A Beginner's Guide to Writing a Marketing Proposal

Getting the proposal right can be the difference between a marketing campaign taking off or stalling. In this piece, we’ll review the basics of marketing proposals and how to make it more effective.

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A good marketing proposal can be the key to landing that next big client. A bad one can mean lost business and a dip in sales for the quarter. To increase your marketing proposal's chances of success, you need to find the right mix of persuasiveness and professionalism for your target audience.

In this piece, we’ll explore what a marketing proposal is and help you lay the groundwork to make your next one a success.


Overview: What is a marketing proposal?

A marketing proposal is a document marketers, PR firms, and advertising agencies provide to potential clients when pitching their services. Good marketing proposals should quantify specific details on strategy, implementation, costs, and how the client can accept.

Additionally, a marketing proposal should be persuasive enough to provide the client with a compelling reason to consider the marketer’s services.


What to consider when writing a marketing proposal

Since marketing proposals are a big driver of whether or not you land business, there can be a lot of pressure around getting them right. There’s so much you could put in your proposal, but what should you add? Which business metrics matter in any given case? While we can’t answer those specific questions for you, here are some rules of thumb you can use to help guide your decisions.

Focus on the client

Too often, proposals are focused too heavily on the marketer and not enough on the client. While it is important for you to present your expertise and authority in the field, don’t sacrifice your focus on the client in the process. If you do, you may lose their interest before they ever understand your value proposition.

Do some research on your potential client before submitting your proposal. Who are their customers? What problems do they have? What do they value? What are they doing well, and poorly, when it comes to their current marketing collateral?

Use that information to frame your proposal.

Clearly identify the problem and solution

Businesses make money because they solve problems efficiently. Clearly identify the problems you’ve identified and can solve for your potential clients. For example, if gap analysis suggests your client’s website marketing isn’t up to par, that’s a clear problem.

The solution may be your firm’s expertise in content marketing, SEO, and CMS software. Similarly, if a client is struggling with sales lost in abandoned carts, follow-up emails automated by email marketing software can be a compelling solution.

Be concise

You can probably go on for a long time about why your ad campaign proposal is ideal, or how the digital marketing example case studies you have, prove your firm’s value. However, your potential clients have a number of other obligations vying for their attention.

Aim to get your point across in a concise way and be respectful of their time. Bogging them down in detail may actually cause them to not read the full proposal, which defeats the purpose.


How to write a marketing proposal for your small business

Generally, a marketing proposal layout is structured enough to be fairly consistent across industries. That means while a proposal focused on law firm marketing may have a strategy that is greatly different than one focused on integrated marketing strategy for an e-commerce store, the general outline of the proposal can be very similar.

Here, we’ll walk through six sections common to most marketing proposals and provide some sample text to help you get an idea of how to create your own.

Section 1: Executive Summary

Your executive summary should be a short and concise rundown of what your proposal can do for your client. This is where you should aim to create a “hook” that compels your potential client to read more. Don’t exaggerate or make claims you can’t back up, but do aim to quantify business benefit and answer any basic who/what/why questions at a high level.

Executive Summary

This marketing proposal details the services Johnnie E’s Marketing, Inc. can provide ACME Industries, LLC. Based on extensive research, Johnnie E’s expertise in social media software and SEO can generate up to a 15% increase in qualified leads for ACME’s anvil manufacturing line of businesses at a cost of less than 0.25% of revenues.

Tip: Hit the high points. Treat the executive summary like an elevator pitch. Clearly define the high-level problems you can solve and the benefits you can bring to your client’s business.

Section 2: Challenges/Objectives

There are a few different ways you may see this section labeled in different marketing proposal templates, such as problem statement and proposed solution or goals. However you chose to label it, the point is the same: be sure to explain the “what” of your marketing proposal.

Since you’re the marketing expert, it’ll be up to you to tie in best practices, principles of marketing, and relevant data to make your case here. It’s not enough to find a problem, you need to drive home that it’s a problem worth solving and define a path to get to a solution.

While you’re definitely trying to sell your firm as a solution to a problem here, avoid overpromising or exaggerating expected results. Clients will appreciate realistic targets, and long term, a reputation for over-delivering is better for business than over-promising.

