2020 Digital Marketing Insights on Writing a Design Brief
In order to achieve success in today’s world, your business needs to leverage digital marketing. Your audience is online, and if you’re not, they’ll defect to a competitor who is better positioned to make the most of digital marketing tools. With that being said, it’s not as simple as throwing together a website based on a template you found for WordPress, or tossing together a few stock images with text overlays.
If your digital marketing assets look amateurish, that will transfer to your company. The wrong message, poorly conceived graphic elements, or a website more suited to the 1990s than the 2020s can all wreak significant damage to your brand. To ensure that you’re able to design and develop digital assets that support your brand, expand your reach, and resonate with your audience, you will need to be able to create compelling, evocative design briefs.
In this guide, we will explore what you need to know about creating design briefs in 2020 and beyond as they apply to three of the most critical areas of your digital marketing efforts – your company’s website, your content marketing efforts, and graphic design projects.
- Invest the Time: Creating a website design brief takes time, and you must be able to invest it. This is not a simple process where you just fill out a brief form. It will require in-depth thought, planning, research, and collaboration with others in your business. If you cannot invest the time necessary, you will not be able to create a website that supports your branding goals or digital marketing efforts.
- Know Why You Need a Website: Next, you need to know why you want a website. It’s not enough to feel that a website is necessary for visibility in the online world, although that is a critical advantage you gain. You need to set goals and know what it is that you want to achieve. What are your objectives with the website? Some of the more common goals include:
- Raising awareness
- Building your brand
- Acting as a hub for digital marketing efforts
- Attracting new customers
- Informing and educating your audience
- Providing access to a product catalogue or portfolio
- Know What Your Competitors Are Doing: In order to create a website design brief, you’re going to need to know what your competitors are doing. What do their websites look like? What sort of functionality is built into them? Can you make use of similar features and functions? What do you want to do that trumps your competitors? How can you use your website to tell your brand’s story in a more compelling way than others in your industry or niche are doing? You must conduct in-depth competitor research here to identify best practices that are being followed within your industry, but also weaknesses that you can exploit to build your own success.
- Know What Makes You Different: Your website must be a reflection of your brand, which means that it must communicate your USP, or unique selling proposition. Basically, this comes down to what sets you apart from others in your industry or niche? Are your products of a better quality? Are your services delivered by better-trained professionals? Do you source your materials sustainably while your competitors don’t really focus on environmental protection or sustainability? Define what it is that sets you apart and then find ways to communicate that through graphic elements, site layout, font choices, and website copy.
- Create a Team: Creating a website design brief is not a task for a single individual. It requires the input and collaboration of many different people. You need to create a team of individuals who will be involved with your digital marketing efforts in an ongoing capacity, including:
- Customer service
However, remember that the involvement of these team members will vary depending on the type of site in question.
- Know Your Budget: It’s critical that you know how much you’re willing to spend on website development. Your budget will inform every other aspect of the site, from basic design to specific functionality to the quality of the copy on each page. While you certainly don’t want to overspend for features or functions that will not be needed, you cannot afford to allocate too little money, either. Your website is one of the single most critical investments the business will make, and it will have to support all of your digital marketing efforts, so ensure that you’re able to make an informed decision when it comes to budget allocation.
- Know Your Audience: Many factors will need to be considered when designing your website, but your audience is the most important. After all, they are why you’re building the site in the first place. Everything else is secondary. Yes, the site should support your brand, but never forget that it’s really all about your customers.
What sort of audience do you need to attract? How do they see your brand? What are their expectations when it comes to websites like your own? What do they hope to accomplish on the site? Will they be shopping, or are they looking for information to support a decision? Know your audience, their needs and challenges, and how your business solves those issues, then communicate that within your design brief.
- State Your Goals Clearly: Within your website design brief, you’ll need to clearly communicate the goals you hope to achieve. This is particularly true for anything that is mandatory. Remember – if it’s not clearly stated, there is room for misunderstanding. Something that you assume is obviously a “must-have” may be seen as optional by someone else, and that miscommunication could lead to something being left out of the build. Clear, accurate, ongoing communication is absolutely essential to a successful website build.
