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Good marketing always starts with a good brief.  If you’re employing someone else to do some marketing for you, then the more information you give them, the better job they can do. So you must know how to write a marketing brief properly.

Below, I have listed 7 key items to put on your marketing brief checklist. They are relevant to briefs for any kind of marketing project. The first brief will take the longest as you have to get the information together. After that, you can re-use much of it. Just make sure you don’t miss anything! (Unless your supplier knows you really well.)

About your company – set the scene

First of all, include a summary about your business, products and/or services. Inject the brand philosophy and personality.
Don’t miss anything out here – you know more about your company than anyone else. And chances are, some of it is so obvious to you that you might forget to mention it.

1. Who am I? – Company Basics

  • What’s the name of the company?
  • What services or products do you provide?
  • Who are your target customers?
  • Who are your direct competitors?
  • How are you different? What makes you special?

If you have a website and / or social media presence, tell your supplier where to find those.

If you have an overview presentation or brochure, include it.

2. Company brand and positioning

  • Do you have any formal brand style guide? If so, provide it. If not, you should have at minimum a logo, brand colours and a preferred font. Provide those.
  • What’s your ‘brand personality’? Fun or serious? Efficient or relaxed? Quality and luxury, or cheap and cheerful? Choose two to three words or phrases which describe you.
    There is no right or wrong answer – but you do want a personality which works for your target customers. And you do want to be consistent.
  • Do you have specific requirements for image or tone of voice?
    For example, Jonathan Crossfield uses cartoon images. I aim to use green in feature images (at the top of each post), and usually photographs.
    As for tone of voice, check out the MailChimp style guide for a great example of how to communicate this.

3. Existing marketing collateral – What stays and what goes

What has worked previously? Include these as positive examples for inspiration.
Where you can, provide actual marketing materials.  Communicate how you feel about them. For example:

‘This is our website, it was created two years ago, and we’d really like to update it, these are the pages we like but we don’t like the wording on the landing page.’

‘Here are some of our brochures we recently had designed. These are the elements ‘we’d like to keep.’

Remember the website and brochure you included at the beginning to explain who you were? Provide feedback on those too if necessary.

About the specific campaign or project

All the above information is to educate your supplier about your business in general. Now let’s take a look at the specific project.

4. Start with clear objectives

Why are you doing this campaign at all?

  • Do you want leads?
  • Sales appointments?
  • Repeat purchases? Add-on sales of a related product or service?
  • Upgrades?
  • Testimonials and case studies?

board with smart goal setting writing

Those are all good options – but they’re not yet specific enough. Take the next step and set a SMART goal.

S: Specific – What is your goal you are focusing on?
M: Measurable  – What is the progress of the goal to be met
A: Attainable – The goal to be reached within the standards you set
R: Relevant – Does it add value to your business?
T: Time-Bound – Can this goal be achieved within the time limit? and budget

For example;

  • I want sales appointments for my sales team.
  • In addition, every appointment must be with someone who has a budget of at least $5,000 per annum for the services I provide.
  • I expect 1 in 5 appointments to convert to a sale. In order to cover the cost of this campaign I need 25 appointments.

Now you and your supplier both know what success looks like.

SMART goals are harder to set for something like a website redesign or logo development or creative work. In these cases, a good brief is even more important. There’s a section below on how to write a marketing brief for creative work. But there are still some things you can be really clear about:

  • response details (specify contact form / button, phone number, email address, web address etc) on every page
  • the key message you want to communicate

5. Basic project parameters

Start with some basic parameters.

Set a budget.

This is clearly related to your goal. If you end up spending more money on a campaign, you will need better results to justify that.

Set expectations about time.

  • When do you need your new website?
  • If you’re taking brochures or giveaways to a tradeshow, set a deadline a few days in advance. And remember you’ll need to approve design even earlier than that.
  • If you’re doing advertising, when should it start and finish? Or if it’s going to continue, when will you want to review?

Agree how you will communicate

Who in your company should the supplier deal with? Who has authority to approve creative?  Or authority to change the budget or the brief?

6. Campaign-specific audience and message

This is more specific than what your business does overall. It’s related to what this campaign is trying to achieve. For example:

  • A legal firm might offer many services but want to promote help with divorce and custody proceedings in one campaign, but offer will preparation services to a different audience.
  • A caterer might want to promote their food to wedding planners in one campaign, but target business functions via a different project.

7. Relevant marketing history

You may have used this marketing channel before with a different supplier. You may have previous campaigns targeting the same audience, or for the same service. Include as much information as you can. And tell your new supplier what worked and what didn’t. Provide examples of marketing materials wherever possible.

Some material may be out of date. If it’s relevant, you can still include it. Just make sure to comment on that. It’s all background information which helps the supplier.

Briefing for creative work

Creative briefing is difficult. If you’re too vague, you get something which won’t work at all. If you’re too precise, you miss out on great and wonderful ideas. You are paying someone to be creative, after all – it doesn’t make sense to tie them down too far.

Some ideas:

  • Talk about your own previous creative:
    What worked? What didn’t? Do you have any ideas why?
  • What about your competitors’ marketing? (If you’re briefing for a website, this post about assessing competitor websites may be useful.)
    Was there anything you especially liked or disliked? Why?
  • What customer feedback have you had? About your marketing, or about competitor marketing. The voice of the customer is always important – even if they’re not talking about you!
  • Use examples from outside your industry. Make sure you comment so that your supplier knows why you chose this example and what you think of it.
  • Use positive and negative examples.
    Often it’s easier to say what’s wrong than what’s right.

Above all, be specific.

You want your supplier to understand what’s inside your head. Detail helps. For example:

The images are great but their text is too heavy and crowded. I can’t be bothered to read it.

I like the icons.

That diagram looks like they really know what they’re doing.

To wrap up, just remember that you need to help your supplier help you. Your brief is where you communicate – as clearly as you can – what you want from them. So it matters.

Hopefully you’re now confident about how to write a marketing brief which really works. Good luck! (And if you’re still getting stuck, contact me.



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