Marketing challenges

Males, 35-44, are the biggest group of anvil purchasers in the U.S. annually, representing 45% of the market. Research (link to research or note to appendix) has shown that 65% of anvil purchases in this age group are influenced by social media. Currently, ACME’s lack of a targeted social media strategy limits their ability to attract anvil purchasers in this demographic, relative to their competition.

Marketing objectives

Based on current trends, in order to achieve an increase of 15% in qualified leads within a 6 month time period ACME should:

  1. Increase social media engagement within the 35-44 year old male demographic by 25%
  2. Rank in the top 3 on the search engine results page for the top 10 industry-specific keywords
  3. Send 50% more targeted follow up messages

Tip: Take a SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) approach to defining your objectives in this section. Doing so will benefit you and the client by removing ambiguity and providing clear success metrics.

Section 3: Marketing Strategy/Solution

While the previous section explained the “what,” this section dives into the “how.” You’ve laid out the problem and objectives for solving it, now it’s time to explain the specific actions you’ll take to do so. Marketing software you’ll implement, specific marketing campaigns you’ll lead, and other actions you’ll take to achieve your goals should all be called out in this section.

Marketing strategy

To achieve the objectives outlined in the “Marketing objectives” section of this document, Johnnie E’s will:

  1. Implement social media and email marketing software to automate campaigns and provide detailed metrics on marketing performance
  2. Customize proven digital marketing templates to optimize ACME’s social media presence
  3. Optimize ACME’s existing “Anvils Today” blog content

Based on Johnnie E’s research, this 3-pronged approach will improve ACME’s position with the 35-44 year old male demographic

Tip: Provide evidence of the effectiveness of your methods. This can be anything from case studies to statistics. The social proof from case studies and testimonials can be very compelling. Similarly “numbers people” will appreciate having real-world data to back your claims.

Section 4: Scope of Work

A scope of work is exactly what you’d expect, given the name. It spells out what the client will get if they pay for your services. This is important for both you and your client because it provides a clear reference of what’s expected of you throughout the project and the underlying assumptions. If all of the “assumptions” hold true, the client should expect you to deliver everything outlined. If they want something out of scope, you can reasonably ask for more money for those additional services.

Scope of work

Set up tasks (1st month)

  • Provisioning of social media marketing software
  • Provisioning of email marketing software
  • Review of existing website analytics

Ongoing work (6 months)

  • Management of social media accounts X, Y, and Z
  • Creation of email marketing campaign
  • Optimization of website content

Milestones & deliverables schedule

  • Kick-off meeting - Jan 2
  • Social media & email software fully implemented - Feb 1
  • Monthly status meeting - Jan 2

Assumptions

  • ACME will provide access to social media accounts X, Y, and Z
  • ACME will provide access to existing marketing and analytics software

Tip: Be clear and specific. It will benefit all parties involved if you clearly define your scope of work before a project begins. Removing the ambiguity of what is and what isn’t in scope upfront can save a lot of headaches down the road.

Section 5: Financials

This section is straightforward: it details what your services will cost. You may have standard pricing or custom quotes you need to generate, but the purpose of this section is simply to define the costs of your services. Depending on the size of your firm, this section may be drafted by you directly or involve sales administration or accounting teams.

Costs

Item Price Qty Total
Software sourcing and provisioning $2,000 1 $2,000
Website SEO analysis $500 1 $500
6 months social media account management $12,000 1 $12,000
Total $17,500

Tip: Know your pricing strategy and stick to it. While negotiation is a part of business, you need to avoid drastically compromising your pricing to land a single deal, if it would hurt your broader business strategy.

Section 6: Terms and Conditions

The terms and conditions are where you and the client can sign to enter into a contract for your services. Depending on the size of your business and the size of the deal, you may use boilerplate from a template or you may have a custom set of terms and conditions from your, or your client’s, legal team.

Terms and conditions

Here is the legalese from the lawyers. All parties should review carefully and sign below.

Company name:


Name & title [Printed]


Signature


Date


Tip: Check with your legal team or legal counsel for specifics on terms and conditions. The nuance of business law makes it important to ensure you're on the right path here is important.


Remember: keep the focus on the client

There’s no single best marketing proposal that will work in every industry. The specifics can vary from marketing firm to marketing firm, and even project to project. Whatever baseline or template you start with, you’ll need to modify with the data, value proposition, and legalese your situation requires.

However, by staying focused on your clients and their problems and understanding the basics of marketing proposals, you can help increase the chances your next marketing proposal is a success.

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