Completing a brief can feel like an onerous administrative task. You want to get on with creating your brochure or putting together your social media calendar. You have an amazing idea for a leaflet and you’re going to get 10,000 printed. You know what you want to say, so do you really need to waste time thinking about strategy?
No prizes for guessing that I think the time spent completing the brief will pay dividends.
Any kind of communication costs money. And if it doesn’t cost money, it definitely takes time. Every time you spend time or money talking to customers who aren’t going to buy your product you’re wasting the opportunity to talk to one who will.
Being focused on your business’s growth strategy, targeting the most valuable customers and being very specific with your message will ensure you get the biggest bang for your communication buck.
Here are some typical things you’ll be asked to consider when completing a communication brief and why they matter.
How does this activity fit in with your broader strategy?
Let’s assume you have a growth strategy for the year. Most businesses do! You want to increase revenue by 10%. And you plan to do that by getting 20% more leads. And you plan to increase your conversion of all leads by 15%.
How does the piece of communication or the activity you are planning achieve that? Is it generating more leads? Is it creating engagement that will result in more leads? Is it focusing on warm leads with a strong conversion message? If so, great. But if not, is this the communication you want to be spending time on? Why not focus on something that does achieve your goal?
Alternatively, if this is a really important communication, then why is it not reflected in your overall strategy?
In short, tick the box that says this communication is relevant to your business goals for the year.
Who is your customer?
Creating customer avatars is the thing small business owners tend to struggle with most. After all, wouldn’t it just be better to sell to everyone? Why limit yourself?
Creating customer avatars (or in old marketing speak, segmenting your database) isn’t about limiting your opportunity for sales. It’s about helping you talk relevantly to every customer. And it works.
Consider the supermarket. They don’t come more mass market than that. After all, all of us shop in them – week in, week out. And we’re all buying food. So you would think the supermarkets would treat us as one huge group of hungry shoppers. But they don’t. They spend millions upon millions on sophisticated loyalty programmes so that they can understand the different groups of people that shop with them. And they tailor their offering accordingly.
You can do the same. Start with demographics. But then try to think beyond that to buyer behaviours. How many reasons might there be to buy your product? Because a supermarket knows if a customer is a serial ready meal buyer who shops in their local store at 8pm every evening. And it knows if they’re a family shopper getting a huge delivery every week. So at the most basic level, it knows if they’re talking to someone cash rich and time poor or vice versa. And it tailors its offers accordingly.
Once you know your customers, you can target specific interest groups with your message. But, just as importantly, you avoid talking to a customer about something they aren’t interested in. Getting customers is hard. You risk losing them if you’re not relevant with every communication.
What does your customer think and what do you want them to think?
What does your customer currently think, feel and do about your product. What do you want them to think, feel and do?
This communication has to get them from A to B. Does it do that? There are many, many ways to construct compelling messages and hundreds if not thousands of books on the subject (Cialdini’s Influence. The Psychology of Persuasion is a very good place to start.) So if your email, advert, landing page or social media strategy won’t get your customer thinking, feeling and doing what you want them to, don’t spend the money on communication until it will.
What is the customer journey?
Where has the customer come from? Have they arrived on your promotional web page from an email? Or from an advert? What do they know about your product already?
Where are they going to next? Do you know what you want them to do and have you made it easy for them to do it?
Every communication you create should have an objective and an appropriate call to action (such as ‘Add to basket’ or ‘Find out more’ or ‘Sign up here’). Whatever the communication (email, sales letter, advert…), limit the information to what your customer needs in order to make the decision you want them to make. When you’re an expert on a subject, the temptation is to tell everyone everything all the time. But that can be overwhelming to a customer. Keep it simple. The less you say, the more likely they are to read what you do say. You might need to tell them a lot. That’s fine. But make sure it’s all focused on getting the customer to make the ONE decision you want them to make. And then make the CTA (call to action) very easy to do.
Can you summarise the brief in a sentence or two.
A really useful technique for ensuring you have a focused message is to test whether you can summarise your brief in a sentence or two. For example:
Using (medium), how can I [achieve the communication goal] of by conveying [main benefit/counter threat/answer/objection] in order that the audience [profile of audience] [desired thought/feeling/action].
Using a blog, how can I clearly demonstrate the value of communications strategy by conveying the savings and benefits so that SMEs spend more time planning.
Now you’re ready, here’s a step by step guide to completing your brief.