Have we all become lost in the B2B wankwordery of ‘alignment’ and ‘onboarding’ closely affiliated to the term, ‘Customer Experience’?
It’s perhaps important to acknowledge that the blind pursuit of customer experience is complete bullshit.
It’s a popular view in current B2B brand strategy. We should all conform to the will of the customer. Only when we are in touch with our inner customer will we be rewarded by their patronage. Only when touchpoints have been touched and metrics have been metricked will we possibly be allowed to onboard, align and engage a new customer. Whatever.
It’s bullshit. You don’t need to know your customer better.
You need to know your own business better. You need to know your brand better. You need to position the brand to attract the right customer with a more compelling story, instead of pretending that any customer from anywhere within your dataset is the right customer at any cost.
A Request for Information (RFI) landed in my inbox recently. It was from a respected City corporate seeking creative brand services. We’re eminently qualified to deliver creative brand services so I confess to having been a little excited. Our Content Marketing Strategy must be working, I thought. Our Social Strategy must be working. Our Big Data Automation Matrix Integration Framework Migration Strategy must be working… Here was the perfect opportunity to pleasure and delight the customer with our response to their RFI. Our CX (Customer Experience) delivery would be nothing short of climactic. We would touch their every touchpoint in places they’d never been touched. We would CXificate everything, just as all the B2B worthies were telling us to do, and spend the rest of our days gamboling in fields of B2B clover.
Less than 20 minutes later, I told the prospective customer to fuck off.
The RFI consisted of around five thousand words of corporate bureaucracy, legal threats and procurement intimidation. There was no brief. There was no B2B marketing requirement. This was just the first step in a protracted process of irrelevance. It had nothing to do with the creative brand services that the organisation purported to be in search of and it absolutely had nothing to do with the creative values that our brand represents. If anything kills creativity, it’s 5,000 words of complete bullshit. They’ll find an agency that will jump through the CX hoops I’m sure, but it won’t be the creative one the marketing department is hoping for. Then again, it may be exactly the agency they deserve.
A friend told me I have a problem with the concept of ‘customer experience’. Well, if this is the shape of the Customer Experience small creative services organisations are expected to deliver in the new world order of B2B marketing, I’m proud to say I have a very big problem with the concept of customer experience. If you’re looking for creative B2B branding services from a creative B2B agency, I think we can help. Why does it have to be any more complicated than that? Everything else is just bullshit.
The RFI is included below (in direct breach of multiple confidentiality clauses and threats of consequential legal action… fuck ’em) for your consideration. Below that you’ll find the ‘customer experience’ I delivered in response. If anyone can explain to me how this approach to supplier relations is engendering any kind of trusting partnership, brand loyalty or positive ‘experience’ in B2B marketing I’d love to hear it…
My name is xxx. I work in Group Procurement at xxx and I am responsible for all Corporate spend in our organisation. I am working with my stakeholders in Marketing on the following linked initiatives –
1. The creation of a Preferred Supplier List (PSL) for Marketing Campaign Development
2. A specific Campaign Development sourcing initiative
In order to achieve these two objectives we are looking to run the following process –
1. An RFI process with a long list of suppliers to assess the capability and experience of different firms
2. We will then shortlist to a smaller number of suppliers with the aim of –
I. Creating our PSL
II. Appointing a supplier
I attach the RFI document, which provides background information, instructions on what you need to do and a timeline of activities. I look forward to hearing back from you by the end of this week as to whether or not this is a process in which you would like to participate.
Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.
Head of Corporate Spend, Procurement.
Please read these warnings and restrictions:
This e-mail transmission is strictly confidential and intended solely for the ordinary user of the e-mail address to which it was addressed. It may contain legally privileged and/or CONFIDENTIAL information. The unauthorised use, disclosure, distribution and/or copying of this e-mail or any information it contains is prohibited and could, in certain circumstances, constitute a criminal offence. If you have received this e-mail in error or are not an intended recipient please inform xxx immediately by return e-mail or telephone xxx. We advise that in keeping with good computing practice the recipient of this e-mail should ensure that it is virus free. We do not accept responsibility for any virus that may be transferred by way of this e-mail. E-mail may be susceptible to data corruption, interception and unauthorised amendment, and we do not accept liability for any such corruption, interception or amendment or any consequences thereof. Calls to xxx may be recorded to enable xxx to carry out its regulatory responsibilities.
