It’s now the 10th of May, 2019 and I’ve been behind the 8-ball on my last few posts. I promised myself and to those that read these blogs, that I would put in 30 applications in 30 days (in May).
I almost failed. Why? Because I got backed up when formulating a proposal to a potential new client for my company, Canopy Digital, LLC.
In my Day 3 post, I outlined different types of job categories that I would search for. One of those jobs was gaining new clients for my own company.
Have you ever gotten swamped when writing a digital marketing proposal? I have, as evidenced by the fact that I’m about five days behind in my self-promise to complete 30 in 30.
Digital Marketing Proposals Require A Lot of Writing
I got news for you. A digital marketing proposal isn’t cookie-cutter. Sure, there are metrics and various structures that you can use to get started but ultimately, the buck stops with you and you’re going to have to learn how to do one thing really well. And do you know what that one thing is?
That’s right people. Writing is inevitable for any small business owner, especially if you’re building an inbound digital marketing agency like I am.
I’ve used almost every type of proposal software on the market. I’ve downloaded almost every white paper from Hubspot, Marketo, Unbounce, Moz, Sitepoint, Content Marketing Institute (CMI), Smart Insights and more. It never changes the fact that guess what, you’ve got to make it your own.
Downloaded White Papers from Marketing Agencies Are Junk
The funny thing about all of the white papers that companies offer you as lead generation teasers? They’re all shit.
Have you ever downloaded a white paper from a company you’re really excited to learn from, only to be super-disappointed thinking to yourself, “I could have written that!” Well you should. Stop relying on those bigger marketing agencies to tell you how to dictate your writing style. Have some balls and criticize those above you. Just because their bottom line is bigger than yours doesn’t mean that you can’t disagree with them.
Doubt Those in Power
In fact that was one of my major hangups when starting my own company. I constantly thought I had to take every word from Hubspot as gospel. That’s not the case. One of the big drawbacks of Hubspot (sorry Hubspot) is that they’re too big. And because they’re too big, they have to constantly churn out dozens of blog posts, white papers, how-to articles, comparison charts, primary research reports, secondary marketing research reports, and more. This leaves them at a deficit. They’re running out of creative juice and they know it. It permeates their writing. It’s boring and old.
Too many marketers are afraid to criticize Hubspot. Except for me. I don’t have anything to lose.
Nevertheless, the content in this post isn’t about how to shame Hubspot (although I’ll get to that later this month), it’s about how to write a kick-ass proposal for any of your digital marketing clients, or potential clients.
How To Find Your Groove in Proposal-Writing
This isn’t a magic formula like the companies I just roasted claim to give you. I’m going to explain:
- The reason why you’re getting stuck on a proposal might indicate that you’re business is too broad.
- Tips and tricks for using other proposals to extract your own message and tone of voice in a proposal.
- Why it’s a terrible idea to rely on cookie-cutter proposals to get your next, major client.
Do you remember graduating high school or college and thinking to yourself, “Fuck, I don’t really know how business actually works”? A lot of the reasons why younger professionals don’t feel ready for the real world isn’t because they don’t have the technical knowledge to get a job, but they lack the nuanced skills that are needed to translate all the garbage they were taught, and make it their own.
That’s what this “How To Write a Digital Marketing Proposal” is all about.
I’m going to cover the language behind the layout. The psyche behind the structure. The definitive guide to making your digital marketing proposals authentic.
So here’s how you do it.
Define Your Scope
Most digital marketers attempting to start their own agencies make the mistake of being too broad. Don’t do this.
I despise the “full service digital marketing agencies”. Do you know why? Because about half the work they do is contracted out to highly-specialized companies in specific verticals like: organic search marketing (SEO), branding, content marketing, programmatic display, social media, email marketing and so on. I steer wide and clear of most “full service digital marketing agencies” for this reason.
Everybody wants a cut; nobody wins and the client loses. I don’t know if it’s greed or the embarrassment of saying “no” to a client, but regardless of the reason, digital marketing agencies should start being more transparent about the services they’re out-sourcing, and the services that are in-house.
In some cases it does make sense to have full-blown agency, but only if the clients they’re working for are enterprise-level clients. But at that point, you must ask yourself, “Why don’t these larger clients have their own, internal marketing departments?”
I’ve seen really crappy-branded products sell through their inventory on the shelves of Whole Foods. (i.e. Fermented Tea Company) Of course they would sell a ton more if they had better packaging, but it’s working for them so far. Why try to upsell them on branding, when clearly they only need a solid digital brand before they go national?
My point is that you don’t have to be all things, to all companies. If you’re a digital marketing company, please, find a vertical and do it well. This will help you write beautiful proposals without layering in confusing upsells for social, email or rebranding efforts.
Scrape The Whiteboard
Remember those white papers that I talked about earlier? They can also be your friend. Spend hours, days, hell… spend weeks pouring over them and extracting the information that makes sense to you and your business.
Do you like a little bit from Hubspot? Use it. Did you find some useful information from GatherContent? Use that too. Don’t plagiarize, but reword the talking points that make sense to your business.
Use Microsoft Word to copy/paste all the interesting points you’ve gathered from white papers and rework the data. Lay it out in a mind-map or use sticky notes. Perhaps the term “Content Design” is used to describe the various layouts for funnel conversions in web design. Change it to “Page Templates”.
Sure, it doesn’t sound as fancy, but again, my point is, make it your own.
Stop Using Proposal Software to Solve Your Writing Challenge
This is probably the biggest advice that I can give. Have you ever searched for “proposal software”? Prepare for data overload. From Proposify to Bidsketch, they’re almost too many too count now. And the list is only going to get bigger.
The modules, blocks, and preformatted entries that eventually flesh out your proposal software are designed for that reason ONLY. They are not your God, nor do they constitute the way you should pitch your latest potential client.
Bottom line, you need a good writer. You need someone that can take your business scope and put it into words.
WP Elevation does a fantastic job in disseminating the web design proposal process to their fan base, but they do an absolute atrocious job with some of their “templates”. It’s five pages of fill-in-the-blanks. No kidding.
Finally, Get Specific
There is a growing consensus that assumes previty in proposals. I’m of the opposite opinion. If you’re asking $1,200.00 per month from a potential client, then it’s better to spell out exactly what you’re going to do for them up front, rather than let those questions linger until the Kick-Off Meeting.
The Kick-Off Meeting needs to be about strategy, not about “So hey, what are you guys going to do for us, exactly?” This is a tell-tell sign that your proposal sucked ass. Write out your digital marketing proposal in a long-form narrative. You’ll be happy that you did later.
Job Application Update
Five days of grinding, and I finally submitted the digital marketing proposal to my potential client. That gives me credit for one job application. Yay me!
Now onto more applications.