What is a style guide and a marketing brief? Tami and Joe answer these questions and talk about the importance of having both when you execute on your marketing strategy. They discuss what style guides and marketing briefs include and how they inform your marketing on a day to day basis.
Episode 12 Transcript:
Tami: Welcome to High Energy Marketing! A podcast with us, the digital marketing agency Ajax Union, where we interview our CEO, Joe Apfelbaum, on key marketing topics and we share everything you need to know to properly grow your business online. This is a question and answers podcast where I asked Joe questions about different topics and trends in marketing, based on his book, High Energy Marketing. You can get the book at ajaxunion.com/book to follow along with us.
This is the 12th official episode of our podcast about High Energy Marketing, and today we’re going to discuss the importance of style guides and marketing briefs in your marketing efforts. But first, a little housekeeping. Wherever you’re listening to this podcast, go ahead and hit that subscribe button so you catch our next episodes and find our previous episodes more easily. Please leave us a review and give us a five-star rating; that would be very helpful. And now let’s move on to our inspiration of the day. Joe, do you want to hit us with a quick inspiration minute before we get started?
Joe: I am happy to. Success is personal. So stop comparing. When you stay focused on your actions instead of your results, you also stop comparing yourself to everybody else. When we think about our goals and success, we often compare our own success to the success of other people. Now, let me tell you something, this is a recipe for disaster. Because your purpose is very different than someone else’s purpose.
If you define your external purpose based on someone else’s external purpose, then you’re going to be lost. Because you’re going down the wrong path. Do not wish that things were different. Instead, transform into the person who knows and sees and is able to be your ego wants you to chase other people’s dreams and desires so that you look important. But the truth is, your goal in life is not to look important. Your goal in life is to find your purpose, to find your own dreams, and to live your own dreams. So remember, success is about accomplishing your goal that is personal. So the only person that you need to compare yourself to is who you were before.
Tami: Yeah, always compete with yourself. Just try to be better than who you were yesterday. Thank you so much. So let’s jump right into it.
So today we’re talking about the benefits of a style guide and marketing briefs. So the first question: what is a style guide? What does a style guide usually include?
Joe: Many small businesses want things designed for them, whether it’s social graphics, whether it’s videos, podcasts, newsletters… but when you give that to an agency and they don’t have a style guide for your business, they’re gonna end up designing that randomly without really having your company in mind.
So a style guide allows your brand to be able to have a consistent look and feel with people both inside your organization and outside your organization. A style guide includes variations of your company logo. It includes your brand colors. It includes matching colors and maybe approved fonts. It also includes some example uses and rules about what you should do and what you should not do with your brand.
A style guide can just be one page, or it can be many pages long depending on how detailed you want to make a style guide. The bottom line is you need to have a style guide. If you want to be able to have a consistent brand that looks and feels good in your industry.
Tami: Yes, it really helps. It’s so important to help make sure that your marketing always looks consistent. Every time someone sees it. They’ll know that that’s your company, your brand. And that’s why style guides are so important, right? Do you have anything else to add about why they’re so important?
Joe: If you’re going to be outsourcing work, right, whether it’s to an agency or with your freelancer or anybody else, you really want to be thinking about making sure that they have all the information in one place that they need about your brand. So whether it’s for my company or even for my own personal brand, it’s really important for me to have a style guide so I know that whatever information is being created for me is consistent.
It allows me to feel confident that the people have the tools that they need— that I’m not just giving them creative freedom to basically make any color or any font or anything but things look and feel the way I want things to look and feel.
Tami: Can you give some examples of ways that marketing professionals use style guides?
Joe: When creating email newsletters, landing pages, websites, lead magnets, and knowing the best way to show your brand. Using these style guides is really important. Even if you’re just creating ads— for example, Facebook ads, Instagram ads— if you’re creating videos, podcasts, if, for example, you’re going to a trade show, and you need a banner created for your trade show, or you need a sign created, or if you’re designing a book or anything that you do, whether it’s promotional material, like for example camps and T-shirts, pencils and pens, notepads, or whether you’re doing direct mail, you want to make sure that everyone is following the style guide.
Often people do affiliate marketing or they have partners, or you get placed in someone else’s podcast, you want to make sure that when they’re designing graphics, those graphics to promote the podcast are also in line with your brand.
Tami: So that’s how what a style guide is and how marketing professionals use them why they’re important. Now let’s talk about marketing briefs. What is a marketing brief? And what does a marketing brief usually include? How is this different from a style guide?
