If you run a marketing services agency, you ask a lot of your proposals.
Agency proposals are so much more than a few pages of a PDF. They’re old school newspaper hawkers shouting “Extra! Extra!” on the street corner. Not only do they have all the information, but they also need to get your attention and make the sale.
That’s why agency owners need a proposal template that stands out.
Years before we created a piece of software to manage our agency - software that eventually became Basecamp - we were a web design agency in search of clients just like everyone else. And during that time, we learned how to craft agency proposals that stood out against our competitors and helped us land the job.
Here’s what we learned.
A Few Truths About Marketing Agency Proposals
Before we show you our preferred agency proposal template, it’s important we share a few universal truths when it comes to proposals. No two proposals will ever be exactly alike (nor should they), but these points can be used as your North Star. A guide to ensure your proposals are on the right track…
Storytelling > Design
One of the most common mistakes agency owners make is focusing too much of the design of the proposal, and not enough on the substance inside.
Sure, you want your proposals to look nice. Marketing is about making brands shine, and if you don’t make your own agency’s brand shine, prospects will question if you can do it for them. But prospects also understand that there are a million pre-designed marketing proposal templates out there, and it doesn’t require much effort to throw some generic copy into a Canva file.
What does require effort is crafting rich copy that takes readers on a journey, helping them understand what your agency is prepared to do for their brand. Write your proposals as if you would a story, putting your potential client at the center of the story as the hero.
It’s easy to forget some slick designs. But it’s hard to forget a story someone told about you.
Show, Don’t Tell
Of course, when it comes time to write your proposal’s story, make sure you’re including enough examples of what you actually do.
Anyone can make claims. We’ll help you go viral on TikTok. Our ads are guaranteed to make you money. You’ll have one million followers before you know it. Clients have gotten wise to the fact that there’s no one policing the claims you put into your proposal.
If you want your proposals to stand out, you need to back up your claims with proof. Show, don’t tell.
Testimonials. Case studies. Real world proof of achieving x for y client. The more examples you have that highlight how you accomplished what you set out to accomplish, the better.
If you’re just starting out with your agency, this may mean finding some free/heavily-discounted clients you can work with in order to build your portfolio of proof. While it may be frustrating to work for free, this work will pay you back exponentially in future proposals.
Proposals Can’t Do All The Work
Even if, in some alternate universe, you could craft (objectively) the world’s most perfect agency proposal, the truth is it might still not be enough to land you the client.
Why? Because there’s no guarantee that your client even reads the thing…
Proposals are important. But they can’t do all the work. Sometimes they get read cover to cover. Sometimes they get skimmed. Oftentimes, the real decision maker holding the purse strings never even reads the thing…it just gets summarized for them by your contact at the company.
That’s why you can’t put all your eggs in the proposal basket. In addition to building an excellent agency proposal template, make sure the other elements of your marketing plan are buttoned up as well. Clean, functioning website. Updated socials. Perhaps a collection of thought leadership videos on LinkedIn or YouTube.
Ensure that if a client skips the proposal but takes a quick trip to your website, they’re getting the same stellar experience. You need all your marketing pillars equally supporting the weight of your agency, otherwise it’s liable to collapse.
What to Include in Your Marketing Services Agency Proposal Template
Now that you understand the truths about marketing agency proposals, it’s time to build your template.
As mentioned, copy trumps design - so there’s no generic Canva-esque template to download here. You can find one of these on your own. Just keep it clean and professional.
What we’ve got here is an outline of the various proposal template sections you need, as well as some examples of copy to include in each. Copy and paste this template however you like, but be sure to make it your own. Clients will know if this is not your own story.
Don’t overthink this. Logo. Name. Date. Perhaps some subtle design or background image (but avoid the cheesy clipart and stock images). You want your prospect to get to the meat of the proposal as quickly as possible. Don’t trip them up with an overly-designed cover page.
This is where your story begins.
Most agency proposals start all about “me”. What the agency is all about. What the agency offers. What the agency has done.
But guess what? Your client doesn’t really care about your agency. They only care about your agency’s ability to solve a problem or challenge they are facing. So start your client proposal by making it clear that understanding and solving the problem is your main focus.
Of course, this really only works if you’ve had some sort of introductory conversation with your prospect before sending them a proposal (which you should be doing anyways - no one wants to be blindly sold via an unsolicited proposal).
For example, say you are a social media marketing agency looking to land a client. Let’s say this client is a new beverage brand. You know the client wants to do great things on social, but just doesn’t have the time or resources to make it happen. Here’s how you would set up the problem:
People are talking behind your back.
