In over 30 years of working with marketing creatives from the big London advertising agencies to local printers and one man band web companies, one of the most powerful rules I have learned is that in nearly every case, the quality of the work produced and the result it delivers is directly related to the quality of the brief. Put simply, if we can’t explain to someone what we need it’s unlikely that they will be able to create it.
And yet, most of the small and medium-sized businesses I come in to contact with don’t have a proper process for briefing the agencies that they use. They spend significant amounts of money with these agencies, rely on them to deliver the marketing materials to drive the sales and profit growth of their businesses, but don’t really give them the direction they need to produce great work. You could think of it like a Satellite Navigation system – hugely powerful, but you have to tell it where you want to go, and give some guidance on the route (fastest, shortest, avoiding tolls …).
The vast majority of marketing agencies I have worked with (and I’m talking about hundreds) are all capable of producing great graphic design, stunning websites, engaging blogs and social media posts, eye-catching exhibition materials etc. but as clients we need the right message to reach the right people at the right time to generate the desired commercial result for our business.
When I talk about briefing, I’m not suggesting huge mounds of paper. The template we use with most clients is a single A4 page, and once people have used it a couple of times, it can take as little as 10 minutes to complete. When you think of the cost in time, money and lost opportunity of a piece of ineffective marketing, 10 minutes invested at the start isn’t a lot is it?
When you’ve got your brief, it’s important to thin about how you use it. My advice is to follow these three steps:
When it comes to them presenting ideas, they will be much closer to what you need and you can use the agreed brief as a checklist against which to review their ideas and for giving them constructive feedback.