How to write a great B2B marketing agency brief

If you’ve ever delivered a marketing agency brief and felt yourself being regarded with the same withering disdain you’d get if you farted at a funeral, I want you to know something…

It’s not your fault, and you’re not alone.

In a study by the BetterBriefs project, 80% of brand marketers said they believe they’re quite good at writing briefs for agencies. But, in the same study, only 10% of their agencies agreed with them.

The fact is, nobody ever gets properly taught how to write a good agency brief, how to strike the balance between the rich, informative detail and digestible brevity that agencies need.

And when you consider how profoundly your brief can affect the quality and accuracy of the work you receive from your agency partners, it’s obvious that this needs addressing.

That’s why I want to share with you our hard-won insights into how you can write the kinds of briefs that your B2B marketing agencies will not only thank you for, but do more outstanding work with:

Include your commercial objective

B2B agencies face the same financial scrutiny and pressure to show value and results as all marketing teams. Clearly define your objectives, so they can align their response to help you meet them.

Be specific about KPIs

These should align to your commercial objectives and be easy to construct based on what you’re looking to achieve. Giving your marketing agency solid KPIs will help you get a laser-focused proposal back from them, and give you tangible points of comparison between other agency proposals.

Include all timings

Whether it’s agency selection, project commencement and delivery, product launch dates, key internal meetings, industry events, etc., it’s crucial that their details and importance are made crystal clear in the brief. It’s also important to clarify what’s governing these timings and whether they’re flexible or discrete – ‘ASAP’ will always come at the cost of either quality or budget.

Include budget guidance

Imagine trying to buy a house without giving your agent a budget – the cost of a three-bedroom house with a garden is going to be seismically different between say Chelsea and Grimsby.

To sidestep any anxiety you might have about greedy agencies simply ‘using up the entire budget’, provide them either a budget range or budget options, and ask them to demonstrate their approach to each and where you’d see efficiencies and economies of scale, e.g.: ‘Show us how you’d approach budgets of £400k, £700k and £1m’.

Be honest about challenges

Being candid with your agencies up front about potential issues and concerns (such as stakeholders, budgets, timings, etc.) allows them to put their years of experience to use in helping you mitigate against these obstacles from the get-go.

Deamplify excess jargonicity

You’re a person, I’m a person, we’re all people and people don’t think in jargon – so why fill a brief with jargon? Dial down the internal terminology, technical language, and obscure acronyms so everyone is comfortably speaking the same language. If your mum doesn’t know what a ‘C-PSAG’ is, your agency likely won’t either.

Stick to 2-3 pages, total

The more focused and relevant your brief is, the clearer it is for your agency and the quicker they can start work. Any extra information you want to add to help flesh out the content of your brief can be supplied separately as background material.

Get stakeholder sign-off up front

A common cause of missed project deadlines is stakeholder misalignment, so it’s critical to ensure all relevant stakeholders have reviewed, input, and approved from the beginning so there are no surprises along the way.

Build in agency digestion time

Your agencies need time to really interrogate the brief, allowing them to offer pragmatic perspectives on any additions, amends, or gaps it has. Allow time for this to happen.

Treat the brief as a contract

The brief needs to be an unchanging point of reference for what you require, and a document that allows both you and your agency to hold each other (constructively) accountable to. Formulate your brief with facts and absolutes instead of suggestions or possibles.

Invite input on your brief

The perfect brief doesn’t exist. But, we can create much better ones through dialogue between you and your agencies about what really works well and what really doesn’t.

Alternatively, you can look at briefing templates your agency has already created. Drop us a line if you’d like a look at templates Earnest has created for brand, campaign, website, content, strategy, or experiential briefs.

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(Header photo: Markus Spiske on Unsplash)

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(Header photo: Markus Spiske on Unsplash)