RFPs and strategic thinking

Business works best when designed around specific parameters of a market situation. For example, I’d advise against taking another company’s social media participation policy and adopting it wholesale. Or seeing a Facebook sweepstakes idea and running the exact same program, even if you’re in a different industry and geography. Or using a photo of your customer service team as your Twitter avatar because your industry competitors are using that approach. You may be thinking, “of course not.” So then why copy-and-paste a RFP without customizing for your own needs?

Buyers of social media services have benefited from the work of Maggie Fox‘s Social Media Group and creation of a Social Media RFP template. Unfortunately, too many lazy buyers have misused this source material; in the words of SMG themselves:

the Social Media RFP template is too long, has too many questions, and many clients and purchasing departments are simply cutting and pasting the content with little or no thought about their actual needs.

If you think the term “lazy” seems harsh, then why would smart companies be asking for credentials in podcasting, del.icio.us, and virtual worlds? Last time I checked, Second Life wasn’t high on any marketer’s list of priority platforms. Taking this kitchen sink approach is a disservice to both buyer and seller.

I’ve always been an advocate of creating solutions when uncovering issues – stay tuned. In the meantime, I’m interested in hearing about your experiences with social media RFPs from either side of the table.

Caveat emptor? Caveat venditor.



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  1. As someone who has been the new business lead for a social media agency for the last couple of years, I have to wholeheartedly agree when it comes to SMG’s template RFP. It’s got some great questions in there, and is generally worth a look for a brand who might be exploring social for the first time. But too often we’ve received poor copy/paste jobs from that template which betray a lack of either effort or understanding on the part of the client.

    In an ideal world, the client should be hiring a true partner and not just looking for a short-term campaign agency, as Steve notes in the previous comment. But even if you are sourcing for a shorter-term effort, take some time to ask questions about how the agency works, what makes them tick, where have they truly seen successes (and setbacks) on projects that are closely related to what you’re trying to do (i.e. don’t ask about social bookmarking experience…). Be creative, ask what matters, don’t just toss a laundry list of “just in case” questions out there.

    Nice post Peter.


  2. Hi Peter, Interesting post. In my past experience as Strategist helping “Idea to Cash” for many industry verticals i feel no matter what platforms we propose fundamental issue is many folks in enterprises are in the deep in the forest with their day to day tasks that very few think outside the box. So the burden of RFPs is left on outside consultants like us, so may be those consultants needs to push as “influencers” towards helping these enterprises adopt the social mediums to extract the needs/pain points. As the enterprise folks see the value in action, may be they go step further and use these tools beyond just making RFP. Now question arises, do the consultants they choose know what they are doing? as old saying goes If you ask right question, you get right answer, otherwise garbage in garbage out and in my experience many times they will choose wrong party for the right job. Example if you doing Strategy initiative and choose Accenture you made a mistake and vice versa. Hence can social mediums influence formulation of right questions ? i would see that a tremendous value from social medium and the final result example imagine a consultant post output desired and enterprise folks or project champion helps frame questions to derive that output.

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