REQUEST FOR INFORMATION (RFI)
Marketing Campaign Development – Preferred Suppliers
This Request for Information (“RFI”) formally requests your company to provide information regarding your company’s capability to provide creative and/or design services to Xxx (XXX). The purpose of this stage of the process is to obtain sufficient information to enable the evaluation of the suitability of potential suppliers. This stage aims to arrive at a panel of potential suppliers who will progress to the Request for Proposal (“RFP”) stage, when a more detailed brief of XXX’s requirements, and pricing format will be provided.
This RFI contains information, including:
Background to the Project/Process
Details for completion of the information requested
Terms and conditions
Please immediately sign and return the non-disclosure agreement to the contact address below by email.
Please confirm by 18th your intention to respond, to the contact email address below.
Please complete and return the RFI document by no later than 23rd.
Background to the Project/Process
The vision of the project is to have agreements in place with agencies to provide all of XXX’s requirements for marketing campaign development. The likely outcome could be individual agreements with a list of Preferred Suppliers that collectively provide both capability and capacity to meet XXX’s requirements. This Preferred Supplier List will allow Marketing professionals from across the Group to select the most appropriate agency for their specific project requirements from a list of agencies with pre-agreed commercial terms. The commercial arrangements will provide a high degree of transparency and allow XXX to determine value in an informed manner.
XXX has one main Requirement associated with this RFI;
1) Campaign / project work. Specific projects requiring creative development and execution of campaigns, such as product launches. This includes planning, concepts, design and execution across the full range of marketing channels. For the purposes of this process a specific campaign brief requiring a creative proposal and detailed pricing/costing will be provided at a later date should you progress to the RFP stage. The successful company will be required to work alongside XXX internal resources and XXX appointed third parties on a global basis. The geographical focus of this RFI/RFP process is the UK. However, agencies should state their ability to provide services outside the UK, and specifically in North America. There will be no exclusivity or commitment to any volume of work undertaken by each agency. Any commitment will be determined by individual project scopes of work and purchase orders. All production costs shall be passed through at cost, without any mark-ups. All rebates and discounts received by the Agency from any 3rd parties, e.g. on production costs, shall be passed onto XXX.
The RFI/RFP Process includes the following activities and time schedule
RFI, NDA and XXX Contract Issued – 16th
Intent to Respond – 18th
Response to RFI, NDA and XXX Contract – 23rd
Request for Proposal (RFP) Issued – 28th
All Agency Briefing – 5th
RFP Responses – 12th
Pitch Presentations – 14th
The successful supplier will also be selected upon criteria including creativity, quality, delivery, total cost, proposed team, financial stability and company credentials.
Cost and pricing structure
At this stage please provide your standard rate card. Prices shall be quoted in £.
Should you progress to the RFP stage you will be asked for a proposal including a detailed breakdown of all costs.
XXX may enter into a framework agreement with the selected supplier(s), in the form stated in the attached draft (see Appendix D). Please confirm if the terms and conditions are acceptable. If you request any changes to these terms and conditions, then please state clearly for each requested change; i) which condition; ii) why it’s not acceptable, and; iii) alternative proposed wording. Comments on the draft shall be taken into account as part of the evaluation criteria for selection.
Content and Delivery of Information;
Intention to Bid
Please confirm your intention to bid by sending an email to the Commercial Queries Contact stated below. Should your company decide not to respond to this RFI, please delete/destroy or return this document and any accompanying materials. Please note you shall continue to be bound by the terms of any NDA executed between our companies.
XXX requests that you respond to this RFI as follows:
Intention to respond
Completed company information document as per Appendix A
All comments on the agreement draft as per Appendix B.
Completed and Signed NDA as per Appendix C
Any other relevant information
All correspondence regarding this RFI should be made through the following contact:
Xxx, Group Procurement
Submission of information
All information, including both the response to this RFI and any supporting materials, should be submitted via email.
