Why do hotel companies go through an RFP process when selecting a website design vendor or a digital marketing firm? For some, this is due to corporate mandates, for others there is a “We have always done it this way” mentality. The vendor RFP process is typically long and drawn out. It consists of selecting a list of vendors known to provide the service/product in question (a PMS, a CRS, website design, digital marketing and consulting services, etc.), preparing an RFP (request for proposal) outlining the hotel company’s needs and wants, sending the RFP to an identified list of vendors, conference calls to go over questions about the RFP, sifting through proposals and RFP responses, identifying a short-list of vendors, organizing and sitting through face-to-face or online presentations, going through a round or two of final Q&As, and finally, selecting the winning vendor. The Current Vendor RFP Process is Intrinsically Flawed Some believe the vendor RFP process allows a hotel company to pick the most qualified service/product provider through an unbiased decision process. Perhaps this is the case for commoditized supplies or services (housekeeping supplies, linens, laundry, etc.) where the RFP process allows for comparing the proverbial “apples to apples.” Beyond website design, digital marketing and building a direct online revenue channel encompasses strategy, technology, and marketing expertise. Top digital technology and marketing firms take a robust and comprehensive approach to the digital channel including accommodating user behavior on the three screens (desktop, mobile, tablet), website and campaign analytics, the integration of different technologies, dynamic content personalization, dynamic rate marketing, reservation abandonment tools, social media, SEO, SEM, online display advertising, and more. In addition, there needs to be a core understanding of business needs, budget planning, and industry terminology. Because the digital marketing world is fast-paced, prospective clients oftentimes lack the capacity to prepare an effective vendor RFP. At a typical hotel, who is equipped with the latest best practices in digital technology and marketing to sufficiently and adequately prepare a vendor RFP? Very few hotel companies have the bandwidth and depth of knowledge to adequately identify the digital needs of the property. Nor can they convey the property’s needs and wants in the digital space and where it needs to be in 6, 12, 24 and 36 months from now. Lastly, who at the property can afford to devote considerable time to research and prepare a vendor RFP that asks the right questions, conveys the right objectives and provides a solid framework for evaluating and comparing one digital technology and marketing firm to the next? On the hotel side, the typical vendor RFP process easily takes 50+ hours from beginning to end. On the digital technology and marketing vendor side, time to review, respond, and present takes upwards of 25-40 hours. Typically, three vendors compete and with all parties combined the entire RFP process will cost upwards of $15,000-$20,000. Beyond the cost, this process consumes the time and energy of multiple people and departments on an average of every two years for the hotel company. The traditional vendor RFP process is becoming less and less relevant in this fast moving, highly dynamic, and increasingly complex world of hospitality digital marketing. Other more efficient and relevant options are available to address the increasingly important and high value direct online distribution channel. With so much at stake for hotels, finding the right digital technology and marketing firm that fits your hotel profile and goals is crucial to long term success. Alternatives to the typical vendor RFP process such as the Trusted Partner, the Digital Marketing Partner Interview or the user-friendly Scorecard model cut to the chase. It is time for us as an industry to modernize the process and start thinking outside the traditional vendor RFP process. Get the full story at HeBS Digital