RFP Software: Why you need it, and how it can help.
Undeniably, the RFP process is the most hectic, stressful, and intense part of an ad agency’s life.
Teams are wasting hours, weeks, and even months, pouring through old work looking for appropriate examples and case studies to answer hundreds of redundant questions. The RFP response distraction consumes an agency’s best resources, and is often met with wasted, unproductive time, too often resulting in failure to acquire a new customer.
As discussed in a recent Forbes article, the reality is, the RFP process is changing with the evolving marketing landscape. Client teams no longer have four to six months to choose a new agency, rather, agency selection is moving towards more rapid, real time collaboration between client marketing teams and potential agency partners.
This is the reason why so many of the RFP software solutions have failed in delivering meaningful efficiencies, and ROI.
To date, most software providers have built workflow tools assuming the same RFP process that existed during the Johnson administration. This long and arduous, step-by-step process yielded itself quite nicely to this workflow management type of software, which transitions the responsibility from one team member to another, in sequential fashion. RFP questions are assigned to different members of the team, answered, collected centrally, and then sent out for approval and further iterations by members of the planning, account and creative teams. Often, these solutions assume the presence of a corporate librarian, to upload, edit, and manage all the content needed for the many disjointed answers to the disjointed portions of the RFP. The software mirrors the dated processes, but the times have suddenly and abruptly changed.
Today, given the rapidly changing, accelerating, real-time-all-the-time landscape, marketing teams need solutions in a matter of days. Agencies are quickly finding themselves ill equipped to deliver quality in the shrinking time frame. The corporate librarian position, in most cases has all but evaporated, as too, has a minable and accessible, shared archive of previously created relevant content. In the event legacy content is discovered, chances are, the work is outdated and irrelevant, due to rapidly changing business conditions.
In the current rushed climate, what is believed
to be the most creative and strategic resources are being pulled into new business pitches in a disorganized fashion, leaving behind the best ideas and content, buried in an ever increasing number of possible locations. The digital age has unintentionally left in its wake trap after trap, tomb after tomb, full of what could be an agency’s breakthrough idea.
The people responsible for running RFPs in agencies, ie the new business team, are left with some serious challenges that RFP software providers need to address, namely: attrition, globalization, and time.
Attrition and Institutional Memory Loss
The corporate librarians have left, and they have taken with them their steward-like responsibilities. Once upon a time, these librarians organized, curated, and updated complex hierarchies of content, using implicitly agreed upon naming conventions, created by the new business community. Back then, people worked in their respective agencies for years, and as a result, the arbitrary systems lived on and prospered.
As of late, the incredible attrition across agencies (with particular focus on new business teams) has rendered these the naming conventions obsolete. No matter how organized one team member can be, a constant influx of new members has made finding and implementing archived content a chaotic task. Bios, case studies, RFP answers on methodology and approach, are being buried deeper within aging folder hierarchies, that can only be understood by it’s creators, who have long since left! The frustration and disruptions that take place during hours of fruitless search, have begun to inflict an acute toll across new business teams.
Globalization and Deep Expertise – Teams of Increasing Distribution
Marketing clients are highly distributed. Companies are doing business across the globe, expecting their agency counterparts to follow suit. As a result, marketing clients also expect agencies to possess pockets of deep expertise around not only business problems, but technical capabilities as well. This requires a way to rapidly tap the right pockets of knowledge, in addition to the right people, globally, all while the RFP response time window ticks and closes. Valuable materials are subject to blockage by international firewalls that exist in the infrastructure. E-mail attachments are unsuited for the large images and assets prevalent in the ad space. Knowledge, then, is not just locally buried: it is locked up in silos of geographies and disciplines.
Too often, there is a failure to foster enterprise wide awareness to fresh work, work that could make a pitch truly impactful.
Time – What’s at stake and why time matters.
As the window for RFP responses shrinks, agencies are left with a decision, to optimize for quality or quantity. In this environment, running a high quality RFP response is growing more complex every year. Now, agencies are forced to select just a few RFPs per year. Each RFP can make or break the agencies revenue numbers, not to mention, reputation.
Alternatively, the agencies relying on the old systems of RFP management, are delivering cookie cutter work that is also failing at winning new business.
Given this tension, it is clear that agency systems of RFP management are ripe for innovation. The willingness and appetite for change has been increasing in the last few years, (quotes from our customers), and the software and tools need to follow.