It happens every day in nearly every country on earth. Billions of people conversing about anything and everything under the sun.
Every sip of [BEVERAGE] is the potential spark for a social media conversation. You’ve already collected 4,000 followers interested in talking about your brand. And there is likely 10x that waiting in the wings, ready to join the conversation…if you ask them.
Based on what you’ve shared, your brand is in a precarious position. Without the resources to grow your social media presence, it’s time to choose. Do you let the plant wilt and die? Or do you bring in a gardener who - through knowledge, skill, and care - will help the plant bloom right before your eyes.
Social media is tricky (believe us, we get it). But it can also be a well of riches for your brand. A way to introduce yourself. Educate. Nurture. Sell. Grow. Retain. Your entire sales and marketing cycle, wrapped up in this weird, beautiful place we call social.
People are talking, with or without you. Is [BEVERAGE] ready to be a part of the conversation?
Solutions & Services
Now that you’ve outlined your understanding of your client’s problem, paint your agency as the solution. But resist the urge to offer that “good, better, best” tiered packages setup that you see in many agency proposals. Clients don’t want to feel like they’re at a buffet. They want to feel like you’ve custom-designed a meal for their specific tastes.
Now, you certainly can offer this same package of services to multiple clients - as many of them will be facing the same marketing challenges that will be solved with a similar set of solutions. But you want it to feel custom…which is why you should avoid the tiered packages. If they want more or less than what you offer on the page, work out the details in the contract.
Using that same social media agency example, here’s how the page should look:
Processes & Timelines
Savvy clients will understand that climbing into bed with an agency is not the same as purchasing some office equipment. They’re purchasing an ongoing relationship with you - one that will require their time and attention, no matter how much technical work you’re taking off their plate. So be sure your agency proposal template outlines how the relationship will work.
Good client communication begins before they’re even a client. On this page, walk through the client onboarding process, key deliverables and timelines, what’s needed from the client, and when the client can expect to start seeing results.
If your agency is focused on just one (or perhaps a few) marketing specialities, this timeline and process should be fairly standardized, meaning you can build this page once and reuse it often in your templates with little to no customization. This is also a good opportunity to break up your copy heavy proposal with a visual element:
Case Studies & Testimonials
Here’s where you really show, not tell.
Depending on the services you’re offering to clients, you may want to craft more than one case study and testimonial page to better reflect what’s on offer (i.e., social media projects when you’re selling social media services, Google ad case studies when you’re offering an advertising and media bundle, etc.).
The more specific and detailed you can be here, the better. Simple quotes such as “It was great working with Agency X!” won’t do a whole lot to inspire confidence in potential clients. Instead, highlight a project where you had a client facing a similar problem, and the route your agency took to solve this problem for them. For example:
After outlining the problem, how you’ll work with the client to solve it, and other brands for which you’ve done the same in the past, it’s finally time to get into the details.
If your proposal has done its job, your prospects will be filled with excitement and possibility at this stage. You’ve shown them how much you’re going to do for them, so the price for your services should not create sticker shock.
On an earlier page of your proposal you outlined the services you offer. Now, get specific about the services you believe are needed by the client to solve their challenge. Clean. Simple. This is what you get, how many you get, and how frequently you get it. Outline the payment terms as well, so the client understands how this relationship will affect their cash flow.
With the final piece of your agency proposal template, it’s time to secure the sale.
Wrap up your proposal template with what comes next. Even with modest engagements, you’ll want to get everything in writing in order to prevent potential issues with clients down the road. Reduce friction by hosting your agency’s contract virtually, and including a simple link for your client to click and sign. By the end of this page, it should be easy for them to go from prospect to client.
Final Thoughts on Marketing Agency Proposals
Agency proposals are an important tool to have in your toolkit. And having a proposal template will make your life a whole lot easier when it comes time to turn leads into clients.
But, you need to understand that proposals cannot do all the heavy lifting. Sending a generic, standardized template will give your potential clients the impression that you are a generic, standardized agency.
You need to put in the work to help your proposals stand out from the rest. Focus on the story. Show, don’t tell. Make your client feel like the hero. Create a proposal template with these points in mind, and you’ll dramatically improve your ability to close new business.
And once you do start landing new clients, make sure to deliver what you promise by keeping their work clean and organized inside the all-new Basecamp. Clients can be invited to any project you want (and kept away from any project, message, or document that’s not for their eyes). And best of all, you can invite as many clients as you want to your projects absolutely free of charge. Only pay for your employees, nothing more.
Build your first project today in less than 10 minutes (no credit card or commitment required):