There are two things every agency or freelancer needs out of a content marketing proposal:
- The ability to convey clear, comprehensive goals, services, and results that win new clients
- The ability to templatize content marketing proposals in order to efficiently win new business and reduce the amount of unpaid work that has to be done for each pitch.
For these reasons, we’d like to walk you through the in’s and out’s of writing your own content marketing proposals based on strategies that we’ve seen work best.
And don’t forget to download the FREE proposal template built with content marketers in mind.
What is a content marketing proposal?
A content marketing proposal is a document or slide deck that lays out a specific set of goals, roadmaps, the scope of work, and pricing plans for a content marketing program.
They’re primarily used by agencies and freelancers as a way of detailing a plan of execution for a company’s content strategy. In-house teams can also repurpose these proposal templates for their own internal business case pitches.
- Agencies and freelancers often use proposals to demonstrate that they understand exactly what is required to build a content marketing program that will reach the client’s goals.
- In-house content marketing departments can use proposals to request larger budgets and make compelling cases for the need of additional skills and resources.
Additionally, content marketing proposals give teams as much visibility into the work before actually digging into the content process.
Considerations before creating a content marketing proposal
It’s hard to give universal guidance on how to create the best content marketing proposal given the complex relationships and types of campaigns that companies can run.
For example, one proposal might be for an audience-driven social media content program while another might be focused completely on organic traffic from SEO. The proposal for each program type might look quite different.
For this reason, let’s walk through some of the biggest considerations for you and your team before you get started on your proposal.
1) Is there a content marketing department and strategy already in place?
This is especially relevant if you’re a freelancer or an external marketing agency that needs to plugin to the in-house marketing team.
Your proposal can look remarkably different if you’ll be helping to execute on an already approved content marketing strategy than if you were asked to build the content marketing plan from scratch.
You might no longer be responsible for developing the goal KPIs, researching the target audience, or creating plans for different channels that the in-house team already has resources for.
In other words - are you responsible for the strategy, the execution, or both?
2) Which services will you need to offer in order to fulfill their content marketing needs?
It’s important to be thorough about which services you’ll need to offer in order to bring a content marketing strategy to life.
By services, we mean all of the types of content and channels that you’ll be creating content for AND we’re referring to any related strategy and services that are required to ensure the work in the proposal is a success.
We’ve worked on plenty of blog campaigns as an SEO content agency in which the target audience was already defined and the in-house team was building YouTube and social media content. Our proposal will only need to include blog content and necessary SEO research such as investigating related queries, trends, and competitor gaps.
BUT, for SEO content, we may need to include technical SEO and development services if those aren’t already being handled by another team. If the website’s UX is flawed, the load times are slow, or various CTA forms could enhance conversions, offering those services (or at least consulting on best practices) can ensure that we’ll deliver the success we promised in our proposal.
3) How to align on shared content marketing goals
You can include target KPIs for growth based on the industry of the company and any known benchmarks for the type of content marketing you’ll be doing.
For example, you might decide to include:
- X% increase in new users MoM
- X% increase in engagement rates (likes, shares, time on page, etc.)
- X% increase in Y conversions (eCommerce transactions, newsletter sign-ups, etc.)
Depending on the nature of your relationship with the company that you’ll be submitting your proposal to, we recommend developing a shared conversation about goals prior to solidifying them.
This will help with retention and client satisfaction.
In our experience, it’s critical to hear what the company’s overall goals and target KPIs are. However, we’ve also seen that it’s equally important that we temper their expectations based on our own experiences. For this reason, we recommend making the goal-setting part of the proposal more conversational before solidifying it.
In SEO, a company might hire us to create blog content that generates eCommerce sales for specific products. However, due to the nature of blog content, we can help the client understand the best metrics (such as assisted conversions or email sign-ups) to measure success by.
Additionally, we’ll likely need to explain that bottom of the funnel content targeting highly specific queries often results in the largest number of conversions - but not the largest number of pageviews. So if a client is expecting both enormous traffic growth as well as an increase in sales, we need to explain that those are two separate goals.
Sections To Include In Content Marketing Proposals
The following sections are typically what’s included in a standard content marketing proposal. Follow along with your template as we discuss the best practices for each section.
Cover the overview and goals
The overview and goals section is meant to give the ten-thousand-foot view of the project. It succinctly defines what you’re setting out to do as well as the overall goals of the project. Think of this as a type of “mission statement.”
Neither of these things will shock the company you send the proposal to as they’ll likely have given these to you already. The purpose of this section is to lay out the task prior to showing them how you’ll achieve the goals.
Define a clear scope of work
Getting the scope of work correct in your proposal is vital to both you and the company you’re pitching to. Laying out everything that your team is able to execute gives everyone a clear understanding of what you’ll be responsible for.
