Proposals are powerful tools that drive new business, convert clients, and advertise your experience and success.
Even though proposals are so crucial to success, most agencies have terrible marketing proposals that are difficult to read, too full or too empty of information, and do a better job of turning clients off rather than on.
Great agency proposals captivate, entertain, inform, and most of all: close.
For many agencies, the biggest mistake is failing to write their proposal documents from the client’s perspective. Too many agencies create proposal templates and proposal documents and include the information they want to see, rather than what will help inform, reassure, and secure the client’s business.
Writing an amazing agency proposal is difficult, time-consuming, and sometimes expensive. Thought needs to be put in to establish what a client is looking for, how to address their needs and concerns, and how to show off your business’s capabilities in a way that closes down the deal.
In a hurry?
However, with clear guidance and a thought-out structure, you can improve your agency proposals, inform prospective clients better, and increase your closure rate.
Read on for a guide to the common mistakes made in marketing agency proposals, how to fix your marketing proposal, and a marketing proposal template to help win clients and drive business.
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What is a marketing agency proposal
A marketing agency proposal is one of your businesses’ most powerful assets. It’s a comprehensive tool that informs potential clients about your agency and your services and helps convert them.
The document’s sole purpose is to explain your offering, show case studies to prove your previous successes, and remove any doubt a client might have about working with you.
A marketing proposal is made up of several essential sections that any potential client is looking to see. Omitting those increases doubt about your agency and leads to the potential client asking questions about your agency’s competency and why key sections are missing.
Marketing agency proposals should be well-designed, easy to read, and showcase your thought and expertise.
Common mistakes when creating a proposal
Even the most experienced agencies make mistakes with their marketing proposals. That’s why consistently reviewing your templates and client submissions helps to make sure you reduce the number of mistakes you make and increase the chance that your marketing proposal will get you the client.
While many mistakes are nuanced and unique, there are several that are very common among marketing agency proposal documents and should always be avoided:
Not optimizing every section
Every section of the proposal should be optimized to meet a client’s expectation, remove doubt, or answer questions. Every section, paragraph, and image should serve a purpose and work towards the goal of converting the client. Any area of the proposal that doesn’t work to this should be removed.
When you’re writing your proposal, make sure to sit first and work out exactly what the client is looking for: what questions they want answered, what trust signals they need to see, and what doubts you need to remove.
Too much detail
Experienced agency owners tend to stuff their proposals full of information. They make sure every single ounce of detail is included just in case the client is looking for it. Proposal documents run for pages and pages, case studies are many, and paragraphs are packed with information.
Doing this is a sure way to turn any potential client off.
Instead of packing in more detail than you could ever wish for, be restrained and include the essentials plus a little more. If you cover key bases and make sure you sit down and make a list of potential client concerns before you prepare your proposal and then address those with your sections, your proposal will be filled with just enough detail to impress.
Not enough detail
New marketing agency owners are often unsure exactly what to put in their agency proposals and struggle to fill case studies and client testimonials because they’re new and haven’t had much experience before. So, because of this, they submit thin proposals that are low on detail and fail to remove doubts and convert the potential client.
If you’re a new marketing agency owner that doesn’t have a stack of case studies and client testimonials, concentrate your efforts on what you’ll do for the new client and make sure to break this down in detail.
Compensate for your lack of previous experience with a concrete and well-scoped breakdown of the potential project along with the inclusion of an FAQ section to help reinforce that you know what you’re talking about.
Not tailoring enough
Too many agency owners are busy with their existing projects and so they struggle to set aside the time to create highly tailored proposals that meet a specific client’s needs. Instead, these agency owners turn to templates that match the service they are offering but not the client receiving it.
Templates are fine, and they help speed up the process of creating proposals but they only work well when they are combined with tailored client-specific information.
Adapt your current template with sections for personalisation for each client and use these areas to make your proposal relevant, targeted, and appropriate.
Everyone likes when things are personalized to their needs and showing your clients that you’ve taken the time to be fully aware of their business challenges will make choosing your marketing agency that much easier for them.
How to write a marketing proposal – structure
Agency marketing proposals typically follow key structures. Stick to this, add one or two relevant sections if needed, and your proposals will match client expectations and deliver all the points needed to turn a “maybe” into a “yes.”
Kick off with a visually interesting start for your proposal that makes an impact. Don’t be boring. Clients may have to sift through many different proposals at a time and an eye-catching proposal is always going to stand out and demand attention.
If your marketing agency also has a design team, make this very clear with a slick and exciting design that’s relevant to the target business.
Use this page to feature your client’s brand and your own together – to forecast what will hopefully come.
Project overview / summary
This section covers everything briefly. Explain the client’s current situation, what their previous marketing efforts were and how successful they were, what they are looking for now, how you can help, what the strategy will be, and what the budget is.
Keep this to a maximum of one slide if possible. Nobody needs to read a summary that’s almost as long as the document it’s meant to give an overview of.
Goals, tracking measures, and obstacles
You are pitching to solve a client’s problem. Use this section to address what challenges you’ll overcome, how you’ll measure progress and success, and what obstacles to success there may be.