Paid Proposal / Pitch
Recipients of this document will be responsible for and bear all of their own costs, liabilities and expenses which may be incurred in the preparation of their responses regardless of whether a contract is awarded.
Legal Notice and Confidentiality
Nothing herein, or in any other communication made between Xxx plc (or any group undertaking as construed in accordance with section 1161 of the Companies Act 2006) (“group undertaking”) or their representatives and any party or part thereof shall constitute an agreement, contract or representation between Xxx plc (or any group undertaking) and any other party (except for a formal award of contract made in writing by Xxx plc), and no party shall rely on this document or any other such communication as constituting an agreement, contract or representation. Receipt by the recipient of this document does not imply the existence of a contract or commitment by or with Xxx plc (or any group undertaking) for any purpose and recipients should note that this process may not result in the award of any business. Xxx plc reserves the right to change without notice the basis of, the procedures for, or any other aspect of, the competitive tendering process or to terminate the process at any time. Under no circumstances shall Xxx plc incur any liability in respect thereof. The information contained in this document is subject to constant updating and amendment in the future and is necessarily selective. It does not purport to contain all of the information which a recipient may require. While Xxx plc has taken all reasonable steps to ensure, as at the date of this document, that the facts which are contained in this questionnaire are true and accurate in all material respects, Xxx plc (and its group undertakings) do not make any representation or warranty as to the accuracy or completeness or otherwise of this document, or the reasonableness of any assumptions on which this document may be based. All information supplied by Xxx plc (or its group undertakings) to the recipients, including that contained in this document, is subject to the recipient’s own due diligence. Xxx plc (and its group undertakings) accept no liability to recipients whatsoever and however arising and whether resulting from the use of this document, or any omissions from or deficiencies in this document. Xxx plc may exclude any recipient from this process who has been found to be in breach of confidentiality or intellectual property rights and may pursue any remedy or take any other action for breach as it considers appropriate. Recipients should note that any quantities or volumes contained in this questionnaire are for indicative purposes only and any future quantities or volumes may vary from those stated. It is the responsibility of recipients to obtain for themselves at their own expense all additional information necessary for the preparation of their response to this document. No claims of insufficient knowledge will be entertained. Any recipient who directly or indirectly canvasses any employee of Xxx plc (or its group undertakings) concerning the award of the contract will be disqualified. All recipients are recommended to seek their own financial and legal advice.
Appendix A – Agency/Company Information Required
Please complete the following questions.
1. Full legal name of company and registration number
2. Company status (private/limited/etc.)
3. Address of registered office
4. Address and contact information of trading address
5. Name of parent company, if applicable
6. Full names and dates of birth for any owners, partners, board directors in your company
7. Other relevant office locations
8. Have any of your directors, senior managers or employees likely to work on this project ever been found guilty of corruption offences, organised crime and fraud or are there any cases currently outstanding?
9. Do any potential conflicts of interest exist between this work and your organisation, directors or employees engaged on this project, or sub-contractors?
10. Has your company ever had a contract terminated as a result of non-compliance or non-performance within the last 5 years?
11. Please provide details of your company’s organisational structure and management hierarchy
12. Please provide numbers of permanent and temporary staff employed by your company, in which type of role they operate, and contractual confidentiality policy for temporary staff
13. Please confirm what vetting your company applies to any new hires.
14. Does your organisation operate an accredited environmental and sustainability system e.g. ISO 14001 or please summarise your policy
15. Do you have an anti-bribery/corruption policy and processes? You may be asked for copies of these and for details of these processes at a later stage – please confirm they will be available
16. Please describe your security policy and practices (including access control, confidentiality agreement policy, and preventative actions).
17. How do you ensure that customer confidential information is separated from other customers, and does not flow out of your company?
18. Please describe your document and data safety practices and processes
19. Please describe your disaster recovery plan.
20. Please complete the two matrix below which look to better help us understand the composition of your organisation by specialism and by technology experience. Please also use the box provided to add further details and descriptions to support the numbers.
