As the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, I find myself thinking about summer sports. Whether you’re looking forward to the latest chapter in the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry, dreaming of a trip to Russia for the World Cup, or hoping to play some tennis in the local public court, you know that playbooks are critical in any team sport. No two playbooks are alike. And the truly exceptional players take on the arduous task of memorizing all the plays in advance.
In business, as in sports, it pays to be prepared.
A business playbook contains all the pieces and parts that make up your company’s go-to approach for getting things done. According to Accenture, a playbook includes “process workflows, standard operating procedures, and cultural values that shape a consistent response—the play. A playbook reflects a plan; an approach or strategy defining predetermined responses worked out ahead of time.”
While you needn’t expect your employees to channel Tom Brady and memorize the playbook, it is critical to have a playbook on hand for guidance.
Why You Need a Business Playbook
NFL playbooks are known for being incredibly detailed. They outline everything, from blocking packages for every type of defensive alignment imaginable to executing an end-around or draw play.
Think about all the maneuvers that go into keeping your company running smoothly. Each player has their own moves to execute. An assistant will have a different set of duties from the communications director and from the CEO. But as a team, there are a lot of projects that require you to work together as a group.
For example, let’s say your team is launching an ad campaign for a new product. The communications director may be responsible for creating the strategy and copy for the campaign. The assistant for the communications team may be responsible for liaising with the graphic designer creating visuals for the ads and the web designer, who will update your website to reflect your newest offering. The CEO will give input and final approval on the campaign. He may also want to send a personalized note to current users, letting them know when the product launches.
Keeping all of these moving parts running smoothly is only possible if you have a plan in place. How does the communications director create the strategy, share it with others on her team, and create a repository for all the necessary parts (images, writing, social media strategy surrounding the launch, etc.)? How does the CEO provide input and signoff, and who coordinates the CEO’s messaging around the campaign? Who does the assistant work with to ensure that all external parties are meeting their deadlines?
And if something goes wrong, what is the contingency plan? If the CEO has a family emergency, who approves any final changes to the campaign in his absence?
Without a playbook, your team is left scrambling to find the information or items they need to complete their deliverables. This results in a lot of wasted time, wasted energy, and a lot of undue stress and anxiety.
Use a Playbook to Flip the Script
If your company is currently operating with bad procedures—or no procedures at all—then you’ve seen the problems firsthand. Log jams, increased frustration among team members, and wasted time and money are all a result of poor planning. Having repeatable, scalable processes, on the other hand, boosts your bottom line. It decreases time spent training, encourages independence and autonomy on your team, saves time and mistakes, and ensures consistent results.
Once your team is working from a playbook, you’ll have more time to focus on fun, creative, and innovative activities that boost your profits. Say goodbye to putting out fires and hello to igniting productivity and growth.
3 Business Playbooks for a Digital Team
While any business can benefit from a playbook, it’s particularly important in the digital world. There are additional complexities for digital teams, who operate on tight timetables and require a significant deal of interaction across internal departments and external parties, such as your readers and advertisers. These three playbooks are essential to running a successful digital business.
1. Content Creation
Your content creation team needs direction to follow. That way, their work reflects both the vision from editorial and the desires of your whale readers. Whales are your most engaged and enthusiastic readers. Keeping all stakeholders happy with your content is critical.
When creating your content playbook, decide how to set the calendar, who owns what part of the process, and how you’ll measure your content’s success.
If you don’t align your marketing team on who your business is targeting, and how to segment for various messages and offers, your efforts will inevitably flop.
For your marketing playbook, you’ll need to know who owns the plan (or “grid”), who writes the copy and curates assets, and who deploys the campaign. Just as with your content playbook, it’s important to define benchmarks for success and include concrete ways of measuring each campaign’s effectiveness.
3. Product Management
The best digital companies are adamant about following product management best practices. They have a playbook for running experiments to learn what customers want, measuring what is and isn’t working for customers, and eliminating or changing those products that are not successful.
Remember: Even a great athlete like Tom Brady needs to understand the playbook before he’s able to go out on the field and make incredible plays. When you have processes in place to ensure the day-to-day aspects of running a business go smoothly, you free your team up to innovate, drive change, and grow your business.
Do you have a story about a time when workflow issues were holding you back, and you were able to make a positive change by instituting a playbook? I’d love to hear about it—drop me a line.
About the Author
Rob Ristagno, Founder and CEO of Sterling Woods, previously served as a senior executive at several digital media and e-commerce businesses, including as COO of America’s Test Kitchen. He started his career as a consultant at McKinsey. Ristagno holds degrees from the Harvard Business School and Dartmouth College and has taught at both Harvard and Boston College.
Rob is the author of A Member is Worth a Thousand Visitors: A Proven Method for Making More Money Online. He regularly speaks at key media conferences, including at Niche Media events, Specialized Information Publishers Association meetings, and the Business Information and Media Summit.