How to Write SEO Proposals That Close Deals. You're on the hunt for clients and you finally got a bite, maybe this fish was even handed to you by a friend or colleague.You got them on the hook by talking with them in brief about the problems their business faces, and what your business does.
Then you spoke some more, maybe you even met in person. You listened to their needs and concerns, you showed them some approaches to the problems they've expressed and maybe even identified some ones they missed in order to display your expertise.
Then you got that message - they're ready for a full proposal and are teetering right on the cusp of becoming your client.
So, are you prepared for this crucial, final step in this entire process? The proposal is bridge between sales and client on-boarding, and it needs to be one that is not only beautifully designed but constructed to withstand the test of time.
Take them time to ensure your bridge is more Golden Gate than Tacoma Narrows and you'll be well on your way to closing more sales and ensuring that you set the proper precedents for the work to be done, making the entire production and delivery process easier on both parties. Not sure exactly how to go about crafting a proposal like this? Keep reading.
The Purpose of the SEO Proposal
As I mentioned in the introduction, the proposal is the document which transitions your business interaction from sales-focused to client on-boarding. It is the final, major pivot in the sales and marketing process.
Those of you that partook in some form of athletics during your youth almost definitely heard some iteration of the phrase "finish strong" during your sporting career. That's exactly what we're trying to do here. If you let yourself slack off during the final 5% of the race, you could end up losing out the reward for all of the hard work you put in during the initial 95%.
There's a few key points that your proposal should hit on in general (regardless of whether it's for SEO or literally anything else):
- Remind the client exactly what it is that you are offering to them. Assume that everyone you work with, or are trying to work with is busy. It's often the case, especially in today's market where holding multiple positions or having some freelance work happening on the side is becoming more and more regular. Even though you've already discussed the project to some degree just to get to this point, a little refresher never hurts.
- Briefly educate the client on the function, purpose and process of the work to be done. Don't go overboard here, but spend a few lines on the page educating the client about what you do. Making it contextually relevant to the current project or their particular business is preferrable. Give them just enough that they feel they have a comfortable understanding, don't overwhlem them - keeping it all in the context of what they want to see in regards to output helps the client directly relate to your explanation
- Accurately present all aspects of the work you intend on completing for the client. Be thorough here, both in order to inform the client of the project detail as well as protect yourself against any possible confusion on the client-side in regards to what was expected to be delivered.
- Highlight claims made during initial sales process in your blueprint for project execution. Remind the client of the reasons why you are at the proposal stage in the first place. What were the key selling points (that I hope you, or your sales people keep within the realm of reality...) which got this client so interested to begin with? Whether they had to do with pricing, process, or anything elese - find a way to highlight them in the proposal.
- Crystal clear pricing structure. Make absolutely sure that your pricing structure and terms are presented clearly and accurately with no room at all for confusion.
- Terms and conditions. Don't forget to include any specific terms and conditions to which the client will be held as you work on their project. Make it clear that acceptance of this proposal is a binding contract in regards to the terms explained within.
The Outline of a Complete SEO Proposal
While you should always take any opportunities to personalize client-facing documents with both hands, any reputable business has a consistent outline or template which they use for all types of client-facing documents. This not only saves time and energy, but produces consistent quality results - as long as the outline or template itself is quality!
Depending on the discrete details of a client you may find it appropriate to omit some of these sections, or add some news ones. Either way, this is the general outline that any good SEO proposal should follow:
This is essentially a condensed overview of your entire proposal, hence the "summary". While it shouldn't be longer than a few paragraphs (remember, you are summarizing) it should include the pertinent information which you want to present to the client. As with every element of your report it should be concise and well-written.
A good executive summary is one that your client can quickly reference if they ever need to be refreshed on what they are being delivered and how it this delivery is going to occur, without spending more than a few moments of their time.
Problem Identification and Overview
This next section is where you take the problem or issue which the client identified to you and break it down into its constituent elements. Don't hesitate to use a list formatting here, because that's exactly what you're doing - creating a list. Make it a good one.
Be sure to identify any factors external to the initial scope of the proposal which may influence the process or even outcomes of your work. For any given SEO project these external factors most commonly include things such as social media marketing, website development/design, pre-existing SEO work, etc.
If you're just getting into this and want to talk about the specific externalities I look out for when strucuring my own proposals, don't hesistate to ask in the comments or even send me an email.
Educational Overview of How SEO Fixes Their Problem(s)
This section is almost purely designed to help the client feel comfortable in regards to "knowing" what you are going to be doing for them. Even if they don't truly understand what your work entails, creating this pillow of comfort or even illusion of knowledge can be essential when it comes to doing work for a client who may not have any knowledge at all of your field.
Simply explain briefly and effectively the benefits which your SEO implementation could have for them, in the context of their current problems or project.
Your Solution to Their Problems
This is the meat and potatoes of your proposal, the real heart of the matter. Be as specific as you can here, you don't want to leave any stone unturned.
Using a list format here is preferable, especially if there are a large number of discrete tasks involved in the process of completing a project. This section defines the scope of the project work you will be doing and by proxy functions as the basis for your fees.
By proverbially leaving it all on the table in terms of scope of work you make it much less likely that a client will question, much less dispute your fee structure based on a misunderstanding of what exactly it is that you will be doing for their business.
After presenting your process list, this section helps to support the hours invovled in completing these tasks and as a result, your billing. This also allows you to set milestones for the project, just make sure they aren't one-sided milestones.
Too often I see milestones set in project timelines that only concern the party fulfilling the contract. Get smart about these, make sure to incorporate any things that you need from the client in this milestone structure. Not only will this help to ensure you get any materials required for fulfillment of the project on time, but it keeps both parties engaged on a scheduled basis.
Pricing and Payment Structure
Be as clear and concise here as you possibly can be. For obvious reasons, this is probably one of the most important sections of the entire proposal.
Leave absolutely no questions in mind about how and when you expect to be paid. Include any project-specific billing appendages into this section as well, obviously. Don't be afraid to open the door to negotiation, particularly regarding structure of payments (ie: set by date, milestones, etc) but ensure beyond any shadow of a doubt that the final structure agreed upon is fully acknowledged by both parties.
Your Terms and Conditions
If you have any particular terms and conditions appended to the work you do, make sure to include them in their own section of the proposal.
Do you have specfic payment methods you use? Do you have a deadline policy in regards to client deliverables? Anything of this nature should be included here so that there is no confusion on the client-side about what working with you entails, and you have grounds to defend yourself on should any disputes arise concerning these terms and conditions.
A Quick, Personal Bio
To help reinforce your humanity amongst the invovled parties, it's always smart to include a short bio section following the body of your proposal. Take a few lines to introduce yourself or your agency and provide a brief background and history.
You can also slip in some past client logos if they were notable brands, or a link or two pointing towards some case studies of past work that has gone especially well. Just remember to keep this entire section on the shorter side.
If you can wrap all of those elements into each proposal and deliver them in a way which is presentable and well-written, you have a very good chance of closing on the majority of leads you get to that final stage of your sales process.
The goal is to be informing and concise, keep it as simple and direct as you possibly can. Tell them what they need to know as well as what they want to hear - you'll start seeing signatures on these documents quicker than you'd think.