Let me start by stating, there are some cases that a RFP makes sense. However, those cases are outweighed by situations that an honest conversation with an agency would do a lot of good.
When does a RFP make sense?
What are you going to get in a RFP response?
Most of the time in a RFP response a client is going to get a very pretty document that is heavy on filler content. The meat of the proposal will concentrate on the agency’s approach to solve client’s problem with tight scope around a discovery / planning exercise and loose scope around execution.
Why? From the agency’s perspective, to provide a thoughtful solution for your ‘ask’ will require a Discovery exercise (consulting gig). Without this exercise, recommendations may be weak and estimates skewed. Interactive is complex. Client’s environments, marketing teams, personalities, stakeholders, legacy source material, and requirements are even more daunting. Often a Discovery exercise is a great way for teams to ramp-up, provide thoughtful recommendation while mutually controlling risk - for the client not signing a hefty SOW for the full execution without ‘dating’ the agency first, for the agency this time period will assess if the client is a good fit or not (crazy).
I would be cautious with any agency that claims after reading a RFP they have all the answers. This likely means one of the following things will be the result of the project. First - the agency will run out of money since they didn’t have an accurate picture of the ask or scope. You will have the option to pay them more money, scale back scope (get less) for the same budget, or some combination of these two. The second option is the agency is much smaller than they’ve let on or the really need the business. Winning your account will help them grow, however they might not have full-time resources on your engagement or the processes / infrastructure to service your account well. In other words, what you save in cost might add additional risk to project or long-term relationship.
RFP vs. No RFP
Whether RFP or no RFP, the process comes down to:
For me personally, I think a client with realistic expectations and budget should engage an agency directly. You’ll get more ‘free’ consultation, have more face time with agency leads that will likely be shaping your project’s strategy, and have a higher likelihood of confirming you’re solving for the RIGHT problems. RFP responses often turn into a one-sided conversation led by agencies that miss the mark on real marketing conversations that need to take place.
Also consider asking agencies to show their work with you 1x1 instead of having to write about it. Agencies in this setting may be able to walk you through work that they can’t share publicly or in a RFP response (work that is under NDA or still in progress). I think it is more powerful hearing in person the nuances of projects, how agencies structure the work and complete the work from the people that worked on the project. Otherwise you’re in a situation to have to read through paragraphs of copy that may or may not tell the story in a way that best connects with your needs.
If you are still issuing a RFP, please consider:
Something To Noodle On
My first digital gig was for Resolution Media, a search engine marketing agency headquartered out of Chicago. My previous boss, Aaron Goldman, wrote an interesting blog post that breaks down the RFP process quite well. He has some great insights on why the system is broken and some ideas on how to make it more efficient.
Earlier this year, I was blown away when watching a nature program. It was incredible how camera technology has progressed. The documentary was shot from a bee’s perspective by attaching a feather-weight camera to the insect and tracking its flight. This is quite an advancement from two decades ago lugging around my dad’s Betacam that weighed more than a toddler.
As cameras continue to evolve, opportunities will increase to tell stories from unusual perspectives. I’ve included below several YouTube videos told via the perspective of:
Well before my nerdy girl crush on Jane McGonigal, gamification of experience has been a topic of interest to me. So when I heard about BigDoor this past year, I was very excited to see a start-up with a smart solution that could be integrated with clients’ existing content.
Seattle-based BigDoor was founded in 2009 by Keith Smith and Jeff Malek. During a call with them earlier this year, I learned they boast past lives in the publisher space. Their solution provides gaming technology to non-gaming sites.
BigDoor’s goal is to provide the means for an overall healthier and happier internet ecosystem. This means more enjoyable and relevant time online for users, and more creative revenue opportunities for businesses. When employed skillfully, gamification builds a strong bridge between user desires and business objectives, making the internet a more desirable and valuable place for everyone.
BigDoor is accomplishing this goal by developing a virtual economy platform that helps web developers and digital publishers add customized game mechanics to their sites or apps, thus allowing them to increase user loyalty, better monetize user interactions, and more effectively target new and existing customers.
