Madison Ave. Collective

est. 2008

As a healthcare marketer, you long to be top-of-mind when someone is looking for a new provider. You strive to get these patients in the door and harness decades-long loyalty.

You know that cultivating a healthcare branding strategy will help you stand out in the marketplace, attract new patients, and top-notch physicians. But when you receive requests for a slew of tactical materials, the importance of branding gets lost in the noise.

Do the following, and you will be well on your way to crafting a more strategic brand for your healthcare organization.

1. Do your research

Before launching a complete brand overhaul, you must conduct thorough research. To use a healthcare analogy — must treat the cause, not the symptoms.

Only after gathering qualitative and quantitative data can you progress to pinpointing your brand strategy.

When Samaritan Health Services selected Madison Ave. Collective for a regional public health awareness initiative, we analyzed comparable campaigns, interviewed their leaders, and talked to doctors, patients, and health administrators.

This information directed every decision to bring the PainWise initiative to fruition. We’ll take a closer look later on.

2. Brand positioning: Think you’re a leader? Think again.

A quick scroll through the positioning statements of the top hospitals in the U.S. reveals the majority claim to be “leaders” and “cutting-edge.”

If your organization is also claiming to be a leader, you’re not alone — and that’s the problem.

We get it. Your positioning statement likely evolved in a committee comprised of your marketing team and hospital’s leading physicians. They want to be innovative leaders, and that’s what made the cut.

To truly differentiate, you need to think long and hard about how you can distinguish yourself in the healthcare industry.

By looking at the overlap of your services and attributes, your competitor’s offerings, and market needs, you will distill your brand position.

From this, a consistent, strong message that resonates with internal and external audiences will evolve.

For instance, maybe you’re the only provider for a certain demographic in a specific region. This powerful claim, matched with aligned services, will communicate a beneficial difference to the patients you want to reach.

3. Brand experience: Consistency is key

A key part of your healthcare branding strategy is to ensure your values are communicated through every single touchpoint.

If you claim to value patients, but keep them on hold for 10 minutes on the phone, guess what — you’re killing your brand.

The phrase “patient experience” has been floating around the healthcare industry for a few years, but there is still room to grow.

A recent Forbes article warned that start-ups, such as Circle Medical Group of California, are quickly filling in the gap where long-standing providers are falling short.

By improving your organization’s online experience with a user-friendly website, patient portals, and online scheduling, you can start to bring your desired brand experience in-line with reality.

4. Brand story: Bringing your brand to life

Your brand story isn’t about you. It’s about how you relate to the patients you serve.

You may be impressed with a staff physician’s research, but that isn’t tangible to a future patient. What is tangible is how that research was applied to help cure a patient’s disease.

For example, research is a significant focus of St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, but it isn’t the focus of its brand stories. Instead, the children who benefit get the spotlight. Web content focused on children and their stories brings St. Jude’s brand promise to life.

5. Brand identity: All of the pretty things

A brand identity is comprised of the messaging (tone, word choice) and visual elements (logo, colors, font) that consistently represent your organization.

To be successful, it must be rooted in research and tightly aligned with your brand position.

For PainWise, we distilled a core message of hope for those who are overcoming opioid addiction.

To represent this visually, we selected photography that communicates hope, chose shades of blue to express trustworthiness and cheerfulness, and added texture to acknowledge the pain experienced by patients.

6. Brand activation: Walk the talk

An often overlooked but essential element of a successful brand strategy is the collaboration of your internal stakeholders. Your physicians, receptionists, and other team members are the real-life expression of your brand. They must understand and support your brand so they can share it authentically.

One way to activate your external audience is through a marketing campaign, such as a brand ambassador program.

For example, the Mayo Clinic invites past and current patients to be a “Mayo Clinic Champion.” Champions (aka brand ambassadors) are encouraged to share their story and advocate for other patients.

Once you have these six areas dialed in, you’ll be on your way to having a solid brand strategy. Developing a brand strategy for your healthcare organization provides you with standard operating procedures (no pun intended!), so the next time your physicians ask for a new logo iteration, you’ll be armed with an informed guide to make the best decision for your brand.

