How to Brief a Marketing Agency | Abacus Marketing | London
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How to Brief a Marketing Agency

Ever wondered how to brief a marketing agency? The purpose of this blog is to help businesses to communicate their needs better, in order to end up with the best possible outcome.

As an integrated marketing agency which works with clients of varying levels of marketing knowhow, the Abacus team is used to working in an agile way to help our clients during the briefing process. Large companies normally have a big marketing team in place, so that makes life easy in this respect, but smaller companies and start-ups don’t always have a marketing person with the experience and expertise needed to articulate their requirements in a clear and concise way.

That’s fine, there is nothing wrong with that. In truth, formal written briefs tend to be self-limiting to some degree anyway. Yes, they are a good starting point, but it is often far better to meet up for a face-to-face meeting that will enable us to discuss your brief (written or otherwise) in much more detail.

Why is briefing a marketing agency well so important?

If you want a successful outcome when engaging a marketing agency, it’s really important to be clear about your goals in your briefing document – and to be willing and able to provide all the relevant information that your agency will need to achieve your objectives. The better you brief your agency, the better their response is likely to be. The problem is that if you don’t have a lot of marketing experience and expertise, how do you know what it is you need to tell them? That’s the motivation behind this blog, which as always is aimed primarily at helping SMEs and start-ups to get better quality outcomes from their marketing activities, be they delivered internally or externally.

A strategy is defined as being the best use of scare resource. And that means money and time. A strategy needs to be measured by efficacy and efficiency. And that is why briefing your marketing agency well is so important – it avoids wasted effort by ensuring that the direction of travel is clear to all from the start.

How to Brief a Marketing Agency

Indoor shot of creative team discussing ideas in business meeting. Multi ethnic business people working together on new project in office.

Briefing a marketing agency

The more information we have, the better our response will be. The key factor to bear in mind is to define your core goal or goals. Ideally, they need to be specific and measurable, and they will normally involve a focus on the commercial sales and profit goals of your business. But this is not always the case – for instance, a brand-focused brief is not measurable in the same way, nor is the creation of a suite of sales and marketing collateral. Also, brand awareness activities fall under the PR umbrella in that they tend to support rather than drive sales volumes.

Please note that your briefing can either be delivered in a printed form, or we can help to create a brief through a workshop session with you and your team.

What we need from you:

  • Business plan and sales forecasts

If you have a business plan with sales forecasts, we would love to see it. If not, we need to know the key information about your business, including:

  • Your purpose (mission statements, profit plans and exit strategy)
  • Sales (past, current and aspirations sales figures)
  • Skills (what skills does your current team have including management, employees, partners, suppliers, investors and board members)
  • Products and services (including special features, pricing and sales channels)
  • Customer segments (including geographies and different sectors)

Of course, for larger organisations, we may be focusing on a specific product/service and/or region (as we do for Canon), so the plans and forecasts need to relate to these areas rather than be generic to the entire business.

  • Products and services

We need to know the ins and outs of your products and services, including any USPs and customer rational needs for your products (the first reason they come looking for services like yours). Then we need to understand the benefits that your products/services deliver for your customers, which we refer to as pain points and emotional drivers.

  • Target market

The rationalisation of your target audience can be split into two parts. Firstly, we look at customer demographics, which include details such as age, geography and gender. The second element is customer psychographics, which help us understand the motivations that drive specific audiences. This includes personas, lifestyles, behaviours and values.

  • Competitor analysis

This is an exploration of your main competitors. Competitor analysis begins by identifying your main competition, then we can get more insights by exploring their websites (through technical and manual activities) and social media pages (to establish they engage with their audiences). You can then use various competitor analysis tools to identify further technical information about your competitors including market share, turnover etc. We can also visit stores, call up hotlines and complete online forms to see how their sales processes work. We can learn a lot from the competition! We also analyse successful competitors in different regions/markets but with similar products and/or customers to see what we can learn from them.

  • Customer research

Customer research can be delivered using both qualitative and quantitative methodologies, such as focus groups, telephone surveys and online questionnaires. These can involve both existing and potential customers. It is often a good idea to test your hypotheses in this way before committing to a large scale marketing plan – also, these activities tend to drive insights. Small pilots can often be very informative too without risking a huge investment.

  • Brand strategy

When people talk about branding, they normally think about corporate logos and other design factors, but we believe that the most important way of thinking about a brand is in terms of its character and personality. This is the internal part whereas the visual identity is the external part. ‘Beauty is only skin deep’ is a phrase which perhaps helps to explain this argument better. A strategic brand proposition includes three key elements:

  • Market positioning (how does your product/service sit in the market in terms of value, quality and service)
  • Brand voice (including vision & mission, values and views, virtues and vows)
  • Message proposition (including your corporate messaging, customer messaging and product messaging)
  • Stakeholder mapping

Who do you need to communicate with? That’s what we mean by stakeholders, and they can potentially include some or all of the following – mapping means that we consider their bespoke needs and interrelations with other stakeholders to avoid duplication of effort:

  • Prospects
  • Customers
  • Staff
  • Investors
  • Partners
  • Associates
  • Suppliers
  • The general public
  • Regulatory bodies
  • Communication platforms

The next question to answer is what platforms you need to communicate with your stakeholders. Obvious examples include; website, social media, brochures, newsletters, exhibition stands, point of sale, uniforms and office signage. We will work out what is required. Also, it is not good enough to say you need a website – we need to think about what this website needs to deliver.

