BOO! Fear’s Role in Agency Selection (And How to Man Up)

Guest post by:

Joel Goldstein, President, Mr. Checkout Distributors

Requests for proposals (RFPs) are a necessary evil. From the issuing company, the standard questions and uniform sections make it easy to compare PR, ad, marketing, branding and digital agencies to one another. However, RFP’s are often rigid, uncreative and either more or less detailed than they need to be.

As an agency bidding on an RFP you don’t always understand why another agency is chosen over yours. Well, here’s the unfortunate truth.

Having been on the other side of the table I’ve seen that the major driving emotion for choosing an agency is fear.

All too often businesses make the wrong decision because they fear the unknown; a small agency they’ve never heard of. Or one with an edgier brand than they’re used to. Or one that’s located in another state. This fear is so overpowering that the RFP issuer feels compelled to go with what they know – their comfort zone. Perhaps that’s an agency they’ve heard of before, or one that a friend has recommended. In either case, a decision based on emotion is almost always a poor one.

Unfortunately, I’ve learned this from experience as a consultant with UpDog and as the president of Mr. Checkout Distributors. I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly.

Don’t let fear be the basis of your agency selection. Issue a better RFP using a platform like Agency Geek and educate yourself. Learn and understand everything you can about the agencies that are up for the work. It all starts with the RFP. Here are my top five pitfalls for businesses issuing RFPs based on my experience.

Unclear Requirements: Having unclear requirements can cause some of the agencies bidding on your project to provide artificially low bids that will quickly estimate with the inevitable change orders that will occur. It is human nature to go directly to the lowest bid; however, doing so on an RFP does not often mean the lowest cost to the company as the agency may lack the experience or ability to deliver the results.

Overly Complex Requirements: In contrast, when RFP’s are overly complex in their writing agencies tend to submit bids that are much higher due to confusion. If a business uses complex language to define less complex services, agencies will often err on the side of caution when placing their bid. Consider not only the bottom line but also the team that you will be working with, as your time and lack of frustration are also valuable at the end of the day.

Ambiguity: Fuzzy RFPs lead to fuzzy bids from agencies. Make sure that when you submit an RFP it doesn’t have language that uses metaphors, similes or broad examples, as that will lead to confusion and the possibility of higher quotes on your RFP. When ambiguity is in an RFP, often the strongest candidates decide not to bid as they may not see that your project would be a good fit for their skills.

Overlooking Delivery: Smaller contractors often get dollar signs in their eyes when looking at big project RFPs. These smaller shops may place a lower bid on the work thinking that they will grow and hire based upon the client needs. This often leads to the clients being directly affected by the agency having to hurdle business scaling issues, size restraints and inexperience because the bid was low. Occasionally these bids turn from good to bad when the inability to deliver turns into a lack of capability from the agency. If your bidders weaknesses aren’t discovered during due diligence, you may not learn about them until it’s too late…

Lacking Important Legalities: When projects and relationships go south, the contractor and contracting business often turn to the agreed upon “letter of the law” in contracts to find the answers. Having the foresight to add clarity to the legal terms in the contract during the negotiation process can prevent time consuming and costly legal issues in the future. Keep in mind certain areas such as: where the mediation or court case will be held, requirements that certain notices must be sent via registered mail or change orders that must be approved by certain individuals in senior management. Knowing the legal details before you tackle a project can give you piece of mind, save your relationship and perhaps your reputation.

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