Eliminating Scope Creep

– Hi folks. My name is Kevin Dunn and
welcome to Agency Unfiltered, a biweekly web series and podcast that interviews agency owners
around agency operations, growth, and scale. Nobody knows how to
scale agencies than those that are already doing
it and they’re happy to share an unfiltered
look into what has worked and what hasn’t. Joining us today, Alexandria Hart, the founder of Austin, Texas
based agency Good Joo Joo. We talk scope creep. What it is, how to avoid
it, how to course correct an engagement when it happens, and how to turn it into an opportunity for an extended SOW. Get better at saying “No” starting today by listening to Agency Unfiltered. Let’s go! (upbeat rock music) Alex, hello, thank you
for joining us today. – Hi, thank you for having me. – Yes, we’re very excited to get into this top specifically I think. Scope creep is pain many, if not all, agencies feel, experience, struggle with and so I’m very interested
to hear what you have to say on the topic. Maybe the best place to start, how would you define scope creep? It’s something we all talk about, but how would you actually
define scope creep? – Yeah, I mean anything
that’s out of bounds, right? Like if you have mastered
the art of the scope of work as an agency, freelancer, provider, whatever it is that you’re doing, things should be very
detailed and very clear as far as what’s provided. So scope creep is when
there is an assumption made on behalf of the other party, that something’s included when it hasn’t been previously
discussed or outlined. Someone can come to you and say like, “Hey, we need this thing. “We’d like to talk to
you about providing it. “I realize these are additional services.” And start a BD conversation. Scope creep is when you’re just like, assuming it’s gonna happen
even though it’s not in writing or out in the ether anywhere. – So I think it comes down to
your point, statement of work. And if it’s in there,
it’s not scope creep, if it’s outside of there, it’s either a biz dev conversation
or it’s scope creep. – Yeah, you’re outta bounds. – You’re out of bounds.
– Outta line. – Now would you say that scope
creep is one size fits all or are there different
types of scope creep that you’ve experienced? Are there distinctions? What are all the
different shapes and sizes of scope creep that you’ve seen? – Yeah, so many, right? It depends on like your client persona and the personality type
of who you’re dealing with. We have clients that can
get easily distracted, see kind of a shiny thing, it’s kinda like a kid in a museum and you have to divert their attention to what isn’t breakable or what is most important. So I definitely think there’s that. It can also be a symptom of
them not feeling supported in a particular area. Whether it was us that’s
supposed to provide it or someone internal, another agency. So there’s a lot of opportunity if that happens to be the case. Just say like, hey, what’s
really going on here? And kind of like unsurface that. And then there are people
who make a practice of it and get away with it
and you kinda gotta like be firm and shut it down quickly so it doesn’t become a recurring issue. – Yeah, no it makes sense. And I think we’ll get to,
you said shutting it down, we’ll get to that in a second. But before we actually get to the practice of shutting down scope creep, like what have you seen as
like the biggest ramifications? Like if this isn’t a
problem that you prioritize and aim to solve, what do you think it’ll hurt most at the agency? – Yeah, well it can hurt
your relationship, obviously. At the end of the day, as Masheeza says, everybody just wants
to feel seen and heard. So scope creep is a symptom again of like, your client not feeling
supported in a particular area, you obviously wanna
have that conversation. Shutting down it down has to be done in a very strategic way so that you know, potentially if they need
additional services in the future, they’re still willing to come to you and not just, “Oh, Alex and
Good Joo Joo aren’t willing “to do anything else to help us.” That’s pretty bad. – But that’s not always the case, right? ‘Cause you mentioned
there’s scope creep but then there’s a potential business
development conversation. How do you make that
distinction between the two? – Honestly, it varies
a lot client to client. And some of it I think has a lot to do with time that you’ve been collaborating and we have minimum contract agreements, I think most, just
about every agency does, and for the purpose of
being able to identify those gaps and establish a
good working relationship. So if we’ve been working
with someone for a month and they’re scope creeping, I think either we need to,
you know, like redefine the scope or really set
boundaries in the relationship. If we’ve been working with
them for six months doing the same thing, then maybe it is time to kind of expand and go
a little crazy with it. – So I mean, I think it’s, let’s set the right guardrails
for an early relationship versus, oh, we’ve been partnering together for a handful of months, a
longer leash so to speak, because we drive that
additional value for you. – Absolutely, yeah. Time to establish the relationship, understand how people work,
is really, really important. – And it also probably,
if there’s a foresight, well actually if we allow this scope creep then there’s gonna be
additional service expansion or some revenue
opportunities as well, right? – Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And there’s a case for
letting it happen sometimes. I’ll just let it happen strategically because there are people that
you want that relationship to evolve and really own more. – Yeah.
