The Most Critical RFP Step? Following Directions!

We’ve written at length about proposal writing and responding to RFPs, but many smaller ad agencies simply lack good practices for writing or responding to requests for proposals. So here is a big-agency example of why understanding the proposal /RFP process is so critical.

Never Assume the Incumbent Gets a Free Pass

McCann Worldgroup held the marketing account for the U.S. Army since 2005. In January 2017, the Army posted an agency review notice, because they are mandated to periodically hold an agency review. But McCann, having recently won an EFFIE for its Army work, wasn’t concerned.

Maybe a little concern would have been good.

McCann just got cut from the review at the proposal stage. Why? Apparently, they didn’t follow instructions.

The RFP required submission of certain information in an Excel spreadsheet; McCann submitted a PDF. People “with knowledge of the matter” told AdAge that there were other technical issues as well. McCann has filed a protest.

The potential loss of an account estimated at $30 to $40 million in annual revenue of course means they are protesting. Maybe their elimination is just the result of bureaucratic BS. Still, if you were going up for a piece of business worth that much, wouldn’t you be more careful about following instructions to the letter?

Step One in the RFP Process: Don’t Get Eliminated!

A slapdash proposal response indicates to the client that complacency has set in at the agency that failed to follow basic instructions. McCann may have assumed their past record would allow them to slide by some of the requirements. Did they feel entitled because of their long relationship? Whatever the reason, they didn’t try hard enough—and telegraphed that “we don’t have to try” attitude to a valued account.

Not an ad agency best practice.

We’d assume heads will roll at McCann, and not just those responsible for screwing up on basic RFP instructions. Many others will lose jobs because the account was lost.

If you are pursuing RFPs regularly, or are currently assembling proposals, take steps now to ensure that your efforts will not be wasted through sloppy process or simply overlooking a requirement. Read RFPs carefully. If you have questions, contact someone at the client offices to confirm the correct requirement. And if you make an error that gets you eliminated, learn from that mistake and be even more careful with the next RFP.

The RFP process is laborious and too often unrewarding. Make sure you pursue RFPs that are actually worth the time and effort. [link 1880] Most important of all, don’t get eliminated because you failed to read the instructions. [link 1882

See also:

Writing the Proposal: Part 1 – Developing Standardized Procedures

Writing the Proposal: Part 2 – What You Want to Achieve

Writing the Proposal: Part 3 – Taking Pen in Hand

Proposer Beware!

What Kind of Proposal Wins?

We Respectfully Refuse… Declining an RFP


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