As you’ll know, Six Sigma is a set of techniques and tools for improving a process. It was formally introduced to the world of manufacturing in the 1980s, as a way to ensure products are made defect-free.

What set it apart from other quality-improvement initiatives at the time was its clear focus on achieving measureable financial returns by making data-driven decisions.

I think there is a really effective way to use Six Sigma to deliver better marketing performance — whether you are a marketing manager delivering campaigns with an in-house team, or with an agency.

Let’s start with understanding a bit about one of the key elements of Six Sigma we’re going to be focussing on: Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve, Control (DMAIC).

Understanding DMAIC

One of the methodologies used by Six Sigma is DMAIC:

  • Define: An understanding of the problem, the desired output and the scope of the task.
  • Measure: Analysis to identify and quantify the gap between current and desired performance.
  • Analyse: To list and prioritise the potential causes of the gap in performance.
  • Improve: A plan to identify, test and implement a solution.
  • Control: A plan to implement most effective solution for long-term gains.

As Six Sigma was designed to improve manufacturing output, these steps were originally intended to look at manufacturing process.

But I think these 6 steps are actually the ingredients required for a solid marketing campaign. Armed with these, any marketing manager should be able to craft the perfect brief and run an effective campaign.

Using DMAIC to Create a Winning Brief

If you speak to any marketing team or marketing agency, they’ll tell you the secret to any successful campaign is having a clear brief to begin with.

So, how do you apply DMAIC to your briefs to make them more effective? Let’s take a look.

DMA = The Objectives

It’s obvious when you think about it. If you’re not clear about what you want, your teams/agency won’t be clear with what they need to do. The other way of saying that is ‘rubbish in, rubbish out’.

Personally, I’d like to see a ban on briefs that say, “The goal is awareness”.

It’s nonsense.

No CEO ever got up at their annual shareholders meeting and proudly proclaimed they had an indeterminable quantity of ‘awareness’. Businesses can’t take awareness to the bank.

99.9% of the time, any marketing brief should come back to revenue — it’s what marketing is designed to do: create demand for a product or service.

So instead of saying “The goal is awareness”. A better brief would start Define, Measure, and Analyse to create something a bit more, for want of a better word, useful.

For example:

“We sell red widgets to small businesses in financial markets in the UK. This year, we’re introducing a line of blue widgets that are a complementary product but our blue widgets put us in direct competition with Acme Widgets Ltd. Our sales target for the blue widgets is £5m. The challenge we face is that Acme Widgets are the blue widgets market leader and no-one knows we sell blue widgets.”

This objective is infinitely more useful:

  • I know the target is £5m. So based on the unit price of a blue widget, I can calculate the size of the challenge.
  • I know there defined market which I can size and create personas from.
  • I know there are some existing customers I can target.
  • I know there is an incumbent leader in the market, who I need to outsmart.

The output is probably the same – I need to generate some demand, but it saved a lot of guesswork and it’s a lot clearer as to how I might start to tackle it.

IC = The Deliverables

Personally, I think the worst thing a marketer can do with their team or agency is prescribe the solution.

Using the above “the objective is awareness” example, the situation is usually compounded by a prescribed solution. “We need SEO to generate some awareness”. As you can see, the unclear objective and the defined solution will severely limit the agency/your team’s ability to be creative and come to a solution they believe in.

Instead, as a marketer, the brief should clearly define the challenge and allow the team/agency to come to the best solution they can, with as few constraints as possible.

Your brief might end up looking something like this…

“We sell red widgets to small businesses in financial markets in the UK. This year, we’re introducing a line of blue widgets that are a complementary product but our blue widgets put us in direct competition with Acme Widgets Ltd. Our sales target for the blue widgets is £5m. The challenge we face is that Acme Widgets are the blue widgets market leader and no-one knows we sell blue widgets.

We need you, the team (or agency) to create a 3 month plan to test and evaluate a route to market that will generate a 4-to-1 return on investment. The budget for this evaluation period is £xxxx. Once you have a working demand generation model, our budget will remain uncapped all the time we sustain a 4:1 ROI.”

Setting the deliverable in this way is much better because:

  • The creatives, the analysts and the planners in your team get to define the solution (more heads are better than one)
  • There is a clear plan, with budget and duration to test and find a working solution
  • There is also a plan for sustained performance

Better Briefs equals Better Performance

The key takeaway here is that as a marketing manager, the easiest way to better results is by starting with a clearer, better, brief.

And using the DMAIC methodology from Six Sigma is a great way to start.

Free Downloadable Checklist

No doubt, you’re thinking, “all of that sounds great but how do I put this into place right now?”

I’ve created simple checklist that you can download.
Download our free briefing checklist

The checklist poses a lot of the questions your agency should ask you when they begin working on your project.