– Yeah. – Let me ask you this,
do you have any examples, like what’s the worst scope creep that you, shamefully or not shamefully, allowed that maybe you wish, what was the worst scope
creep that you were just like, okay, we’ll do that. – Oh man. They’re actually quite a
few, to be perfectly honest. I think the thing that we get asked for, the most common scope
creep, maybe not the worst, is just creation of assets. Like we have design capabilities in house but we are not a quote
unquote “design agency”, we’re a growth agency. So when someone wants like, you know, Instagram story assets. We will make them for you,
but on a very limited basis. And only if it’s in combination
with an actual campaign that we’re measuring and it can be part of a cohesive effort. We’re not just making random
images for your ‘gram. (laughs) – Unrelated to anything,
just a one off over here. – Yeah, yeah. So that is the most common scope creep. I don’t know that it’s
the worst though, yeah. – How about when you
mentioned like design assets or creative assets, when
do revisions play a part? Maybe it’s something
that’s already scoped out, it’s part of a campaign, but
do you ever run into issues with additional rounds of revisions or time it takes to get approval? – Yeah, absolutely. And that’s written very
clearly in the contracts that we do as well. And it’s actually something that I will highlight multiple times
during the closing process. It’s like, hey, I want you to understand that is also included but there’s a limit to how many iterations we can produce. And you know what? I have to say that are clients
are largely pretty respectful of that and if they tend to be the type that aren’t respectful of that, then they’re also probably
not respectful of other things which makes them not a
good fit for us anyways. That’s something very
basic that I feel like most people understand. You don’t need to go–
– Over and over again for these minute, yeah. – Yeah, let me get you that 18th revision. – But to your point, people seem to be okay with that expectation if it’s so clearly
communicated at the front. – Yeah, you have to be super clear in the very beginning, yeah. – Makes sense. We talked about, what was it, standing firm or holding firm. So how do you navigate that push back or how do you say no to scope creep? Like what’s that conversation look like as to not hurt the relationship or prevent maybe biz dev
opportunities in the future? So how do you navigate that conversation? – Yeah, I approach it very
much like a discovery call. So hey, we received this inquiry. You know, tell me more
about the actual goal here. Again, making sure that
it’s not busy work. Making sure it’s not taking away the focus from something that
we’re strategically testing, jumping ahead of testing can
be like a common scope creep. Like, yes, we will do this but, it’s stage three and we
kicked off yesterday. So yeah, I approach it as discovery. Try to find out what the actual goal is. If they can’t tell you a goal, that’s a good indicator
that it’s not fully baked, even if it could be cool and strategic, it’s not there yet. And so then yeah, it’s
just a collaboration in terms of prioritizing it. If there’s no goal, I’m
probably not gonna do it. – That’s the easiest question
to write off the front. Just, what’s the goal on this? And based on their
articulation of the said goal, like that will determine if
it’s in bounds or out of bounds. – I will say that occasionally
sometimes the goal is just to make the
client feel better, right? Like for example, we do
very in-depth monthly look back reports and clients
will occasionally want those before the
attribution window’s closed for ads or just before it’s time. And we’ll occasionally provide
those ahead of schedule, even though the data’s not fully baked. ‘Cause there’s usually
something going on internally. That person has to answer to the CEO and we wanna like facilitate that and make their lives easier, so. – You don’t wanna get in the way in those types of instances, right? – No, no. I don’t want someone
to go in a meeting and say, “Oh, I don’t have the data ’cause Alex didn’t give it to me.” Like, I’m gonna pass on that. – How hard is it to instill
that sort of talk track? Like, okay, approach scope
creep as a discovery, ask for goals, how hard is that to like synthesize across the team, train up the team to be able to have those conversations as well? – It’s actually fun. I think because they particularly enjoy, all of our employees and
all of our contractors even have a copy of the scope
that they’re working on. I find that very important. Having worked at agencies in the past where I didn’t exactly
know what all was included. If the client asked for something, I wasn’t sure how to respond. And I think that the team enjoys having that level of knowledge
because it empowers them to say like, “Oh, hey,
yeah, that isn’t really “on the roadmap but
let’s have a discussion.” And it also keeps them from doing work that’s not strategic and my team hates doing work that is just not strategic, that is just not strategic. – Checks out.
