Our web design and development company is growing, and we're in need of some larger clients and larger businesses to support us. One idea we had was to get on as many RFP and RFQ lists as possible. I was wondering where you guys find RFP's and RFQ's to sign up for? I've found a few small government sites that have a place to sign up for email notifications when new RFP's come on board, but these are few and far between. Are there any places where I could sign up to receive corporate level RFP's?
I'm also curious if anyone out there has any ideas for taking our business "to the next level". Okay so that's super cliche, but our mom and pop design clients can't support us anymore. We need to go after corporate level clients. Maybe not Fortune 500 companies yet, but companies that at least don't give us the deer in the headlights look when we ask for a budget. We've got roughly 36 original websites and close to 90 clients (we also do graphic design and hosting), have never been fired and I would put our portfolio up against the best in our region. Without dumping thousands of dollars into advertising, we're trying to find a way to attract higher level businesses. Anyone have any ideas?
Someone feel free to contradict me if they've had a different experience, but in most sales organizations, the RFP route is generally considered a race to the bottom, not "taking your business to the next level."
The first step is to define your "ideal" client. Do any of your current 90 clients fit your profile of a "corporate level client"? If so, what's their annual revenue? How many employees? Once you've determined what your best client looks like, go after companies that fit the profile.
To reach those clients, you're going to have to do some networking and prospecting. Consider targeting that ideal client within a vertical or niche market. Getting involved in industry associations gets you credibility as the "go-to" expert in that industry.
Here's a few SitePoint articles I wrote on the subject that might help:
[B]Clone Your Best Client
Target Marketing: The Secret to Finding Better Clients[/B]
The Best-Kept Secret to Targeting a Vertical Market
I think that's a bit of an over-generalization. There is lots of great work going around that starts with RFP's, although if you are looking for Fortune 500 work you aren't going to get it that way. Large corporate work typically gets sourced through personal relationships and traditional sales routes, but government work is usually sent out for RFP.
Between 2002 and 2010 I developed a successful consulting practice doing public sector work and it was almost exclusively built on services RFP-based jobs ranging from 100k to 30+ million dollars for organizations ranging from municipalities to state/city government. Public sector money is HUGE and it's a 100% viable plan to base an entire business on them, but there is a steep learning curve involved in learning how to successfully bid and service government jobs.
I've always found that RFP's are rough... As a bidder, you're not sure who created it. Which means the RFP could have been written by a competitor who has an inside track. I know many ad agencies who won't respond to RFP's. I can tell you my company hasn't received any work from RFP's since we started up in 2002. We do respond to them, but only if they're large enough to make it worthwhile. I'd agree with Sagewing, decent work sized projects generally don't go through an RFP unless they're public entities.
There's plenty of work out there right now. I'd be looking at decent size companies who have crappy sites, there are plenty. Just call them up. I've even called (and gotten ahold of) marketing vp's at Fortune 500's. Pick a target (a company with at least one ugly site), do a little research (who's the marketing person for that brand), a little social engineering (to get their direct #) and give a little love to the gate keeper (the secretary).
Good luck (btw, our little company is only a few miles from Walnut Bottom - PM me..)
Thanks everyone for the replies.
I guess I am more concerned about getting my business to the next level than I am with dealing with RFP's. We've gotten a few and they have all been with public agencies, with the exception of one. That one was so ridiculous we didn't even respond to it.
We have been 100% word of mouth up until now...actually as of this second we still are. That was great when it was us 3 partners, but now we've got 2 full time employees, a couple part timers and an intern. My word of mouth connections and referrals cannot feed all those mouths. So without experimenting through tons of wasted money and energy, does anyone have any good ways to get your business name out there?
We're doing a trade show this month and sending out an insert in the local chamber of commerce monthly mailer next month. Also this month we'll be doing a direct mail campaign to our current clients. Beyond that I plan on some more direct mail targeting bad websites and specific industries or verticals as well as specific companies we want to work with. Beyond that I'm fairly stumped. I'm not sure how to get at the large clientele we need to reach. Perhaps my life as salesman has run it's course? If only we had tons of money to hire another hot shot salesman...:)
Don't be so quick to write off public sector RFP work. There are some good things about it. Governments have deep pockets, and generally pay more to get less from vendors. They accept change orders, and usually the change process is right in the RFP. They usually don't want such high-tech stuff and the projects tend to be easy. Most importantly, they give out some huge projects that are hugely profitable.
One of the great things about RFP's is that you don't have to compete on price (except for little municipal jobs, etc.). Most larger government agencies will actually tell you how much you can bid on a project, and as long as you are at or under that amount you are OK. They aren't looking for price, they are looking for the most accurate response to the RFP questions. A government decision maker with a decent size budget is totally unconcerned with price, they already have the budget allocated - what they want is to reduce risk and if you answer each of their questions 100% and don't go over their budget then you can win the job.
The bigger the job, the easier it gets. A 500k job will almost always have the price range built into the RFP - what is easier than that? There are a lot of people making a lot of money on public sector RFP's, and there are a lot of people saying that it can't be done
If you're a hot-shot salesman, then you already have a leg up on the majority of the others out there. Most of us only knew designing or developing and had to figure out how to sell afterwards.
Try some old-fashioned prospecting: knock on some doors, cold-call, join a lead-sharing group.
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