  • Sales pipeline

This focuses on the software and online tools you use to run your sales pipeline (if you have one), including customer relationship management (CRM) software, email marketing tools (examples include MailChimp, Drip, Constant Change) and marketing automation software (examples include HubSpot, ActiveCampaign and Infusionsoft). These days, you can often find one system that delivers everything and app integration with your internal financial systems is normally quite easy.

  • Sales culture

One of the most important factors in the success of any business is the internal sales culture of the organisation. It is often the most overlooked factor too. Every member of staff has to understand the implicit role they play in the sales process, even if it is only in an indirect way. One very effective way to deliver this is through transparent, regular events to discuss sales performance, so that everyone feels involved, alongside team building events, recognition and rewards.

  • Lead generation

Lead generation activities can be broadly split into two different types – digital and non-digital. They can also deliver immediate, medium-term or long-term results, and the best solution depends upon the budget you have available and the marketplace you operate in.

  • Digital marketing (including social media, SEO, email marketing and content marketing)
  • Non-digital marketing (events and conferences, advertising and direct marketing, point of sale promotions and PR)

It is now relatively simple to determine the effectiveness of most forms of lead generation – especially within the digital space. We will work with you to deliver the best solution for your organisation.

  • Marketing budget

There’s two ways to work out a marketing budget. The first way is for the agency to work out how much you need to spend to achieve the objectives stated in the brief. The second way is for the client to advise on a budget and for the agency to determine what can be achieved with that level of investment. It’s a tricky one – so that’s why it is so important to work with a marketing agency you feel you can trust. One that is more interested in your bottom line than theirs. One who is totally transparent about all financial matters.

How to assess a marketing agency

With so many marketing agencies out there, it’s obviously tricky to find the right one to work with. In our opinion, the three most important factors to consider when selecting your agency are:

  • Quality – experience, knowledge and expertise
  • Service – responsiveness, accuracy and professionalism
  • Value – fairness, transparency and clarity

We have heard it said often that you can only have two of these three, but we disagree. Why? Because we have found a way to do so. Our quality is as good as any top London marketing agency. Our service is as good as any company in the world. And our ethical attitude towards financial matters is as good as you could hope for. If Carlsberg did marketing agencies, we think they would look a lot like Abacus. That’s why our mission is to deliver a big agency experience, but without the big agency price tag.

What is your biggest marketing challenge?

We work with a range of clients from large, well-established global brands all the way through to up-and-coming start-ups, so we are used to adapting to individual client needs. There are lots of reasons why a business might want to work with a marketing agency, but here are a few typical examples of client challenges we can help you with:

We need more sales:

If you need a marketing strategy to help deliver more sales, we can help. Any lead generation strategy we create can normally be measured, so we are able to work out the cost per acquisition and ultimately the marketing budget required to meet your goals.

We need a decent website:

A good website is vital to pretty much every business, as it represents the ‘shop-front’ for the company. A successful business needs a website that effectively represents its brand and the products and services it sells, and which also delivers a good customer experience.

We need more leads:

Digital advertising and non-digital sales promotions deliver fast, short-term leads. A social media strategy, email marketing and content marketing help build solid relationships with your customers for medium-term results. Alternatively, an effective SEO strategy can deliver amazing long-term results. We will work with you to determine which option is best for your business.

We need a better brand:

Branding can mean many things, from looking more modern to portraying your messaging more effectively. Good branding is the way a customer builds trust in your products and your company. This will help build a solid personality for your business and a familiar face for your business across multiple channels.

We need our team to be more motivated:

We have delivered many strategies that motivate internal sales teams and distribution channels. Some examples include projects for Land Rover and IBM. Motivation strategies typically involve communication, education, recognition and reward and the best ones also look at indirect sales opportunities from non-frontline sales teams.

We need help with social media marketing:

Social media can be a great platform to market your business, but it can be very easy to get it wrong and waste your money. Whether you want to increase your followers, improve engagement or start getting leads, we can help you to achieve your goals.

We need a marketing strategy:

Our ‘Strategic Marketing Planning Process’ identifies all the different aspects of your business that will impact upon the effectiveness and efficiency of a marketing strategy. We look at your business plan, customers, products, competitors, staff and partners to create the perfect solution.

Get in touch

We understand that briefing a marketing agency can be a daunting prospect, so we are always happy to talk you through the process without cost or obligation either in person or over the phone as you prefer.

In fact, for unfunded start-ups or micro businesses without a budget big enough to engage an agency, we are always happy to provide them with an hour of our time to suggest some ways in which they can achieve their goals.

For more information, please email Stephen Taylor-Brown, Managing Director, at, or call 020 3858 7836.

You can find out more about who we are, what we do, and who we do it for, by visiting our website at