informed decision and that this process seems like a good way to systematise that, we need to manage our internal resources. A while ago we decided that writing a dissertation on our company, its history, and its services is a poor use of those precious resources.  

In fact, it’s worth asking serious questions about the priorities of agencies that happily complete every RFP that comes their way. That’s time they could be spending on client work, marketing, or admin.

It’s also worth noting that we’re not the only agency that will turn away an RFP, which means this process of selection often limits your search to agencies that are happy to do this – in my opinion, not a quality that correlates with great work. 

2. We let our work speak for itself.

We’re incomparable. This isn’t a value judgment: we don’t want to sound like one of those half-arsed student bands that genuinely thinks they invented listenable music. When we say “incomparable”, we mean it in an objective, literal sense: impossible to compare.

We’re not going to try to get “awareness” and just sort of hope everything falls into place. Some agencies are really good at getting companies in The Times, and see the business side of things as a little outside their remit. That’s fine, but it’s not us. To compare what we do to what other comms agencies do is a bit like comparing apples and oranges, or oranges and pancakes, or pancakes and steak tartare. They all fall under the aegis of “food”, but they all taste very different.

We’ve chosen to focus on campaigns that provoke sales and growth, because these are usually the highest priorities for our clients. That means we focus on lead generation, search engine rankings, click-through rate, and other metrics that are proven with facts and figures rather than Smiley/Frowny Face emojis.  

When we say we’re going to deliver results, we’re not talking about getting your company featured in the Telegraph, firing off a series of pithy tweets, or writing a really interesting blog for some authoritative trade website.  Those things might be part of it, but they’re not the point. We commit to providing tangible improvements based on your stated business priorities – and you’ll be able to tell whether we’ve done it or not. If we don’t think it can be done, we won’t take your money.

If that’s not quite what you’re looking for, we won’t take it personally. Sometimes you’re just not in the mood for pancakes. But we find that the best clients for us specifically want what we offer, and are happy to work with us to achieve their objectives. An RFP is a clear and unambiguous indication that you want to hire any competent agency and not us in particular.

The thing we’re really good at – and the thing we like doing most of all – is helping our clients grow. It’s important to everybody here that you’re better off for having used our services. We’re not interested in giving you what you can get anywhere else: it’ll bore us, and it won’t impress you.

3.    Our sales process delivers value to you.

Plenty of companies claim to be “comms” agencies, but, practically, this means they do a few things to an acceptable standard. We do a lot of things to a high standard: PR, SEO, content, inbound marketing, social media, and PPC – amongst others.

Furthermore, most other agencies don’t have an in-house video production team, and those that do tend not to have in-house scriptwriters and animators. We do.

So, when we take a potential integrated client through our sales process, we’ll talk to them about a number of these specialist areas and how they relate to their specific business needs. Some of what we talk about may be obvious, some won’t have occurred to them – either way, they come away knowing more than they did before. 

Our sales process is labour-intensive and highly consultative: even if you don’t end up working with us, you’ll get more value out of simply talking to us than you will if we painstakingly fill out an RFP and you painstakingly read it.

Because the plain truth is that RFPs are a waste of your time too. They’re full of statistics the people writing them think are relevant and promises the people responding to them think a prospective client wants to hear.

Both are wrong. Agencies shouldn’t have to contort their services to fit the impossible specifications of a client; and clients shouldn’t have to expend energy writing these specifications in the first place.   

We’d love to work with you; we’d like to see if what you want and what we can do are compatible (and we’ll do so by developing an outline comms plan during the sales process). We’d be happy to take phone calls, answer emails, or even use instant messaging services. If you only communicate in semaphore, we’re sure we can arrange something. But for the reasons listed above, we won’t be responding to any RFPs.

It’s not a good fit for us – and when you think about it, it’s almost certainly not a good fit for you.

Wanna ditch RFPs for good? Check out our guide to appointing a PR agency – or talk to TopLine founder Heather Baker!

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