For one event design and production company, the total came to $12,500. For another, it was nearly $15,000. Was this the money they netted on an event they created for a client? No, it was what they spent to respond to a Request for Proposal.

For the most part, independent event planners agree that the cost of responding to an RFP has gone up in the last five years. Planning the Globe, based in Mount Pleasant, S.C., has invested roughly 50 percent more time and money in responding to RFPs this year than last, says marketing and business development manager Christopher S. Greenslade.

EXPENSIVE 'EXTRA MILE'

Many factors are blamed for driving up the cost of proposals. Shrinking lead times before companies send out an RFP "has impacted the additional number of staff members needed to respond in time," says Kathy Miller, head of Total Event Resources of Schaumburg, Ill. "It's difficult to have a team working on executing the business and then responding to new business."

Janet Elkins, head of Los Angeles-based EventWorks, notes that the buyers of event services today can be choosy. "Increased competition in the event industry requires us to really make sure we go the extra mile, and that means spending more time in analyzing the RFP and crafting the response," she explains. "This includes bringing in more freelance creative designers, hiring professional photographers to take photographs of demos and proposed designs, creating detailed floor plans, and hiring rendering artists and graphic designers so that we can really show our vision of the event to the client. And just creating a demo requires an enormous effort--buying flowers, ordering linens, etc."

Compounding the problem, clients want a more sophisticated proposal. "Many RFPs now require detailed financial statements as part of the response," Elkins adds. "While we completely understand that a planner hiring an event company wants some kind of assurance about a supplier they have no previous relationship with, having to comply with some of the requests now requires hiring an accountant or even a lawyer, both of which add significant costs to the bottom line."

PILING ON PROPOSALS?

Yet in-house planners issuing RFPs see the other side. A pet peeve of Claire Stroope, senior manager of global meeting services for Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Oracle, is the independent who responds to every RFP. "Many companies will bid anyway just to get in the door," she says. "The truth is if you waste the evaluator’s time, you may have wasted your best shot at getting in on the wrong job, and it could take you months or years to recove--and lots of dollars."

Special Events Magazine will examine both sides--independent and client--of this issue in an article series starting in June. For more, visit Special Events Magazine.

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