This blog was adapted from BrandMaker’s: “Marketing Ops Now” podcast. Each installment discusses valuable ideas for both management and marketing executives. You can listen to this 20-minute podcast here.
A good playbook is the oil of a lean & mean marketing machine. The staff members use it as a source of truth that explains key concepts, definitions, terminology, and the process for how things work. It fuels operational excellence. Well-adopted playbooks help prevent poor marketing execution which often results in disjointed customer experiences.
There are hard and soft benefits of a playbook. The soft ones are: minimizing entropy and building team spirit. Fighting entropy and bringing some positive cohesion around marketing and operations is incredibly valuable.
And then there are hard benefits. The hard benefits can be easily measured.
A good marketing playbook covers the three cornerstones of the golden triangle: people, process, and technology. It clarifies best practices for each element. It is the distillation of what the team has learned over time. Future team members do not have to reinvent the wheel.
Every playbook should start with definitions and terminology. If we do not have common definitions and terminology, we cannot move forward and improve. If key concepts are really well defined, everybody knows what they are and what they’re to accomplish. Everybody is on the same page and speaks the same language.
All too often we use the same buzzwords but have a different understanding of what they really mean. Agreeing on common definitions does not have to be complex. All it takes is to sit down and align. Creating that alignment at the beginning, prevents many panic meetings in the future. Marketing ops should drive and facilitate these conversations, as they are sitting at the crossroads of many different stakeholders, like marketing teams, sales teams, legal, finance, IT, cyber security, etc.
Definitions should not be academic, complex, or elaborate explanations of key concepts. Think of key concepts such as campaign launch, SQL handover, KPIs, data layers, purchase decisions, conversions, etc. Definitions describe what triggers a specific concept, who is responsible, and what the handoff looks like.
Once we speak the same language, we focus on handshakes. One of the main concepts is the definition of a ‘lead’. It is probably one of the most overused words in marketing and yet, often poorly defined. And that can have huge implications.
Oftentimes, sales has a different understanding of what a lead means. Many sales teams complain about the quality of the leads of their marketing team. It is a very good start to agree on what defines a lead, MQL, SAL, SQL, or Opportunity. Driving conversions between these stages is one of the most important deliverables of marketing. It is core to the daily business of marketing.
One might expect the foundational definition of a lead is almost a no-brainer. However, all too often marketing and sales are not aligned on this topic, with negative consequences for the business and all stakeholders.
That’s the beauty of it. If you have a shared definition, then work flows. With having a shared definition, you ultimately also have a shared view of marketing performance.
The second part of the word playbook, ‘book’, suggests it’s as big as a book. However, a playbook shouldn’t resemble ISO standardization documentations. Instead, it should be short and concise. The format should reflect that. The medium is the message, right?
A wiki format could be very suitable for this. It is very easy for people to access. It’s very easy to update, but also its structure makes it very easy to consume information quickly. Readers can decide for themselves whether to drill down and read more about a specific topic which is particularly useful for onboarding.
Coming back to the ‘lead definition’ example, have a wiki page with a lead definition and a description of the lead flow and corresponding lead owners. The same applies to other concepts like reporting, purchasing, or budgeting, or how a KPI is calculated.
Having a playbook is one thing. Ensuring people apply the concepts is another thing. Having a light onboarding training and certification has often proven to be very successful. A short training covering the basic concepts helps to speed up onboarding. Some teams take great pride in a certification. New team members often welcome it as an introduction to the way business is done.
And last but not least, reinforcement in meetings, especially by managers using and applying the concepts and definitions is key. And when you find certain concepts are not applied, you know it is time to internally realign to update the playbook.
BrandMaker’s “Marketing Ops Now” podcast series has officially started. In each podcast industry luminaries and deep thinkers share valuable marketing ops ideas for both management and marketing executives (some worth stealing).
For every podcast in the series we’ll do a blog post to share the highlights with you. You can listen to this 20-minute podcast here.