– Yeah. – You alluded to this
earlier as well, right, but sometimes you’ll allow scope creep if there’s an opportunity, right? Do you have any particular examples where you stretched out,
allowed the scope creep, and then you saw it yield
obviously positive benefits, new revenue, additional
services for a client? – Oh yeah, absolutely. Our biggest client, and
they’ve been a client for several years, they
kind of got to this place where they’ve gotten so big
they’re hiring very aggressively and hiring for a retention
marketing manager role and so we kinda stepped in
to be you know, interim. And we do that often actually,
I will set like a scope where we integrate
HubSpot and we set up all the campaigns and integrations and automations and then train someone to kinda take it over, pass the torch. But in this instance I was like, okay, they’re hiring, step in, and just crush it to the point that they
didn’t end up hiring that role.
– Oh, really? – Yeah, and we were able to, it’s ’cause I saw opportunity, again, it was a long standing
relationship so I kinda see the opportunity gaps. They have excellent content and
we just started churning out those content emails. But long-term, this was
almost a year ago now, I mean, their email marketing
revenue has doubled. – Wow. – Great content will do wonders but you gotta get it in front of people. – Right, yeah, of course. – So I’m quite proud of that one.
– That’s great. They’re one of my favorite clients. – That’s awesome. – I don’t have favorites, I lied. – They’re all equally your
favorite, that’s right. So let’s just say I’m an
agency and I’m very guilty of allowing scope creep, right? So far I feel like I’ve had a couple tips where I have a really
buttoned up statement of work. Clear cut expectations around revisions, amount of revisions, et cetera. Be comfortable saying or
asking, what are your goals? Treat scope creep like discovery. Are there any other tips
that you would instill if I wanna change the way
I handle scope creep today? – Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Two that I can think of is, one, this is a great opportunity, right? Like people do this, people
kinda push your buttons, in life, in business, whatever. And you have to learn how
to respond appropriately, particularly if you wanna work
with enterprise level clients like if you wanna be great
at business development and so rather than thinking
about it as an annoyance, thinking about it instead
as an opportunity. Like, I feel pretty good
saying I’m good at this now. Not the case a few years ago. So reframing that I think
is really beneficial. Also, if you have to, and
again, not that you have to, should you choose to, rewrite
the damn scope of work. Rewrite it for more money. Or perhaps for less money but maybe it’s more strategic for the client, it’s less work for you,
and everybody’s happy. I think that there are very clever ways of turning this all around
and making it a great thing. – How many scope creep requests or how many or what percentage
end up turning into like, quotes or proposals, you know, obviously we’ve asked what the goal is, but what would you say the percentage is, like let me turn around
a quote for that service? – Yeah, almost half and half. I say I shut down about
half for whatever reason. It’s too soon, we’re already like testing this other thing heavily, or it’s just not that great of an idea. About half of them turn
into some sort of addition, extension to the original scope. – And then out of that 50%, how much actually close as, okay, they actually agree to the statement? – Probably an additional half. – That’s great.
– So yeah. Yeah, I’d say like a quarter, 20%, 30%. Just the ones I’m thinking
of recently, yeah. – That’s great.
– Yeah. – Final question for you, not necessarily related to scope creep, but it is a question I ask every guest. I definitely didn’t prepare you for this. – Is it related to Harry Potter? – It can be, and maybe it is. Maybe it is. We need a good butterbeer,
we were talking about that. What is the strangest part of agency life? – Ooh. You know, I think that like
the wearing multiple hat things is a common topic
discussed in start up life. But what nobody tells
you is that agency life, there are days when I’m
literally in my pajamas, I forgot to brush my teeth, it’s 1 p.m., I’m walking around, I’m on
a call with chief executives of a multi-million dollar company and like my dog just peed on the floor. It’s so very messy and so, so very messy but so satisfying because it feels nice that you can both be a human, be messy, have your own stuff, and really excel at what you’re good at. I think, and for us in
particular with remote work, I think that’s something
that my team experiences is that we’re just allowed to be human and still really successful. – That’s a great answer.
– Thank you. I don’t know that I was a proper answer, but I tried. – Yeah, I thought that was perfect. Maybe actually one bonus question
in regards to Harry Potter – Oh my god please.
– ‘Cause you said you’re a big Harry Potter fan. What–
– Let me stretch. – What house are you? – Gryffindore. – Gryffindore, now why would I even ask? Of course.
– What house are you? – Gryffindore. Got it.
– Pound to it. – All right, that’s it
for Agency Unfiltered. Thanks everybody, we
will catch you next time. Thanks for tuning in to another episode of Agency Unfiltered. If you like what you saw, heard, or read, make sure to subscribe to
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