21. Insert number of employees working in the areas listed.
22. Marketing Specialism – number of marketing/business focused employees in each area.
Account Management – Partner/Senior/Junior
Content – Partner/Senior/Junior
Design – Partner/Senior/Junior
Strategy – Partner/Senior/Junior
Digital – Design – Partner/Senior/Junior
Digital – Search – Partner/Senior/Junior
Digital – Marketing Automation – Partner/Senior/Junior
Digital – Social – Partner/Senior/Junior
Digital – Strategy – Partner/Senior/Junior
23. Please provide background on your experience and expertise in working with marketing automation and the other technologies/ channels listed above, plus any other relevant points you would make to support this.
24. Technology Specialism – number of technically skilled employees in each listed area
Marketing Automation and CRM – Partner/Senior/Junior
Google Analytics – Partner/Senior/Junior
SEO and PPC Advertising – Partner/Senior/Junior
Social Media (creating / posting content and promotion of content) – Partner/Senior/Junior
Digital Advertising Networks (including Google) – Partner/Senior/Junior
Marketing Data and Reporting – Partner/Senior/Junior
Other – Partner/Senior/Junior
Additional details re Technology Specialism
25. Please describe the principle activities of your business
26. Does your company belong to trade bodies or have relevant accreditations?
27. Please provide evidence of your companies’ capability to undertake a requirement of this nature; please include but do not limit your response to details on available resources, quality and availability of personnel, equipment and technology.
28. Please provide the company names of your top 3 customers in the business area of this requirement and their level of business with you expressed as a percentage of your turnover in the last Financial Year.
29. Please provide details of any customers operating in a similar industry to XXX, and highlight any with whom there may be a potential competitor conflict.
30. Please provide the Key Financial Figures (all figures to be in £GBP) for the last three years of trading (or for the period that is available if trading for less than three years) for the applicant organisation.
31. Please confirm you will be able to provide balance sheets, profit and loss accounts and auditors reports if required to do so.
32. Please provide details of significant pending developments, changes in financial structure or ownership, prospective take-over bids, buy-outs and closures etc. which are currently in the public domain.
33. Please provide details of your organisation’s insurance protection.
34. Does your organisation operate an accredited quality management system e.g. ISO9001?
35. Please include a copy of your standard rate card
36. Please confirm if you would wish to be considered for both creative and design work or just one part of the requirements
37. Please provide 2-3 examples of previous projects relevant to this requirement. Note that we may wish to contact the clients concerned for references at a later stage, (clients/references will not be contacted at this initial stage). Examples should include budgets, timeline, brief and deliverables, plus a description of why the project is relevant to this requirement.
38. Provide details of your expertise and capabilities in managing requirements such as outlined in this document. State if capabilities are in-house or sub-contracted.
39. Describe how you would manage the XXX account and include a summary CV of the manager who would manage the relationship should you be successful, and a summary of the other main team members (creative/design).
40. State the number of staff, capabilities and their availability to work on XXX project requirements from time to time. If you use sub-contractors for certain aspects please indicate as such.
41. Please state if you have an existing relationship with any part of XXX. Provide details of your main contacts, the time period of the relationship, example projects, and annual spend.
Appendix C – Non-Disclosure Agreement
Please complete, sign and return the following NDA document to the contacts provided.