You’ll also be able to protect your brand value, stand out from the competition, and recruit new patients.

This article is also published on Medium.

Last summer, Forrester Research made an observation. Times are changing in marketing, and thanks to the recent flood of digital channels, social activity, and mobile tech, CMOs are “taking on significantly broader, and often unfamiliar, responsibilities.”

Nearly all (96 percent) feel that the breadth of skills required for success these days has “increased dramatically.” Almost half (44 percent) said they struggle to “find the right combination of people and skills in the job market.”

The struggle is real in healthcare, where hospital and group practice administrators strive to protect quality of care, manage finances effectively, and market their organizations — all at the same time.

Sometimes it’s practical to handle all this in-house; sometimes it’s not. Sometimes the difference isn’t clear. So how can you tell when it’s time to outsource your healthcare marketing strategy?

1. You’re in a moment of change

When in the midst of an organizational transition — growing, expanding into a new market, or launching a new service — it’s vital to have the focused attention of a specialized team to guide you through the change successfully. An outside marketing partner will bring a larger perspective at a time when your focus is quite reasonably divided and supply you with the expertise you need at a sensitive moment.

2. You’re facing a short-term challenge

When you have a project on the table that’s larger than your team is set to handle, or when the deadline requires faster results than you can typically deliver, outsourcing is an excellent fallback.

3. You can’t see the big picture

There’s a difference between healthcare marketing tactics and a healthcare marketing strategy. Tactics are the hands and feet of your marketing effort. Strategy is the brain.

If your team tends to jump into tasks without thinking about the big picture, it’s time to take a step back. You may be headed in the wrong direction. Your efforts may be scattershot. You may get a better return on investment by redirecting or tightening your focus.

Bottom line, when you’re up to your neck in details, a strategic partner can lift you above the mêlée and help you direct your effort where it counts.

4. You need new ideas

Maybe you’ve got a solid marketing strategy in place — but you’ve hit a rut, and you need some fresh thoughts. Maybe the strategy that has served you well for years just isn’t pulling its weight anymore, and you’re not sure why. Or maybe you just need an expert’s input on a particular challenge.

When coming up with new solutions is the sticking point, it may be time to see what an external strategist can do for you.

5. You’re at capacity

If you can think of a thousand things off the top of your head that you’d love to be doing with your marketing, but despite your best efforts, you have yet to fit them in, you’re at capacity.

There are several options in that situation. You could allow your healthcare marketing strategy to remain where it is. You could make a long-term decision to expand capacity by adding new hires to your team. Or you could outsource. Which option is best?

  1. It’s okay to leave things as they are if your current approach is working for you.
  2. Hiring is an option if you have the budget and facilities to support the new position long-term, if you can find the right candidate from your talent pool, and if you can bring in enough new hires to manage the amount of work you need done.
  3. Outsourcing is the right choice when the scope of the work is larger than your new hires can handle, when you don’t have the budget or space to make the long-term commitment of hiring new staff, or when you’ve determined that a short-term engagement with a marketing agency is simply more cost-effective.

Case in point: our client Samaritan Health Services has an in-house marketing team, which capably handles their day-to-day needs. They call the MAC when facing special projects like PainWise, a regional public awareness campaign that Samaritan launched to raise awareness about the opioid epidemic. Having provided the original branding, naming, and strategy for that effort, we continue to serve as the task force’s strategic arm.

6. You want to know the costs upfront

When you need to protect your endeavors from budget-creep, outsourcing can serve as a strategic tool to contain costs. In-house projects may sprawl, but your external marketing partner will set clear parameters around the project and hold it on track, so you’ll know in advance what will get done, at what cost.

7. You can’t tell whether or not it’s working

An experienced agency will provide more than expertise and follow-through. They’ll also help you set achievable goals with metrics in place to evaluate project success.

