February 27, 2018 All

Creating a Killer Outreach Plan to Get to the Proposal Stage

Brand Author

You’ve just received an email from a new prospective client from the US asking about your services, found a request on Upwork or another job posting site, or gotten a referral from a client for someone new who may be able to use your marketing services. You need to start a relationship with your new prospective client, get to know their needs and whether your firm is a fit for what they want, establish your expertise and credibility, and, most importantly, do a good enough job to get them to move you along to the proposal stage, where you’ll have a better opportunity to talk about your company and your ideas for your client’s business and marketing opportunities. But for now, you need to send a message. And not just any message, a great message that moves you forward in the process. So, how do you do this? And what mistakes do you need to avoid when writing this message (or series of messages) for customers in the US specifically?


What the Client is Looking For


To start, you should get to know what a typical US customer will be looking for at this stage in the process, and who they will move on to the next stage. These are questions you’ll be addressing throughout the proposal, presentation, and ultimately your overall engagement with the client, so you’ll definitely want to begin addressing them in your first messages. When evaluating digital marketing agencies, US clients will be asking themselves:


  1. Does the agency work with companies within my budget range?
  2. Has the agency had success with clients in my industry? Have they had success with companies the same size as mine?
  3. Do the agency’s services match what I’m looking for? A startup might require some flexibility, while a larger company may be happier with an established structure and working order.
  4. Do I like the people on the agency’s team? Can I see myself working with them?
  5. Does the agency have the creativity I need?
  6. Does the agency have the competencies I need?
  7. Will the agency be easy to work with? Are they available when I have issues? Is communicating with them easy?
  8. Is the team’s English good enough to make communication easy? Can I trust them with my marketing materials?
  9. And, most importantly: will this company succeed if I trust my marketing activities to them?


Over the entire sales process, you’ll be answering these questions for your prospects, and providing proof to support your answers. So how should you get started? What should you address in your very first message?


In the US, the best sales processes start with questions. Throwing out a list of achievements and projects is excessive and unnecessary when you don’t even know what experience is relevant to the prospect, or what achievements the prospect will actually be impressed by. So, in the first message, focus on your questions. Give a brief overview of your agency, but keep it short.


You should be asking questions like:

  1. What services are you looking for?
  2. How long have you been in business? (especially for startups)
  3. Do you have a budget in mind for this project?
  4. What would a successful engagement look like for you?
  5. What industry are you in? What can you tell us about your company and the marketing challenges you’re facing?


Questions like these are crucial, and will affect everything from your initial messages through your phone or video sales pitch. You don’t need to ask all at once in the first message, but they should come up eventually, and be on your mind. If you’re stumped for ideas, you can try a message like this:


Sample First Email


Hi Steve,


I saw your job post looking for a digital marketing agency, I think My Digital Media Agency could be a great fit. We’ve worked with companies in [industry] before and had great success.


I checked out your website, it seems like you’re doing some really good things! How long have you been in business? We work with many different types of businesses, from newly minted startups to larger companies that have been around for decades.


Could you tell me more about the services you’re looking for? What problems have you been facing that prompted you to get some help with your digital marketing? Once I learn a little more about what you’re looking for, I can tell you what our plan of attack would be and how we could help solve you problems.


Hope to talk to you soon!






What’s good about this email?


There are some really important things in an email like this that will make your message stand out. First, I mentioned that I checked out Steve’s website. This showed I did my homework already, and understand a little about his business. I’m asking to learn more about their business, which shows I will take Steve’s personal needs into account when working with him. Steve is going to respond valuable answers for me, which will help me tailor my future sales approach to his unique needs. I talked very little about my agency, this will come later.


This is also where having a website ready for US businesspeople comes in handy, because you can bet that Steve is now going to do some research and see exactly what my agency’s services are to see if it is a fit.


A few days later, Steve responds:

Hi John,


Thanks for reaching out about our digital marketing needs. I’m glad to hear that you like our website, although we are looking to make some changes to it with our new digital marketing firm. We’ve been in business for about 3 years now. We initially got customers through referrals and word of mouth, but now we’re trying to expand our business through Facebook ads and other social media channels, but we haven’t been acquiring customers and I’m worried we’re doing something wrong.


Is this something your agency can help with?





Steve’s Response

Our fictional prospect Steve has just responded to our email. In his response, he’s given us valuable information we can now use to start crafting a proposal, as well as what his major problems are and what he’s looking for. So how will we respond? With more questions, of course!


