Why You Should Never Supply a Brief to Your Agency

by David McGilvray

It is common practice for organisations to request a proposal or supply a brief for a piece of work that they require from their agency. It may seem like a great idea in principle - unfortunately, this isn’t conducive to creating the most effective work.

Can you guess why?

Audience First 

Too many briefs focus on the internal requirements of an organisation rather than what target audience actually wants or needs. That means that an agency is given a prescriptive description of what digital marketing activity or website functionality is required for the project, without ever considering what end users want.

This is a risky tactic to play - whilst there will always be considerations for your internal stakeholders, making big user-experience decisions on the basis of an assumption can be detrimental to your online performance. 

The Unknown

A good digital agency has experts who eat, sleep and digest digital media 24/7. Your agency, being made up of channel specialists, possess the knowledge and solutions you may not have considered - or even heard of before, so coming to them with pre-conceived solutions could be wasteful!

Solving the Problem, but Not the Issue

Coming to your agency with a requirement to solve a problem may not help you to get to the core of the issue.  For example… 


‘We are not selling enough tickets’


‘We want to run a campaign to generate more traffic’

At face value, this seems like common sense.

What if the issue isn't the actual volume of traffic arriving to your site, but in fact is a poor user experience on the booking process of your website? Spending thousands of pounds on an online campaign may on the face of it inflate your initial return on investment, but once the campaign has died down, will your site benefit from lasting results? Most likely not.

Speaking with your agency and asking them to investigate the problem will help to conceive a solid, proven solution to the bigger issue, not just the temporary problem.

Misplaced Budget

Focusing budget in the wrong direction is a common pitfall. As noted above, sometimes solutions are directed towards solving a problem but never the root of a cause. In some instances, it is not unheard of for a campaign or specific functionality to be requested by a client without any evidential proof that an issue is at hand.

Taking a presumptive approach, without the proper due diligence will almost often result in a poor return on investment - no matter how cutting edge the work the agency rolls-out is.

The Answer

How does one avoid wasting budget on bad brief-ins?

If you have a strong relationship with an agency then ask them to get involved from the outset. Your agency will be delighted to hear from you - and find out your issues, goals and requirements. From there, your agency will collaborate and help you to devise a truly robust solution.

If you don’t have an existing agency relationship, then split your project into two phases : Requirements and Implementation.

Appoint an agency to help you to scope out the requirements of your project. This should encompass research, workshops and planning to deliver the appropriate solutions suitable to your site.

From there, you can comfortably proceed through to the implementation of the project, (usually) with the same agency or another, safe in the knowledge that what you are doing is correct for not just your internal stakeholders, but your most important audiences.

Still struggling to get to the root of your problem? We're always here to help - just get in touch.