In digital marketing, asking for proposals is the norm. Agencies ask for proposals when they require outsourcing skills on piecemeal basis. Businesses ask for proposals when they feel that digital marketing should fit into their overall marketing strategy. This marketing segment is outsourced both in total aspects and on piecemeal basis regularly.
We enthusiastically email proposals and expect a favorable response only to be disappointed. If your refusal rate is more than 50%, there could be issues with the way you create your digital marketing proposal.
Mistake 1: One Glove Fits All Approach
As digital marketers, we tend to have different tools that we run and use to generate proposals. We have a standard template and fit information and data into it. While it’s okay to have a standard template, you need to personalize the client’s need. Each business is unique and has different requirements. For instance, if a client is already running a PPC program successfully, there is no point in sending a proposal that focuses on PPC as a strategy. The reason you were asked for a proposal was to see whether you have any different insights to offer. If you come up with a proposal that suggests other ways to ramp up business, that’s when they start paying attention.
There are two stages in a proposal. The first is a preliminary proposal where the business is exploring how digital marketing will fit into their overall strategy. At this stage, they tend to ask for proposals from several companies and will compare and shortlist. Your POD [Point of Differentiation] is that personalization. To personalize, you should do at least two things:
- Learn what the business is actually about and identify their USP.
- Make an effort to compare the business to their online competitors. Include a SWOT strategy.
Mistake 2: Overwhelming with Information
Solution: Include a summary
Another mistake that digital marketers make is that we tend to go overboard with our knowledge and assume that the other person has similar knowledge or understanding of the subject. That is very far from the truth. If you add too much information, your proposal seems overwhelming to the prospect and it may land in the trash bin, physically or virtually. Your objective is to find a balance to display your knowledge base and communicate it effectively to your prospect.
To communicate your expertise, divide your proposals into sections and highlight the headings clearly. Prospects want to see suggestions and the way forward at a glance. If your proposal is lengthy, include an executive summary right at the beginning. Your executive summary should include the way forward, timeline, targets and financials very briefly.
Mistake 3: Over Quoting Or Under Quoting Price
Solution: Pricing transparency
There is no such thing as wrong or right pricing. What you need to do is to show the value for money. For instance, take your approach to social media campaign recommendations. While your approach may be to create a landing page for the campaign, your competitors may differ on the approach. They may be sending traffic to an already existing page on the website and this will reduce their cost. How effective either method will be cannot be predicted at the proposal stage. Therefore, in your digital marketing proposal, there should be a way to let them know how you operate.
The ideal way is to include a costing section and the number of hours to show what work is involved. You can even show the skill level required so that it justifies your pricing rate. That way your prospect can see at a glance why the price is so high.
Now the question, should you reduce costs for a good client? There is a certain minimum cost involved in running successful campaigns. If you are already running several campaigns of different clients regularly, you can quote lower for an influential client. However, we recommend a money back approach without compromising on work quality. This ensures success because the first 3-4 months are crucial and you can invest higher gain results and keep the client on a retainer basis.
Mistake 4: Wrong Approach
Solution: prepare a brief client questionnaire before starting on your proposal
There are plenty of times when you start your proposal on the wrong footing. The norm for business owners and agencies is ‘require a proposal for SEO’, or ‘send me a proposal for Adwords’. Based on their instructions, you submit a proposal only to learn that they are already running a program and you had not come up with something different.
Here’s how it happens. The client is already running an Adwords program at some location and they want to know if it can be done cheaper. They give you a different location for the proposal. Now, if you had access to the account, you could immediately analyze and send an improvement report. After all, he is asking for a proposal because you are considered an expert.
To overcome situations like these, in your acceptance of a RFP, send a questionnaire which tackles situations like these. This will ensure that the effort to prepare a proposal does not go in vain. Try and ask for revenue or lead targets so that you can come up with the right budget and a doable timeline.
Mistake 5: Not Sounding Authoritative
Solution: Communicate your expertise
There are times when you are up against really professional competitors like ad agencies. So while the proposal may be similar and your cost may be lower because you work on lower margins, the look and fee of your proposal lacks the authority. So, the decision goes against you. That’s really disappointing.
This is a psychological warfare. To win it, you have to employ certain techniques.
- Ensure that your template is purely professional. Management is not easily swayed by looks if the outlook is professional.
- Give them 2-3 pricing options; this makes them feel like they are in control.
- Give them money-back assurance. It feels like you know what you are doing.
- If it’s a local business
- At the end of the proposal, if possible, include logos of popular local businesses who are your clients.
- Add testimonials along with images of some of the business owners.
- If your are competing for regional or national businesses,
- Include links of some of your popular publications
- Add testimonials of businesses that have scaled or are in news
- Add appendix of tools that you have used for research
- Add data of competition that they can use.
Remember, there is a difference between plan and proposal. The plan comes after your proposal has been accepted.
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