What Do You Bring to the Table? Defining Scope of Work

Download Now: Free Marketing Plan Template
Emily Eldridge
Emily Eldridge



Whether you’re an agency, brand or niche resource, I’m sure you’ve got a “nightmare” to share about scope of work on one project or another. Common scope nightmares are:

  • Scope Creep: The project specified three rounds of revision, yet somehow you’re now on round 11.
  • Undefined Scope: The project was to create a website, but someone discovers post-agreement that it has to be ASP.net-based and the resource priced it out based on open source frameworks.
  • Misunderstood Scope: As part of a commercial production, there should be an original score and stills to use for online banner ads.
  • Interdependent Work: A deadline is set, but when necessary artwork being created as part of something else comes two weeks late and in the wrong specs, then what?

Scope issues tear apart relationships. It’s a particularly prevalent issue in marketing, although other industries have similar structures. Why? Because we forget to do the following:

Plan ahead.

Brand: You should know and articulate your objective, timeline goal, how this campaign/tactic will fit in with other efforts and how you will define success. Your timeline should be a goal until you talk through the details with the others.

Agency: You should understand your client’s objectives and be honest about how you will execute (in- vs. out-of-house). You should set timeline goals as well, and know to ask experts before promising a turnaround to the client.

Niche Resource: As soon as you understand the details of a prospective project, you should be able to articulate the process and where any potential hiccups may occur. You should also be transparent about what would happen in common project scenarios (i.e. when approval is two days late).

Be transparent about what you don’t know. Listen to experts.

Brand: You are an expert on your brand, and that should not be ignored. Be proactive about explaining the brand standards, audiences, business structure and anything else deemed relevant. You also have every right in the world to ask questions of others. Make sure you understand what you’re getting into, but also know that sometimes the answer may not be as comforting as you would like. If you want “cutting edge,” there’s a high likelihood of “unknowns.”

Agency: Thoroughly understand the campaign strategy, how it will achieve the client’s business objectives and how you will measure success. In all other scenarios, like the brand, you should ask questions. Admit what you don’t know. If a niche resource isn’t willing to educate you on necessary considerations, you shouldn’t work with them.

Niche Resource: You’re the expert in your area. If you say you can provide something, you need to not only be able to execute at the speed, quality and price point you say you will, but you also need to be able to articulate details, educate and answer questions from the agency and brand with enthusiasm.

Define details.

Brand: Articulate the details of what you should have planned ahead to the agency and niche resource. Be specific in what you are seeking in the initial discussions and any subsequent reviews. If you sign agreements with niche experts directly, see the agency directions below.

Agency: First off, leave yourself enough time to define details before signing a resource agreement. When you review a proposal and it defines what’s included, ask what’s being excluded. Make sure everything is worked into the resource’s timeline and then ask them to define each thing that could push timeline and/or increase price. Then, take your internal reviews into consideration on top of the client reviews. Transparently go over anything relevant to the client’s responsibilities with them directly.

Niche Resource: Be proactive about the details of any project. If something is unknown, be honest about it and how you will deal with that component if and/or when it arises. Reinforce any associated risks with an area the agency/brand has decided to “scale back,” and, if necessary, have them agree that they understand in writing.

Share priorities.

Brand: You must prioritize. If you equally weigh deadline, price point, quality level and ROI, you will ultimately be disappointed at some point. Name the priority order, mandatories and “nice-to-haves,” then ask the agency (and niche resource) to come back to you with the best plan of action. Remember, rely on their expertise.

Agency: Be forthcoming with the priorities when working with niche resources. If the client has named a budget, you shouldn’t disclose it, but you should disclose a budget range that helps the resource plan an effective strategy.

Niche Resource: Listen to the priorities. If, above all, the project has to be finished by a specific date, make sure your proposal gives options on how you can meet this primary objective and what it will mean for other considerations.

Bring everybody to the table to talk strategy.

While it makes meetings less predictable, especially when the brand is involved, the best results coming out of bringing all the expertise to the table. It’s the best way to make sure everyone is on the same page. It’s the best way to innovate.

Finally, partner with people you trust and avoid those you don’t. It’s the only way to work effectively.


  • If you’re a brand who has an in-house agency, obviously both brand and agency rules apply to you.
  • If you’re an agency with in-house (for real, like in the same office space) niche expertise, obviously niche resource tips apply to your organization for those areas only. Any area in which you do not have the in-house niche expertise, defer to outside experts.
Topics: Agency Talent

Related Articles


Outline your company's marketing strategy in one simple, coherent plan.

    Marketing software that helps you drive revenue, save time and resources, and measure and optimize your investments — all on one easy-to-use platform