RFP: Request for Pain

In some industries (building highways comes to mind), RFPs are unavoidable and necessary to ensure that the vendor has the equipment and resources to deliver the work as required. But why do so many hospitality & tourism execs think exhaustive RFPs are the best way to find the right vendor partners?

In some industries (building highways comes to mind), RFPs are unavoidable and necessary to ensure that the vendor has the equipment and resources to deliver the work as required. But why do so many hospitality & tourism execs think exhaustive RFPs are the best way to find the right vendor partners?

The RFP process is an antiquated method for bringing nuts & bolts vendors to the table to compete for your business. Now, it certainly is a healthy exercise for your company to articulate your needs to outside agents in a clear, succinct document. But the final request is often unrealistic; many RFPs demand deep planning and insight, in-person presentations (thousands of miles from home) and mind-numbing written submissions that kill entire forests.

Imagine if you asked 20 accountants to describe in excruciating detail how they would handle your taxes BEFORE you hired one of them... Or, if you asked numerous doctors to meet with you to diagnose your ailment and only get paid if you liked what they said! You probably wouldn’t get many quality doctors to participate. And the same goes for other outsourced professional service providers; there’s just no way that any worthwhile firm can divert meaningful time away from paying clients to meet the criteria of many of the draconian RFPs being circulated.

So why do so many firms actually participate in these RFP cattle calls?

Two reasons:

1. They don’t command enough respect to win the business on reputation/previous work

2. They believe they can put forth the absolute minimum viable effort and still win the business

So what’s the solution? How do hospitality & tourism companies toss out the broken RFP process and find quality vendors?

Here’s a few suggestions:

– Who did that?

When you see work being done for competitors or peers that you think is good, find out who did it… and call them first. Chances are, they see things the same way you do. And you already know you like their style and methods!

– Look under the hood:

In the digital age, vendors are transparent. You need look no further than their website, LinkedIn or Google to get an inside look at the potential vendor’s capabilities and personality. Almost every RFP requires the same typical boiler-plate information that you can easily find publicly on the vendor’s web site. These items usually include information on leadership, team members, company background, client roster, awards, current portfolio and any social or news presence. If you can’t find it online, then just ask. Check out the vendor’s Facebook page carefully, you may discover their principals have a lot in common with you… or they may not be a good cultural fit for you at all!

– Talk to the specialists:

If you had a problem with your toe, would you go to an eye specialist? Find vendors who specialize in your sector/geography/industry… Why pay a new vendor to learn your business when someone else has already gained valuable insight into your business category? A vendor working specifically in travel and tourism should have volumes of previous work experience and the clients to show for it. Looking at what an outside firm is doing for your peers should give you a solid feel for their capabilities and understanding of the market.

– You get what you pay for:

Over the years we have learned that it takes a significant investment of time to understand our clients’ business in order to produce work that has a measurable impact on their business. Don’t expect to get much value from the ideas in any RFP response… the vendor is assigning it to junior-level staffers and fitting it in between paying clients! This is why its increasingly common to pay a professional services firm a small fee to provide an initial discovery document outlining their plan or developing conceptual ideas. Dipping your toe in the water first can go along way to establishing some trust with the agency and putting value on the agency’s work product.

– Get a room.  

When it is all said and done, it’s about the people and the relationship. Get both your teams in a room together. Take a trip to the vendor’s office or invite them to yours. Have lunch. Get to know each other and share ideas. Discuss your business and the vendor’s philosophies. This will level the playing field and give both sides the opportunity to see if it is a good fit. After an hour or two together, you will easily know whether you can work with those folks or not.

If you are currently preparing an RFP, consider the thoughts above and avoid asking dozens of vendors to join a frivolous cattle call. Break away from traditional RFP processes that result in low quality responses and high quantities of wasted time. The dynamic that is established early on will set the tone for a healthily and long term relationship with the vendor you ultimately choose!

About Tambourine: Tambourine is an ROI-obsessed marketing agency driving demand, revenue and brand awareness for travel and leisure clients since 1986. The Company creates inspiring digital experiences and engaging campaigns that produce measurable results. Based in South Florida and New York City, Tambourine recently received Gold and Platinum Adrian and Magellan awards, the largest and most prestigious travel marketing competitions, representing this year’s top marketing campaigns from across the global hospitality industry.

We are the instrument many of the world’s most advanced marketers use to create a steady beat of traffic and revenue growth. We provide a 360º integrated marketing program that delivers predictable ROI and a sustainable sales and marketing rhythm for your brand.

Learn more at http://www.Tambourine.com

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