It also allows you to reference the proposal at a later date should a company ask for something outside of this scope, protecting you from unreasonable requests and unnecessary costs.
Ensure that the scope is thorough, including any additional skills you might need access to that are outside of content creation work (web developers, web design, PR teams, paid ads assistance, etc).
Below are some of the most common things to include in your scope of work section.
In a proposal, you’re actually laying out the strategy for the overall campaign. This means a high-level overview that’s meant to sell your company’s plan. This might include:
- Campaign schedule
- Content types and deliverable expectations
- Buyer persona targeting
- Your role and how you alleviate your prospective client’s workload
For each of the previous bullets, write out a paragraph or two about how you create this, why you’re so effective at creating it, and why you think including this is the ticket to success.
You can think of this section as a way for you to summarize what you’ll be doing and why you’re the one worth choosing.
Types of content
Remember to include the specific types of content you’ll be responsible for, whether it’s content production or just strategy.
Common types of content in marketing proposals include:
- Social media posts/ads
- Email and newsletters
- Blog posts, articles, ebooks, case studies, and white papers
- Videos, webinars, and courses
- Landing pages
A simple, yet effective part of the proposal in which you discuss the importance of identifying exactly who your competitors are. This should include the insights that competitor research will provide your team, and how you can use that data to help inform the overall strategy.
Additionally, we like to include short phrases that show off our experience with competitor analysis. This might include a statement about how companies tend to only see their competitors as the people who make the same products or offer the same services. In content marketing, however, the people creating the content that you’re competing with are oftentimes outside of your industry altogether.
Including a note about the roadmap allows you to tell your prospective client that they’ll have full visibility into the entire plan prior to its execution.
This should position you as transparent, honest, and allow you to frame the project as a partnership with built-in flexibility based on trends and priority shifts.
Market and audience research
No good content marketing strategy is without market and audience research. Your goal is to reassure the client that you won’t be creating a strategy based on intuition or guesses.
Instead, you’ll be making relevant, up-to-date, data-driven decisions with the help of tools, data sets, and the expertise of the client’s sales and customer success teams.
Recommended reading: 10 Customer Persona Tools & Templates
Timeline and Workflow Layouts
One of the best ways to display your organizational and project management skills is to put the strategy into the understood timeframe for the campaign. This initial timeline doesn’t need to include exact dates but should include workflow steps, number of deliverables each week, month, quarter, etc.
Additionally, include any tools/resources you’ll provide them to showcase visibility and be sure to express your desire for accountability.
This could be access to a workflow platform like Asana. Or, it could be letting them know that they’ll have access to a shared editorial calendar.
Recommended reading: What is a Channel Plan and Why Do I Need One?
We've found that it's important to communicate about flexibility in aligning workflows. Some clients will need time to edit and approve your deliverables, and they'll likely prefer to receive those in different ways. For example, a client may request to receive all 10 pieces of content at one time to review. Others will express that they'd like to receive content "as it's finished" to space out the work.
Relevant Case Studies
If you want to put your content marketing proposal over the top of your competitors, include relevant case studies for them to review.
By relevant, we mean including a case study for a content marketing campaign that was in a related industry or in which you achieved the same KPIs that the prospective client wants to achieve. Or even better, both.
If you’re just starting out, you might not have the luxury of being able to select from a large portfolio. However, you should still find a way to frame any case studies you have to be relevant to your new client.
Pricing and Fees (Aka Investment)
It’s important to provide the pricing associated with the project. This breakdown gives companies an understanding of what each deliverable requires from a budgeting perspective.
Set your prices confidently and for the real value of your marketing services. It doesn't help you or the relationship with the potential client if you discount your prices for fear of sticker shock and missing out on the new account.
We’ve also found that it can be helpful to offer 2 or 3 options in the pricing section for the opportunity to upsell more valuable services or more deliverables.
However, unless explicitly asked for, avoid providing line item pricing. You can incidentally create questions about the value of certain services and even fuel a desire for a custom a la carte style plan.
For the sake of positioning, we recommend labeling this section with the word “investment” rather than “price” or “cost.” It tends to give a better impression and true understanding of the partnership you’re entering into.
Recommended reading: Content Marketing Budget Examples For All Business Sizes
Content Marketing Proposal Template
As promised, here’s our content marketing proposal template that we’ve used in the past to land several clients. In it, we’ve included tips and suggestions for how to go about your content marketing pitch.
We recommend that you start with a quick overview of the presentation structure, followed by your specific approach in building successful content marketing campaigns. This part is meant to serve as the ‘hook’, to showcase that you are capable of servicing the client’s needs.
