The infamous RFI (Request for Information) is often the first step in a search process (after defining scope of search and finding the initial set of agencies).

Problem with many RFIs is that they are just that, a request for facts.  They don’t dig deep, they just gather information about the agency’s functional characteristics – size, clients, employees, experience, etc.

In my opinion this is an opportunity lost.

In my opinion every touch point needs to be an evaluation point – and this includes the RFI.  Here is a recent RFI (masked) we pushed out for a client:  RSW/AgencySearch RFI.

Notice that within the RFI we start getting at more qualitative feedback on things like their rationale for why they are a good fit with the client, how they would describe their value, and how they solved problems similar to the problems our client is facing.

It is amazing how differently agencies respond to these questions that aren’t typical of an RFI.  They are all too often used to just cutting an pasting many of their responses, so it become pretty clear, pretty quickly when an agency really hasn’t put much thought into one of these more “thoughtful” questions.  They either answer it beautifully – or they answer it and it ties little to the real nature of the question asked.  It is here that we can start sifting through those agencies that are serious about the effort and those that are simply going through the paces.

So what does this mean for you?

If you’re handling the search inside, evaluate from the get-go.  Ask the hard questions early and often.  You have a right to know how these agencies think early in the process.

And if you’re using an outside firm, push them to dig a little deeper than the functional information most gather.  It’s not that hard.  If they are worth their weight, they should know what kind of questions to ask to help you find the better firm.