In connection with our mutual consideration of the provision by [● (●)] to Xxx plc (XXX) and/or certain of its group undertakings of certain services in connection with Creative and Design Marketing Services (the Services), we will each be providing the other with certain confidential information. This letter relates to information at any time and from time to time supplied by each of us or by any of our respective Connected Persons orally, in writing or in any other form to the other or its Authorised Recipients in connection with the Services (the Information). In this letter, Connected Persons means, in relation to each of us, in each case, to the extent that they are involved in the Services, (a) our respective group undertakings and each of our and their respective officers, employees, advisers, agents and representatives; and (b) officers, employees and partners of any such adviser, agent or representative or of their respective group undertakings shall be construed in accordance with s1161 of the Companies Act 2006. In consideration of the mutual disclosure of the Information, each of us agrees with and undertakes to the other in relation to the other’s Information as follows. The undertakings in this letter are given to a party in its own favour and in favour of its respective Connected Persons. We will each hold the Information in strict confidence and will not disclose, copy, reproduce or distribute any of it to any person other than as permitted in writing by the other or to those of our respective officers, employees, group undertakings, agents and advisers and the officers, employees and advisers of any of those group undertakings who strictly need access to it for the purposes of furthering the Services (our Authorised Recipients), and only to the extent that they need that access, on the terms of this letter and on the basis that they themselves will not disclose, copy, reproduce or distribute it to any person who is not an Authorised Recipient. Neither of us nor any of our Authorised Recipients will, without the other’s prior written consent: reveal to any person other than an Authorised Recipient that discussions and/or negotiations are taking place between us or any information concerning the status or progress of such discussions and/or negotiations; or use the Information for any purpose other than to evaluate and/or provide the Services. The undertakings in paragraph 0 above will not apply to Information which: at the time of supply is in the public domain; or
subsequently comes into the public domain, except through breach of the undertakings set out in this letter; or is already in the lawful possession of one of us or of an Authorised Recipient (as evidenced by written records); or subsequently comes lawfully into the possession of one of us or of an Authorised Recipient from a third party who does not owe the other party or any of its Connected Persons an obligation of confidence in relation to it; or
is required to be disclosed by law, regulation or any governmental or competent regulatory authority (Applicable Law), as long as the disclosing party, to the extent practically possible and permitted by Applicable Law, consults the other party first on the proposed form, timing, nature and purpose of the disclosure. Each of us will procure that each of its Authorised Recipients who receives any Information is aware of and adheres to the terms of this letter. On request, we will each keep the other informed of their identity. The undertakings given by each of us in this letter are given on our own behalf and as agent for each of our Authorised Recipients, and with their full knowledge and authority. Each of us will indemnify and hold harmless the other party an each of its respective Connected Persons, on an after‑tax basis, on demand from and against all claims, demands, liabilities, losses, damages, costs and expenses suffered or incurred by it or any of them arising from a breach of this letter by the other party or any of that other party’s Authorised Recipients. We and our respective Authorised Recipients will each destroy or return to the other on demand any document supplied to it (including any note, analysis or memorandum prepared by it) containing Information and any copy which may have been made, and take reasonable steps to expunge all Information from any computer, word processor or other device containing Information. Any destruction of Information by us or our respective Authorised Recipients will be certified in writing to the other by an authorised officer supervising it. The undertakings in this paragraph shall not apply to Information which we or an Authorised Recipient must retain under any Applicable Law, including the rules of a professional body (Retained Information), provided that any Retained Information shall remain subject to the undertakings set out in this letter notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph 0. Save as expressly set out in this letter, neither of us nor any of our respective Connected Persons shall owe any duty of care to the other or any other person. We each understand that the Information does not purport to be all inclusive and that no representation or warranty is or has been made by any person as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of any of the Information. The Information is furnished on a confidential basis only for the use of the intended recipient and only for discussion purposes, may be amended and/or supplemented without notice and is subject to and will be deemed to be superseded by any subsequent versions of the Information. We each acknowledge and agree that no person has nor is held out as having any authority to give any statement, warranty, representation, or undertaking on behalf of either of us in connection with the Services. We each recognise and accept, and will advise our Authorised Recipients, that the Information is given and our negotiations are taking place in confidence, and that some or all of the Information may be inside information for the purposes of the Criminal Justice Act 1993 (the CJA). [In processing any personal data (which for the purposes of this letter shall be construed