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How to write a marketing proposal for any service

Feb 05, 2024
  • 18 min read
  • Omid G

    When I first quit my job to start freelancing, I had no idea what a marketing proposal was.

    The first client I worked with asked for one and I quickly did a Google search on how to create one. But, I was still confused.

    It wasn’t until trial and error with multiple potential clients that I started to recognize a pattern between proposals that turned into actual deals and ones that just left me hanging.

    I came to realize that writing a genuine marketing proposal really comes down to understanding the fundamentals of problem-solving. In simple terms, I concluded that a marketing proposal should tell your potential clients five critical things:

    1. What problem you’re going to solve for them
    2. How you’re going to solve their problem
    3. How long it’s going to take you
    4. How much you’re going to charge them for it
    5. Examples of clients you’ve solved this problem for

    That’s all it really is.

    Your proposal doesn’t need to be a fancy PDF document with your client’s branding all over it. It can be if it's a large client or if it’s your first client and you want to impress them.

    But, I’ll be honest and say that my first proposal (and most of my proposals) are all done via email. And in this article, I’ll give you a few different proposal templates you can send directly to your clients in an email.

    But before that, let’s go over what your proposal should include and the nine steps you need to first go through.

    What is the purpose of a marketing proposal?

    A marketing proposal is a document that outlines who you are, what services you’re going to offer, how you plan on doing the work, and a timeline for your deliverables. It’s a detailed document that brings clarity to your client interactions — listing out exactly what you’ll do to help your client achieve their marketing goals.

    Regardless of the marketing strategy you decide to employ, be it SEO, paid advertising, social media, content marketing, product marketing, or whatever else, a marketing proposal will mostly look the same across the board.

    Later in the article, I’ll show you how to tailor your marketing proposal to the exact service(s) you are offering. For now, let’s go over what you need to consider when writing your marketing proposal.

    What to consider when writing a marketing proposal

    Writing a marketing proposal for the first time can feel overwhelming. I know it did for me. Looking back, I wish someone just told me the main elements I need to pay attention to when creating a proposal for my marketing agency.

    Well, as mentioned at the beginning of this article, your marketing proposal needs five core elements:

    • A section mentioning what problem your client has (and why it’s a problem)
    • A section mentioning how you’re going to solve your client's problem
    • A section stating timelines and how long it will take you to solve this problem
    • A section explaining your pricing plans and how much it will cost your client
    • A section for social proof (showing a case study or example of a previous client)

    This framework isn’t just for writing marketing proposals. It can actually help guide your sales process as you try to find and sign more clients. It offers a great order of operations in how you should think about things — helping eliminate confusion on what sections matter and why.

    9 steps to writing a marketing proposal

    Here is my nine-step process for writing a marketing proposal:

    1. Understand your client’s needs
    2. Identify what service(s) you’re offering
    3. Define the scope of work
    4. Set clear objectives and timelines
    5. Create an action plan
    6. Talk about budget and pricing
    7. Showcase past successful clients
    8. Address any risks
    9. Propose next steps

    Alright, let’s go over each step in more detail. At the end, I’ll show you a few templates based on all these nine steps.

    1. Understand your client’s needs

    Before we jump straight into writing our proposal, we need to study our potential client’s business. Think of this as “step zero” before we begin the proposal writing process.

    This part will depend on how your initial interaction began with a potential client. For example, if you’re running an outbound marketing campaign to sign more clients, chances are you already know what your client needs help with. But if your client came to you, be it from word of mouth or your inbound marketing efforts, you’ll need to evaluate if there’s a good fit between your services, values, and the potential client in question.

    The thing is, marketing is a broad field. Some consumer-related companies do really well on social media. While some business-focused companies do well with SEO. And some companies do really well on TikTok, while others do better on LinkedIn.

    It all depends on the type of business you are working with and where their target audience is most likely to discover and respond to their marketing messages.

    Here are some tips for researching a potential client's needs and pain points:

    • Study their website and blog to understand their services, positioning, and messaging
    • Look at the types of content they currently create to identify content gaps
    • Search for press mentions and news coverage to analyze their PR strategy
    • Check their existing social media presence to assess strengths and weaknesses
    • Use tools like Semrush to uncover search traffic, top-performing content, and SEO health
    • Talk to contacts in common or set up an intro call to directly ask about challenges
    • Evaluate their competitors' marketing to compare and contrast
    • Consult review sites to unveil potential customer complaints

    The goal is to align your proposal directly with the struggles and roadblocks the client faces when it comes to reaching customers and driving business growth. The research should clearly pair their precise needs with how your services provide the ideal solution.