As an industry, gamification has come a long way since we started our company two years ago. Today we see predictions that by 2015 70% of Global 2,000 businesses will have a gamified app (Gartner, April 2011) and the gamification market will reach $2.8 Billion in US by 2016 (M2 Research, September 2011). At BigDoor we found the concept of using game mechanics to engage communities online to be really compelling. What we see as being truly meaningful to an audience and creating deeper brand loyalty is our utilization of directed user engagement experiences that enable users to earn rewards that are valuable to them.
Keep an eye on BigDoor as a leader in the gamification pack for big brands and publishers into 2012.
Although WinMo phones represent a small market share, its Metro UI is gaining momentum.
As of September 2011, 2-in-5 Americans own a smartphone according to Neilson. Of that smartphone audience, only 7% have a WinMo phone - trailing Android 40%, Apple iOS 28%, and RIM Blackberry 19%.
Despite market share numbers, one of the most innovative aspects of the WinMo phone experience is its Metro UI - a series of tiles that present real-time updates of content pulled from users’ apps like weather updates, Facebook notifications, etc.
In the desktop / tablet world, Microsoft announced Windows 8 will pull from the WinMo UI experience. Win8 will feature a new start screen that is a wild departure from the current desktop icons and horizontal navigation bar with start button to launch menu. Win8 will leverage the WinMo phone Metro UI that includes a “personal mosaic of tiles” that pull content from users’ applications and data feeds. Watch video on YouTube here by the Microsoft design team explaining key features.
“The Start screen is not just a replacement for the Start menu—it is designed to be a great launcher and switcher of apps, a place that is alive with notifications, customizable, powerful, and efficient. It brings together a set of solutions that today are disparate and poorly integrated.”
Alice Steinglass, Microsoft, Core Experience Evolved Team
In September, Microsoft also released the SDK (software developers’ kit) for language EN. To read more about the project, visit their Building Windows 8 blog or see Tech Radar’s detailed review of key features.
Feedback and reviews have been mixed:
Metro’s informative tiles are pretty nice for keeping you up on emails, new tweets, the weather, upcoming calendar events, and so on—it actually makes a cool screensaver, of sorts.
“Latest of a number of failed attempts by Microsoft to turn the Windows desktop into more than just a place to store files.”
“Another feature demonstrated was integration with social media and cloud services. We were shown how Microsoft’s cloud brings together contacts from different sources such as Facebook and Windows Live, and how Microsoft’s SkyDrive storage lets you share content.
The review version of Windows 8 with Metro was clean and responsive on the developer machines, and based on a quick look, Microsoft really has created a version of Windows that works properly with touch control.”
Microsoft acknowledges there is room for improvement:
“There are things we’re still working on, that aren’t yet finished in the Developer Preview. For example, we know there are bugs in interacting at high speed with the scroll wheel on the mouse, and we’re working on fixing these. We’re also adding the ability to instantly zoom out with the mouse and keyboard, and we’re looking at ways to make scrolling faster and easier. And, we are working on fixing a bug in the Developer Preview that causes inconsistent and slow page-down/page-up behavior. We’re also looking at making rearranging more predictable for mouse, keyboard, and touch.”
Alice Steinglass quoted in CNET
Metro UI has all the elements of where the market is going:
Metro UI also drives hope for Flash community’s future.
“We expect Windows desktop to be extremely popular for years to come (including Windows 8 desktop) and that it will support Flash just fine, including rich web based games and premium videos that require Flash. In addition, we expect Flash based apps will come to Metro via Adobe AIR, much the way they are on Android, iOS and BlackBerry Tablet OS today, including the recent number one paid app for the iPad on the Apple App Store, Machinarium, which is built using Flash tools and deployed on the Web using Flash Player and through app stores as a standalone app.”
Danny Winokur, Flash Platform Blog
Side note: I did some digging for sources of inspiration of the WinMo Metro UI. The Microsoft design team cited King County (Seattle) metro signage (pictured below) as a major source of inspiration.