Starting with the brief...

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By Lucy Davies
on 19/4/16

The success of a marketing campaign is often reliant on the brief. If you don’t know what you’re trying to achieve, or why you’re trying to achieve it, recognising success will be impossible.

Digital marketing strategy meeting

When getting any third party on board with your business, whether it’s a freelancer, an agency or another supplier, you’re probably feeling nervous. It’s often a big investment, and you need to make sure you get this right. You’ve had the chemistry meeting, you’ve probably sat through a few “creds” presentations. Now it’s crunch time – passing part of the responsibility of your business results to someone else.

The next step is the brief. This should be a summary of everything an outsider needs to know about your company in order to “get” you. You take a blank piece of paper and start to write: who you are, what you do, your competitors, the channels you think you should be using, the challenges you’ve recently faced. And finally, what you want to achieve.

You hand it over.

A good agency will tear your brief apart. They’ll critique, question and challenge – what is this thinking based on, do you have data to support this, why is this your focus? What do you have that your competitors don’t? But the most critical part they should discuss with you is what success looks like.

I have seen so many briefs that list the exact same three objectives: increase brand awareness, drive more traffic, and improve revenue. What you most likely want is the revenue, but you’ve made an assumption that for you to achieve this objective, you need to succeed with the first two (awareness and traffic). This may or may not be correct, but what’s definitely true is that your resource and budget will be spread thinly, and no two channels will be working together on the same goal. Your reports will be messy and at the end of it, you might not even have a clear idea of whether you’ve succeeded or not.

Good strategy is based on reviewing the lay of the land and aligning your resources towards one singular goal. Let’s say that this goal is to increase revenue. The way you achieve this could be via any number of methods:

  • Increase demand for your product
  • Increase demand for your category
  • Increase market share within existing demand
  • Increase lifetime customer value, driving repeat purchases
  • Increase basket size and upsell
  • Expand geographically
  • Increase organic visibility
  • Reach a new demographic – men/women, or younger/older customers
  • Reduce cost per acquisition to make your investment go further
  • Improve conversion rate

All of these routes to more revenue would require a completely different approach. Now when we look back at those original objectives – “raise brand awareness and increase traffic” – we see how directionless they truly are.


So how do you create a brief that will deliver measurable results?

Digital marketing results

If you’re feeling nervous – don’t. You don’t need all of the answers immediately. A good agency will help you review your data, analyse trends in your market and recommend channels and an approach to reach your objectives. The best agency/client relationships are built on a two-way conversation, with a solid strategic approach, transparency and trust. Share what you know, and your agency will help you get to the core of what your true strategic objective should be.

Once you’re agreed on a singular objective and corresponding KPIs, don’t panic about other metrics – if you’re building awareness, your conversion rate will drop. If you’re expanding geographically, your cost per acquisition is likely to increase at first. And if you’re aiming to increase basket size, don’t expect to see an upturn in transactions. Keep your eyes on the prize – no one should put effort and budget into acquiring clicks for the sake of clicks.


That’s great, but what should actually go in a marketing brief?

What to include in your digital marketing brief

A great brief will include the nuances of your business, and an overall view of your landscape in the wider market. Specifically, it might include any of the following:

  • Intro to your company
  • Summary of your business model
  • Current customer acquisition channels
  • Product/category roles – hero products, NPD
  • USPs – what makes you different
  • Existing marketing plans
  • Other supplier relationships and responsibilities
  • Budget indication (please not “you tell us what we need to spend”)
  • Customer profile: demographics, wants and needs
  • Competitors – top competitors and any recent activity of note
  • Key seasonal periods
  • Development capabilities – what is your site built on, and how easily can it be updated/edited?
  • Access to Analytics, Webmaster Tools, AdWords
  • Cost per acquisition targets (if relevant)
  • In-house capabilities e.g. content or PR

Once you have all this together, the objectives that will make the most difference to your business should be clearer, and your marketing efforts should take this into account.

Working on a digital marketing campaign without a strong brief is impossible – you don’t know which direction to go in, and you won’t recognise your success if you get there.