Too many people set up a meeting with a prospective customer or distribution partner, then immediately start to create a PowerPoint (or equivalent) presentation for the event. In many cases they will adapt an earlier version so they can reuse slides and get it done faster. Even though they may feel they are making progress and can check the work off as done, they might be missing an opportunity to really get their message across. In this case Haste Makes Waste.
A PowerPoint, to take one example, might be the least effective way to make the sale. This next meeting might be a one-on-one in an office, rather than the large conference room you created the deck for. This meeting might be at a different stage in the selling cycle, with a buyer who has different questions on her mind. This meeting might be with a company that wants to include other team members in the post-meeting discussion, who might not understand the key messages in a presentation deck. Lots of things may go wrong.
The best approach is first to write a Marketing Brief (sometimes called a Creative Brief), get agreement from your team that it is on-target, and only then create the marketing materials. When you agree on the marketing brief, you can assess the resulting marketing materials by how well they deliver on the brief versus judging them by whether you or anyone else “likes” it. A well-written brief can help the entire team judge the marketing materials objectively.
Writing a marketing brief is especially important if you plan to have a new person or outside agency create the new document. It is a way to give them enough context that they will be able to judge what elements should be in bounds and which ones out of bounds.
There are many guidelines in circulation for writing an effective marketing brief, and regardless you should adapt the formats to fit the needs for your organization. The most common elements in a brief include the following:
Who is the target audience? There are one or more people on the other side of the meeting, most of who have their own work and personal challenges to deal with. Get inside their head to understand their real needs.
What are their pain points? What problem or opportunity, of high value to the audience, is the product addressing? What questions or concerns are likely on their minds? Do they have some fears about what could go badly by making the wrong choice?
What is the communications objective? What do you want this meeting to achieve? It is rarely that you land the sale, and more often that you advance the process to the next stage. What do you need to convince them of in order to advance?
What is the meeting format? Will you be presenting in a conference room, or one-on-one with a key person, in a web meeting, on a conference call, or in a meal? The meeting format says much about what types of marketing materials (perhaps sent in advance, shared in the meeting, sent after, or all the above) would be appropriate.
What is the ideal materials format? Is it an email? One-page brochure? Multi-page brochure? Powerpoint? Other? If the best format is a presentation deck, how long can it be? Will you be presenting it, thus controlling the story, or will some readers (before or after) be trying to understand it without your presentation?
What is the key message? What should your headline convey? There is no need to wordsmith the copy at the Creative Brief stage. Write your elevator pitch.
What are the key support points? What else do you have to say to support the key message? What are the important sub-components of your message?
What facts can you draw on? What research or external validation can you add to achieve the objective? Do you have data? Testimonials?
Tone & Manner. Especially if you are working with outside creative, you will want to make your tone clear. Are you serious and fact-based? Or are you whimsical? Do you want to make the case for a long-term partnership?
What action do you want the audience to take? What are the next steps? Always remember you want to close with an ask—whatever is appropriate for the stage of the sales process.
Got your brief? Got agreement from your team members? Now go create your marketing materials.