Conducting a sourcing event for a marketing project can be a bit overwhelming. Ensuring that the correct agencies are invited to pitch their strategies, selecting a finalist that will help deliver a return on investment (ROI), carefully sifting through rate cards and estimated expenses to make certain that all tactics are covered and offered at a competitive rate... the list goes on.

Once a company has selected an agency and is confident that they can accomplish the strategic objectives set forth, one may think that all they have to do is draft up a simple statement of work (SOW) and it’s all done. However, the contracting phase of any sourcing initiative, especially marketing, is critical to a company’s relationship with the supplier or agency as it will establish the roles of both parties as well as define the project scope and expectations. Below lists the five main sections of a thorough SOW as well as tips that a company should be mindful of when developing one for a marketing assignment:

Project Scope: All marketing SOWs should contain a scope of work. The scope of work defines the tasks that will be performed and any deliverables produced as a result of those tasks. It is important that the language found in this section is aligned with the clauses in the master services agreement (MSA), meaning that if there are certain service exclusions mentioned in the MSA, they should not appear in the SOW and scope of work section. For example, if there is a clause in the MSA that no subcontractors are to be used in any engagements with that agency, the SOW should not include services of including subcontractors.

When drafting the project scope of an SOW, it is important to read through each task and ensure that they are not too complex or vague. The language should be concise in that it clearly states what services the agency will provide without the need for clarification. If the project scope is limited or difficult to understand, it will lead to the agency making assumptions and delivering services and deliverables that fail to meet the needs of the company.

Objectives: The objective of the statement of work outlines the purpose of the overall assignment as well as the expected outcome. Objectives should clearly describe expectations as this will allow a company to measure the success of the agency attaining these goals. An example of a poor objective for an SOW is as follows:

Agency will develop email marketing campaigns.

This is a bad example of an SOW’s objective because it does not clearly define expectations and it would be difficult to measure the outcome of the initiative based on the wording in that statement. The objective can be improved by adding specifics in terms of the number of campaigns or
deliverables and what the company would like to achieve:

Agency will develop four (4) email marketing campaigns during a one year period to increase traffic to a brand awareness site by 15%. The campaigns will target physicians and nurses within the neurology space.

The statement above details the expected services and desired outcome of the project as well as provides specifics that can be used to measure a company’s ROI.

In service contracts, it’s important to incorporate service level agreements (SLAs), which clearly states the definition of services, performance measurement, and problem management. The SLA also dictates what penalties an agency would incur if the SLA is not met. For example, during the launch of a new product, a company may set up a help desk to address questions and concerns from customers regarding the new drug. When drafting the contract with the help desk provider, the company may include SLAs such as how long it takes for an operator to answer a call, the number of dropped calls allowed, and then expected number of resolved issues. The SLA will also include details around compensation to the company if the SLAs are not met.

Resources and Responsibilities: This section of an SOW establishes the resources that will be assigned to the project as well as their primary responsibilities throughout the engagement. The appropriate skill sets necessary to complete the project are also found in this section.

Each resource’s name, job title, and project functions should be detailed for both the agency and company. If the agency will be expected to work with another supplier or agency, that information should be listed as well.

Project Scheduling: It is critical for an SOW to include the schedule of the project. The schedule will include the milestones and deliverables, the parties involved, and the planned completion date. The terms of the SOW and the expiration date should also be stated in this section. Below is an example of how this information can be illustrated effectively:

MilestoneCompany Resources InvolvedAgency Resources InvolvedPlanned Completion Date
Approval of Project PlanSr. Project LeadProject Management and Operations TeamsMay 1st
Development of Campaign StrategySr. Project Lead and Brand LeadProject Management and Business Development TeamsMay 5th
Review and Finalize Marketing TacticsSr. Project Lead and Brand LeadProject Management and Business Development TeamsMay 27th
Program LaunchSr. Project LeadOperations TeamsJune 2nd

Marketing projects are often time sensitive as tactics will need to be deployed by specific dates in order to meet the goals of a particular campaign. Language around any associated penalties the agency will incur if a deadline is not met should also be included in this section.

Project Costs: The SOW must outline the total cost of the assignment, detailing all fees and expenses necessary to execute the campaign and meet the objectives of the initiative. Costs associated with marketing projects can range from management fees of a program to passthrough expenses such as production costs associated with printing materials, slide deck creation, etc.

Project cost sections usually begin by outlining the management fees for the assignment. This includes the rate of each resource and the estimated number of hours the resource will be investing to complete the assignment. It is important to have the agency break out the rate for each resource instead of blending the rates across all the resources, so the company can clearly see the true cost of each resource. All other costs outside of management fees should follow, outlining the additional cost for each task as well.

As with all sections in the SOW, the project costs should align with the Master Services Agreement. For instance, when entering into a contract, an agency and company will often work together to establish a rate card. The rate card will detail the rates applied to each resource for all projects handled by the agency. It is important that the rate card contained in the MSA is applied to the project costs outlined in an SOW. In some cases, it may be beneficial to request a supporting document containing detailed backup to the SOW in an effort to ensure that the appropriate rates are being extended.

The SOW is one of, if not, the most important part of a contract. It is important that the SOW clearly states the scope of work and resources, objective, timing, and costs of a project. Each section should be detailed, limiting confusion and services issues later in the relationship between a company and the selected agency.

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Victoria Baston

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