A playbook is not only an indispensable tool for sports teams, but also for winning in the game of business.
In sports, a playbook outlines a team’s strategies, tactics and plays to deploy in different situations to help beat the opposition. It is an invaluable tool in propelling a team toward victory. Sports teams win championships with the flawless execution of great playbooks.
In business, as in sports, it pays to be prepared. While customer service and sales commonly rely on playbooks, they are not as prevalent in marketing. Having predetermined responses helps customer service and sales representatives respond consistently and quickly to frequently asked customer questions, objections and concerns.
Customer service playbooks, also known as scripts, predefine the service experience through a series of if/then statements. For example, if the customer is unhappy with their purchase for whatever reason, then offer a full refund, no questions asked.
Similarly, sales playbooks provide a common framework and process for closing sales more effectively. Research shows that companies with a playbook or defined sales strategy are 33 percent more likely to close sales at a higher rate.
Why would marketing leaders choose to run blindly?
The Marketing Playbook
As a marketing leader, there are five tried-and-true core strategic tools you need to save time, money, aggregation and rework. I covered the communications brief and the messaging framework in previous articles. In this article, we’ll cover the third of the core strategic marketing tools: The Marketing Playbook.
- Communications Brief
- Messaging Framework
- Marketing Playbook
- Executive Dashboard
- Project Management Office (PMO)
Marketing Playbook: What It Is
A marketing playbook is a detailed reference document that is widely distributed across the marketing community and its key stakeholders, typically on an annual basis with quarterly refreshes throughout the year. It outlines how a business or brand will manage their marketing investment and activity over the course of the next 12-18 months. It is a living document that helps unify and direct a diverse or global team toward a common goal with a set of usable near-term strategies.
While not a substitute for training, a marketing playbook can significantly speed up the onboarding process for new marketing professionals.
In essence, a marketing playbook serves as a global positioning system (GPS) for your team. It helps them navigate unfamiliar or tough terrain 24/7, anywhere in the world.
The larger the marketing team, the more important it is to have an agreed approach the team follows including for agency partners working alongside your business.
Marketing Playbook: Why It’s Important
The marketing playbook:
- Demonstrates that leadership understands what it takes for a marketing professional to be successful
- Drives focus, consistency and integration of activities
- Helps team members make smart, coordinated choices under pressure
- Saves time with initial planning leaving more energy and resources for implementation
- Allows for more efficient campaign execution, especially at the local level
- Speeds up the onboarding process for new marketing professionals
Marketing Playbook: What It Contains
“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” ~General George S. Patton
A marketing playbook should give your team the guidance, goals, tools and resources to produce nothing short of brilliant marketing. It should not instruct them on how to do their jobs.
Although a marketing playbook is unique to your business, it should contain the following ten sections:
- Introduction: basic information your marketing professionals need to know, including your company’s strategy, mission, vision and core values
- Ideal Customer Profile and Buyer Persona: a hypothetical description of the type of company that would realize the most value from your product or solution (ideal customer profile), along with hypothetical descriptions of the types of people at those companies who need to be involved in the purchasing decision (buyer persona); most importantly, you should understand the pain points and challenges of each individual and how your product or service solves for those challenges
- Marketing Game Plan: the key marketing priorities and initiatives for the year
- Key Messages: here is where your messaging framework, referenced earlier, comes in—it defines why you exist, why people come to you, and what ultimately makes people want to buy your product; everything you create should lead back to this messaging
- Outcomes: the expected metrics that will determine success or failure, as well as how common metrics should be calculated and reported
- Governance: any needed review, approval and checkpoints required
- Standard Processes and Tools: the available marketing automation software and tools—for scheduling emails to automating social media posts to tracking the lifecycle of customers in their marketing funnel—along with the core marketing processes you have in place
- Available Assets: the brand, visual and content assets available for leverage, typically housed in a content management system (CMS) or digital asset management (DAM) system
- Campaign Calendar and Checklist: a link to the master marketing planning calendar that highlights key launch and campaign windows for the year
- Available Resources: who to contact for more information or consultation; typically, a list of those individuals who have contributed to the development of the marketing playbook
While crafting a marketing playbook can be a time-consuming process, the benefits in terms of consistency, focus, enhanced customer experience and improved marketing effectiveness are too compelling to ignore.
Keep in mind that the point of a playbook is not in the individual plays. Rather, it is how the plays work together that is critical to winning the hearts, minds, trust and wallets of your customers.
A Little Effort Goes a Long Way
Guiding your team through the economic downturn toward a new “better normal” requires strong leadership and top-down alignment. A marketing playbook can be an indispensable tool in navigating your team through the unchartered territory that lies ahead.
Whether you’re rebounding from the crises of 2020, or preparing yourself for an uncertain road to recovery, enhancing your toolset and ability to adapt to change will be a key source of competitive advantage in the future. To find out where you fall on the agility continuum today, take my free marketing agility assessment.
This is the third in a five-part series on core strategic marketing tools every marketing leader needs in their management arsenal to maximize their team’s effectiveness.