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How to brief your marketing team

Strategy / 3.29.23 / By Rosi Statt

Imagine this: You’re in a leadership meeting talking about driving higher sales numbers. You’re asked to generate leads—and fast—and your marketing team needs to help fuel those sales.

Your end goal is clear: increase sales numbers. But how do you prepare your marketing team (whether internal or external), inspire them and help them quickly align on the project? The answer is in how you brief them.

Context: Why is this an assignment?

While your first thought might be to jump into the project’s goals, budget and tactics—all things that are important to understand. But the first thing you should do for your team is share the why. What’s the context behind the work? What’s the business need or challenge the marketing ask is meant to solve? This can unlock a new line of thinking and solutions that traditional inside-the-box goals might not have unveiled.

Label it to frame it.

When it comes to business, developing a system or structure helps frame a project and supports quick alignment. Project labeling strengthens kickoffs and gives the team a structure to lean into. At DS+CO, we use three project-type labels—strategic, adaptive and versioning—as the foundation of our work. These help us frame requirements and set the course for the best way to approach the opportunity.

Success: What does that look like?

Understand what success looks like to you, your boss, your board or, more broadly, your business. Aligning on KPIs and objectives is crucial for determining what success means for your brand. Do we need to generate 150 leads in six months? Or do we need to generate 1,000 leads in six months? These two different goals require different budgets and strategies based on the success criteria alone.

Next, dream big for a minute: At the end of those six months, what has the work delivered? Communicating your ideal outcome better equips your marketing team to develop an idea that just might get you there.

Audience: Who are we talking to?

This is typically the second or third question you’ll hear from an account manager or marketer. Who’s the target audience and what do they care about? If you’re briefing your marketing team on new work, come prepared to discuss this and make sure it’s in your brief. If you know it, bring data to support your thinking. If you don’t know, and that’s what you want your team’s help with, be prepared with information you do have that demonstrates why more research is needed to determine your audience.

Leave room for the knowns.

With every briefing, leave room for the knowns—budget, timing and mandatories—but don’t start there. Doing so tends to get your team focused on these guardrails first and could leave them uninspired. For the mandatories, this means anything you can’t budge on. Typically, it’s where we have truths that are set by the business or brand we’re working with—not against—and we incorporate them into the thinking.

While budget and timeline are fairly straightforward, the two can cause friction if they’re not discussed or properly laid out.

Here’s my advice for a great budget conversation: If you don’t have a specific budget, try to provide a ceiling or a range. It’s OK if you don’t know what something costs or need guidance, but more often than not, a threshold exists. Asking for a realistic budget helps your marketing team make the most of what you do have. And knowing how many dollars you have available to generate leads can quickly uncover both realistic and unrealistic options so all teams start off with the right expectations.

Briefs come in all shapes and sizes.

Talk to anyone in accounts or with an accounts background and you’ll hear stories of project requests coming through in all forms: via text message, 50-page slide decks, Excel, the list goes on. The best ones I’ve received have checked all the boxes mentioned above, include thought starters and provide insight into what’s worked (or not) in the past. But the next step is always my favorite: working with our team to shape additional inputs together.

At the end of the day, clients starting new work with us aren’t expected to have all the answers and knowns up front. Real-world work doesn’t work that way, and both internal and external teams are being asked to move quicker and quicker these days. What we do need is something only a client can bring to the conversation: a business understanding. That’s the best foundational element to marketing work. From there, we can shape the scope of work together. More than anything, I love the possibilities it all can bring to a client’s business and our relationship. It’s like walking into Home Depot—there’s possibility everywhere.

So now imagine this: You’re back in that leadership meeting, and before you go, you make sure you walk away with all the context you need to brief your team. When you step away from that meeting, prep a one-sheeter to pull your thoughts together. Then step into your marketing briefing with a desire to have a conversation. If your marketing team understands the context—why you’re doing this assignment, what success looks like and any mandatories—you’ve given them the framework to successfully dig deeper.

Finally, your agency or team will need to bring an understanding of the target audience to develop a strategy that meets both their needs and those of your business. And from there, you’ll have all the elements you need to start planning your communications strategy and activation plan.

Unsure what your business challenge is or need help shaping your next brief to set up your marketing work? Learn about DS+CO’s DISCOVERY/CONTEXT SETTING SESSIONS. Send us a message here.

Rosi Cropped

Rosi Statt

Rosi knows that a solid strategy is the foundation for marketing that works. What drives her though is how that foundation is built: by digging into the research and uncovering insights that unlock inspiration for creative that moves people. Her strategic thinking has led to award-winning work, including National ADDY awards and Best in Show at the Rochester PRisms. But for Rosi, the real win is knowing she’s made a difference for clients. When she’s not leading her team of strategists, she can be found on the sidelines of Victor’s soccer fields, coaching her sons and their fellow teammates.