Why We (Usually) Don’t Accept RFPs

Why We No Longer Create Proposals from RFPs

Why We (Usually) Don’t Accept RFPs

In theory, RFPs sound like a good idea. You know you need web design and development done, so you poll your team, narrow down what you’d like done, set a budget, and set out to find a talented agency that can deliver exactly what you need. Really, it should be the best of a capitalistic system, with agencies competing to do more for you for less if they want to snag your business.

In truth, many agencies — ourselves included — are hesitant to respond to and create proposals for a website development RFP. They’re a great start to the process, but there are many reasons why they’re not great for us in terms of creating a proposal. More importantly, we actually find they’re not ideal for our clients either. In fact, RFPs most consistently produce work that isn’t quite what the client was looking for which winds up driving up costs — and frustration levels — for all involved parties in the long run.

So, while we certainly get the appeal for RFPs, we have several key reasons for not always accepting them — and we think you’ll be more hesitant to issue them once you see our reasoning. 

1. We Prefer to Build Expectations With You

Most RFPs requestors are experts at their jobs, but that doesn’t mean they’re familiar with the website design process. In fact, the more time they spend rocking their job title, the less time they’ll have to research the design process. Unfortunately, this means that RFPs are bursting with assumptions about how the design process works that just don’t sync with how many agencies do things. For example, many require a list of milestones before we’ve even had a conversation with the client. We’ve had far more success when we’ve established these milestones hand in hand together with the client, once we’ve had a good conversation delving into what they really need. We do this work day in and day out, and therefore have many thoughts on how to make this process as smooth, efficient, and creative as possible as we accomplish your goals.

2. What Clients Think They Need Isn’t Always What They Actually Need

We can’t tell you how often it happens: we receive an RFP for a big website overhaul, but it turns out all the client really needs is a few key page changes and a way to add event registration. As designers, we’re asked to provide a quote and a detailed plan, when we know that the solution is just a new microsite with an Eventbrite registration embedded in it. So, what should we do? Provide information on services not actually needed?

Your web designer is an expert in their field. As such, they see the problem you’re encountering all the time, and they likely have a wealth of potential solutions for you that you’re not aware of and therefore are absent from your RFP. What’s more, in getting to know you, your company, and your site, your designer may find a host of other issues that actually take precedence when you really drill down into the functionality that you’re looking for. We have the expertise to help you navigate all possible solutions and the time to do so is BEFORE any pricing happens. In short, your web designer is more like a web therapist — if you’ll let them be.

3. RFPs Are Impersonal

Are you just sending an RFP to us, or to 5, 10, 15, 20 companies or more? Or have you already decided on someone but have to send an RFP out due to company policy? We have no way of knowing how many firms we’re competing against. This wouldn’t be a big deal if we could just whip ‘em off and send ‘em out, but a good RFP is well-crafted, personalized and detailed, all of which takes time. We don’t mind taking time for discovery before giving a quote to a potential client — in fact, we love doing this. What we do need to consider is the cost of investing time and energy into a process that rarely pans out for us, especially when we could be using that time and energy to help the clients who already know and love us, and with whom we in turn know we enjoy working.

This point can’t be emphasized enough: we want to have an excellent working relationship with you. That means making sure that we’re a good fit both in our approach and in terms of our working styles and personalities. Doing so not only makes the process infinitely more enjoyable for all, but also is more likely to lead to a final result that you love. And that is most definitely worth taking the time to get to know each other before setting anything down on paper.

4. It’s All About the Dollar Bills

We get it, saving money is crucial to your bottom line. But a low price isn’t necessarily indicative of the best product; in fact, it rarely is. Design is qualitative rather than quantitative work. While you of course don’t want to pick an agency whose prices are beyond what you can actually pay, it’s important to invest in the intangible value of design. You may never be able to know for certain that your new design made you look more professional to a customer who then decided to shop with you, though many aspects of the value of web design are trackable. You might, for instance, see your bounce rates lower and your conversion rates increase. But even these more quantifiable aspects of design can’t be seen in the RFP; they can only be measured after the fact.

At Alt Creative, we believe in both the tangible and intangible value of your redesign. We know that our work significantly improves the lifespan and success of the brands we work with. For that, our prices are rarely the lowest, which means we rarely win proposals based solely on RFPs, which is why we don’t typically respond to them with a formal proposal.

5. There Are Better Ways to Get to Know Your Agency

Ya know, like conversation. Nothing can help you get a better sense of an agency’s approach to design like simply arranging a phone call to talk it through. It also is incredibly helpful to research an agency’s portfolio via their website so you can get a sense of their aesthetic — something you’d have much more difficulty doing through an RFP.

In Short

Frankly, we’re relationship builders at Alt Creative and we like to get to know you a little before we’re ready to give you a proposal. Our services are custom-tailored to each client’s needs and even the most meticulously laid out RFP leaves out the all-important human element.

So, yes, we get why RFPs sound like a great idea, but we generally don’t take them for two reasons: us and you. We all do better when we can get to know each other and we know what you’re really looking for in a much more personalized and customized manner. So drop us an email, request a quote, or give us a call — and please don’t take offense when we don’t respond to your RFP.

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