That’s important, because metrics are your flashlight. A healthcare organization might employ the best marketing tactics in the world, but without metrics, they’re shooting in the dark. This type of uncertainty is hard to live with, long-term — and there’s no reason to. Your marketing strategy is an investment. If you don’t have the vantage point from which to measure its return, consider looking for someone who can help turn those lights on.

8. You need to rebrand

There’s a reason they call it “identity.” Your brand defines who you are, what you do, for whom, and why. To answer those questions is a gigantic undertaking with major business implications, and it calls for a dedicated and experienced team of professionals to do it right.

If an upcoming rebrand is part of your healthcare marketing strategy, make sure it’s in good hands. At no other time is outsourcing more important.

The eight points we covered above are just examples. But as you may have noticed, they do represents a few common patterns. To put it briefly, the outsourcing question boils down to this:

When needs like these arise, consider outsourcing your healthcare marketing strategy to a trusted partner.

This article is also published on Medium.

If you’re a project manager looking for guidance on finding the best creative partner, or a procurement specialist looking for ways to streamline your company’s policies, this book will help you to navigate your search and get
results that will provide the return on investment you need.

Love ’em or hate ’em, Request for Proposals (RFPs) are standard practice for many non-profit, higher education, and government organizations, and this leaves project managers with few options when they’re purchasing tangible goods or professional services.

If this is your first project lead, make sure you know your organization’s regulations and purchasing limits. Be aware of all your options. With professional services like design and website development, there are lots of reason to avoid an RFP.

But if an RFP is your only option, there is a right way to conduct the process.

Developing the RFP

Here’s how to develop an efficient RFP for professional services that gets you better results in less time.

1. Establish an effective team who can get on the same page about the project goals. Honest feedback and effective collaboration is an essential part of working with a team. Differences of opinion can be helpful for honing in on the goals and needs of your project. But you must manage the fine line between constructive discussion and derailing disagreement. Don’t be afraid to trim the fat from your team if you have a team member who disrupts the flow of the process.

2. Provide context for the project. Once your team is established, you need to determine the key elements of your RFP. These are important to the responding firm’s ability to develop an effective proposal that meets your organization where you are and solves your problems. These items include:

3. Determine your budget. Some people believe that keeping your project budget a secret from potential respondents helps you to get the best deal.What it really does is hamper your ability to find the partner who is the best fit for your organization. If you hide your budget you will inevitably get responses with a wide variance in cost, experience, and ability. This means more time on your part to evaluate proposals that you’ll never select because of the cost or lack of fit. You will also have wasted money on the part of the firms developing those proposals just for you to throw them out without real consideration.

Clearly defining a budget or at least a budget range allows firms to decide if they can provide you with an effective solution to your problem within the given budget. Those that can will write proposals, and those that can’t will self-select out which saves both parties time and energy.

After setting your budget, instead of focusing on getting the best deal (i.e. price), focus on getting the best value. In other words, focus on identifying the firm who is giving you the most return on your investment given the budget limitations by evaluating the combination of deliverables and quality of work they are offering to complete for you.

If you truly have an open-ended budget for your project, then your team should determine the value of this project to your organization.

These are just a few examples, but all of these questions will help you to determine value and establish a budget. That budget will help all potential partners determine if they are really the right fit for you.

4. Determine respondent requirements. Once you’ve clearly articulated your pieces of the RFP that help to educate the respondents about your organization and the particular project, it’s now your turn to get specific with a few requirements for the responding firms that define how much control your team wants over the creative process, and what you need to see from them to determine best fit.

Be clear about what you want from them, but be respectful of their time. We all know the old adage that “time is money” and RFP responses cost time to develop and evaluate. To be efficient, your goal should be to develop an RFP that is as efficient as possible while still sharing all the information a firm needs to respond. Requirements you should request include:

Of all of these, the most important piece to consider here is whether your team will outline the statement of work (i.e. the solution to your problem), the process, and the timeline for the project, or whether you will simply identify the problem and let your applicants outline these other elements (the process, timeline, and ultimate deliverables) for you.

