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Want the best work from your agency? Use the Magic Document.

By Randy Mitchell


You’re a reasonable marketing professional: smart, productive, and you have great taste in blogs.


You work for a reasonable company: they have important programs, big plans, and they were wise enough to hire you.


So, when your company’s leadership team makes the all-important decision to bring in a marketing firm, it’s only reasonable to expect the agency’s best work.


But will that expectation truly materialize? Far too often the answer is no, particularly when it comes to B2B marketing.


The relationship starts well enough. Everyone seems to connect, and the agency promises a quick ramp up and real progress. “They actually get it,” growls the company’s tough CEO, and everyone is smiling.


Then the work begins in earnest, and something isn’t quite right. The agency keeps asking the same basic questions, as if they didn’t fully comprehend the program goals. Weeks pass and the big concept presentation is scheduled. But the agency requests more time to “tighten things up.” They’re granted another week and the drama is heightened. Then it all falls flat: The conceptual direction misses the mark completely, the company gets frustrated, and everyone is fuming.


In short order the agency and company part ways, as the CEO grumbles that the whole exercise was a monumental waste of time and money, “And now we’re back to square one.”


It’s an infuriating situation for all parties. It’s also easy to avoid. In fact, getting the strongest work has more to do with your company than it does with the agency.


There is a Magic Document that will help ensure you get the very best from your agency. What’s more, you’ll get the work on time, within budget, and no one will lose any sleep.


Why the Magic Document matters


In any client/agency relationship, tens of thousands of words are exchanged. But which ones are truly critical to the program? Was it something the CMO said last Tuesday on Zoom? Or is the most important takeaway somewhere in the Product Manager’s launch meeting PowerPoint? And will all key parties agree on the main points?


The Magic Document clears up all the confusion. It’s not the latest marketing automation platform or some AI plugin. The Magic Document is powered by your common sense, your team’s collaboration and a little industry insight. That’s all a good agency needs to do good work.


How to create the magic


Before you ever engage the agency, create a single-page document that outlines the program you will be working on together. That’s the magic part.


I can guess your reaction: Our program is far too complex to be distilled down to a single page.


With all due respect, it’s not. No program is too big to describe simply. If it is, there’s no reason to market it. Your audience won’t sit still that long, and they won’t understand your message even if they do.


Here’s another key: The Magic Document is the single sheet everyone will refer to over and over again, but it’s not the only documentation for the program. You probably have internal notes, industry insights, brand guidelines and other information that will be very useful later on. And you can package that all up and share it as the agency dives in. But first, we need to get everyone on the same page.


Now, for the magic part. That happens when you get all key stakeholders in your company to agree to a simple set of guidelines around the program. At first, that may not seem easy, but it’s much simpler than reworking the agency’s creative five times because no one could agree on the main points or objectives.


In this way, the Magic Document is a lot like the best creative briefs, but it’s much more important. A brief merely guides the agency; the Magic Document gets your company in consensus before it ever starts the agency running in the right direction.


Here are some essential topics that will help you shape a truly effective Magic Document. (Bonus: We have a downloadable Magic Document Template at the end of this blog).


Program: Your working title for the program and the type of work it is.

This sounds ever so obvious until you attempt to do it. It’s the first checkpoint that everyone in the company needs to agree on before the program can move ahead.


Primary Objective: The main goal of the program.

There may be multiple things you want to accomplish, but what is the biggie you want the agency to nail first? It may be lead generation, brand awareness, or a stronger social presence. Make sure you all agree on what priority one is.


Target Audience: Who you want to reach.

You can probably create a 20-page PowerPoint on your segments alone. That’s wonderful. Save it. Right now, the agency needs to visualize the big picture audience job titles and industries. They need to think big before they can version small.


Marketplace Challenge: What the program must solve.

This should be all about the prospect’s pain points and the competition. What obstacles are you facing and what opportunities are emerging? But please, keep it brief and pointed. You’ll have plenty of time to fill in the gaps later.


Value Proposition: Why your offering is better.

In all fairness, developing a value proposition may be one of the reasons you are hiring an agency. That’s fine. But your initial thinking still matters. Don’t make the agency guess why your offering is special. Tell them what you think and see if they can strengthen it or offer alternatives.


Timing: The program launch date.

Creatives may moan and groan, but deep down we like deadlines. They give us our marching orders and the structure we need. Establish your timing from the start and let your agency tell you how they can get there.


One final thought: The Magic Document will make you a hero at your company and with the agency. Some people may grouse initially at the thought of creating it, but that single page will be referenced more than you can imagine by your agency. The account team will memorize it, the creatives will pin it up, and the spot-on work you receive will reflect every word you shared on that single page.


Even the toughest CEO would call that outcome magic.


Download the Magic Document Template