The 4 Key Elements of a Marketing Statement of Work

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Are you currently looking to identify the best, most cost-effective marketing agency for an initiative that needs to be developed and kicked off — in other words, are you embarking on an “agency search”? Or maybe you’re executing a new project with an incumbent agency, or agency of record (AOR).

Marketing sourcing events can seem daunting and overwhelming, as they are more comprehensive and detail-oriented and not as black and white as the majority of indirect-spend categories. Not only do you need to select the best agency for the job, you also need to ensure that the correct agencies are invited to pitch their strategies, allowing you to select a finalist that will help deliver a solid return on investment (ROI).

Before holding a sourcing event, a statement of work (SoW) must be fully developed to ensure that agencies understand the breadth of capabilities required and can perform the necessary tasks. It would be a huge disappointment — and a waste of time — to evaluate each proposal only to realize you’ve invited the wrong types of agencies to bid on the initiative, or that they don’t have the full capability range or capacity to take on the job.

So how can you avoid this and cut down on the risk of reworks, annoying back-and-forths, renegotiations, and time sucks?

Key Aspects of a Successful Statement of Work

1. Develop a comprehensive scope of work — Clearly define your engagement and project outcome expectations; mitigate as much ambiguity as possible to avoid stressful back-and-forths, time-consuming project adjustments, and misconstrued agreements. Keep in mind that it’s always better to write more than not enough. It’s like a haircut — you can always cut more (refine) as you go to get where you need to be. A standard SoW includes the following elements:

  • Objective/purpose
  • Engagement/project detail
  • Desired project schedule/timeline and “go-live”/launch date
  • Budget (this does not always need to be included)
  • Key performance indicators (KPIs)/assumptions
  • Contracting — terms and conditions, business requirements

2. Execute a request for information (RFI) — From the scope of work, identify the key capabilities you want agencies to encompass (concrete, non-negotiable, hard business requirements), and develop a brief but illuminating questionnaire to ensure you are gathering information that will allow you to quickly judge an agency on their candidacy. This not only ensures that you are inviting the best candidates to provide proposals, but will also cut down on back-and-forths and reduce ambiguity over project expectations — especially throughout the contracting phase, once an agency is selected. Keep in mind that once you decide on an agency, you still have to go through the contracting phase, complete any risk assessments required, and conduct an internal legal review; this can sometimes take up to a month (or more) if the scope of work and its associated pricing is not outlined properly.

Objective/purpose and engagement/project detail, outlined below, are critical elements in the development of a clear, detailed SoW. Let’s walk through the criteria needed to develop each of these elements.

3. Establish a clear objective/purpose — Note that there is a clear difference between objective and scope. The objective of the project represents the desired output or accomplishment, which is achieved by performing the scope. The scope of an activity, project, or procedure represents the requirements and defines the work to be performed. The objective/purpose usually kicks off with a sentence starter like “The goal of this project is to …” You’ll want to continue the sentence with a brief description of specific goals and how they will be met. Goals should be measurable and tied to key performance indicators to ensure all parties are on the same page. Goals can be monetary (e.g., revenue, incremental sales, increased margin) or social (e.g., increased social media views, market share, increased impressions).

  • Measurable goal examples; standard KPIs — Remember that KPIs will be more tailored and specific to your scope of work. Below are a few examples of the most common KPIs.
    • Website conversion rates, clicks, comments, followers/active followers
    • Cost and revenue per lead by source
    • Customer value = (Average sale per customer) x (Average number of times a customer buys per year) x (Average retention time in months or years for a typical customer)
    • Inbound marketing ROI = (Sales Growth − Marketing Investment) / Marketing Investment
    • Sales/percentage of sales
    • Incremental sales

4. Establish engagement/project detail — When selecting an agency to work with long-term, or even short-term, it’s crucial to consider culture fit and overall vision. Detail the culture, goals, and outlook of your company. You should outline what you expect the engagement to look like, and how the project will flow. What is the desired communication style, and how often do you want to touch base? What does your team look like? What does their team look like? How are issues resolved? Below are a few of the tactical aspects of a scope of work:

  • Timeline
  • Team/reporting structure
  • Marketing calendar
  • Budget
  • Launch dates
  • Key milestones
  • KPIs/service level agreements (SLAs)
  • Reports
  • Deliverables/end product

Creating a Solid Scope of Work

Once you’ve developed a comprehensive scope of work and clearly outlined project detail and goals, you should be set for smooth sailing when evaluating and selecting an agency or simply executing a new project with an existing partner. And remember, you can always add more detail as you go. 


Image Credit: GaudiLab/

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