Defining Project Scope

I’d received an email through our contact form the other day and it went something like this

I have a book coming out in a few months and I want to sell and market it.” Aaaand that was it. No more, no less. I did reach out to this person and we talked and the scope evolved and was all over the place. She didn’t know if she wanted a site, or how she wanted to sell her book etc. And most importantly, she wasn’t willing to pay to have me help her define the scope or even fill-out our project brief…

That’s okay, we can’t help everyone.

The thing is that this is a common discussion that bubbles up quite a bit. People want to sell something or market something, which is great! But they haven’t taken the time to figure out how to get from Point A to Point B.

Having a clearly defined and thought-out project scope matters if you want to see-through any project successfully. Just is.

Surely you’ve all heard of “Who, What, When, Where and Why.” It’s an important Journalism tool for creating a story. However, as you probably know, these same questions are the basis of just about anything outside of Journalism. That is, we have to ask basic questions to know what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, who we’re doing it for and when and how.

I can’t help you sell something when we don’t know any of the answers to those questions…

Let’s take a look at what it takes to define a simple project scope

(No project is ever really simple, folks. That’s why you should take the time to figure things out and ask these questions and/or partner with a professional…)

What are we doing?

What are we creating? If we’re going with the Book example, that’s great! We’re doing a book!! Is this a standalone product? Will there be companion materials that go along with the book? These are things to note.

Why are we doing it?

Why are we selling a book? Is it because there’s a lack of information? Is there a need not being met or served? Are we just really passionate about a particular subject and wanting to share it? What ever your reason, make sure to define it and internalize it. When someone asks you should know the answer in a snap.

Who is it for?

Let’s use the book-selling analogy. Who is the book for? Who is your audience? If you’re writing about jQuery for Beginners, then your audience is junior level developers, or people wanting to learn jQuery who are of varying experience levels. If you’re selling a cookbook, what sort of recipes are in there? Is it for Vegans? Is it for Paleo-minded folks?

It sounds over simplified, but you really need to nail this part down. Who will want your product? If you cast too wide a net, then will your message and product be lost on people? Possibly and most likely.

When are we selling it?

When is our launch? What is motivating this time line? What things need to be in place by the time the book sells? Projects often have sub-projects. Launching a book might include building a website. Creating other companion items, such as downloadable worksheets, or other types of media that provide greater value to those purchasing the book. Those things need to be completed before the book launch. Scope these things out and tie them to a timeline.

Where will we sell it?

Will you sell your book from your website? Do you have a website? Do you need one? If you need one, then figure out if you’re going to custom build it, figure out if you’re going to build it with a do-it-yourself drag and drop solution like SquareSpace or similar, or hire an expert Developer to do something custom in WordPress or similar.

Next, do you actually want to sell it through your site? There are a ton of ecommerce options. If we’re talking about the book. I would say that you could sell this on Amazon and also through a service like Gumroad or even WooCommerce. Each has advantages. Figure out what’s important to you. How much control do you want to have over the ecommerce solution? WooCommerce is great, but requires training, yes, actual training. Gumroad is great, simple and easy to use, but they host the e-commerce portion of what you do. What direction do you want to go?

How will we market it?

If you have a website, that’s a great start. Creating landing pages and blog posts is a great start to market your product via a focused content strategy. Also, what about paid search? Using Pay Per Click (PPC) is a great way to target your audience and bring them to your site and they’ll be qualified buyers, people who are looking for what you have. I think this is a worthwhile investment. Set aside a budget for this.

Taking to social media is also key; but I think participating in outlets where you can share your knowledge is equally important. You don’t need to be “everywhere” to market via social. Figure out what networks work well for you. If you’re selling a book, then Facebook or LinkedIn may be all you need, since sharing long form content is a bit easier to do in those mediums. If you’re someone who does online personal training, then Twitter and Instagram might be the right avenue for you as you can give out solid visual training tips quickly…

Finding Podcasts to appear on or volunteer to be interviewed or go to a local meetup. These are all ways to connect and share knowledge… I find that it’s more about showing what you can do is better than “telling” people what you can do. Show more than you tell, people.

What ever approach you go with, answer the basic questions and put together a plan that you can execute on and stick to. With a plan in place you can have a constructive discussion with a professional service provider and set appropriate expectations.

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