The Anatomy of a $9,600 Content Marketing Proposal
My 7-step format for selling a 90-day package bid
Here is a breakdown of a $9,600, 90-day content marketing package I delivered to a client last fall.
I’ve focused on social media marketing, copywriting, and ghostwriting over the last few years. But when I took on a full-time job, I needed to adjust my client book down and have just a few “deep work” clients, rather than juggling 8 to 12 (or more) brands at once.
I also wanted to help people create more “cornerstone content” in their businesses — content they could reference again and again, and content that grows and serves their list even while they focus on other initiatives.
Here is the entire proposal PDF if you’d like to take a gander.
In this package, I wrote, created, and delivered:
- An “Ultimate Guide” of eleven SEO-optimized 1,000-word blog posts and a 500-word introductory post, designed to stand the test of time, live forever on the client’s website and target certain medium-tail keywords.
- Twelve 60 to 90-second explainer videos to embed within their respective posts and encourage time-on-page.
- A professionally-designed lead magnet congruent to blog content that functions as a content upgrade for all posts and encourages email list signups.
- A five-email nurture sequence integrated into the client’s ConvertKit account that guides new subscribers toward her entry-level program sales page.
- Sales page design and execution for her entry-level program, built and delivered in LeadPages.
- Four 30-minute touch-base calls, at a frequency of one per month, to review and approve copy and update on progress.
- Three 30-minute informational interviews with clients or subscribers of the business to help define the voice and language of the target audience.
This client selected my bid and opted for a payment plan.
A 7-Step Proposal Structure
“To be in hell is to drift; to be in heaven is to steer.” ― George Bernard Shaw
There are several proposal structures out there on the internet that are successful — feel free to agree or disagree with this format. This bid was successful, but I also know I’m a small fry compared to some business owners out there who literally do hundreds of project bids, year in, year out.
Since most of my bids are in the $4,000-$20,000 price range, this medium-sized approach has the right balance of professionalism and efficiency.
Here is each component of the proposal, broken down by intention and detail.
Step 1: Overview and Potential
To appropriately frame all parties reading the proposal, I open with the idea and its potential.
Content marketing is not usually a raging pain point. I point to organic search volume or hashtag volume to create possibility and, in some cases, I include statistics on how content marketing saves entrepreneurs time, whether it be production labor or educating and adding value to new users.
(I’ve recently also started doing this with screenshots of Medium, as I notice my homepage is sometimes peppered with articles that are a year or two old or even older.)
We reach the nonverbal agreement that it’s a good idea to create content now that can serve you again and again in the future.
I then move to a high-level outline of services I propose to render. A leaner version of this outline is used when we check in with clients and report updates.
Step 2: Responsibilities
This next piece is to make it clear I have already thought through who is going to do what.
I include “available for calls/approvals” to the client’s responsibilities to protect myself in case a lack of availability contributes to missed deadlines.
In some cases, it can be hard to project this information. For example, some prospects already use an SEO firm or a social media agency, or have an employee already handling components of the package.
Putting this page in writing allows the prospective client to come back to me with any questions or suggestions as to the division of labor, and sometimes we adjust scope up or down accordingly.
Sometimes I do a “Roadmap Session” with clients, which is when I’m paid a small sum to do a diagnostic session with a prospective client.
I was turned on to this approach from Brennan Dunn of Double Your Freelancing. I’m not doing the big software proposals the members of his community do, but I do find some entrepreneurs are happy to pay a small fee to have peace of mind and get a professional opinion on content strategy and what step to take next.
It also helps to discern whether I am the right fit for the prospect’s needs, or if a referral makes more sense.
When the client buys the roadmap session, I send over a Non-Disclosure Agreement, and we have a real conversation about their business and their assets so that I can best suggest next steps for them.
I get paid for my time and they walk away with a plan. They then choose either to implement the plan themselves, hire us, or hire someone else.
Step 3: The Process
“An idea can only become a reality once it is broken down into organized, actionable elements.”― Scott Belsky
People love a systematic approach. Yet consulting is often bespoke and customized to meet a client’s needs.
To solve this, we always include a page that forecasts completion.
When you take the time to do this, you take care of some of the mental grunt work that bogs down visionaries. In this case, freeing up the visionary is what we were hired to do so that feeling of support has to come across from the start.
Organization creates excitement. When you can show a prospective client the exact way you will take their business from point A to point B, the conversation changes.
For this project and most projects, I do no more than three phases.
Step 4: The Timeline
In a way, this section is actually the previous section repeated, but with time demarcations to help the prospective client see progress and create transparency.
This also helps with client management if you have some weeks that are more labor-heavy and other weeks that are less labor-heavy.
I used to put specific dates on these timelines. Sometimes the project would start later than projected, so now I just indicate the weeks within the projected phase timelines.
Step 5: Example Problem Areas
This is probably the most important section of the proposal. Here I screenshot out various assets of the client’s business and direct their attention to missed opportunities that I could help solve.
It’s personal and it could be taken as a little intrusive. But I find it’s often the slide that creates conversation.
If I don’t do a roadmap session, or just don’t have much to go off of in general, I look for content the client spent time creating that has since disappeared into the ether.
Step 6: About You
In the proposal above, this section was not included, because the client was already familiar with me.
Between problem areas and rates, however, it may help to add a brief section about you or your company that puts faces and credibility markers to the work being proposed.
Credibility markers such as media mentions, years of experience, awards, personnel, or total numbers (language like “Over 5 million impressions generated for clients”, for example) can help reinforce your qualifications and trustworthiness, which is what you want right before dropping your price tag.
Step 7: Acceptance
“The best way to predict your future is to create it.”― Peter Drucker
If I’ve poured salt on the wound correctly, the prospective client wants me to take the pain away and sees the value of the investment. Let’s do this!
I outline the proposed line items once more, then deliver payment options. Depending on the conversation that has happened up until now, I also drop a Stripe link (just to cut down on an extra back-and-forth if the client psychology is “I’m ready to do this, let’s go.”
What Wasn’t Included
There’s a big item I didn’t include in the steps above. Can you guess what it is?
…I didn’t clearly outline the benefits and results of the completed package.
You would absolutely want this in a sales page, along with testimonials and other social proof. Fortunately for me, this client came to me via referral, and we discussed potential benefits and results in dialogue leading up to and throughout the investment.
We project what the benefits and results will be. But we also treat this like a science experiment. Since this package was custom, a few variables were changed.
Will the client make back 200 times her investment within twelve months? We don’t know yet and further optimization post-publication would likely be needed to find out.
What we do know is that the client feels that there is an opportunity in front of them and that investing in us will save them time, attention, and headache when it comes to capitalizing on this opportunity.
“If you are deliberately trying to create a future that feels safe, you will willfully ignore the future that is likely.” ― Seth Godin
If you’re just getting started, you don’t need to pitch multiple line items in a single package. And if this is business as usual for you, I get it — perhaps you glean some new ideas from this article.
The next time you pursue a new client, consider incorporating elements of this seven-part structure.
- Overview and potential: Frame all interested parties first before diving in.
- Responsibilities: Show you’ve created a game plan around who will do what.
- The process: Everyone loves a system, show that you have one waiting in the wings.
- The timeline: Share how the workload will be completed in due time.
- Example problem areas: Give customized highlights unique to their business.
- About you: Re-establish experience, credibility, and trustworthiness.
- Acceptance: Summarize and communicate both your project bid and what they should do next.
Hope this gets your gears turning on how to approach your next package proposal.