The benefit of the first option is that your team has control of how you want the work done, and the deliverables you receive at the end of the process. The negative is that when we identify our own problems and solutions we often bring preconceptions to the process that blind us to alternative solutions that may better serve us. This is magnified when dealing with technology because innovation is constantly happening, so you may not even be aware of other solutions that are available to you.

In “Expository Sketch is the New RFP,” Stanford University Technology Strategist Zach Chandler provides good insight as to why engaging your partner firm in helping to solve your problem is essential to successful projects.

While Chandler advocates for doing this outside of the RFP process, if you must seek this problem-solving expertise within the RFP framework, the firm’s response will also give you insight into their process, creative vision, and strategic thinking abilities.

5. Gather any additional information needed. Depending on your project you may consider asking a few additional questions beyond those outlined above. But don’t ask for frivolous requirements, documentation or intrusive information that has no real bearing on your project.

Examples of these frivolous requirements and questions that the MAC team has seen in RFPs include (but are not limited to):

Tell us about a challenge that you’ve faced and overcome.
What project would you like to re-do?
What’s one question we should be asking and haven’t?
After providing a fixed cost bid and an estimate of hours needed to complete the project, please provide a breakdown of each individual team members estimated hours and hourly rate.
Please provide project budgets and scope for similar projects you’ve completed for other clients.

Some of these questions are a waste of time for firms to respond to and your team to read the answers to. This only serves to distract from the only elements of the RFP that truly matter: the quality of the work, the process, the timeline, and the total proposed cost.

As for budgets, the only thing that should really matter is whether you think the work being done for you is worth the price the firm has placed on it. As with all businesses, as a firm does good work and grows, inevitably so will their internal overhead costs. It’s unfair to the firm for your team to try to nickel-and-dime them for the same rate they charged a client five years before. If your team feels the quality of work being proposed is worth the price tag being attached, then the creative firm should have the freedom to distribute the funds how they see fit.

Soliciting proposals

Once you’ve written the RFP and have a solid foundational idea of what you are looking for, it’s time to reach out to potential partners and solicit responses.

Some organizations require you to post an RFP publicly, but many allow you to distribute your RFP selectively to pre-qualified firms. While selective distribution requires some upfront research on your part to identify prospective partners that fit your project requirements, it also provides you with tighter control of the process, shortens the required evaluation process, and eliminates wasted time developing proposals from firms that you’d never actually consider to complete the work.

If you’ve failed to scope the project correctly, or underestimated the project budget given the type of firm you’d like to work with, selectively soliciting bids will also help to identify these issues because your prospective partners will politely decline the invitation to respond.

If you can selectively distribute the RFP, your distribution list may include as few as 2–3 firms or as many as 20 depending on your objectives. The general rule is that if you don’t consider the firm a serious contender, don’t send them the RFP.

Make yourself available to answer questions

Depending on your organization, there may be ways in which your communication is legally limited after the RFP has been distributed. At the very least, you should conduct a pre-proposal conference call where firms can ask you clarifying questions to make sure their proposals are on point.

If you’ve limited the pool through selective distribution and you’re legally allowed to, consider answering individual emails and phone calls. This will allow you to quickly and effectively answer questions, establish a relationship with potential partners, and get insight into their process and attention to detail.

Evaluation and selection

If you’ve done a good job outlining the RFP and soliciting proposals from prequalified firms, the evaluation process should be simple and efficient because you’ll already have a narrow, focused field of responding firms and a clear guideline for how you want to evaluate the proposals.

When you’re writing your RFP and establishing timelines, your team should also internally pre-schedule proposal evaluation meetings as part of this timeline. The last thing you want to do is receive proposal submissions and then spend two weeks trying to nail down your team’s schedule to meet.

Additionally, make sure you’ve established a clear scoring system that is being shared with the respondents as part of the RFP. For example, if your rubric uses a 100-point valuation process and 25 points can be awarded for price, then make sure it is clear what price (or range) will earn the proposal the full 25 points and what will just earn it 15 (or zero) points. A vague scoring system makes it harder for your team to objectively evaluate proposals, and it makes it more difficult for firms to see what you really value in their response.

