Five Scope of Work and Input Briefing Best Practices Successful Companies Follow to Consistently Increase Marketing Performance and Drive Efficiencies

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 Can Your Relationship Handle the IKEA Meltdown?

Most relationships cannot handle the highly stressful process
of assembling IKEA furniture, especially when the directions
are unclear or simply missing or lost. If you ever shopped at
IKEA and attempted to put together any large piece of furniture
without directions and with countless individual pieces that
must carefully be assembled in the right sequence, you will
know exactly what I mean. This kind of IKEA breakdown has
been the subject of many psychological studies as well as the
features in many YouTube parodies and an episode of the NBC
comedy “30 Rock,” where Tina Fey’s character, Liz Lemon, ends
up breaking up with her boyfriend.

In addition to the potential relationship collapse, the outcome
is oft en less than desirable: a broken, unusable work product
that is the result of wasteful ti me, energy and resources. In
my recent article — The Day I Met Elvis the Pig (“Five easy
steps towards highly productive partnerships that yield greater
performance”) — I referenced the results of the “Enhancing
Client Agency Relationships” 2015 ANA study, which
emphasized that the large majority of agencies (73%) do not
believe clients do a good job at guiding them. The lack of solid
scope of work development and briefing practices continues
to be a major source of tension and financial waste for clients.
Thankfully, a number of best practices have arisen over the years that have enabled clients to provide solid guidance initially during the company’s annual planning process (scope of work) and prior to actual client/agency engagements (input briefs). We recommend the following five best practices:


#1: Commit/Prioritize

Providing strong guidance to agency partners, whether it is
at the off set of a new fiscal calendar or during the course of
the year as projects get under way, requires commitment from
the entire client organization, at both the leadership and client
engagement levels. Unless the organization acknowledges
the importance of providing clear guidance and prioritizes the
process necessary to scope and brief work, it’s unlikely that any
other attempt would allow the organization to benefit from
having agencies well under way to deliver the strategic value
and discipline excellence clients are looking for them to provide.
Here are some best practices for advertisers to consider:
• Invite agencies early enough to give them the opportunity
to weigh in
• Emphasize the importance (in terms of gaining efficiencies,
performance and quality output) of providing what agencies
need to deliver outstanding work.
• Commit resources to improve scope of work and agency
briefing processes and tool

#2: Audit/Assess

Recent studies indicate that client organizations are not always
aware of the gravity and severity of the disconnect between
what their marketing teams provide to agencies and what
agencies actually need to meet or exceed client expectations.

Unfortunately, some of the inherent inefficiencies take ground
over ti me and are defacto built into staffing plans and budgets.
Here are some best practices for advertisers to consider:

  • Regularly audit scope of works and input briefs provided
    to agencies today.
  • Evaluate the quality of the information provided. (Is it clear,
    comprehensive, actionable?)
  • Assess the number of revisions made; identify excessive
    activities and problem areas.
  • Check that you have the right questions in your client/
    agency performance evaluations.

#3: Standardize/Simplify

Most companies are organized into various business units and
geographic regions, oft en with unique business requirements
and taxonomies that add complexity. Standardizing on the information provided in the scope of work and input brief
significantly simplifies the collection of data, reporting and
analysis, and more importantly, makes it much easier for
agencies interfacing multiple internal client organizations to
understand the scope and project objectives. Here are some
best practices for advertisers to consider:

  • Adopt a consistent taxonomy. (How do you define
    “objectives”? What’s a “campaign”? What’s an “asset” or
    “deliverable”? How do you define their level of complexity?)
  • Determine what data fields will be used for scope of work
    and the input brief. (How much is free form vs. structured
    data used for reporting and should-cost model analysis?)
  • Use a consistent format to capture staffing plans and
    retainer proposal.
#4: Automate/Streamline

Once scope of work and brief input data have been
standardized, socialized and adopted by internal stakeholders
and agencies, advertisers should start streamlining
by automating all relevant processes from data capture,
maintenance/updates and reporting to avoid otherwise
ti me-consuming, error-prone, labor-intensive and therefore
costly processes. Here are some best practices for advertisers
to consider:

  • Identify what specific tasks and processes can be fully
    automated in your process.
  • Consider specialized tools and cloud-based solutions like
  • Implement solution to ensure optimal adopt on by internal
    teams and agencies.

#5: Educate/Train

It’s very unlikely any marketer has received formal training on
how to write solid scopes or input briefs. Yet some companies
expect their marketing teams to do this well and consistently.
Those who do it well are providing their teams with training,
playbooks and other helpful resources to determine what is a
great scope or brief vs. what’s not. They do so in partnership
with their agencies, which are ultimately on the receiving end
of this critical information. Here are some best practices for
advertisers to consider:

  • Seek input from agencies on what they consider best in
    class and suboptimal input.
  • Provide training curriculum on how to write scopes and
    briefs to marketing teams.

This is the number one issue raised most commonly by
agencies that gets in the way of great work and cost inefficiencies. Too few companies are effectively addressing
this issue, struggling to find ways to simplify and streamline the
way they work with their agencies and reduce wasted efforts.
Luckily, best practices have emerged to address this issue
head-on and make clients more accountable, providing better
guidance and direction to their agency partners. Do you want
to subject your relationships to the IKEA meltdown? Jag trodde
intedet! (“I didn’t think so!” in Swedish).