Hi Steve, 

Thanks for your response. We’d be happy to help you acquire customers through social media, and help you tweak your website if needed as well. Social Media Marketing is right in our wheelhouse. Here are some cases where we increased our customer’s social media presence significantly, and got them a bunch of leads and new customers using Facebook ads and other social media tools.   [the cases you send should only be those specific to your prospects needs. Don’t overwhelm them, just show them what is most important! Remember, Americans are busy, and time is money!]


Which social media channels are you using specifically, and what issues have you been running into? I’d love to jump on a brief 10-minute call so I can learn a little more about your business and your experience with social media so far. If your schedule is full, I can also email you the questions if you’d prefer. Let me know what you think!





What’s good about this email

In this email, we get to tell Steve about our experience with social media marketing. We get to send him cases that are specific to his needs, now that we know what his needs are. We’ve suggested getting on a call to chat (and build trust), but also given him the option to just respond via email if he’s still not at the stage where he wants to do a phone call. This means there’s very little chance he doesn’t respond!


After a few more questions about what he’s doing on social media, his preferences for advertising content, ideas he has to improve, who his target market is, and what his budget is, you’ll be able to create a proposal that is sure to knock his socks off, which we’ll cover in a future article.


What Happens Next?


After this, we’ll either have a call with Steve, or send him another email with all the questions we need to ask to make sure we can create a killer proposal.


At the end of this call or email, we’ll ask Steve if it’s ok to create a proposal sharing our ideas and plans for his project. At this point, he’s almost guaranteed to say yes, because he’s answered all your questions, invested time in the relationship, and you’ve shown him you understand his needs and will create a great, personalized plan for his business. If he doesn’t say yes, it’s most likely because the person on the phone call didn’t speak satisfactory English, and that made him concerned about communication problems. We’ll talk more about how to prevent this in our future article on presentations.


Now, you’ve most likely turned your cold lead into a hot prospect who’s just a few steps away from becoming a new client. To prevent anything going wrong in your quest to reach this stage, make sure you avoid the mistakes below.


Big, Big Mistakes You Can Make That Can Ruin Your Chances

1. Contacting the Client Using an Unexpected Channel

Have you ever posted a job on a platform like Upwork, only to have agencies email you directly, message you on Skype, call your cell phone, and go through all kinds of other ways of contacting you, other than actually applying through Upwork? If you’re a business owner in the US, you probably have, and there is nothing more annoying than getting a call on your cell phone from an agency asking about your job post when you’re about to sit down to dinner. Respect the client, their time, and the process they have chosen. If they posted a job on Upwork, they don’t want you to call, they don’t want an email, they want an Upwork proposal. If they’ve sent you an email, don’t call them until you set up a mutually agreed upon appointment. Nothing will get you to the “NO” pile faster.

2. Poor English in your Written Communication

We talked about this for your website, and we’ll talk about it again here. You need excellent English in your messages to clients. This is a reflection upon how well you will communicate with your client, and more importantly, whether they can trust you to create content for their social media accounts, blog posts, and ads. If you don’t have a native English speaker on staff, use Writesaver or another real, human proofreading service with native speakers.

3. Not putting an Excellent English Speaker on Calls

Another sure way to lose your agency a potential client is having someone who speaks less than adequate English on a call with an American. If you’re the owner of your agency and your English is less than good, you can still be on the call, just make sure you have someone else who speaks excellent English on the call with you. Your prospect will understand that not everyone in the agency speaks great English (they know you’re not native speakers), but they’ll be very concerned if no one speaks good English.

4. Asking for too much too soon

Could you imagine sending a client a first email, immediately asking for a $10,000/month contract, and actually sending the contract over with your first message? This seems ridiculous, but asking for a long call explaining everything your company can do for the client is the same thing! Remember, for Americans, time is money! Build your credibility and trust slowly, and make the client want to give you their time before asking for it.


You’re Ready to Win More Proposals

Now that we’ve gone over some top tips and things to avoid, you’re ready to start getting to more proposals for more clients. In our next article, we’ll teach you how to turn those hot leads into clients by creating a killer proposal. Remember, start your communication by asking questions about your client and their needs, your US-based prospects will appreciate it. Time is money, so respect the client’s time, and respect the process they’ve decided on. And make sure your English when communicating with them is excellent so they know they can trust you with their marketing.

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