Break down any of the below if they are relevant to the client and if you have already discussed them in advance of creating the proposal:
- Revenue goals
- Key metrics measured by the client in-house and by your marketing agency
- Previous year turnover, projected turnover for the current year
- Available client resources
- Existing obstacles
- Potential delays from client-side, agency-side, or market conditions
Deliverables, strategy, and timeline
These can be combined into one section or broken down into three individual sections if warranted. Use each point to highlight exactly how you are going to approach the client’s problems, when you are going to make progress in the project, and what the client will receive.
If you work on a project basis, break down all the key steps and timelines for your client. If you’re an experienced agency, you’ll have very accurate understandings of how long similar projects take and can use this to provide an accurate timeline for your client. For new agencies: overestimate your timelines by around 20-30% to allow for any potential delays.
Providing an accurate timeline now allows you to set client expectations early. If you account for any potential delays in this timeline, your client will already be expecting the project to move more slowly than if you are expecting everything to fall right into place.
If you work on a retainer basis, use this section to break down monthly deliverables, work, and timelines within the month. You can use this to outline any key upcoming dates, planned campaigns, and more.
To go beyond the standard timeline, also include a separate client-side dependency timeline that outlines what you will need from the client and when. This can help show the client that you have a very in-depth understanding of projects and what it means to work with a client. Helping to outline client deliverables can also make sure that the client is aware of what you will need from them and can make them put things in place from the beginning to make sure they don’t hold the project back.
Scope of work
This section lists all of the items of work and deliverables that are associated with the project. Use it as a kind of shopping list or order manifest and include all aspects of the project.
Keep this brief but comprehensive. Don’t elaborate on what each deliverable entails and allow this document to be used as a quick point of reference for both you and the client.
Keeping deliverables and the scope of work narrow but comprehensive can prevent scope creep down the line and save yourself difficulties when the project gets delayed or when the client asks for big increases in work.
Cost and budget
Include a comprehensive breakdown of the project cost and how this relates to the client’s budget. Make it clear what is included in the quoted fee and what items are chargeable extras if requested. Include your charge rate for any work undertaken that’s above the initial quoted rate and keep this clear.
Making it clear now what work is extra and is billed on top of any project fee or retainer will make your life a lot easier going forward.
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KPIs and metrics
Here you should establish the KPIs and metrics you’ll be tracking and how often you will be reporting. In your conversations with the potential client you should have already been given a good idea of what success looks like, so translate these discussions into a clear and comprehensive section.
If the client has provided benchmark data or reports, incorporate these to show a baseline pre-project status.
Include all goals and if possible include a goal range for success metrics that have a bottom and top line.
Here’s where you talk about you. Include a brief overview of your agency, your team, and the way you work. The goal of this section is to cover your achievements but also to convince the potential client that your marketing agency will be great to work with.
Give an overview of your awards, accolades, and achievements but keep this section short and stay humble.
Include a section on your team members, their achievements, how long they’ve been with your marketing agency, and what your agency culture is like. If you have any special or interesting ways of working, include those here.
If your agency has a specific way of working with clients, explain that here. This section needs to inform the client about what the working relationship will be like and why your agency is the one to pick over all the others.
Project case studies
New agencies struggle to include case studies if they haven’t had a track record of great client success. To counteract this, you can include a roundup of previous project experience from your team’s careers. Show your experience by explaining previous product success and how each team member contributed to the success of a diverse range of projects. Make it clear it wasn’t your agency that ran these projects but that your agency team is made up of talented people.
A marketing agency proposal’s job is to convince the client you are able to achieve success with the work you do. Make this clear by showing off your past achievements and a client’s doubt will be satisfied.
If you’re an experienced marketing agency, choose from your bank of case studies and include two that are most relevant to the potential client. Go heavy on metrics, improvements, and KPIs. Include client testimonials if you have them.
Many previous clients are happy to provide a reference for agencies who have completed fantastic work for them. If your clients are happy to do this (you must ask them first), say that you are happy to connect the potential client with the previous client on request. Doing this shows supreme confidence in your past work and shows the potential client that you’re willing to put your money where your mouth is and stake your reputation on the words of a previous client.
Letter of intent / term sheet / contract
Here’s where you seal up all of the aspects of the marketing proposal and round things off in a term sheet or contract.
This section can act as an actual contract or as a letter of intent which will be followed by the firm legal document.
If you feel that going heavy with a multi-page legal document at the end of your marketing proposal is overkill, include a short term sheet that sets out each party’s obligations if the client wishes to go forward.
This section should explain:
- Start date
- Payment and invoicing terms
- Notice periods and cancellation options
- Intellectual property conditions
- Confidentiality statements
- Data processing and storage requirements
- Key points of contact
Many agencies find that keeping this section short, clear, and matter of fact helps clarify the marketing proposal and solidify what the requirements are.
A marketing proposal template
Now you have a firm understanding of what a marketing agency proposal is, why you need an agency proposal, and how to create a marketing proposal, it’s time to actually start to put one together.
Creating your first marketing proposal may be daunting. So, we’ve prepared a comprehensive template that breaks down and explains all of the sections above in a handy format that you can re-use and adapt to fit your own needs.
And, it’s completely free.