Successful selection committees

An odd-number of selection committee members is also best in evaluation in the event that the decision comes down to a majority vote. If you have an even number of committee members or a voting system that requires unanimous approval, make sure you have a predetermined tie-break procedure in place.

If you opted to distribute to a small field (3–5 firms) of prequalified firms, you may also consider if it is possible to have the firms present their proposals to you rather than your team just reading them. This will allow you to ask follow-up questions and clarify aspects of the proposal if needed.

Finally, If you ask for references, use them. References can be extremely helpful in evaluating a firm’s expertise and ability to form positive working relationships if these are key evaluation metrics for your team. If you have no intention of contacting the references, though, then asking for previous work samples will go just as far in showing prior work experience.

Final thoughts

Ultimately you can only award your project to one firm, and someone will inevitably be disappointed given the amount of work responding to an RFP requires. However, the firm you select will be your partner for months, if not years. Make sure you treat this relationship with care by responding to emails and phone calls in a timely manner and keeping them up-to-date as you go through the evaluation process.

When you’ve come to a decision, let all responding firms know of your choice and why you went that direction. While you may pass on a firm’s proposal this time, they could be a great partner for you on a project down the road, and letting them know where they fell short will help them to improve for the next project they take on.

While sometimes necessary, RFPs are time consuming for organizations on both sides of the table. Following a simple, clearly defined process and avoiding anything that’s not essential to the process will help you to streamline your efforts and make it as painless as possible for all involved.

This article is also published on Medium.

The Request for Proposal (RFP) process was developed for the well-intentioned purposes of leveling the playing field, minimizing bias, and guaranteeing competitive pricing. It is also the default procurement method for many higher education and nonprofit organizations. When done by the book it holds everyone to the same requirements and theoretically allows the organization to compare like-for-like.

But creative services, or any professional services (lawyers, architects, accountants, etc.) for that matter, aren’t like physical commodities. They can’t be compared like-for-like because while they may be similar, they are inherently different.

Information gathering and comparison is important in your selection of a partner for your next creative project, but doing so through an RFP is highly inefficient and won’t produce the best results or the least costly solution.

Here’s why.

RFPs = Longer project timelines

There was a time before the internet when information was more difficult to find, and it’s possible to argue that RFPs were the quickest way to collect the needed information to effectively evaluate creative partners.

But we live in an age where you have endless information at your fingertips. It takes far less time to do a little research on Google than to develop an RFP, send out that RFP, wait for responses, evaluate 20 different 50-page proposals, narrow that down to 3 finalists… then listen to 3 presentations from those finalists, select a winner, then wait 2 more weeks for your procurement office to get through the contract paperwork.

The RFP process is the epitome of inefficiency. If you’re looking to work efficiently and save your team time then avoid the headache of the RFP.

RFPs = Less value for your dollar

On top of the money your organization loses through wasted time in the RFP process, there are also unrecognized costs of doing business this way.

RFP responses, which can top out at well over 50 pages for creative services when including previous work samples or spec work, take a lot of time to put together. While you’d be hard pressed to find a firm to admit it, there are situations when more time is spent on developing the RFP response then will actually be spent on your project. If you ask for spec work as opposed to previous work samples, then this is definitely the case since asking for spec work is literally asking the responding firms to start working on your project for free before you’ve even awarded the contract.

Creative service firms that consistently obtain business through the RFP process have to make up the money they spend writing your proposal, so these additional costs inevitably get built into the cost of your project.

The bigger problem for you is that even firms who are really good at navigating the RFP process only land a small percentage of the jobs they write proposals for. This means that you aren’t just paying a premium for the extra time spent on your project, but also the time spent developing proposals for projects your selected firm didn’t win.

Business consultant, author, and university lecturer Cal Harrison estimates that the Canadian economy alone wastes $5 billion dollars a year due to this RFP inefficiency. Watch his 3:30 minute video and see the math.

