How Agencies Can Convert 80% of their Proposals

By | October 15, 2013
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Jason SwenkBelow is a guest post by digital agency consultant, Jason Swenk (@jswenk). On his site,, he provides actionable advice for agencies looking to sell, grow and better manage their businesses.

A previous agency owner, Jason started his agency in 1999, and quickly grew it into a multi-million dollar company with clients ranging from Aflac, Lotus Cars, Hitachi, AT&T, Coke and Legal Zoom. In 2011, his agency was acquired, and seven months later, acquired again by a public company. In this post, he shares experience he gained growing that firm, and how he converted 80% of his proposals. 

According to a Chief Marketing Council report, 49% of agencies will consolidate or change agencies in the next year.

While a focus on client retention should be a priority, this rate of churn also makes it important to convert as many opportunities as possible. In my experience, winning a higher percentage of the right proposals is key to growing and staying in business.

I have seen many agency professionals take their foot off the accelerator and coast into the proposal stage. This is a huge mistake. If you’ve done the research to understand the client’s challenges and develop a winning solution, all that remains is convincing the client that you can help. This is where the proposal comes into play.

Wondering how to craft a proposal that wins more business? Below is my tried-and-true format for success.

The Cover Letter

The cover letter needs to grab the reader’s attention and make them want to read more. In less than one page, concisely:

  • Explain the problem and your proposed solution.
  • Provide brief background on yourself and your agency.  
  • Encourage the reader to ask questions.

Executive Summary

Next, many agencies jump into what they are going to do, rather than tell the client that they have listened and understood. Don’t fall into this trap. In your executive summary:

  • State the focus of the proposal.
  • Explain to the client that your team understands their goals and challenges.
  • Detail your experiences and how you have solved similar problems in the past.

Deliverable Overview

After you have built confidence, you can outline the deliverables. Depending on your agency, categorize the services into sections to make it easy to read (e.g. creative, marketing, technology, etc.).

  • Be very descriptive in each section about the services you recommend.
  • Tell them about your methodology so that they understand the process. 
  • List out all the deliverables (i.e. number of versions or pages, etc.).
  • Include services that may not have been asked for, but are complimentary. 

Agency Overview

Lastly, tell the prospective client about your agency and why you exist. Consider including awards, people on the project, key differentiators, etc. The goal of this section is to demonstrate what kind of agency you are, and show them that they would enjoy working with you. 

How do you structure your proposals for success? Share your experiences in the comments section below.