How to brief an agency

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how to brief an agency
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In marketing, if you fail to plan, you should plan to fail. Even if someone else is doing your marketing, you still need to brief them properly. By Daniel Warren.

Picture this: you’re sitting in the staff room at your practice, keen to brief some well-dressed advertising type about a new dental marketing campaign for your practice. They have just asked you what exactly you want to get out of this. You have replied, “More clients.”

There is a brief, awkward silence.

“How many more clients?” they finally ask.

And you don’t really know the answer, because while you know you want more clients, you never really thought about exactly how many more. Or who those clients would be. Or what exactly those clients would want. Because in the real world, you don’t really know the answers to those questions until the patient walks in the door.

But according to Mark Brown, director of Engage Content, if you want to get the best possible outcome from any marketing plan, you need to know what the outcome is. “If you say, ‘I want 100 new patients’, that’s fine,” Brown says. “It gives the agency an idea of what they have to do to achieve that. 

“If you say, ‘I want to grow my cosmetic practice’, that’s fine too. Even if you’re just making objectives up on the spot, it sets a goal that helps you work out whether this marketing plan is working later down the track.”

Unfortunately, Brown says, in marketing your practice, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. So the starting point of any brief is figuring out where you want it to end.

Start with the end in mind

There is no point in starting down a road if you don’t know where you want it to end, Brown says. “That’s true of any medical treatment,” he adds. “It’s true of any marketing service, or any other professional service. Having a goal helps you work out every other step of your marketing plan.

“Once you have a goal, you can set a realistic time line and a plan. If your goal is to get 100 patients in six months, you can prepare to spend a lot of money advertising and discounting and promoting your practice to as broad an audience as you can find.

“If your plan is to get an extra 10 patients a month, or to grow a certain part of your practice, you will go about it differently.”

Once you have a goal, you can set a realistic timeline and a plan. If your goal is to get 100 patients in six months, you can prepare to spend a lot of money advertising and discounting and promoting your practice. 

Mark Brown, Engage Content

Which makes sense. If your plan in life is to buy a house, you don’t walk to the shops on a Saturday morning and expect to walk out as a home owner.

Furthermore, Brown says, the clearer your objective is in your own mind, the better your plan can be. So the starting point with briefing an agency is telling them what you want to get out of it, and the more specific you are, the better.

Know who you’re talking to

“A vitally important part of marketing is knowing who it is you’re talking to,” Brown says. The whole idea of marketing to potential new patients is to start a conversation with them. Ideally, you continue that conversation when they are in the chair and afterwards, at their subsequent appointments. And the important thing about a conversation is: it is not a lecture.

“A lecture is just one person talking to a faceless crowd. A conversation is one-on-one between two individuals,” Brown says. 

“You can’t have a conversation with someone if you don’t know roughly who they are. I don’t mean knowing them really well. That will come. But at least knowing their age, their gender, the point they are at in their life, their family status … all these things help you figure out what they want to know, and how to address them.”

If you can say to a marketing agency, ‘I want to build my cosmetic business, and most of the clients who want that service are women aged between 18 and 35’, that has a massive impact on the way they will find and approach them.

Know your spend, and stick to it

There are three factors to any marketing campaign. Those are time, reach, and budget. Unfortunately, you can only ever control two of them at the same time. 

If you want maximum reach in a limited amount of time, you will find your budget will blow out. If you want to control your budget but still have reach, you will have to allow much more time.

“The great temptation is to demand great reach, in a short time, and just play with your budget as you go,” says Brown. “This is a bad idea. Your best-case scenario is it will lead to a financial black hole, with you pouring more and more money into it as you try to find the sweet spot where you’re getting the right results. The worst-case scenario is the creeping feeling you’re being ripped off.”

By setting a budget and sticking with it, your agency should be able to formulate a plan that will get you the results you want. They should also be able to explain some of the variables, and give you ways of understanding whether or not their plan is working.

“A good agency will be able to supply you with a marketing plan that makes sense if you can supply them with those basic parameters,” Brown says. “And they should be confident and knowledgeable enough to back their plan, and keep you updated on its progress.” 

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