Death to the RFP

I propose that RFPs (Request for Proposals) be put to death and be replaced with a date. Yes, a date.

Does anyone like RFPs?

I personally have never met anyone who enjoys the RFP process on the client or agency side.


  • Creative services is a relational business
  • The selection process of an agency/creative partner should be decided based on chemistry
  • History has shown, Serif has produced its best work when we have chemistry with a client

If there is chemistry, there will be trust. If there is trust there will be efficiency. Micro-management is eliminated when there is trust. Micro-management comes from fear and fear is the enemy –  good work is seldom produced when fear is in the picture.

So much time is put into creating and completing an RFP. Usually, agencies are filling out the RFP’s for free while working on paid work, not allowing the agency to put their best foot forward. The client side also experiences a time suck too.

It’s a lose-lose.


It’s done because that’s the way it’s always been done. Anytime that is the case… “well, it’s just the way we’ve always done it…” it’s a good time to question it. A good example of this put into is action is the movie Money Ball. Companies often put out an RFP in hopes of getting the best price. However, in my experience, anytime we were beat out by another agency who undercut us in an RFP, “scope creep” would happen and change orders would be put in place, which rendered their low-budget estimate as a ruse. Not cool. If you’re on the client side, save yourself from writing an RFP and wasting your time. Your time as a business owner or marketing director is important. If the RFP process has been shot down, what’s next?


The solve for this problem is to simply stop putting out RFP’s and go on a date. It can be drinks at happy hour, morning coffee, weekend golf, etc. Have a conversation, try to understand each other on a deep level, and see if there is compatibility. If you think there’s a chance you can get to the 5th/truth level of the relationship, it’s probably going to be a good fit to work together. You can only decide that through your gut. It’s an intangible; you either feel it or you don’t.

Just like in dating, you know if that person could be a potential partner within the first 5 minutes.

I say that with the assumption that the agency’s work quality is where it needs to be.

If the client’s problem can’t be solved through conversation because the problem is too complex, then I recommend a paid workshop/discovery session. Side-note: one brand manager I know requested that agencies take 15-20 minutes and create a one pager on how they would solve one of their problems. He said he could tell which agencies took longer than the allotted time. I like that idea.

Start a dialogue and ask questions.


“What are your values?”
“How would you solve X problem or handle Y scenario?”
“Do you understand our target demographic?”
“How have you helped our target demo in the past?”
“Good creative sells; how have your clients seen ROI’s?”
“Why does your agency exist?”
“What brings you energy?”
“How important of a client will we be?”
“Do you price hourly, price per project, or price on value?”


“What are your values?”
“Whose leadership do you admire?”
“Whose marketing do you admire?”
“What promise do you make in the market?”
“Who do you want to be?”
“What value are you bringing into the world or how are you making it a better place?”
“What keeps you up at night?”
“What are the mandatories for the campaign/project?”
“If budget weren’t an issue, what is the dream project/campaign?”


I hope this challenges your worldview. If you’re a brand manager considering an RFP,  perhaps consider having a conversation instead. If you’re an agency who receives an RFP, ask to have a conversation instead.

If this blog post kills at least one RFP, I believe I have made the world a better place. Now go out there and put some RFP’s to death, build chemistry, and produce world-class creative.



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