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What do you want!

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This post is not really about doing things on the Internet at all.

In the course of our career, we have had to visit many people and find out what they want done. This is the point at which “Charlie wants a system to manage his rhubarb farm” has to be translated into something more detailed that a supplier can actually use.

We generally started with a good idea of what we wanted to bring away from those meetings. We wanted to write down

  • the specific problems Charlie needed solved
  • the method of solving them
  • how to present the output
  • and, very importantly, what NOT to include.

In other words, we wanted to know the scope of the project, followed by the details of the things we had to supply. The requirements.

To our surprise, the customer often reacted quite badly to the very first question, which was “So what do you want?” The less well defined the problem was when we walked in, the more likely we were to get a negative reaction. Surely we were the experts? We should KNOW what Charlie wanted. That was our area!

What are your requirements?

We’re all a bit like Charlie at times, but you do need to know what you want from a project, whether you’re employing humans or computers to do it for you. You wouldn’t go to Amazon’s homepage and expect to find just a button marked “Send me what I need”. (If there was one, and you had any sense, you wouldn’t press it).

Before we proceed, a quick para on our use of language. What you’re trying to succeed with may be a new product that needs selling, or a new company you’re launching, or a rebrand of your existing company, or something in between. We will call your work towards this a campaign. It may not be the best word for your precise situation, but on average it’s the least worst.

On with the show, then. Get it clear in your own mind what you are trying to achieve with your campaign. Simple enough, you say, but now consider timescales. You have a business plan for the next year – does your new campaign fit in with that? What about the halfway point? Does the solution need to be reusable in the next stage? What other systems does it need to fit in with?

If your head is already beginning to spin, there are a few things that can help you.

Firstly, forget just for a moment that you’re using the Internet. Doing your marketing online has many things in common with the days when we were buying display space in magazines and getting adverts recorded for our local radio station. In fact, some steps never changed. Even if your product is itself something digital, you need to work out who you’re going to target and what you’re going to tell them, before you write the first sentence of its web page. And to do that, you need to have answered the question “what you want from a project?”