April 10, 2014
As the director of new business and relationship development at Fastspot, I’m here to happily respond to your inquiries, write you a proposal, and present capabilities to you. I know very well that, in most cases, I won’t be the only one doing so. You have a choice to make when it comes to selecting an interactive firm.
But the truth of the matter is this: I’m not in it to win it. I won’t chase your project for the sake of “beating out” the competition. In some cases, I won’t chase it at all. I’m not a hunter. I’m not a shark. I’m more of a matchmaker. You should be, too.
It’s my job to introduce my team, explain what we do well, and start to explore what we might do for you. Beyond that, I’m here to tell you that Fastspot is as fun as it is smart, that there are more artists here than you would expect, and that having a bulldog around the office is an excellent stress reliever. We’re more than our portfolio.
It’s my job to try to understand you - a prospective client - just as deeply. I’m reading between the lines of your RFP, picking out pain points and signs of trouble. I want to understand the problem, and maybe help you articulate what the problem really is. I’m trying to get a sense of who you are: your vision, your style and your sense of humor.
I approach new business this way because to me (and to the rest of my colleagues here at Fastspot) a “win” isn’t about winning. It’s about finding a client who fits. A successful project includes mutual respect, shared vision, and a commitment to common goals. A really successful project includes people we like working with, and would like to work with for years to come.
If you’re considering hiring Fastspot, or any creative or consulting firm, I encourage you to work just as hard at finding a good fit. Don’t just ask if we can do the work, ask if we’re right for your team. If you’re willing, think about this:
- Pre-qualify your potential partners. Before you get started, spend some time talking to the people who you might want to work with. Make sure there’s agreement on the big three: budget, timeframe, scope. You don’t need to dig into every detail at this stage, but if you’re envisioning a two month project and one prospective partner thinks it’ll take ten, then you’d be wise to focus your attention elsewhere. If a few firms start to feel right, let them know you’re interested - it’ll help ensure that they’re just as interested in you.
- Keep an open mind. If you approach a creative agency with rigid, explicit parameters for a project, you’re not giving them much of a chance to show you how creative they are. You’re basically giving them a series of check boxes, and all they can to do is check the boxes. If you leave room for ideas, feedback, and collaboration, you’ll get much more interesting proposals, and you’re likely to learn something from every one.
- Apples to Oranges is OK. Don’t be too focused on getting a set of completely standardized proposals because you want to compare apples to apples. It’s the variance in the proposals that’s really going to tell you something about the companies you’re considering. It’ll take you more time and attention to evaluate the proposals, but it’s better to put in the time now than to sign a contract and realize that your new partner can’t get you where you need to go. Get your apples but go ahead and throw some oranges in there, too. Maybe a papaya.
- Consider skipping the RFP. Not everyone has this option, and that’s ok. I’m one of the rare people who actually likes reading and responding to RFPs, so if your organization requires one, send it on over. But I don’t believe that an RFP is the best way to find a great fit between client and agency. RFPs can actually act as barriers, restricting communication to a very sterile, formal exchange, when what’s really needed is…
- Talk, talk, talk. A creative agency isn’t selling you a vacuum cleaner. We’re essentially offering you ourselves. You should choose to work with people that you respect and agree with. Hopefully also people you enjoy. The best way to find them is just to talk to your potential partners. Invite your best prospects to meet you in person, or better yet, go to their offices. Ask them blunt questions. Be prepared to answer some as well.
As you go through the process of selecting your partner, I invite you set a high bar. Not every firm that can build a website is going to be the right firm to build yours. Don’t settle for less than a true partner. We won't either. Who knows? This may be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Photo credit: M Kasahara