As Harrison said in this TedEx Talk, “As soon as you realize that your inefficient buying process is costing you money, then maybe there is incentive to change. The buyer benefits the most if we change this.”

Additionally, if you happen to get a response to your RFP with a lower than average estimated budget it shouldn’t be viewed as a cost-saving opportunity. Rather, it should be a red flag to you that the firm is:

  1. Under-qualified
  2. Under-delivering
  3. Desperate for work, or
  4. All of the above

In any case, none of these scenarios are good if you are looking for the best final product.

RFPs = Limited creativity

When your organizational team sits down to develop an RFP, you are required by the very nature of the document to lay out the project scope and specifications, timeline, (hopefully) budget, and even set guidelines for the environment in which you want the project completed. If this project is for, say, a website redesign, by defining all these parameters you are essentially saying, “We are looking to hire a firm full of creative and qualified people to develop this thing for us, but we already know the solution to our problem and only need your skills — not your creativity — to implement it.”

By doing this you are not just limiting the creativity of the team you are hiring, you are also limiting the potential of the project itself, and therefore the value you get out of your investment. As Stanford University Technology Strategist Zach Chandler puts it:

“But what if our assumptions (laid out in the RFP) are not completely valid? What if we can’t see around all the corners, or see new possibilities of connecting with new methodologies or technologies? A pre-emptive spec locks you into your current best guess … and the web changes faster than that… By being open to the ideas of others, and stating the problem you want to solve rather than telling the vendor how to solve it for you, you may find that the outcome can be far better than you imagined.”

If you are required to use a formal bid process like Chandler is at Stanford University, then his Expository Sketch approach is a great alternative to an RFP. If you have more flexibility in how you approach creative partners, you may consider an initial Discovery Phase engagement with the partner of your choice to access your chosen partner’s entire creative and strategic capability while establishing the project scope and specifications.

RFPs = More hassle than they’re worth

They might not say it to your face, but this is how many great creative services firms feel. And it keeps many of them from seriously considering or responding to your RFP.

Don’t take my word for it. This feeling prompted an advertising agency CEO to write this piece for Advertising Age. It led to this panel discussion at SXSW. And it frustrated a very talented designer and illustrator so much that he penned this comic.

The inherent risk and cost of responding to an RFP a firm probably won’t win coupled with the annoyance of wasting time answering questions that are irrelevant to your project (proof of insurance! Company history? Financial record of past projects!!!) just to meet RFP requirements leaves many creative services firms feeling that responding to RFPs is more of a hassle than it’s worth.

This is a problem for you because if you are conducting a truly open RFP process, then this just eliminated some of the very best potential partners for you, and left you with the firms that are desperate enough for the business (and possibly for good reason) to put up with the frivolousness of the RFP.

Skip the RFP = More efficiency & better results

Creative people love to have real conversations about solving problems that engage their creativity. I don’t know a single creative director or web developer who wouldn’t give you an hour of their time to talk about a project you wanted to work on with their team. In fact, many totally geek out with excitement at the opportunity to do just that.

Do yourself a favor and engage in these real conversations with qualified creative firms that you’ve pre-screened rather than wasting your time and money engaging in an inefficient RFP process that will only stifle your ability to get the best results from the creative process.

This article is also published on Medium.

Request for Proposal (RFP) is a time-tested procurement process that’s consistently worked well for some organizations in purchasing commodities and goods. But in the digital era, using RFPs in the procurement of creative services is an antiquated process that can cost you valuable time and may not lead to the best results.

Think about it this way: an RFP makes sense if your organization is trying to find the best deal on 50 tons of concrete. But if you’re looking for someone to shape that concrete into a work of art, do you really want to start with a process designed to keep all qualified artists at arms length?

Eliminating RFPs from your procurement process for creative and website development services will get you better results and save you the investment of significant time and money.

Not sure how to avoid RFPs?

At this point you may be pointing out the fact that whether you like it or not, your organization has procurement regulations that force you to go to an RFP if the proposed project exceeds a certain dollar figure.