- Know Your Deliverables: Finally, know the deliverables that you expect to receive and communicate those within your brief. What is it that should be delivered? How many pages do you need and what should each page contain? What is the overall flow of traffic through the website? What other assets do you need to support the website – graphics? Copy? Product listings? How many iterations will you require? Do you want a rough skeleton for the site that your in-house team will finish, or do you want it completely designed from the beginning?
Your Content Marketing Brief
- Create for the Audience: When it comes to creating a content marketing brief, make sure that you begin with the audience. Who are you trying to reach? Be careful that you do not attempt to market to your entire customer base – target a specific subset of your audience. You should have content that resonates with each segment to ensure personalisation and better traction.
- Support Each Step of the Customer Journey: You need to create content that will support each stage of the customer journey. For instance, articles and reports can be used to inform and educate, helping your customers or clients understand their challenges and that there is a solution. Case studies and whitepapers can begin to position your solution to that problem as the ideal option. Customer testimonials can help move customers from the consideration stage into the later parts of the sales funnel. Define what step of the journey your content will support, how it will do so, and how it will dovetail with other content you have or will be creating.
- Create Remarkable Content: Your business is not forgettable, nor should your content be. It’s essential that any content you create to support your digital marketing efforts be remarkable. It must be a cut above anything else out there. Your content should deliver real value, should incite curiosity, excite your audience, pique their interest, educate and inform, and position you as an authority within your industry. From website copy to organic social media posts, PPC ads, ebooks, and everything in between, determine how you will create content that is superior to anything else available to customers from your competitors.
- Explore Different Content Types: Your design brief should specify the type (or types) of content being created, as well as how and where they will be used. For instance, blog posts can certainly be published on your site’s blog, but what about guest posting to build authority and thought leadership? Articles, reports, and whitepapers can be published on your website to help educate your audience and deliver SEO improvements, but they can and should also be offered in other areas. In your brief, specify where and how your content will be used and how this will support the rest of your content marketing strategy.
- Content Leads to Specific Landing Pages: Make sure that content that you create and publish in areas other than your site leads back to a specific landing page (landing page creation also falls under both website design and content creation). This applies to all types of content, not just articles or reports, too. Your PPC and Facebook ads should lead to specific landing pages that feature copy structured similar to the ads and targeting the same keywords that expands on the copy within the ad itself. On your landing pages, make sure to use forms to collect visitor information that can then be used for email marketing and other purposes (with their opt-in, of course).
- Optimised with the Right Keywords: In almost all instances, your content needs to be based around specific keywords and phrases. Make sure that you’re using the right ones for each content type, but also for each audience segment. Conduct in-depth research on the words, phrases, and questions that your customers or clients use to find products or services like yours, and then use those to create informative, valuable content. You should also make sure to conduct competitor research to determine what keywords they are using so you can either target them yourself or avoid them to reduce your costs.
- The Message You Want to Communicate: What message do you want to communicate to each audience segment? Is it confidence in your product? Is it that you can solve their need? Is it that there’s help available and that they should feel encouraged? Each piece of content must convey a specific message for a particular segment of your audience. Define what that message is and ensure that it’s front and centre in the content marketing brief.
- Include Your Team: When it comes to content creation, you’ll need to include a number of team members. Obviously, you’ll need to include both sales and marketing in the conversation. However, depending on the type of content, whether you need additional collateral to be included with that content, such as video or graphic art, and whether or not you have a team capable of creating content within your business in the first place, the number of other people included can vary significantly. It’s your job to identify who needs to be part of it and then include them.
- The Right Voice and Tone: Every brand has a specific voice that should carry clearly throughout all of their digital communications, whether that’s a blog post, a social media share, or a whitepaper. However, the tone of your communication can and should change depending on the audience segment that the content is designed to reach. For instance, if you manage a large cheese production company, you might have any number of audience segments that require a different tone, including:
- At-home cooks
- Fathers who like to cook on the grill
- Professional chefs
- Restaurant owners/managers
- Consumers interested in locally-produced dairy products
- The Goal of Your Content: What is the content designed to do? What is its underlying purpose? What is your goal with the content? Make sure that this is front and centre within your design brief. Some common examples of content-related goals include the following:
- Building awareness
- Building your brand
- Brand positioning
- Solving customer/client problems
- Educating your audience
- Audience building
- List buildings
Your Graphic Design Project Brief
- How the Collateral Will Be Used: Whether we’re talking about a single image or a business logo, you need to determine how and where the graphic art will be used. Is it a one-off for a social media share? Is it something that will become an integral part of your company’s online presence? The use of the collateral will inform many aspects of the creation process.
