As anyone who works in digital marketing will tell you, the vast majority of the proposals that you write will be rejected without you ever hearing back.
This high failure to success rate can be very demoralizing, and you can end up feeling like you are flogging a dead horse by spending a large amount of your time putting together doomed proposal after doomed proposal.
Improving your proposal uptake success rate is difficult as you will almost never receive feedback for why your proposals are so consistently failing to get the gig.
First of all, let us take a brief look at why experts say that most marketing proposals end up falling on deaf ears.
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The most common marketing proposal writing sins
Most unsuccessful marketing proposals are rejected out of hand for one or both of the following reasons, regardless of the viability of the ideas contained within them:
1. Failure to Captivate the Client’s Interest
It is highly likely that cramming your proposal full of too much information that is not essential to the proposal will fail to hook a client. Your proposal will be one of many that will have to be sifted and will be tossed aside if it does not make an immediate impact.
2. Less Focus on the Client’s Needs
Making their business the talking point of the presentation is a big mistake that marketers often make unknowingly. This happens when the presentation puts more emphasis on your experience, achievements, and credentials rather than making the client and their problems the centerpiece. An ideal proposal focuses on the client and utilizes your business creds to demonstrate the value you can bring to them.
3. Poor Presentation
It does not matter how good your idea is, if it is not presented in a logical and understandable way that focuses on the needs of the client first, your proposal will be discarded.
4. Ambiguous Pricing Structure
Another common theme among discarded proposals is the absence of a clear pricing structure. If a client is confused about how much what you are proposing is actually going to end up costing them, they are unlikely to bite.
Keys to marketing proposal success
Bid-winning proposal-writing is based principally on rectifying the problems outlined in the first section. What follows are a few principles that you should consider integrating into your marketing proposals to give you an edge over competitors:
1. Focus on the Client’s Specific Needs
A massive factor in bad proposal-writing is a tendency to spend too much time describing your own marketing company at the beginning of your pitch.
A better approach is to start by showing the client that you have done meticulous research into their business, how it works, and ways that their marketing strategy can be improved.
Leave no stone unturned here – this is your chance to impress the client, who will be instilled with confidence by your meticulousness.
2. Put a Spotlight on Their Pain Points
Nothing pushes people into action more than seeing all of their most pressing problems laid out before them. So make sure to understand the problems of your client and be ready to show them how these problems are hurting their business.
A smart and effective way to do this is by including screenshots of a non-functional landing page, 404 error pages, a slow-loading website, or anything else that may be relevant. Point out how these factors are negatively impacting the client’s business, their Google rankings, and their brand’s image and reputation.
Talk about the missed opportunities and the money they are leaving on the table. If this section is presented well, your prospects will be eager to know about the solution you are about to offer.
3. Lay Out Your Strategy
Only after you have identified the specific needs and pain points of the client should you then start to lay out how you are going to use your expertise to help them.
Depending on the client and their requirements you may propose different levels of participation, ranging from a limited advisory role at one end of the scale to a role that involves a consultant or team coming in to completely taking over your client’s marketing department.
Now is the time to win over the client by being crystal clear about the skills and knowledge you are bringing to the table and how you have helped other clients in similar situations in the past.
A good tip here is to add a case study to strengthen the case you’re trying to build. But make sure to do so only if your case study is relevant to the client or the scope of work you’ve outlined in your proposal.
Keep it short and to-the-point, and don’t forget to include data and KPIs that clearly show the value you’ve been able to generate (see image).
4. Sell Yourself Effectively
Remember how in the first point I mentioned the importance of shifting the focus from your business to the clients’? Well, now is the time to talk a bit about your company and why the clients should choose you.
Keep this section succinct, but make sure your professionalism and expertise shine through. The prospect may have no idea about who you are. So treat this as an opportunity to not only introduce your company but also present your mission statement, core values, and USPs in a way that will delight them.
5. Set Realistic Results Targets
While it can be tempting to promise immediate success to gain an edge over a rival bidder, be aware that your client is likely to see through any unrealistic targets without too much effort.
Setting down a realistic timetable for success with clear milestones along the way is far more likely to gain trust (see image).
Defining your metrics for measuring the effectiveness of the campaign is crucial at this juncture. If your bid is successful, too much optimism at the outset, which is not reflected in the subsequent success of the campaign, will possibly lead to a breakdown in the relationship with a disappointed client at a later date.
6. Frame Accurate Cost Estimations
Along with the hard costs of your project, it is important to take into account other associated costs that will eventually add up such as tools to be used, other sub-contractors or vendors to be involved, etc.
What about employee time and other expenses it will take to complete the project? These intangible costs can be easy to gloss over. Breakdown the costs of all applicable effort within the scope and then work out the return on investment (ROI) projections.
A project that adds more value than it costs is always a winner. So make sure your marketing proposal is able to clearly reflect the value to justify the cost.
When laid out like this, proposal-writing is simple. Remember that marketing proposals don’t make the most interesting reads. But you can make it persuasive by delivering the key information, insights, and strategy in an effective manner.
Companies like Local Digital have been following this same formula for proposal success for a long time. Why not apply it to your own proposal-writing?
Avoid the pitfalls and adapt your proposal-writing strategy to incorporate the principles described above, and you will see a definite upturn in the number of successful bids you put in almost immediately.
Guest author: Wilbert Bail is an outreach manager and web designer at Local Digital. He has an adventurous mind but seldom travels as he would rather stay home and make client’s business websites more visible on the internet. He likes techie stuff and enjoys the weekend playing video games.