top of page

My Top 3 Tips When Selling Digital Marketing Services


Although I now focus on providing SEO training to individuals, companies, and digital marketing agencies, in my previous life, I founded and built a few agencies over a fifteen-year period.

I am not going to go into detail about what you need to do to generate leads as you should already know this. You just cannot start a business or agency and charge people for digital marketing services if you do not know how to drive leads for your own agency/freelance business.

My top three tips will focus on how you can turn those quality inbound leads/prospects into new clients.

Let us start with the most important factor I have found vital during the lead to sale conversion rate.

1. Always get a budget before sending a proposal

I talk to agency directors on a near daily basis and one common issue they have is the time and money they need to invest into the proposal stage with no guarantee that they are going to become your next client.

Let me ask you this and please be honest with yourself. How many contracts have you lost because the proposal you presented was priced either too high or too low? I understand your pain because I have been through this multiple times myself. Prospects will very rarely tell you the price is not good for them. They will just say that someone else was more suited.

The easy solution is, ALWAYS get a budget in advanced.

Before you even think about writing a proposal, you need to squeeze a budget out of each prospect. I have lost count of the number of proposals I have written where the client has turned around afterwards and said that they have £100 per month to invest and that £100 must turn a profit.

By getting a budget, you cut down on all the time you waste which allows you to focus on the prospects who do indeed have a realistic budget.

Since I started gaining a budget up front, my prospect to new client conversion rate significantly increased because I always got a budget that my new potential clients were happy to invest which meant price would never be the reason I lost the sale. Now that is a major step forward within the whole sales process.

I know exactly what you are thinking! I can hear it under your breath:

“But prospects never give me a budget, even if I ask for one.”

I hear you and I have gone through the exact same thing myself. Therefore, over the years, I have been testing and tweaking different ways of dragging a budget from prospects. Here is usually how my conversation goes:

Me: “Yes, I can help you to increase new business but first I need to know what budget you have to make this work?”

Prospect: “I don’t really have a set budget.” OR “I just want a proposal so I can look it over.”

Me: “The fact is, I have clients that pay me a few hundred pounds per month and others that pay me tens of thousands per month. The more they invest, the more effort we can put into their campaign, the more targeted traffic they will receive which all results in a higher return on investment. There is no point in putting a proposal together for you based on £4,000 per month if your marketing budget only stretches to £700 at most. This is just time for the both of us. With this in mind, which end of the scale are you at?"


Prospect: “It’s probably somewhere in between.”

Me: “Thank you. So, if we put a proposal together based on £2,500 per month that demonstrated your estimated return on investment, would you seriously consider it?”

Prospect: “Yes, I would.”

Me: “That’s great news. For us to calculate an accurate return I just need to know what your average client is worth to you - in revenue terms that is. I also need to know what your lead-to-sales conversion rate is and what needs to happen for you to see this campaign as successful.”

Prospect: “Well an average sale is worth around £1,500 and I convert one in every five leads.”

Me: “And what sort of return would you need to receive to make this work for you?”

Prospect: “Around £20K per month.”

Me: “Fantastic. I do not see any reason we are not able to help you. Give me a couple of days to put a proposal together and I will give you a call once you have had time to go through it. I am free either next Tuesday or Thursday. Which day is best for you?”

This conversation works for about 95% of all prospect calls I make. If for whatever reason they just will never give you a budget, you either must let them know that you are not able to move forward (which sometimes forces them into submission) or make a calculated guess. Personally, I just thank them for their time and move forward. This way of thinking has increased my productivity no end.

2. How to calculate return-on-investment

If you can put together a proposal that demonstrates a solid return on investment, you are more likely to get your contract signed than if your prospect received a proposal that is just based on digital marketing jargon and loads of fluff about how good you are. It also sets solid campaign goals and expectations for both you and your new client. Honestly and transparency is key to any agency-client relationship!

I have a straightforward way of working out and documenting the potential ROI within a proposal and it goes like:

Basing this off what we found out when gaining a budget within point one above, here is what we know:

  • Their average customer is worth £1,500.

  • Their existing lead-to-sale conversion rate is 20%.

  • They have stated that you need to increase revenue by £20K per month.

  • Their accepted investment level to make this happen is £2,500 per month.


Over a six-month period, your campaign goal is 80 new customers using the information you gathered above. [Calculation: monthly revenue times 6, divided by average customer amount]

We know that your new potential client converts around 20% of all leads they receive. To secure those 80 new customers, you need to generate 400 leads over the six-month period. [Calculation: 80 times 100, divided by 20]

A decent website realistically converts 5% to 10% of all targeted visitors into leads. If we use the lower percentage just to be on the safe side, we need to generate 8,000 visitors during the next six months. [Calculation: 400 times 100, divided by 5]. That averages out at around 44 visitors per day. [Calculation: 365 days per year. Half of that is about 182. Now divide 8,000 by 182]

This is how you simply work out the ROI for each prospect. Easy, wasn’t it?

Consider though that those 44 visitors per day are over a six-month period. It will take a while for you to start generating a constant flow of new visitors but when you actually split it right down, like in the example above, it sounds so much better than just sending a proposal stating “trust us that we will help you to achieve your online business goals through our digital marketing services.”

3. How to create that winning proposal

Over the years I have read hundreds of proposals from a wide range of agencies and to be truthful, most of them are just filled with waffle to beef the proposal up. The first five pages are all about the company and how great they are.

Maybe it is me, but I just do not get it at all!

You need to put yourself in your prospect’s shoes. Your new potential client does not need to be told how great your agency is. If they did not trust your agency, they would have never contacted you in the first place asking for a proposal.

A proposal is just to document in black and white what you have already discussed during your telephone conversations so keep it short and sweet. You can even say to your potential client that you wanted to keep your proposal is limited to what is important to them instead of filling it up with fancy graphs that do not mean a whole lot. Directors and business owners are terribly busy people and do not want to go through a fifty-page proposal. Prior to keeping my proposals to the point, I have handed them over in person and the prospect flicked through and went straight to the back page where the numbers are.

Apart from a personalised front cover, your proposal should include five key things:

  1. The goals and objectives.

  2. A brief checklist of how you are going to achieve those goals.

  3. Campaign timeline.

  4. Your fees.

  5. The ROI, as demonstrated previously.


Directors or decision makers do not care if their site has loads of 404 errors or their mobile speed score is 40/100. What they care about is HOW you are going to help them increase new business. If you focus on what directors WANT to read, then your lead to sale conversion rate will be a lot higher, as you are talking in their language.

I have even gone as far as asking prospects what they want me to document within their proposal. I get around this by saying something like – “I understand how busy you are and do not believe in wasting your time. Is there anything specific you would like to see within our proposal?”

If nothing else, the director or decision maker will remember you when they come to selecting which agency to go with.

Have you found my top three tips useful?

A simple share would be much appreciated as one of the purposes of Talk About Digital (TAD) is to help as many people as possible within the digital marketing industry.

Oh yes! As a thank you for taking the time to read my article, Every TAD member will receive a digital copy of my best-selling book:


The Business Side of SEO - Building a business within the digital marketing industry.

Just like my top three tips, my book is jam-packed with actionable tips and advice on both the lead generation, pre-sales and after-sales sides.

selling digital marketing services

About the author

For the past 20 years, I have founded and grown three agencies, personally trained hundreds of professional marketers and have spoken on a few stages around the world, besides writing a best-selling book. Today, I am a professional SEO trainer and speaker.

  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
bottom of page