The importance of defining the brief in B2B marketing

The best creative output starts with a brief. Strategist Sarah Callaghan makes the case for revisiting, and questioning, the basics.

A problem well stated is a problem half-solved”. The quote from Charles F Kettering has taken different forms over the years. It’s also a philosophy we’ve taken to heart at alan. If you hadn’t noticed, we’re in the business of problem solving… 

Ultimately a rubbish brief wastes time, money, and end results in poor end-output. But what does a good brief look like?

Rethinking the basics

Most marketers understand the value of a brief. But conversations with brands often start with the output and work backwards to retrofit the objectives. Be it an editorial report, a qualitative research study or persona development work. Then – once we dig into the motivations and reasons for working towards a goal, alongside the audience, competitors, and context – other potential avenues open.

It’s important to challenge preconceived notions of what a ‘brief’ should be. We all initially think about the logistics, such as timelines, deliverables, and execution. But really, in B2B marketing the wider context is everything. 

It’s important to challenge preconceived notions of what a ‘brief’ should be.

Context is key

Some of the most valuable work we do with our clients underpins the foundations of strategy work. It often leads to brands completely rethinking their approach to marketing. Sessions like our stakeholder alignment workshop help identify and correct misalignments between business functions, such as sales, marketing, and product.

On a similar track, in our opinion, you can’t work out what’s relevant or valuable without knowing exactly who it is you’re trying to engage with. A real interrogation of who the audience is is essential. Before any work is started.

We can take fundamental learnings from strategy work when defining a brief. There are core elements that each one should consider. Instead of just considering what success metrics look like, we need to understand how they tie into the wider business objectives. Don’t just consider issues relevant to a single piece of work but evaluate the wider industry context. Question why it is a specific job role we need to get in front of.

Synthesising all this information into one agreed brief is also an instrumental part of the process. The main challenge is making it just that. Brief. 

Ultimately, conversations around the brief can help reveal what you don’t know, as much as what you do. This kind of approach allows us and brands to abandon assumptions meaning we collaborate and create career-defining work.

Synthesising all this information into one agreed brief is also an instrumental part of the process. The main challenge is making it just that. Brief. 

Hit the pause button

We recently surveyed 600 senior marketers across the technology, financial and professional services sectors to understand their sentiment towards agencies and what the future holds. The findings showed us that agencies are failing to deliver. 

One in four respondents (26 per cent) don’t think their agencies understand their objectives and an alarming 42 per cent don’t believe they always act in their brand’s best interests.

Something is going wrong. 

Whilst it’s easy to run away with creativity, it is vital at the start of every piece of work – no matter how small – to momentarily press pause. Stopping to outline and define the objectives will help bridge the disconnect we are seeing between brands and their agency partners.  

At alan. we know we’ve got the talent, creativity, and expertise to deliver world-class work. And it all starts with a brief. 

Let’s solve B2B marketing.

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