- Any Other Areas Where It Will Be Shared: Many types of content can be repurposed for use in other areas. For instance, if you’re working with an influencer to expand your digital marketing reach, the videos created can be repurposed into social media ads, or used on your website. Where will you reuse the content after its initial debut and how will that affect the creation of the graphic art?
- The Audience: Your audience will play a role in several aspects of graphic design. This is another area where audience segmentation will play an essential role. For instance, you would use different imagery in digital content to reach a young adult audience than you would if you were communicating with middle-aged individuals. Your graphics would be different when messaging young parents than if you were trying to reach grandparents. The audience you want to reach with the collateral should be at the forefront of the design process. Audience-related factors that you may need to consider include:
- The Tone: What tone do you want to use within the graphic art? Are you trying to convey professionalism? Trust? Do you want to foster a sense that you have the answer to your audience’s problems? Is the desired tone light and fun or is it more down to earth and experienced? There are many ways that tone can be added to graphic design elements, from colour choices to font styles to lighting, and everything in between, so make sure that you have this well-defined.
- The Message: What are you trying to communicate to your audience? What is the message conveyed by the graphic design? For instance, if you were a manufacturer of farm equipment, you might use time-lapse photography to show resilience and durability, while communicating a message of trust. What is it that you want your audience members to take away from the content? The graphic design elements you use will play an intrinsic role here.
- The Team and Stakeholders: Like website design and content creation, graphic design work involves a wide range of individuals. There will be the marketing team, and most likely at least some sales presence. However, there are likely to be many others that need to be involved, too, ranging from graphic artists to stakeholders outside the company. Make sure that everyone who needs to be involved is included on the brief.
- The Goal of the Collateral: What is the overall goal of the collateral that you’re creating? Will it be used in an influencer marketing campaign? Will it be used on your website, in a blog post, or somewhere else? Define the area (or areas) of your digital marketing efforts where the graphic art will play a role and what goal it should help you achieve in each of those areas.
- Time for Revisions: Finally, plan for revisions. The graphic design process is iterative, and it’s very unlikely that you’ll hit the nail on the head with the very first version. While that certainly means that you need to have patience, it also bears on your timeline for creation. Check the overall schedule for your digital marketing efforts and ensure that you have plenty of time to create and iterate before the graphic elements are needed.
Keep reading to explore three bonus insights into writing a design brief that supports your digital marketing success.
- Use a CRM: A customer relationship management (CRM) solution can provide you with invaluable benefits when it comes time to write a design brief, as well as throughout the rest of your digital marketing efforts. One of the most important advantages of using the right CRM is its ability to automate and improve functions that relate directly to digital marketing success. Lead management automation is one of those, but a good CRM will also automate the lead nurturing process, deal management, and even customer support, allowing you to build stronger relationships without costly errors.
- Constantly Re-evaluate: Your digital marketing efforts, from your website to your content marketing and creative collateral, cannot be static. It must change and evolve over time with your audience. Based on changes in audience needs and expectations, technology, product design, and numerous other factors, you may find it necessary to create a new design brief for digital assets so that they better serve your customer or client needs. For instance, a website will need to be redesigned periodically to take advantage of new technology and design trends. Creative collateral will evolve over time. Even your content will need to be revisited from time to time. Constantly re-evaluate where you stand, where improvements could be made, and whether you’re meeting your customers’ needs.
- Stay Objective: No matter what your industry, you must ensure that all digital marketing-related decisions are based on accurate data. Measure website traffic, page dwell time, bounce rate, and competitor success before deciding to make changes to your website. Measure reach, engagement, referral rate, CTR and other KPIs prior to altering your social media strategy or content marketing efforts. When you back all decisions with data, you help ensure that you’re able to keep your company on course.