Experimenting with Proposals

Agency Leadership

When a prospective project doesn't work out, we make a point to ask the client for feedback about our proposal and what led to their decision. Sometimes, clients provide input but, more often than not, they're vague or don't respond.

We're naturally more eager to hear where we fell short than why we succeeded, but I'm noticing how insightful it is to gather feedback regardless of the outcome. I've made a note to myself to do this more often. Fortunately, clients have been more receptive lately, giving us helpful feedback even when they choose to work with us.

In addition to client feedback, I've occasionally shared our proposals with tech partners for their thoughts. Agency partner managers get exposure to how other agencies work and what challenges are top of mind for merchants. I'm always interested in what they have to say.

With that in mind, the client feedback we've received, plus takeaways from chatting with tech partners, has been fruitful. As we prepare each new proposal, I've enjoyed applying these insights to how we position ourselves and propose work.


Below are some of the ways we've evolved our recent proposals:

Highlighting our history & POV

We've been experimenting with how we touch on our history as an agency in our decks and proposals. For instance, highlighting that we've been in business for nearly 17 years can help build trust with clients from day one. Similarly, noting we've been working with Shopify since 2009 and in the Plus partner program since 2017 can alleviate any client concerns about our expertise and comfort level with Shopify.

In addition to our background, a few clients have raised the same questions about our experience and thoughts on key topics, such as accessibility and site performance. We have a strong POV but haven't been great about sharing it. Our proposals now include slides outlining our perspective, protocol, and recommendations.

Expanding our case studies

We're limiting the number of case studies we share with clients to three or four. At the same time, we're going deeper within each to focus on what makes each project unique.

For a while now, our case studies were one-page, but we've expanded them to three at a minimum and feature:

  • Client background
  • Project Overview
  • Engagement Overview (e.g. support & optimization, website UX/design & development, etc.)
  • Client Ecommerce Stack
  • At least four key features/highlights (includes image/video, headline, and description)

Our new case studies leverage assets we've created for social to reduce the effort needed to create them. We're also building a reference list of the most common features/highlights for brainstorming what to include.

Proposing multiple approach options

In early 2020, we sent out our fair share of 3-option proposals after going through Blair Enns's Win Without Pitching workshop but eventually lost momentum. Flash forward, and we're back at it. For now, multi-proposal options are standard for most potential projects and have helped avoid losses solely due to pricing.

In addition to receiving positive feedback from clients, creating multi-option proposals has inspired us to get creative about adding value for the client vs. designing one approach to accomplish their goals. Looking ahead, we see an opportunity to level up by exploring ROI for each option based on the client's current business performance and goals.

Suggesting future initiatives and opportunities

Until now, our proposals included retainer pricing and a suggested plan for clients to consider after launch (for new websites or redesigns). Now, we're going a step further and taking the time to brainstorm what initiatives might be valuable for the client. From creating a bundle builder to designing a post-purchase experience, it's been nice to go beyond the initial project and help the clients think long-term.

Collaborating with tech partners

Earlier this year, I wrote about narrowing our e-commerce tech stack and strengthening our relationship with tech partners. Since then, it's been amazing to see what's possible, whether bringing them in on projects or getting their advice on handling unique client requests.

We're now highlighting our recommended tech partners in our proposals, touching on how we collaborate, and even showing how they can drive ROI for our clients. Sometimes this comes from brainstorming with tech partners during the sales process.

Looking Ahead

It's too soon to see whether these updates are making a difference yet, and there are so many variables that we may never know what sticks for a client. However, we'll continue improving through tracking activitiy and requesting feedback.

This post originally appeared in Edition No. 135 of my newsletter. Subscribe here.

Join My Newsletter

Every Monday, I share weekly themes and progress in running an agency business/team and doing my best to live a good life. Details