    I already wrote an article on how to grow your marketing agency, so I won’t go into too much detail here, but making sure incentivizes are aligned between you and your client is crucial to having a proposal turn into a deal.

    2. Identify what service(s) you’re offering

    Once you have a firm grasp of your potential client’s needs, goals, and challenges from your research, take some time to thoughtfully map which services in your wheelhouse would provide them value.

    Clearly outline the specific offerings and areas of expertise you provide that directly align with the problems uncovered during your previous discovery process. Some services you may highlight include:

    • Content marketing
    • Social media management
    • SEO
    • Paid ads (Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, TikTok, etc.)
    • Email marketing
    • Website design
    • Branding & messaging (product marketing)
    • Campaign strategy/management

    Whichever services you explicitly call out in the proposal should tie directly back to the struggles and objectives the client mentioned facing. (See the bottom of this article for marketing proposal templates based on different services.)

    For example, if the client said their main goal is to drive more traffic from search engines, then be sure to focus on and expand upon your SEO and content creation capabilities within the proposal. Or if they want to create a cohesive brand across platforms, detail your branding process and expertise in consistency across touchpoints.

    Whatever services you do decide to offer, be sure you can back up why you are qualified to deliver on those services by citing relevant case studies, client testimonials, or data from past work demonstrating expertise — we’ll get more into this in step seven.

    The goal here is to illustrate precisely how your capabilities can help them achieve their goals by solving their challenges. Avoid generic, overused jargon, and use clear, tangible examples of how you would put those services into action specifically for them.

    3. Define the scope of work

    Now that you’ve aligned your services to the client’s needs and identified areas for potential partnership, the next step is clearly detailing exactly what the engagement would entail should they move forward with you.

    This is essentially the second core pillar of our marketing proposal: A section mentioning how you’re going to solve your client's problem.

    You want to be extremely clear and set expectations here so you don’t run into scope creep when you begin working with a client. What many modern agencies do these days is productize their services so they can simplify this part of the process.

    Productizing your services essentially means packaging up your offerings to different payment plans, and stating exactly what’s included in each package. This way, clients don’t ask you for work outside of whatever plan they’re on. It makes your service business feel more like a software subscription for your clients.

    ViralCuts' productized pricing plans

    For example, ViralCuts, a short-form video marketing agency, uses different pricing tiers to define the scope of work for each of their service offerings.

    If you don’t have your services productized, you can define your scope of work as clear project deliverables. For example, you can outline what will be included, along with any constraints or limitations:

    In scope

    These are covered services under your proposal and engagement:

    • Creation of 12 blog content articles over a 6-month period
    • Ongoing community management for 2 social platforms (Twitter, LinkedIn)
    • Monthly reporting for all key metrics and KPIs

    Out of scope

    These items or services are exclusions and additional add-ons that could be explored but are not part of the current proposal:

    • Additional content formats — video, podcasts, eBooks
    • Expanded social platform coverage
    • Media relations and PR
    • Website development and design

    Clearly defining scope sets clear expectations about deliverables and helps prevent scope creep down the line. Phrase exclusions diplomatically, leaving room for discussing add-ons after initial success and trust built.

    Additionally, you want to sequence or phase the marketing project in terms of timing and milestones. For example:

    Phase 1 goals (months 1-2)

    • Audit existing content and social channels
    • Create content framework and calendars
    • Produce 5 new blog articles

    Breaking the engagement down into measurable phases and setting specific goals for each makes the process feel less daunting and easier to digest for the prospect.

    4. Set clear objectives and timelines

    Now that you’ve outlined the services, strategy, and phasing for the engagement, the next critical piece is defining measurable goals and realistic timelines across each stage. This adds clarity around what constitutes success and keeps the work on track.

    Some best practices when setting objectives and timelines:

    Establish quantifiable targets

    Set specific, quantifiable metrics for each service component rather than vague statements. These could include:

    • 50% increase in organic site traffic in 6 months
    • 15% email open rate within first 3 email campaigns
    • 500 new followers on Twitter in 2 months

    While you may not always be able to control the outcome of your work, you are always able to control what you input. These targets should be things you aim to achieve for your client. But you should also be clear that results can vary on a case-by-case basis.