in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998) [●] receives from XXX and/or its Connected Persons, or to which it has access in connection with this letter, [●] agrees and undertakes to: process such personal data only on behalf of XXX and only in accordance with XXX’s instructions; comply with obligations equivalent to those imposed on a data controller by the Seventh Data Protection Principle in the Data Protection Act 1998 and take appropriate technical and organizational measures against unauthorized or unlawful processing of such personal data and against accidental loss or destruction of, or damage to, such personal data; and deal promptly and properly with any enquiries by XXX relating to [●’s] processing of any personal data under this letter, and, notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph 0, [●] acknowledges and agrees that the provisions of this paragraph 0 shall survive termination for any reason of this letter or expiry of the undertakings set out in this letter.] The Information does not constitute advice or a recommendation to enter into any transaction or an offer or an agreement, or a solicitation of an offer or an agreement, to enter into any transaction (including, without limitation, for the provision of any services). Accordingly each of us agrees with the other and with each of its respective Connected Persons that neither of us nor any of our respective Connected Persons shall have any liability to the other or any other person resulting from the use of Information by us and/or them. Without affecting any other rights or remedies that we may each have, we each acknowledge that a person with rights under this letter may be irreparably harmed by any breach of its terms and that damages alone may not necessarily be an adequate remedy. Accordingly, a person bringing a claim under this letter will be entitled to the remedies of injunction, specific performance and other equitable relief, or any combination of these remedies, for any threatened or actual breach of its terms, and no proof of special damages will be necessary to enforce this letter. We each acknowledge and agree that the undertakings set out in this letter will survive completion of our negotiations, whether or not the Services are provided or otherwise implemented, for a period of one (1) year. We each acknowledge and agree that no licence of any trade mark, patent, copyright or other intellectual property right is either granted or implied by the disclosure of any Information from either party to the other. If any provision of this letter is held to be invalid or unenforceable, that provision shall (so far as it is invalid or unenforceable) be given no effect and shall be deemed not to be included in this letter, but without invalidating any of the remaining provisions. Each of our Connected Persons shall have the right under the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999 to enforce the terms of this letter, subject to and in accordance with: the terms of paragraph 0; and the term that the parties to this letter may by agreement terminate or rescind or vary it in any way without the consent of any of our Connected Persons. Save as provided in paragraph 0, a person who is not a party to this letter shall have no right under the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999 to enforce any of its terms. This letter, any non-contractual obligations arising out of or in connection with this letter and the relationship between the parties shall be governed by, and construed in accordance with, English law, and we each irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the English courts. This letter may be executed in any number of counterparts, and by each party on separate counterparts. Each counterpart is an original, but all counterparts shall together constitute one and the same instrument. Please confirm your agreement by signing and returning to us a copy of this letter.
Yours faithfully, Xxx.
Customer Experience, The Birddog Way:
Thank you for your interest in Birddog.
We have discussed your email and the terms and contents of your 21 page RFI in the hope of finding some proposition that we might be able to help you with. The introduction suggested that the requirement was for, ‘creative services.’ As an established, award-winning, creative B2B agency, ‘creative services’ are what we live for. We’ve been delivering those services for 20+ years so we thought our skills may be of some value to you. Certainly for most people, our evident capability, a cup of coffee and a handshake is enough to establish a working relationship. But you added another 20 pages of process to complicate what should be a very simple value exchange.
We’re usually the buoyant, glass half full types here at Birddog, but I don’t mind telling you that on this occasion, you have managed to leach the joy from our souls. The conditions, the intrusion, the pointlessness, the repeated insistence that you’re not liable for anything and that every transgression or deviation from your process will be punishable by death… If that’s how the relationship is to start, I dread to think how depressing it might subsequently become. This RFI is not our world. It’s your world. And if that’s what your world looks like, we’d really rather stay in ours, where there’s light, and hope, and trust, and unicorns and My Little Pony, and, well, you know… the thing you said you were looking for – creativity.
We wish you every success in finding the type of agency that this kind of RFI attracts. Unfortunately we’re not very good at them. We’re just good at building better brands for our customers, with actions that have value and words that have meaning. If you’d ever like to talk about that, instead of, for example, how we, “comply with obligations equivalent to those imposed on a data controller by the Seventh Data Protection Principle in the Data Protection Act 1998,” then we’d be happy to hear from you again. You’d need to give yourself a good corporate shake first though, and leave your 21 page RFI back at the office. Maybe just bring doughnuts.
Thanks again for considering Birddog, but unfortunately this is not an opportunity we would like to pursue.