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Create a perfect marketing proposal in 10 simple steps
As a marketing consultant or freelance business growth professional, there is no greater tool than your original proposal to a potential new client. This is the one document that will establish your identity and why you are the best fit for the opportunity. If you’re not sure how to write a marketing proposal, however, you can follow these expert suggestions. They’ll ensure your pitch stands out – and you walk away with the gig.
1. Start with a Template
In today’s world of online knowledge sharing, there is absolutely no reason to go it alone. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of templates for freelancers to choose from (although not so many geared specifically toward freelance marketers.) To figure out if a proposal is legitimate or professional enough to use with your start-up, maker sure the author of the template has experience working in the industry. Bonsai’s freelance proposal templates, for example, come from those with decades behind their knowledge of what works – and what doesn’t -- with proposals. Avoid templates produced by shady websites or those who have no proven background working in freelance services or marketing.
2. Show Knowledge of Their Goals
This step may take the longest to develop since it will require an intimate knowledge of their company, the products or services they offer, and even their ideal customer. Include details of the market as a whole, what competitors may be doing (even if they are doing it better), and how the market may change in the coming years. Use this time to learn what you can about the client; surprise them with the attention you’ve paid to making their business your own.
To best demonstrate that you have the prospect’s best interest at heart, get right down to details in speaking their language. Acknowledge their pain points by reiterating any marketing challenges they have now or have ever had. Then combat these with ideas for how your services will tackle them. By showing you know how their company grows, what new benchmarks they need to achieve, and how success could look in the future, you are framing your proposal as a tool to winning.
3. Set Them Up to Win
Anyone can send a marketing proposal promising general results such as “increase sales” or “build brand awareness.” Where you can really impress, however, is in your choice to offer specific, deliverable results. The key to winning a bid is to both explain the type of wins the client will experience by employing you and to make the goals reasonable enough that there will be no question of when you reach each benchmark.
Here are some examples of language that you can use in a marketing proposal that meets both of these objectives:
- “We’ll create a memorable ad campaign with 30-second digital short.”
- “Our company will refresh your online avatar with a newly-designed logo and matching website assets.”
Both of these service offerings promise to do something that is tangible – and reasonable – along with how you will achieve that goal. The client can walk away from reading your proposal and know exactly what they are paying you for.
4. Show Why You’re Best
With so many tasks that can fall under the umbrella of “marketing,” it’s nearly impossible to explain just what a marketer does. Some of the services that many marketing professional offer include:
- Social media marketing
- Messaging app development
- Ad campaigns
- Influencer outreach and engagement
- Video creation
- Logo and website design
- SEO expertise
- Email messaging
- Customer retention
- CRM specialties
- … and many more
This is why it is crucial to have your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) defined early on. Explain what do well and how those specific and specialized skills will be the perfect match for those marketing challenges we mentioned in the first section of your proposal. Use this part of your plan to share why they will be happiest with your services and how choosing another provider (without naming names) could result in a lackluster experience and low conversion rates.
Many freelancers refer to this section as “Why Choose XYZ Company.” It may include a brief background of your business, your education, any certifications you have obtained, and work experiences that specifically speak to their marketing goals. If you served on a board for marketers, for example, include this. If you authored a relevant or trending business book, share that. Now is the time to be confident in your accomplishments as a professional – as long as you can tie them directly to the outcomes of the client.
In addition to sharing tangible, measurable results from the past, don’t hesitate to use words that communicate your mission. If you pride yourself on personal service, excellent communication skills, punctuality, or obsessive attention to detail, include this in a way that blends with your proposal messaging. For maximum benefits, use words that the client has used in their own marketing materials; try to mirror some – but not all – of their language.
5. Explain Your Fees
Pricing may be one of the most difficult parts of learning how to write a marketing proposal, regardless of the industry you work in. Thanks to tools like Bonsai’s Rates Explorer, professionals can now get closer to fair market wages with their quotes, although it’s never an exact science. In fact, because marketers offer such a wide variety of services, it can be tempting to offer everything all at once.
Instead of overwhelming the client with options, focus on just those services that answer the most pressing marketing needs outlined in the first part of your proposal. Package up services that go together to reach a common goal. Avoid creating dozens of line-items or add-ons.
An example of this would be to offer “online ad management” for a flat fee per month. This could include buying Facebook ads, analyzes stats, producing reports, and creating milestones for improvement. You may include each additional social platform (such as Twitter or Instagram) in this service, for a high price; you don’t need to separate them.
Likewise, research and website redesign, along with logo creation and launch development, could all be part of one, big “rebranding” package. You wouldn’t do a redesign without research, so don’t split this out as a separate service from your package. By adding in like services, such as website redesign and logo creation, you can ask for more money for services that naturally go together.
6. Offer Only a Few Add-Ons
Some companies do like to spend big and may be tempted to buy all that you have to offer. Others may not feel like they are getting good value unless they pick a more modest service package. For this reason, adding a few extras as optional services makes sense. These can be monthly services (such as a report creation) or one-time, incremental offerings (like extra Skype sessions.) By including these add-ons, you are also communicating that your time is valuable and that you won’t be giving away extras for free.
What about reimbursable expenses? Many marketers make the mistakes of spelling out what they think will be their cost of doing business as a service fee. If you run Facebook ads, for example, you may want to mention the amount you plan on spending ($10,000 a month), but not put that as an additional line item. The client traditionally pays ads, so they will spend as you go. Additional expenses for travel, training, or tools, should be covered in your costs and don’t need to be called out specifically.