    Set realistic timeframes

    Create a detailed timeline calendar outlining when initiatives launch and the duration for hitting goals mapped to each campaign/asset deployed rather than broad quarterly cycles.

    Pick the right key performance indicators (KPIs)

    Determine the most insightful KPIs to benchmark and track campaign/asset performance against goals for optimized spending and maximized ROI. Common marketing KPIs include:

    • Traffic volume
    • Lead generation
    • Sales pipeline created
    • Return on ad spend
    • Engagement rates

    Outline tracking & optimization

    Briefly explain analytical capabilities and optimization best practices employed to monitor KPIs against benchmarks to improve performance continuously.

    For example, you could list in your proposal that you’ll create marketing dashboards and reports for your clients to see. And if you’re using Copilot to onboard and manage your clients, this part is a breeze.

    Client reporting dashboard in Copilot

    Overall, clearly defined objectives, timelines, success metrics, and processes to measure progress instills confidence in achieving the desired outcomes.

    5. Create an action plan

    This step in the marketing proposal creation process is very similar to the previous step. However, here we want to dive deeper into an action plan. This is the meat and potatoes where your strategies get transformed into actual stuff you'll do.

    The goal here is to map out a play-by-play roadmap that connects your client’s goals to the campaigns, channels, and marketing activities you’ll run to hit them. It’s where the strategy meets execution.

    You’ll want to start by laying out the big-picture marketing strategies based on what fits the client’s audience and objectives. So content marketing, social media, SEO, etc.. Explain why each one is relevant to who they’re trying to reach.

    Then deep dive into the specifics of how you'd execute on those. Talk through the types of content you’ll create, the platforms and channels they’ll live on, and the timeline you envision bringing this all to life. Get into the nitty gritty of what blog topics, how many emails, and which social platforms get priority. That kind of thing.

    Milestones are a nice way to bake in key checkpoints too. These give built-in progress markers, like completing an audit by X date or growing social followers by X% within the first 2 months. Keeps everyone aligned.

    You’ll also want to talk resources — budget, team members, tools. Lay out upfront what’s needed from both you and the client’s side to check all the execution boxes. No surprises.

    And since things rarely go 100% to plan, build in room for flexibility based on results. Show you’re set up to monitor progress and evolve approaches if something isn’t hitting.

    By getting clear on strategy → tactics → milestones → resources, you end up with an A-to-Z action plan tailored to what the client is trying to achieve. And that builds confidence you’ve got this covered from concept to execution.

    6. Talk about budget and pricing

    Now that we’ve gone over what problem you’re going to solve, how you’re going to solve it, and how long it will take you, it’s time to pitch your price.

    For many freelancers, and agency owners starting out, this part can be the most confusing part. It’s mainly confusing because you may not know what the “standard” is to charge or what other service providers in your niche are charging.

    Here are a few ways you can go about figuring out your pricing strategy:

    • Shop around with agencies that specialize in what services you want to offer. This is best done if you work in-house at a company and you’re looking to hire external help.
    • Look at a list of productized agencies and see what they’re charging on their public pricing pages.
    • Find agency owners and freelancers on LinkedIn and send them a message asking for their rates.
    • Go on freelancing sites like Upwork and see what other service providers are charging (assuming you’re going to go with the pay-per-hour pricing model).

    Ideally, you have a set price you want to charge, whether that’s hourly, monthly, or project-based. You can ask your potential client what their budget is but chances are they will always want to pay less than what you pitch them.

    If you do ask for a budget, you can use it as a compass to decide what deliverables make sense for their price range. And if you truly believe that your services are worth a certain amount that your client is not willing to pay for, you can always find a new client that will gladly pay what you’re worth.

    In the templates section towards the bottom of this article, I’ll show you an example of how you can present your pricing options to your potential clients.

    7. Showcase past successful clients

    After you ask for a certain price, the best way to make your potential client comfortable and confident in your abilities is to show them some social proof.

    This can be in the form of testimonials from previous clients, a case study from a past company you worked at, or an endorsement from someone you trust.

    This section is tough if you’re sending your very first marketing proposal. But one strategy I did was first offer a free service to a potential client. In fact, I first offered a startup a free blog post that I would rank in Google for their target keyword. After a few months, it did just that and the founder of the company reached out to me to begin a longer-term project — the results spoke for themselves.

    Another time, I had a potentially large client request that I give them the contact information of a previous client so they could screen my abilities.

    And in some cases, you can create your own projects that you grow to show your expertise.

