Is Your Exhibit House RFP Creating Opportunity or Obstacle?

Posted by Michael McMahon on Feb 13, 2014 10:00:00 AM
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The President's Viewpoint

Michael McMahon Hill and PartnersNew business is good, and we're grateful for our share, however, it is the quality of that business that has shaped our organization. That quality often stems from the original RFP, thoughtfully produced with intentions that go beyond a list of required features and services. More than just a carrot for prospective vendors, the RFP within the face-to-face marketing space represents the framework by which B2B organizations often choose partnerships that will help to shape their success for years to come.

The process is rarely ideal. Recently, I was handed an RFP document that communicated such a high level of distrust in partnerships that I could not imagine why any organization would pursue the opportunity. Within that particular document, the strong focus on limitations and restrictions for the process left little space for our team to show up with a high level of creativity, service and execution. In a nutshell, there was little room for the very things we believe earned us the invitation to the opportunity in the first place.

So before you send out your RFP, there are some checkpoints you may want to consider:

1) Is the RFP an honest communication about what your intention is?

If the goal is to save money on activities, or the current partner is believed to be too expensive, just say so.

2) Are the budget or resource parameters detailed

Productive budgeting activities require a high level of communication and detail around purpose and expectation. What you are willing to spend may get the attention of the sales community, but clarity around purpose and timing behind the proposed investment are what create exceptional results.


3) Are the available resources outlined in the RFP actually available

Budgets provided in the RFP should be allocated for exactly what is being requested. We often experience new information well into the process that clarifies other uses for significant portions of the resources that were mentioned in the RFP. This simply makes the proposed budget resources in the RFP inaccurate.

It’s obvious that improvements in service, cost or ROI should be the byproduct of any new partnership, however, change usually costs some money up front. If you would like your new partner to finance that change, then expect candidates to be looking for a predictable service contract period going forward. 


4) Are you talking about where you’re going or where you’ve been

Past experience and unsatisfactory performance can certainly help clarify your fears and concerns. However, clearly communicating your goals and expectations going forward, will transform both your experience with your B2B partners and improve your results. Expect new partners to perform within their core business, and challenge them to have a measurable impact.

The Request For Proposal document, when you are evaluating a service provider, is the beginning of a discussion with potential partners that will typically lead to several years of partnership. It goes beyond just establishing new business opportunities and a simple invite to participate. In our space, that RFP is the first step in a lengthy dance. 


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