Many clients think don't seem to place a lot of importance on the proposal phase of the relationship. While you think you're moving to the next stage in the sales process, they simply think they are being nice by agreeing to look over your suggestions.
It's a waste of time for your team to spend their time creating proposals for clients who are not qualified. It's also wasteful to require your team to reinvent the process every time you need a formal proposal. And while we'd like to get rid of the proposal process, in most cases, it's just not possible. The practice is now ingrained in the courting phase between an agency and a client.
You can, however, approach the proposal phase with a repeatable process to make things easier. First, you need a way to qualify and uncover the needs of the client. Then, you need a pre-built template so you can get the proposal over to the client as quickly as possible. If your new business person did his job, the client should be excited and ready to sign on the dotted line.
If you're looking to build out your template or need a refresh on your current document, use the below as guidance. As with most things related to the sales process, every client is different and these sections may or may not apply to your prospect's need.
How to Structure a Marketing Proposal: 9 Essential Elements
The cover page should simply be a visually appealing starting point for your proposal. You should feature your potential client’s brand on the cover. From the beginning, the proposal should show that this is about the client and his problems, not your firm. If your agency specializes in design or creative, make sure the cover page shows off your expertise in this area.
The executive summary should quickly detail findings from your initial discovery session, such as the client’s goals, budget, and timing. You should also describe any research you conducted and highlight a few key points -- maybe a short description of how you plan to solve the client’s most pressing problem. Then, explicitly state your desire to work with the client and detail why your agency is the right firm for the project or relationship.
Goals & Challenges
The client is hiring you to solve business problems, and your goal during your initial meetings or when reviewing an RFP should be to uncover the main business or marketing issues being faced. Without understanding these, you cannot connect your services and the results to ROI.
This section should outline the goals, plans, challenges, and timeline as discussed to reiterate their current position and to set the stage for your agency’s solutions.
To uncover this information, ask questions such as:
- What are your revenue goals for the upcoming quarter or year?
- What metrics are you personally measured on?
- What were your goal last year/quarter and what did you do to achieve them?
- What resources do you have to meet your current goals?
- What challenges have prevented you from reaching your previous goals?
- What other priorities exist that might take precedence over reaching these goals?
- Would you revise the goals or the timeline if the goals were not being met?
You should have also discussed the reasons the client is making the change now and what the cost to his business would be if he took no action. Would the client miss out on a bonus or promotion? Would the business have to fire people? What’s on the line if the client fails? This reminds the prospect of the high cost of inaction and will help them to see the cost of your services in a more reasonable way.
Remember: Nothing in the proposal should really be a surprise. It should simply be the written record of previous conversations.
This is where you can outline how you plan to solve the client’s problems -- a high-level overview should be all that is necessary -- and what services you will provide. Detailed strategies should be completed once your team has a better understanding of the client's business.
If this is for project-based work, you should outline the phases of the project, the responsibilities of the client, and the timeline for completion.
You can follow this structure:
Website Redesign & Development
For a retainer-based relationship, you should outline the various initial projects and then include the services provided per month. It may help to outline a roadmap for the first six months if you have a process you follow with all new client, and you should include the various upsells and what is not included in the scope of the retainer.
The below outline should be customized when creating your own proposal template:
Ramp Up Projects (Month 1 or Month 1-3)
- Initial Discovery Session & Assessment
- Inbound Marketing Planning & Strategy
- Editorial Calendar Planning
- Social Media Strategy Planning
- Keyword Research
- Competitor Research
- Onsite and Offsite SEO Audit & Planning
- Creation of Buyer Personas
Deliverables Per Month/Quarter
X Campaigns Per Quarter
- X Blog Posts
- Landing Page and Thank You Page
- Ebook or Whitepaper: Writing & Design
- Email Marketing Launch and Nurturing Sequence
- Content Promotion Through Social Channels
Monthly Retainer Deliverables
- X Blog Posts
- Optimization Projects or A/B Testing
- X Ebook Per Quarter
- Keyword Analysis
- Link Building
- Email Marketing: Segmentation and Management of Lists
- Email Newsletter
- Lead Management: Score, Nurture, and Qualify leads
- Social Media Marketing: Original Content Creation, Influencer Campaigns, Monitoring
- Workflows and List Segmentation
- Monthly Reporting
Add-On Deliverables Available Outside of Retainer Fee
- PPC Advertising
- Guest Blogging Opportunities/Media Relations
- Sales and Marketing Alignment Services
- Sales Enablement Content
- Content Promotion
- SlideShare Creation & Promotion
- Video Production & Promotion
- Ecommerce Integration
- Call Tracking & Nurturing
- Predictive Lead Scoring
Each deliverable should be explained in detail, with the proposed benefit clearly outlined.
Summary/Scope of Work
Finally, you should line-item the various deliverables and upsells and list out the feeds associated with each. This should be no more than a one-page summary that the prospect can easily reference.
Depending on how in-depth your conversations were during the qualification phase, you may have a good understanding of the current state of the client’s marketing and the marketing goals that are of priority.
You could include some benchmarking data, especially if this is for a website relaunch or lead generation campaign, and then highlight proposed goals for the relationship and the timeline for reaching those goals. These could include:
- Increase Visits by X%
- Increase Leads by X%
- Increase Email Subscribers by X%
- Increase Conversion Rates by X%
- Improve Sources of Leads
- Decrease Customer Acquisition Cost by X%
- Improve Email Performance
- Increase Marketing Qualified Leads
- Increase Sales Qualified Leads
Once you’ve established your understanding of the client’s current marketing needs and have outlined your plan, you can then establish trust and address the chemistry aspect of the relationship. This section should be less about awards and recognition and more about what it is like working with your team. What are your values? What is your culture like? What types of things do you value in a client relationship? Give prospects a glimpse into what it is like to work with your team.
You could also include a few relevant case studies and testimonials to showcase past successes. These should serve to reinforce your claim that you can, in fact, deliver the results using the proposed deliverables you’ve suggested.
Terms & Conditions/Contract
Finally, you may need to include legal language to establish the terms of your business relationship.
This should cover the rules that govern your relationship with the client, such as payment terms, notice of cancellation, intellectual property transfer, confidentiality, data, etc. Consult a lawyer to create this document.
You may also include the final contract in your proposal to expedite the process of starting your relationship. Once the client is ready to sign, don’t make them reach back out to you with a request for you to send the contract. Have everything they need to close the deal.
Again, the proposal is simply the written documentation of what you have discussed in-person. You should never just send over a proposal without doing a presentation of some type, whether in-person or over Skype -- you have to be the one doing the selling. However, creating a confusing proposal that's either too long or not detailed enough can work against you. Create your own version of this template to make it easier for your team to put together that next proposal and easier for the potential client to go ahead and sign.