Why are RFPs still around?

LONG gone the days when agencies could make a living by simply responding to RFPs, preparing proposals and presenting their pitches to clients. For many, it’s hardly worth the time.

Yet Requests for Proposals still exist – and it’s a wonder how they’re still around, considering the lack of what is called SOW (Scope of Work): an essential set of details for those who are pitching for events. 

As an agency, the more detailed the SOW, the easier it is for the account executive to come up with a proper proposal. 

On the flip side, if the SOW is so well developed, the client probably knows exactly what they want, and they might even have a good idea as to which agencies can deliver.

Under the RFP mechanism, prices are so competitive that it’s sometimes not even worth the time to respond.

For agencies, the best unique selling proposition is to get to know their clients better than the clients know themselves. Yes, it sounds like a mission impossible, but it’s not so hard if the agencies have the correct mindset, experience and culture. 

More… Working to tight event deadlines

I remember when I was asked to deliver a high-level opening ceremony. The only brief I received was “can you come up with a proposal on the rundown, gimmick, performance, F&B and budget?” There was no date, no content, no officiating guest, no preference, no visual, not even the event name was confirmed.

I thought I had the impossible task of issuing an RFP to invite agencies to bid for this job as the ceremony’s event manager.  As it turned out, the agency identification process was complicated, but the decision was easy because one of the bidders had done their homework long before I issued the RFP. 

In fact, the agency that was awarded the contract knew exactly what problems I was facing and had a solution for me as they had faced similar situations in the past. Their pricing mechanism was so flexible that they were prepared to work with me every step of the way in getting my bosses’ final approval in shaping the ceremony’s every detailed decision.

More from Roy Ying…

In short, the agency didn’t just earn money on the final production of the ceremony. There were plenty of man-hours and design fees that I ended up having to pay throughout the process of brainstorming, proposal revision, preparing documents for presentations to my then bosses and, of course, many ad-hoc items.

Yes, the final price tag was a lot more than the initial quotation, but that's because we had to engage the agency for additional service outside of the SOW. However, the agency was very smart in listing down a pricing schedule for lots of optional items.

With the proper approval and procurement process, the additional fees were considered well spent. Instead of complaining about the price tag, I ended up thanking the agency for a job well done.

Roy Ying is a senior corporate communications manager with a blue chip company

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