Is it really RFP time again?!

Calling all Event and Exhibit Managers! Does the thought of issuing a Request for Proposal (RFP) fill you with dread? Jon Powell, Account Director at Bray Leino Events shares his top tips to get you ready for RFP success!

So, you’re exhibiting at a major trade show – your name, your companies’ brand and profile are all out there. You need to find an Events Agency, it’s time to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP)… cue the panic that often ensues!

Does this feel like it’s something you know you really should do, but would REALLY rather avoid?

Don’t worry, you are not on your own; it’s the same headache shared by those who manage exhibitions and live events around the world. It can feel like such a chore; it’s just so much easier to go with who you know.

But without measures and testing, this leads to diminishing returns for your events and relationships.

The logic behind the RFP process is well understood, and it works! Yes, it’s there to both protect and add benefits to your company, but importantly it also protects and benefits you!

Showing that you have followed a structured RFP process demonstrates to you and your Directors that due diligence has taken place; finding the right event partner will benefit all event stakeholders.

So, aside from your briefing document, which Jim, our Creative Director, covers in his recent blog, just what are those tricky first steps to RFP success?

  1. Write down exactly what you want from your Agency partner. Sounds obvious, but so many don’t. Make it challenging, put in your dream wish list, ‘if you keep asking for what you have always had, you are going to get what you have always got’.
  2. Sweat the Chemistry – you are going to be spending a whole lot of time with this Agency. Will they help you grow? Will they support, will they challenge, will they show you something new? Will they be there when stakeholders move the goal posts, are they transparent in their dealings?  Target proven award-winning collaborative Agencies.
  3. Place your RFP on a solid and level base. Give ALL of your participants the chance to impress you. All Agencies accept that an RFP is a competitive process and will spend a huge amount of time in creating original work to share with you. Any bias during the RFP process invalidates it completely, making a nonsense of the whole thing, which ultimately benefits no one.
  4. Do your research. If time allows, issue RFIs (Requests for Information) and hold credential qualifications. The investment you are about to make on your event, in cash alone, is worth a little investment in time to make sure you have selected the right partners.
  5. Narrow down your list of prospective Agencies based upon value and breadth of service. Do not base your choice at this stage on perceived price or geography. Do not also base it on perceptions of expertise in your own industry sector. Your chosen Agency needs first and foremost to be a proven expert in targeting and connecting to an event audience.
  6. Cut down those who will receive your RFP to a maximum of 4, one of which will be your incumbent. This gives you the opportunity to compare and assess everyone fairly without it becoming too overwhelming a task.
  7. And remember. The agencies you go to want to impress you, so give them enough time to do your brief justice. Plan your RFP timeline well. Both you and the agencies are investing time and resource and you want to maximise the outcome, so the more time you give them the better response you will get.

And finally, once you have had all proposals in…

…Be Brave!

Events are high exposure, intensive, time-constrained activities, BUT are proven to be the most powerful and successful of brand engagement media available to marketers.

The very worst thing that can happen by following this process is that you spend time finding out you already have the right events partner for you. However, the very best thing that can happen is that you find a heady world of new creatives bursting to show you how they can make you, your event and brand a resounding success.

Jon is an Account Director at Bray Leino Events and is based in our Stratford-upon-Avon office.