The template also includes slides where you can insert specific recommendations for clients, your pricing structure, and a section for social proof where you can dive into what others have to say about you.
Please remember that this is a sample template with fonts, branding, logos, and color scheme relevant to Content Harmony. It is fully customizable and we highly recommend that you alter it according to your needs. The template has placeholders for areas where you fill in details like the client name, examples of your work, and testimonials.
Please use your own logos, images, and styles to nail your content marketing pitch. Replicating our template as is won’t give your prospect the best impression.
Mistakes to Avoid in Your Content Marketing Proposal
In addition to the best practices recommended above, we believe that it is important you keep an eye out for common pitfalls, too. Avoiding these common missteps can often mean the difference between landing that $5,000 monthly retainer client or receiving a polite email that the prospect has decided to go in a different direction.
Failure to Show Competence in the Client’s Business Model / Industry
When you’re pitching a content marketing proposal, you’re effectively telling the client that you understand their industry, their target audience, and key personas as well as they do or better. Whether your proposal covers audience building via social media or organic traffic growth, your client has to trust that you’re up to the task.
Content marketing strategies targeting Kubernetes applications are markedly different from those aiming to build an engaged audience around winter clothing. Your proposal must show that you have a track record of success with similar businesses.
Contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t have to mean industry experience. It’s often more important to match the business model or audience. But if you’re pitching to a SaaS company with examples of projects you’ve done in travel & tourism, with wildly different audience segments and personas, there’s a high chance you won’t be picked.
But what if you’re trying to enter a new industry altogether and need that first client for experience? In that case, we recommend that you either build a compelling case for why the prospect should pick you despite minimal experience in their vertical or pick up one or two one-off projects in that niche before pitching to clients with a monthly retainer.
Making the Proposal About You, Not the Client
Some folks start their content marketing pitch with a long-winded introduction about their agency and go into detail about their past work, their clients, and big wins.
That’s one of the fastest ways for your prospect to switch off.
Here’s the uncomfortable truth: your prospect doesn’t want a laundry list of your achievements. Your accomplishments matter, but the prospect is most interested in understanding whether or not you can solve their marketing challenges. That’s the only reason they’ll give you their cash; the more you make your proposal about yourself, the less the chances of success.
We’re not saying that you should avoid name dropping or showcasing key wins. But use it strategically, such as towards the end of the pitch. Always start the proposal with an understanding of the client’s problems and your roadmap / strategy for solving them.
Once you’ve hooked them in and aroused their interest, give them a reason to trust you and work with you. That’s where you bring in the element of social proof: by showcasing past work and accomplishments, so they feel confident about their decision.
Failure to Convey a Sense of What It’s Like to Work With You
A content marketing pitch is one step in what will, hopefully, be a long partnership. But it’s these initial few interactions — from the proposal to the onboarding sequence — that can mean the difference between success and failure.
The first few interactions are where you can start to steer the conversation towards goal-setting and expectation management, and give the client a clear idea of what it’s like to work with you.
We recommend that you include the following details in your content marketing proposal:
How will the client communicate with your team? Who will they work with directly day-to-day? Will it be via email or a Slack channel? What is your average response time for client inquiries?
What types of reports will you send them and at what frequency? For example, you could commit to a bi-weekly overview of project updates and movements in areas like traffic growth, organic keyword rankings, and social media followers.
Will you add them to a shared project management tool like Trello or Jira? That way you can tag the client when you need their input on a draft editorial calendar or a new blog post. A shared resource helps everyone stay on the same page and keep track of pending deliverables. It also prevents things like long email chains, where there’s a higher chance of miscommunication.
Don’t get complacent even if you have a great pitch and land the client. The first 100 days are often the most crucial and where you can set yourself up for long-term success.
Give Your Content Marketing Team The Best Tool to Execute on Proposal Strategies
When you’re building your content marketing pitch, it can be worthwhile to give your prospect a teaser of specific tools and ways you’ll build out their content assets.
For example, your prospect may need help with improving and optimizing existing blog content. Some of their content may have ranked well a couple of years ago, but now it’s slipped drastically down the SERPs.
Or, your prospect may need new SEO-optimized content written from scratch.
In either case, it’s best practice to demonstrate how you’ll deploy a data-driven approach to solving their problem.
Content Harmony’s brief workflow is a chance to show your client that you adopt a highly structured approach in building content. Embedding screenshots of the tool in your pitch shows the client that you’ve spent time in research: scouring the SERPs to determine the optimal structure, word count, internal and external links, and detailed guidance for writers.
And once the content is written, it’s further analyzed in the Content Grader section to ensure that no stone is left unturned.
You can even paste the client’s current content into the Content Grader to show them how a data-driven content optimization process makes their content better.
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