If this is the case let’s frame the problem it in a different way: All projects are made up of phases, which inherently make up a fraction of the total project cost. In fact, many RFPs ask creative service agencies to outline their process and project phases in the proposal response and estimate the cost of each phase. So if a cost can be assigned to each phase, why not make these phases into separate, smaller projects?

This is the route more and more organizations and agencies are going when they begin to understand the downside of RFPs as they relate to creative services. This is a simplistic breakdown for illustrative purposes, but your $50,000 website project can easily become four or five individual projects that each separately fit within the purchasing limits set by your organization. When combined, these five projects equal one awesome website, and operating this way has allowed you to work with the partner of your choice.

And remember how I said avoiding RFPs could actually save you money? Well here’s how: by avoiding the RPF and working directly with your chosen agency, that agency can better anticipate real costs and problems upfront after taking time to understand the project details with you. Otherwise, they are just making a best guess estimate they are locked into once it’s written in the proposal. Most agencies also put an up-charge on RFP work since they’ll only land about 10% of the RFPs they bid for, and time and money is invested into creating each RFP response proposal.

Every project is a little different, so make sure you are working with an expert firm that can help you navigate this process, lay out clear phase projects, and set achievable timelines and goals.

An in-depth example

If you’re now intrigued and want to know more, here is a closer look at how our example $50,000 website project could be divided into smaller, less expensive projects.

Project/Phase 1: Discovery ($5K)

Discovery is the research and strategic planning phase that starts any successful project. Sometimes overlooked by less experienced firms, this is often the most vital part of any project where you work with the partner firm to uncover needs, define scope and timeline, and establish measurable goals for the project.

If you’re unfamiliar with discovery — or want to know more about how it can help you — check out this free, 8-page Discovery Guide.

Project/Phase 2: Branding ($10K)

If you are going to invest the time and money into developing an extensive online tool for client, customer, or donor engagement, you really should make sure your message and brand image are on point before implementing these elements into your new website.

Project/Phase 3: Content Development ($5K)

Content development can include anything from photography, illustrations, video, or written copy that helps to tell your organization’s story.

Project/Phase 4: UI/UX Design ($15K)

This phase includes information architecture, wireframing, and visual design mockups. It may overlap with content development and testing, depending on the schedule and nature of the project.

Project/Phase 5: Development & Testing ($15K)

Developing the website can begin as the design phase approaches completion. A web developer takes the static, designed pages and codes them into a functional website. This phase is typically completed with user testing, bug fixing, and launching the site.

If your organization has even tighter purchasing limits than those described above — or if your project contains more extensive requirements and a more hefty budget — some agencies may even be willing to break the outlined phases into smaller chunks. For example, the development and user testing phase could potentially be broken into two separate phases.

Why your organization will love this new process

My experience has shown that organizations who go to RFPs do so for one of three specific reasons:

  1. The Well-Intentioned Organization: This organization and project leader doesn’t realize there is a better way or isn’t sure of the organization’s policies. This team just wants to do things by the book.
  2. The Traditional Organization: This organization goes to RFP on every project regardless of the service or product they are seeking because that’s just the way it’s always been done. They like the familiarity of the RFP process.
  3. The Evil Organization: This organization just wants the FREE consulting to think out and scope the project for them so that they can take it in house.

Image Courtesy of Kyla Tom, Madison Ave. Collective

When presented properly, the idea of phased projects appeals to these organizations for the following reasons:

Are you following my logic, but still not convinced that RFPs are a bad business model for contracting creative services? A panel of experts presented on RFPs at SXSW a few years ago and their website, contains more useful information.

New Approach = Consistently Better Work

If you begin to engage expert creative firms outside of the RFP process, it will help save you time and money by avoiding the cumbersome RFP timeline and allowing the creative firm of your choice to hone in on the project details with you. Most importantly, you will see the reward in the quality of work produced for your organization.

Do you have an upcoming project and want to test the waters with this new approach? Do a little research and make a few phone calls to agencies that are doing great work for your competitors or in similar industries to find a creative team that fits your needs.

This article is also published on Medium.