    It all depends on where you are in your marketing agency journey and what types of clients you’re interacting with. In the end, just know that any form of social proof will work for this part. But the best kind is either through a word-of-mouth referral or a case study of a similar company you’ve worked with in the past.

    8. Address any risks

    At this point, most of your business proposal is completed. However, in some cases, you might also want to address any risks or issues that may come up. You also want to state your plan of action if these risks come up.

    Every plan has some degree of uncertainty these days. Markets shift, buyers change, new tech emerges — you get it. I want to talk openly about things that may throw us a curveball down the line so we can tackle them decisively if they pop up.

    My strategy here is all about agility. We'll bake in regular check-ins to review what's working and what's not. That way we can shift gears nimbly when needed — adjusting campaigns, revisiting assumptions, or subbing in new channels. We'll also preload some pretested messaging and backup games ready to run if we need pivots.

    You should not claim to have a crystal ball to all of your client’s problems, but this nimble approach can help you steer any uncertain waters. The goal here is to reassure your clients that they are in good hands and that you have plans in place to handle uncertainty smoothly without missing a beat on progress.

    9. Propose next steps

    Finally, the last step is to ask for more steps. I’m only half-joking. But seriously, this last part of your marketing proposal is crucial as it keeps the line of communication between you and your potential client open.

    You don’t want to strong-arm a potential client into signing anything right after you send your proposal. Even if you desperately need this client to sign, you want to approach your service business from a place of abundance.

    I personally assume that most proposals I send out will result in nothing. It keeps me busy and focused on identifying more companies in the market that could benefit from my services and pitching them.

    If you come off as too needy, it could scare a client away and make them rethink doing business with you. So at the end of your proposal, you can offer to hop on a call to walk through open questions, fine-tune details, or discuss getting alignment on an agreement — whatever your client needs. And just leave it at that.

    If after a week or so you have no response you can send a gentle reminder if they’re still open to working with you. If you don’t hear back from them a week after that, assume the deal won’t happen.

    The funny thing is, that I’ve had this scenario happen on more than one occasion. And it may be that months later a client reaches out and they’re ready (after I thought they ghosted me). So don’t take rejection too seriously here. Running a service business can have a lot of emotional highs and lows if you let yourself get too involved. So lower expectations, keep reaching out to companies you want to work with, and eventually, you may end up signing your dream client!

    Good marketing proposal templates you can use

    Now that we know the steps to creating a marketing proposal, let’s put them all together into a cohesive proposal.

    Here are three marketing proposal templates you can use:

    1. Content marketing proposal template
    2. Paid ads proposal template

    Remember, these are just examples and you should change some of the copy to better fit your marketing services, brand voice, and potential clients. Alright, let’s take a look at each template.

    1. Content marketing proposal template

    Here is a marketing proposal template you can use if you’re offering content marketing and SEO services:

    Subject: Enhance Your Online Presence with Tailored Content Marketing & SEO
    Dear [Client's Name],
    I hope this email finds you well. I am writing to propose a strategic partnership between [Your Company/Your Name] and [Client's Company Name] to boost your online visibility and engagement through specialized content marketing and SEO services.
    Understanding Your Needs
    Having researched [Client's Company Name] and its position in the SaaS market, I recognize the challenges and opportunities in enhancing your digital presence. Our approach is tailored to address these specific needs, ensuring that your unique value proposition reaches the right audience effectively.
    Our Services
    Content Marketing: We'll develop and execute a content strategy that includes creating engaging blog posts, insightful whitepapers, and compelling case studies, all designed to resonate with your target audience.
    SEO Optimization: Our team will implement comprehensive SEO tactics, including keyword research, on-page optimization, and technical SEO enhancements to improve your website's ranking and visibility on search engines.
    Action Plan and Goals
    Our goal is to increase your website traffic by at least 30% and significantly improve your search engine rankings within the next six months.
    This includes:
    A quarterly content strategy
    A monthly content calendar with target keywords
    8 new blog posts published per month
    8 existing content updates
    5 backlinks from DR 60+ websites
    We'll provide a detailed timeline of activities and milestones for transparency and accountability.
    Budget and Pricing
    We offer competitive pricing for our comprehensive content marketing and SEO services, with a detailed breakdown available upon request. We charge every client $10K per month for the current package mentioned above.
    Proven Track Record
    We've successfully executed similar strategies for other SaaS companies, seeing substantial increases in web traffic and improved search engine rankings. Here is a case study you can check out: [Link to case study]
    Next Steps
    Let's schedule a meeting to discuss how our services can specifically benefit [Client's Company Name]. We're ready to adapt our strategies to align perfectly with your business objectives.
    Thank you for considering this proposal. I am excited about the prospect of working with [Client's Company Name] and am confident that our services can contribute significantly to your growth and success.
    Looking forward to the possibility of a fruitful collaboration.
    Best regards,
    [Your Name]
    [Your Position]
    [Your Contact Information]
    [Your Company, if applicable]

