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EP038: If at First Your RFPs Don’t Succeed, Get Feedback and Try Again – with Karie Cowden


If bidding on RFPs is a growth strategy you’re considering, know that the process is not for the faint of heart. You’re unlikely to win your first or second bid—and maybe not even your third or fourth. At the end of 2017, Karie Cowden and her team at Connect the Dots Promotions went all-in on RFPs, spending more than $10K in 12 months on eight RFP submissions that failed. As 2018 came to a close, the team decided to try a Hail Mary pass, giving themselves until the end of the first quarter to win a bid—or abandon the strategy altogether.

Karie is the Founder and President of Connect the Dots, a marketing agency dedicated to helping clients create an experience around their brand through promotional items. Karie has 25-plus years of experience in the realm of promotional products, and Connect the Dots boasts a diverse international client base ranging from community churches to Fortune 500 companies.

Today, Karie joins us to explain why Connect the Dots made the decision to start bidding on RFPs and how they balance price point with concerns about quality and safety. She shares the team’s heartbreak at investing thousands of dollars’ worth of time and effort on eight unsuccessful RFPs before finally getting help from an outside consultant. Listen in as Karie discusses the changes Connect the Dots made in writing their ninth RFP, describing how they leveraged storytelling and specific data to substantiate their claims—and score their first WIN!

Key Takeaways

  • How Connect the Dots creates experiences around client’s brands

  • Why Karie’s team made the decision to respond to RFPs in 2017

  • Karie’s challenge in responding to RFPs that focused on price

  • The frustration Karie faced in responding to 8 RFPs without a win

  • How Connect the Dots spent $10K+ on unsuccessful RFPs

  • What finally inspired Karie to get help from an RFP consultant

  • Why it’s crucial to tell your story through the RFP

  • How to identify what differentiates you from the competition

  • How Connect the Dots won their ninth RFP Hail Mary bid

  • How Karie’s team used pictures and data to win their first RFP

  • The value in substantiating your claims with testimonials

  • Karie’s advice around leveraging outside consultants for feedback