Two Worst RFPs I’ve Ever Seen

Our parent company, Design the Planet, recently received two of the worst RFPs I’ve ever seen. Because Brand Constructors is focused on the construction industry, we are used to working with RFPs and I have attended numerous SMPS events regarding winning RFPs, so they will often consult with me on any RFP’s they receive.

The first one looked thorough and the prospect, a local non-profit, listed out their requirements for website design. As I read through it, I started to create a mental scope and list a few questions (like many of you probably do). As the scope continued to increase, I started wondering how this small non-profit could afford all this work. Towards the end of the proposal, they listed their current predicament. They had nearly completed a website with a freelance web developer, things had stalled and they were in negotiations to end the contract. Ouch! Unfortunately, we see this often in the web world. I flipped the page and saw their budget – $2,000. I know we’re not the cheapest firm because of the quality of work we develop, but I had already estimated this project in my head to be around $25,000-30,000. It was obvious that someone had not done their homework and this prospect had an unreal expectation in regards to the gap between their scope and their budget. Unfortunately, they were headed into another precarious business alliance with a very small budget and a rather large scope.

The second RFP looked great at first glance – a well-known, high-profile public/private organization that needed a full rebrand with new marketing materials, logo, website, brochure, signage, press kit, and much more. Because I was heading to a conference, I held off on the RFP until I got back. While I was there, the prospect sent an email to us asking if we were going to respond to their “invitation to donate a valuable service”. I could not believe what I’d read. We regularly donate our services to worthy causes and organizations, but this was the first time I’d ever been asked to submit an RFP to donate something. As most of you know, responding to an RFP is a time-consuming process and one that would have taken hours of my team’s time just to submit, not to mention the interview and presentation to follow – all for a chance to donate my services.

We politely declined each of these projects and gave each organization our reasons, including educating them about the cost of an RFP. We suggested they research firms before contacting them and then contact only those firms they feel would be a good fit for their project and their budget. Also, making a phone call to talk to a firm about their donating practices saves both parties from wasting their time.

What are the worst RFPs that you’ve seen? Did you have to pursue them? What is your advice to companies whose budget is too small to meet their scope?