Joe: In addition to a style guide, it’s important to have marketing briefs for each marketing campaign that you’re going to be starting. A marketing brief is a document that has an overview of all the elements you need to be successful for any marketing campaign. To create an effective marketing brief, you need to also do a full audit of your marketing assets or properties you have the resources that are available, and produce a marketing audit report to inform the marketing brief.
For example, if you are creating a 90-day content calendar for LinkedIn, you want to make sure that you have the style guide in place before you begin. But also having a marketing brief that details all the information that you need for you for that project to be successful is really important. Once you find all the resources, you will need to review the previous posts, competitors, tone, and style, as well as do a full engagement audit to review stats and analytics.
You know you can be confident that you’re going to be successful with your marketing campaign because you’re using a marketing brief.
Tami: Okay, great. So they help you with your marketing campaigns. What are some other reasons that marketing briefs are important?
Joe: It’s really time-consuming to create a marketing brief. So you really want to have a good reason to do it. But it’s worth doing it, especially if you’re having an agency or freelancer help you with a project. And even if you’re doing campaigns in-house, it’s important to be on the same page about where the project needs to go. They say to begin with the end in mind.
A marketing brief will include the name of the campaign, and the overall purpose and goal of the campaign. If I went to your marketing director, or if your marketing director listened to this, and I went over to you and asked you a question, I said, “Hey, why are you posting on LinkedIn? Why are you posting on Facebook? Like what is the purpose of that?” You might say, “Well, to get more exposure.” But it doesn’t tie back to a business goal.
A brief is going to include your goal and what it ties back to. A brief is also gonna include who your target market is, what language to use, what language not to use, access usernames, passwords, resources, and stock photos that are approved to be included in the content that we’re creating.
Some business owners who are less experienced with effective marketing campaigns, or on a shoestring budget will not want to invest the time, effort and energy, and money into planning campaigns or properly using assets like style guides and marketing briefs. The thing is if you’re frustrated that your marketing team is not nailing it, or you’re not getting results, it’s usually because you didn’t nail it with a marketing brief. So make sure to measure twice, and cut once.
Tami: Marketing briefs also lay out other details. For example, if you’re doing an ad campaign, they lay out where this ad is going to run, how much money is going to be spent on it, who that ad is targeting and all of that right?
Joe: Yeah, 100% every detail of the campaign needs to be detailed in the marketing brief and needs to be approved by the person running the campaign. Here’s something I want to tell anybody that ever feels like they were burned by a marketing company. A marketing campaign or freelancers are not getting results at the end of the day. I want you to listen carefully here. At the end of the day, you are responsible for your business. That means that if you cannot convey the correct information to your team, you will end up getting upset and not being satisfied, and wasting time and resources.
Don’t be penny-wise and dollar foolish. Invest in preparing your campaigns properly and realize that these investments once made will serve you for many years to come. With a marketing brief, you don’t have to create it one time and set it and forget about it. You can repurpose that marketing brief for every aspect of your marketing. When we onboard a client, the first thing we do is set up a strategy session, create a style guide, and create marketing briefs based on the audits that we had inside our sessions. And we make sure that everything looks, feels, and is ready before we even go and launch a campaign.
The campaign needs to be in line with what we want to accomplish for your business. So here are some questions that you can really think about. Number one is do you have a style guide for your company? Or for your personal brand? Or your products and services? Do you have audits created for everything that needs to be done in your business? And do you have marketing briefs before you start campaigns created, if you don’t make sure that you set that up for your business, because otherwise, you’re going to be praying and praying and praying, Hope is a great thing. It’s just not a great strategy. So I’d love to support you, making sure that you have the right marketing briefs, the right audits, and the right strategy so that you can actually be successful in your business.
Tami: So how do people use marketing briefs?
Joe: So at Ajax Union, right, we have a brief for every campaign, every initiative that we want to take on for every client, whether we think this client should have a podcast, we need a brief about this podcast, how many episodes per week per month? Are they going to put out what day and time? Who are they interviewing in this podcast? Where are we advertising this podcast? We have a newsletter about this podcast. Does the podcast have a landing page; does each individual episode of the podcast have a page on this person’s website? Or do they use some other page developer? Are we advertising this podcast? Are we doing that on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, whatever?
How much money are we spending on these ads? Who are we targeting in those ads about this podcast? What’s the strategy to get people on the podcast if the podcast is about him or this person interviewing other people? I mean, there’s so much that goes into this marketing brief. And that’s just about a podcast.
Tami: So what are some other ways that marketing professionals use marketing briefs?