7. Include a Reasonable Timeline
Most companies who have solicited a marketing proposal have been dealing with issues for some time. To reach out and ask for external help can be jarring and seem unnatural. Some businesses wait until they are in dire need before you ever get a chance to pitch your services.
For this reason, they are usually in a hurry to get started. They may ask for a quick turnaround on your proposal, want business to start in the same quarter or month, and make plans for changes to happen in time for the next holiday or marketing fad. Because time is money to them, too, don’t be alarmed by a feeling of haste.
Larger companies may even present their situation as urgent and then move along at a snail’s pace when you actually start the proposal process. This is usually due to internal red tape and the dozens of teams the executives than need to be involved in the final decision. Just because their communications may seem slow, however, their expectations of you – and your proposal timing – may not be relaxed.
Your proposal should have a very clear timeline of objectives, starting with the date that the proposal expires. If your proposal is due on Oct. 1st, for example, make the timeline for beginning work the next week. Show them that you are ready to start with briefing calls and team brainstorming sessions as soon as the contract is signed.
Explain each step in your work as “phases” and include a summary of what each phase includes. Research, analysis, development, and design or just a few of the behind-the-scenes activities that need to happen (sometimes unbeknownst to the client.) Ensure that they know you are working hard through each milestone by including some of the activities that will take place at each phase. Include a start and completion date for each phase, as well.
8. Show What’s Next
The proposal creation can take days, even weeks, but that’s not the end of your responsibility to land this new client. Handing off the proposal is just the first step in guiding the client toward a successful resolution – and hopefully a lucrative new project for you. A brief outline of what’s to come is helpful in letting the client know what you expect from them. It may include:
- How the client can accept the proposal as written
- What to do if the client would like to see changes made
- When change requests should be requested by
- When a contract will go out for an accepted proposal
- Who will create the contract
- When both parties should accept the contract
- The start date for the new project
- The project deposit amount (according to the fee schedule)
- The deposit payment due date and delivery method
This is also a good time to let the client know that, while you are happy to consider changes to the proposal, this may result in changes to the project or service fees, as well. You may like to add language on how your billable hours work and when to buy these for work above what the original proposal guarantees.
9. Set Rules
Boundaries are important. Even if you’re a pro at knowing how to write a marketing proposal, your bid should close with some basic terms and conditions for accepting the offer – or rejecting it. A quick explainer of some contract terms fit in nicely here. If you work for hire, for example, state this. If you expect to retain your copyright for work performed, let the client know now. There’s no reason to let them wait until the contract signing to get a surprise regarding intellectual property rights. If they don’t feel that the terms are fair, it may be reason enough for them to consider never working with you in the future.
Because proposals take time – and effort – it can be scary sending them out. What if a competitor gets ahold of it? You will be revealing many sensitive details of your business, your strategy, and your pricing, so include some language that the proposal is specific to the client you are pitching, and that it is not to be shared outside of the organization. While there is really nothing to keep a future client from spreading the info around, letting them know you consider the bid confidential can go a long way in keeping your business plan under wraps.
Finally, be clear as to who is authorized to accept the proposal. Like a contract, you want to deal with the decision-maker at the company. Inquire ahead of time if there are contacts who need cc’d on the proposal and if there will be someone different than your regular contact accepting the bid. Miscommunications happen; freelancers have sometimes gotten a green light for projects from people not in the position to be giving them one.
10. Avoid These Proposal Mistakes
While no can fully know how to write a marketing proposal from the get-go, some very egregious errors can ruin your chances of being hired, or even leave you working for far less than you should. Do your best to avoid these rookie mistakes in all of your bids for work. (The same rules can apply to any freelance contracts you send out, as well.)
Giving It All Away
Since marketing can be such an ambiguous industry, it may feel impossible to communicate how your services are relevant without sharing specifics. Under no circumstances, however, should you reveal exactly what you will do and how you will do it. Don’t give the client so much information that they can take what you wrote in your proposal and do the work themselves --- without paying you.
An example of oversharing could be telling them what software services you’ll use to measure analytics. You may be tempted to state the exact plan of action for growing online sales. Another mistake would be to submit any kind of “sample” of your work, specific to their brand. Don’t do any auditioning for the role of the marketing professional. You don’t have to prove you are worthy beyond what you state in your proposal.
Being Too Vague
On the other end of the mistake spectrum is not giving the client enough info to make an informed decision. If your proposal is full of buzzwords that don’t deliver facts or a reasonable explanation of what the client can expect from hiring you, they will most definitely pass you over for someone else. Phrases like “maximize profits” or “grow organically” don’t mean much without the “how.” Remember to strike a balance between sharing too much and causing the client to guess what you’re being hired to do.
Leaving an Open Offer
Time is money, and the professional marketing needs to have a steady flow of clients to keep their business running. If your proposal has a set deadline for response (as we mentioned above), you need to enforce it without impunity. The client should know that the proposal is coming, and a quick back-and-forth email to confirm that you will be awaiting their reply should further emphasize the expectations. If the proposal doesn’t get a reply, do a few email follow-ups, but don’t let the offer stay on the table for too long. Stick to your deadlines, and withdraw your service offer if needed.
Improve Every Time
While sending out that first proposal may make you a sweaty, nervous mess, it does get easier with time. Surprisingly, the “no’s” prepare you better to refine your craft than the “yes’s.” With each rejection you get, see if there’s feedback you can solicit to make your offers better each time. It may be your fees, your experience, or methods to achieve results – which may not be something you can change. If a prospect is willing to share comments, however, you can work to do better in the future.
Does figuring out how to write a marketing proposal seem difficult? Let the experts walk you through with the Bonsai’s proposal building tool, part of their comprehensive suite of freelance professional solutions.