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How to write a really good brief for your agency

How to write a really good brief for your agency

By Oli Lee

Our Business Development Director, Oli Lee, knows the power of a good brief and the results it can yield for both the client and the agency. In this week’s blog we asked him to tell us how to write a good brief for an agency, so these are his top tips for writing a tender that will get you exactly what you want, and maybe better.

Going out to tender or pitch can be a hugely time-consuming task for agencies and clients alike. Since I started at twentysix some two years ago, I’ve seen every type of brief from the sublime to the ridiculous; ranging from one to 300 pages!

But there is a middle ground; a place where you have just enough information but not enough to constrict your creativity. These are the twentysix things you should include if you want to write a really good brief for your agency:

Before you write your brief:

1. Speak to all of your internal stakeholders. All of them. Even difficult Bob in IT

2. Understand and write down the business case for sending out the brief, i.e. explain why you can’t do this work yourself

3. Figure out who will be the main point of contact for your chosen agency once the work starts

4. Work out the monetary value of the time you’ll save as a result of using an agency

5. Map out exactly what services you require and where they require input from the internal stakeholders you identified earlier

6. Understand the effect that your desired results will have on the business as well as the implications to the business if you don’t get them

7. Do your research: are the results you want actually achievable?

8. Do more research: shortlist the agencies you’d like to ask to pitch. There are a lot of different agencies out there, all with varying specialisms, pros and cons. This is how to make a shortlist of agencies:

  • Get referrals: get on LinkedIn and ask your fellow marketers who they’d use. This will give you an instant impression of the good, the bad and the ugly. Shortlist #1 = drawn
  • Google: Google is your friend. Good agencies (particularly if you’re looking for digital help) should appear in SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages)
  • Always include your existing agency (if you have one)
  • Use ranking tables, like Prolific North, to help you chose
  • Look at their blogs and social media. Are they producing good content on a regular basis? This is a good sign of their own organisation and skill.

Once you’ve done all of this you can start to see light at the end of the tunnel. You now have an idea of the services you need, the commercial and business value of the work you’re asking for help with, and the results you need.

Now it’s time to ask your shortlisted agencies to crack on and put pen to paper. This is the easy bit but people can miss the mark. Contrary to belief us agency folk don’t have a stockpile of magic crystal balls; give us all the information you’ve got.

What to include in your agency brief:

9. What’s your brand’s background? Who are you? What do you stand for?

10. Which of your products or services are part of your brief? What are their USPs and how much do they cost?

11. Who are your target audience? How do they differ between your different products and/or services?

12. What activity have you done in the past to get customers, digital or otherwise? What were the results of this activity?

13. Who are your key competitors? What do you admire about them and where do you think they miss the mark?

14. What are your objectives for the products or services in your brief?

15. How does this brief fit in with your wider business strategy?

16. What are the deliverables of this brief? What do you expect from the successful agency? Would you like weekly WIP calls, five creative concepts or quarterly KPI updates?

17. What are the targets / KPIs for the products or services in your brief? Tell you agency what you’re trying to achieve and quantify it.

18. How are you going to measure success for both the response/pitch to this brief and, if the agency is successful, the work itself?

19. What are the key things you’re looking for in the relationship? Do you want the awarded agency to act as advisers or consultants or are you looking for a part-time secondment of an agency member of staff into your own in-house team?

20. Tell them about your timescales: what format is the selection process and how long will it take? When will the work be expected to start if they’re successful?

21. Budget!

So, you’ve got your brief written and you’ve sent it out to all of your shortlisted agencies . Don’t fall at the last hurdle.

Other things you should think about including in a really good agency brief:

22. Provide the agencies with access to the relevant platforms. If you’re looking for a complete redesign of the front-end of your website, send them the login details of your Content Management System (CMS). If you want to increase traffic to your site, give them access to your Google Analytics. Or if you’re looking for help with your social media, add them as admins to your Facebook Business Manager.

23. Schedule a time to discuss the brief. A good agency will always have questions.

24. Remain in communication. Don’t issue the brief and then go on holiday until a day before the pitch. Some agencies will qualify themselves out if they can’t get the answers they need in time to do a good job at pitch stage.

25. Provide your marking criteria up front.

26. Enjoy the pitch process: engage, question, and, most importantly, feedback.

And if all else fails:

We know that the world isn’t perfect. Sometimes these things get left too late and, as much as you’d like to, you can’t invent more time. If you’re struggling, we can help. Here at twentysix we’ve designed our own Client and Opportunity Profiler, which almost writes the brief for you! Feel free to get in touch with me on LinkedIn or email if you need any help.



The Author

Oli Lee