We were invited to compete for a branding campaign…

We were invited to compete for a branding campaign and website for a local firm.  There was a lengthy, detailed RFP to respond to that was going to take a number of days to respond to.  It was a good piece of business, we were the only local choice with sufficient legal experience to do the project right.

She acknowledged that she had a hefty budget and had split up the project into separate parts for development of (1) the message/brand, and (2) the website.

As part of our evaluation process, I asked my contact, a woman I’ve known for over a decade, how many RFPs she’d sent, and to whom.  She admitted that she’d invited at least 15 firms to compete. Large, small, local, national, extensive and no law firm experience.

She’d invited all “the usual suspects,” plus some tangential players, and a number of agencies who were friends of her lawyers. She had many skilled options to choose from just among the ones I knew personally.

I wasn’t sure whether by inviting so many firms to compete she was covering all her bases or simply didn’t know what they wanted.  She’s been active in the industry for many years, so she must have known the pros and cons of hiring us and our primary competitors.  I suspected that she was going to hire the biggest firms anyway, but didn’t want to offend anyone by being selective. The easiest and most politically expedient thing for her to do was simply invite everyone to the party.

Frankly, I don’t waste my time on those crapshoot, roll-the-dice RFPs.  We had a statistical one-in-15 shot.  I thought our creative work was better than most or all of them, our fees were lower than some of them, and we were local, but she was risk-averse and in previous firms had always selected the largest firm in each category.  If she wanted to step down a tier in size, there were many good options, us included.  But I was sensing that she really had her mind made up already.

We declined to participate in the competition, and the 2-3 days of work responding to the RFP would have involved.  Months later, we learned that they had indeed hired the two largest firms, and paid more than twice as much money as they needed to.  

In eight months when they launch their website, it will contain get safe, straightforward work that will be attractively designed, and make the lawyers happy.  Unfortunately, it’s not going to help them stand out in a way that’s will help generate a dollar of new revenue.  But that’s their decision, and I understand.

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