Joe: Actually, everything I just listed, would be the master brief for the podcast. And then every single item I listed would have its own brief. For example, the advertising for the podcast needs its own brief, and the website for the podcast needs its own brief. And so the brief that I just detailed for you is just like the overarching brief the Table of Contents, basically, for the podcast.
You know, when you want to be successful at anything in life, you got to have a strategy, you gotta have a plan. And so for every single element of your marketing, if you truly want it to be successful, and you want to get an ROI, whether you’re doing search engine optimization, whether you’re doing email marketing, whether you’re doing a cold email campaign, whether you’re doing advertising, lead generation, Account-Based Marketing—anything that you’re getting done for your business— you want to make sure that it’s getting done correctly.
That’s why I say measure twice, cut once, before you go and execute. It’s worth spending the time if you plan on getting results. And the more results you want to get, the more time you should spend planning. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t execute. Of course, you want to execute. But first, have a basic brief, have something that you put together so that you can actually be successful.
And if you need help creating these briefs, we’ve been doing them for so many people, so many companies over the past couple of years, and is a really, really big difference between working off a brief that the client approves, and just winging it and hoping for the best. Like I said, hope is a great thing it’s just not a great strategy. And so having a marketing brief for everything is key.
I mean, this podcast has a marketing brief, where we have a certain format that we’re working off, we know who we’re talking to, we know what information we need to convey, we know what each episode is about because we have a marketing brief systems and processes is how you scale. If you want to scale and avoid the fail, then you need to have the right operating system for each campaign. And that’s what this is about. Hopefully, you got value from this.
Tami: What are the potential consequences Joe of not having proper style guides or marketing briefs? And also, you mentioned audits in this episode, but we didn’t really touch on the importance of an audit. What is an audit if you want to get into that as well? But what’s the what happens when you don’t have these things?
Joe: When you don’t have marketing briefs, then your campaign doesn’t get results. And you don’t know what everything all the elements. I mean, your team is discombobulated. You’re not sure why you’re doing it. You’re not sure who you’re talking to. And you end up getting content that is just not aligned with your target market that is just not aligned with your business goals. You end up getting campaigns that are underperforming, and then you’re wondering why are things underperforming. Well, I don’t even know how to optimize this campaign. I don’t even have GPS guidance. I don’t even know where I’m going. So you need to have it.
Now. What are audits? Have you mentioned audits before, audits are the ability for us to go in and review everything that’s going on. So if we’re auditing your social media, we’re going to audit all your recent posts, we’re going to audit your engagement, and we’re going to audit your reputation. If we’re auditing your SEO presence, so we’re going to do a Google search, and we’ll look at the top 10 pages of Google for your results.
We’re going to see what’s ranking and what’s not ranking. We’re gonna look at your competitors. We’re going to look at what keywords you’re supposed to be ranking for. We’re going to log into your Google Search Console and do a full audit to see what impressions you’re getting for search engine optimization, where you’re not even ranking, maybe you’re on the third, fourth, fifth page, and Google is giving you suggestions of what to do to improve.
If we’re doing a website audit, we’re going to take a look at your site speed, we’re going to take a look at any errors that you have, we’re going to take a look to make sure that there aren’t there isn’t any broken links. And we’re going to use tools to help us be able to do this very quickly. And so you need to have audits set up in order to inform the briefs to determine what needs to get done. And the audits are going to be based on your workshop and your strategy.
So we first figured out what your whole company is about, then we’re going to figure out what we’re going to be doing. And so understanding what audits need to be created based on the priorities based on the budget based on what you want to accomplish. So are we doing lead generation? Are we doing Account-Based Marketing? Are we doing branding and awareness campaigns? And based on that we do the right audits, then we create the right marketing briefs and then we get results.
Tami: Thank you, Joe. Thank you so much. This was amazing information in this episode. Probably one of the best episodes of the whole podcast so far, I would say. I hope everyone listening got as much out of this as we did.
In next week’s episode, we will be talking about whether or not you need a website these days. Make sure to hit that subscribe button to catch the next episode.
You can follow us on Instagram @ajaxunion and basically everywhere and find Joe everywhere @JoeApfelbaum, and follow him on LinkedIn at Joelinkedin.com. If you didn’t catch that, check our description for all of our social media links and go to ajaxunion.com/podcast to find more episodes and learn more about High Energy Marketing.
If you have any questions shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our music is by Michael Suarez. This podcast is produced by Sarah and Shannon and edited by Sami Matitelu. Thank you so much. See you next time.