    2. Paid ads proposal template

    Here is a marketing proposal template you can use if you’re offering paid ads and social media services:

    [Your Agency Name]
    [Your Contact Information]
    [Date]
    Marketing Proposal for [Client's Company Name]
    This proposal by [Your Agency Name] is designed to outline a strategic approach for leveraging paid advertising to boost the online presence and conversion rates for [Client's Company Name]. Our expertise in crafting high-impact paid ad campaigns will help you achieve measurable results in your marketing endeavors.
    Understanding [Client's Company Name]'s Needs
    Through our initial analysis, we understand that [Client's Company Name] is looking to increase its market share and enhance customer engagement. Paid advertising offers a direct and powerful way to achieve these goals by reaching out to a larger and more targeted audience.
    Our Services: Paid Advertising Campaigns
    Search Engine Ads: Leveraging platforms like Google Ads for maximum visibility.
    Social Media Advertising: Targeted campaigns on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, depending on where your audience is most active.
    Remarketing Campaigns: Re-engaging visitors who have shown interest in your products or services.
    Display Ads: Creating visually appealing ads to be displayed across various online platforms.
    Action Plan and Goals
    Campaign Strategy Development: We begin with a thorough analysis of your target market and competitors, followed by the development of a comprehensive ad strategy.
    Creative and Copy Development: Crafting compelling ad copy and creative that resonates with your audience.
    Campaign Execution and Management: Launching and continuously managing ad campaigns, optimizing for the best results.
    Performance Tracking and Reporting: Providing regular, detailed reports on campaign performance and ROI.
    Goal: Our primary objective is to increase [specific goal, e.g., website traffic, conversions, sales] by [specific percentage] within [time frame].
    Budget and Pricing
    We offer various pricing models based on the scale and complexity of the ad campaigns. Our pricing is designed to be transparent and ROI-focused, ensuring you get the best value for your investment. A detailed pricing breakdown will be provided upon further discussion.
    Our Experience and Success Stories
    Our agency has a proven track record in executing successful paid advertising campaigns across various industries. We have helped businesses like [Example Client 1] and [Example Client 2] achieve remarkable growth in their online engagement and sales. Detailed case studies are available to demonstrate our expertise and results.
    Addressing Potential Risks
    While paid advertising offers significant opportunities, we are also aware of potential risks such as fluctuating ad costs and changing platform algorithms. Our approach includes continuous monitoring and adaptive strategies to mitigate these risks effectively.
    Next Steps
    To proceed, we propose the following steps:
    Schedule a detailed discussion to further understand your specific needs and tailor our approach accordingly.
    Develop a customized campaign plan with a clear timeline and budget.
    Upon your approval, we will initiate the campaign setup and launch.
    We are excited about the possibility of partnering with [Client's Company Name] and are confident in our ability to drive significant results through our paid advertising expertise.
    Thank you for considering [Your Agency Name] for your paid advertising needs. We look forward to the opportunity to help [Client's Company Name] achieve its marketing objectives.
    Best regards,
    [Your Name]
    [Your Position]
    [Your Agency Name]

    Conclusion

    Copilot for marketing agencies

    A well-crafted marketing proposal is crucial for showcasing your services, aligning with client needs, mapping an effective strategy, and prompting the prospect to move forward with you. By following the step-by-step guide outlined here for understanding the client, detailing your offerings, scoping the work, establishing timelines and objectives, building out campaigns and tactics, pricing appropriately, addressing risks, and proposing next steps — you’ll be set up for proposal success.

    And if you’re ready to take your marketing agency to new heights, I encourage you to explore Copilot’s marketing agency demo portal. You can walk through a fictional client scenario and actually draft components of a mock proposal tailored to their demo company.

    It lets you test drive onboarding clients, billing them, and more in a no-stakes environment to gain firsthand experience applying what we’ve covered here. Feel free to flex your strategic thinking and explore various approaches to using Copilot!

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