For many very small business owners, marketing briefs might seem like overkill. It’s easy to see them as something that only big businesses do.
After all, your marketing “team” may only consist of you and the friend who’s agreed to help you.
What is a marketing brief?
A marketing brief is a guide for your promotional campaign. It often explains your answers to the following questions:
- Why you’re doing it
- What you’re looking to gain
- How it should be carried out
A marketing brief should clearly communicate your goals. It will outline:
- Everything you know about your target audience
- The amount of money you will spend
- Your plan on measuring the outcome of this marketing effort
Laying out this information in an organized manner will help everyone make decisions that greatly improve your odds of success.
Why is a marketing brief important?
Taking on all the marketing tasks yourself can be overwhelming. It’s highly likely that you’ll be handing off some of that work to a freelancer or an agency. This is where the marketing brief proves its value.
A marketing brief helps you tell those who don’t know your business what you hope to accomplish.
It outlines where your business is at and why you’re looking to launch a specific marketing campaign.
Without it, you might think you’ve shared all the necessary details — but you could be missing a few things. This scenario might lead to additional follow-up questions or none at all.
Additionally, things could get worse if whoever you hire begins making false assumptions. A lack of clarity could lead to mistakes and campaign execution that isn’t as effective as it could be.
So, is it worth spending your time putting together a thorough marketing brief? It absolutely is and should be completed before you involve a freelancer or agency in your plans.
A marketing brief is crucial when working with partners — including social influencers or creative agencies — to ensure you get the results you want, and to a time and budget that’s agreed by all parties. Below, I’ll explain why it’s worth doing and how to go about compiling one for your next promotional campaign.
What to put in your marketing brief
Let’s break down the basics that a good marketing brief should include. Don’t be too phased about formatting or content order. As long as the content is clearly written and you have your goals and measures of success clear you’re off to a good start.
1. Background or overview
While you know your company and its needs back-to-front, assume the agency or partner you’re working with doesn’t. That means it’s helpful to outline a little background on your company, and the challenges or opportunities you’re looking to solve for with this brief.
It doesn’t need to be a novel, just a few sentences will do (remember it’s quality not quantity of content), making it relevant to the task you’re about to set. If you work with other members in your company, this also helps ensure internal expectations of this project are aligned.
2. Goals and objectives
Clearly communicate what you want to achieve from the campaign. Be specific and make sure you can measure the outcome.
For example, a goal of making more sales is far too vague to measure. You’ll want to be specific — as in “Sell 10 units in February.”
One good way to create goals is to use the SMART strategy. Make sure each goal you set is:
Learn more about writing SMART goals here.
3. Target audience
The freelancer or agency reading your brief does not know your target audience like you do. That’s why it’s important to provide as many insights as possible on your perfect customer to help them create ads and social posts that will work hard for your business.
While it’s easy to confirm basic demographic details (e.g. 18-35 year olds who live in Victoria), this doesn’t give your agency much richness to go off. So what you’ll get back will likely be quite generic.
Instead try and include insights on your audience gathered from previous marketing activity or your website and social channels, such as their:
- Media consumption habits
- What motivates them
4. The message
Your campaign will have a better chance of success if you can distil your communications down to one simple message or a ‘single-minded thought.’ I say this because it’s not always possible to get everyone’s attention.
Think of it like your elevator pitch.
It’s important to leave them with a message they'll remember. Even if they don’t enquire or buy during the course of this campaign, it could still have an impact for future purchases.
5. What does success look like?
If you’re going to achieve your objectives, then you need to know how you’re going to measure them. Make sure everybody on your team is aware of these metrics, so that they understand how their success will be determined.
Like your campaign objectives, you’ll want to make these nice and specific so you can easily tell whether you have successfully hit your mark with this brief.
For example are you looking to drive an X% uplift in sales? Have X number of new newsletter subscriptions? An X% social engagement rate? Attach a time period to it and you have a SMART goal.
What is it you expect from your freelancer or agency exactly? If you want them to send email newsletters, you should state exactly how many you want. The same goes for copywriting and graphic design.
Would you like them to simply provide high-resolution artwork for the social media ads or do you want them to also place and manage the ads?
Always be clear with the list of deliverables you’re asking for, including relevant specs (i.e. image sizes, format) and deadlines. Even if you think your agency partner knows what you’re looking for — never assume! It might cause an unnecessary headache down the track.
Depending on the freelancer or agency, you may want to be flexible and consider their recommendations. This is also your chance to communicate which channels you want to use to promote your campaign. This could range from platforms like:
- Google Ads
Remember, a successful campaign is built on clear communication with your team. Discussing which channels you’ve already had luck with will help your marketing team prioritize the ones that matter most.
Or if you’re looking for your agency partner to help you pick relevant channels, mark that down too.
State when you want the campaign to be executed and how long it will run. If your freelancer or agency’s work will impact the delivery of other work, then place progress deadlines.
If assets need to be approved by anyone other than you, be sure to build in the necessary time so you don’t get stuck.
For obvious reasons, it’s important to be clear about the budget.
This also means specifying whether your budget includes or excludes GST (you don’t want to be accidently out-of-pocket on that one).
If you don’t have an exact budget in mind, it’s always best to at least provide a ballpark or guide to give the agency something to work to. Otherwise they might come back with a brilliant idea but it’s 10 times out of your budget (and now you’re sad and have lost time).
10. Brand guidelines
If you don’t already know this, your brand is so much more than your logo. Make sure your marketing team knows:
- Your business colours
- The fonts you use
- Your style of photography or animation
- How you speak to your audience
- How to use your logo
This will help your visual style stay consistent and allow your audience to easily distinguish you from other competitors. Providing examples of previous creative or projects is a great way to share your vision and give the agency something to work to.
How will the agency use my marketing brief?
This all depends on the nature of their work, of course. But let me run through a few examples.
A graphic designer will be able to read the brief and quickly identify:
- What you need them to design
- Where those elements will be used
- What you’re trying to achieve
When designing, they’ll be able to take inspiration from your insights about the audience and make sure they follow your branding guidelines closely.
A great writer doesn’t rely on their clever words alone. They need to get into the heads of your target audience to influence or encourage them to buy from your business.
Like the designer, they’re going to take great insights from your notes and draw on clear objectives and messages you laid out for them in the brief.
An advertising brief helps the freelancer or agency you’ve assigned to run your Facebook Ads campaign to look beyond the deliverables. It allows them to get an understanding of your audience and the objectives.
This will better equip them to recommend different Facebook ad types or suggest a lead funnel.
But if you’ve asked them to run ads to a specific landing page without a marketing brief, they might assume that’s all they need to do and stop there.
Get better work from your partners
The small business owner or sole marketer is a multi-tasker. They have to be. And this can lead them to believe that marketing briefs are a waste of time and not necessary.
But a marketing brief will ensure that everyone understands what is required for success.
It provides the detailed information to make sure the campaign operates in a harmonious rhythm, with minimal room for error.