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Using Playbooks In Your Business

Playbook Definition

If you are not familiar with the term playbooks, you may know them as standard operating procedures or a checklist or a process list, summarised, it's how do we do a specific task or a particular process from beginning to end. And that may have multiple stages in them.

The Benefits of Playbooks

Often I get asked what the benefits of using playbooks are? 

Ultimately, if you think about what happens inside a business, usually people who have been there a reasonable amount of time do the tasks, do them well on autopilot. 

However, there's no consistent repetition inside the business; one administrator may process a file slightly different or in a somewhat different order to another administrator.

Whereas, one salesperson, they'll use their sales skills, may go through the sales process with a client slightly different to another one.

So consider standardising your processes and the benefit of using playbooks, 

  • They provide consistency
  • Consistency is what drives customer experience
  • Customer experience is what drives Efficiency from your employees
  • And the Efficiency ultimately drives your bottom line and improves it

If you can do a process or a task or a job, it's not about doing it faster sometimes, but doing it regularly, doing it consistently, doing it well.

You're going to maximise your employee's time, the resources that you need to invest to get the same amount of output.

Playbooks Should Be A Company-Wide Initiative

So playbooks are an excellent tool to use. Often people will say, "Oh, I've got a playbook in marketing," or, "I've got a playbook in sales," but as I've touched on earlier, playbooks are a company-wide initiative.

Playbook Examples 

People Playbooks

If you hire a recruit, it doesn't matter if that's a junior, an apprentice, somebody who is part-qualified or on top of the game. Your way is still going to be new to them, the way you do things inside your business. 

Even for the most experienced individuals, maybe they went from one company to another company in the same space. Your company will still have its own culture; it's way, its process, its reporting structure. 

So a playbook allows somebody to come in and review exactly step by step what they're required to do, in what order, and by what time, which is ultimately going to drive the output to be more consistent and efficient.

It also provides a better onboarding experience, and that means your new employee is going to be engaged and providing service with the way your clients come to expect.

In recruitment, primarily if you work as a recruitment agent, you may have a specific way that you want to recruit. It may be a

  • Telephone screening call
  • Then a video call
  • A face to face interview 
  • An assignment to the shortlist of candidates to undertake for skill competency.

Ultimately, having a playbook that you could give to a recruitment agent that says,

"Yes, you do what you do at your side vetting and screening, and once they come over to us, this is the process."

It's going to allow the recruitment company to shortlist and sift through the candidates a lot better. And if you're recruiting internally as well, for your different departmental managers, you've got a playbook to boss your recruitment.

Finance Playbooks

Here are some examples of finance playbooks. 

We have a playbook in our business for how to load invoices on, how to manage our credit control and purchase ledger.

Think about when you buy goods, whether that's a contract over a specific value, an item over a particular amount. In your business, you may have to go and get a second signature or get approval. 

Your line manager or you as the authority may want them to go out and get three quotations or three RFQs, RFPs as you might know them.

If you've got a playbook that says if we want to purchase or lease a new photocopier, the playbook could look like 

  • Approach three Canon dealers, 
  • Obtain and compare service contracts
  • Obtain and compare terms and conditions
  • Build Specification of functionality
  • Obtain quote
  • Shortlist and demo the machine
  • Finalise negotiation
  • Secure director approval
  • Order
  • Plan installation & team training

You can see, it's like a bullet point list and you don't have to have any fancy software. Although, at the end of this, I'll leave a couple of recommendations for playbook software too.

Ultimately, you can empower anybody coming into your finance department or your purchase department who needs to go and lease a new photocopier. You don't have to spend time explaining every detail of what you do. 

And ultimately, the work that that person brings back, it's going to be in line with your expectations.

Now, for all those who are jumping up and down, saying, "Hey, that sounds like micromanagement." It generally isn't. Instead, it is empowering people to go and use their skills and to follow a process that your business needs doing.

Operations Playbooks

Heres an example for when you win a new customer, having a playbook for how your customer service teams will get onboard a customer. 

  • When they make a telephone call?
  • When do they write a welcome letter?
  • When do they set up their account? 
  • How do they send out their account number or do the first onboarding call?

The same could apply for manufacturing a widget, fulfilment of orders, systems management and infrastructure.

The list in operations is endless, and playbooks can seriously assist you in getting organised and deliver outstanding service both externally to your clients and internally to develop your team.

Marketing Playbooks

There are many use cases already in marketing; here are a few examples.

  • How do we do social media? 
  • What's our content strategy? 
  • How is a funnel made up? For awareness, consideration, decision stage. 
  • How do we buy and pay for paid media? 
  • How do we hire and use an agency? 
  • What do we require?

TSH - GamePlan - Slick Covers _MarketingAll the steps you go through before you appointing an agency or you implement the campaign segmented into the following:

  • Build your assets
  • Design the graphics
  • Record the videos
  • Edit the videos. 

While this may sound like just a step by step checklist, the reality is it is but with proactive thought management, so it works on autopilot, the difference is each task is assigned to the responsible person with a budget and timeline. 

Your business will almost see situations like ours, where you've got two or three people in a different department all doing different things in different ways, or the same things in different ways, which is affecting your performance.

Sales Playbooks

Here at 6teen30 Digital, we have a reasonably structured sales process where we have 

  • A connect call [exploratory] stage - just to see if there's a fit. 
  • A discovery call stage - where we go and deep dive to find out really what's it going off inside the client and to introduce our services. 
  • A goal planning meeting/call stage - to structure what objectives we would be trying to achieve once the client comes on board
  • A prescription stage - where we give a quotation out or an investment schedule. 
  • A negotiation stage - to follow up and restructure anything new or amend what was missed by the salesperson
  • Then Closed Won or Closed Lost - based on the outcome.

We have a playbook for that, a step by step process, including scripts that serve more as a guide for the person to follow, and everything from 

  • Opening statements
  • Positioning statements
  • Objection handling

We've got a playbook that helps the sales team do this.

Governance Playbooks

This area is the most overlooked; however, it should be a foundational set of playbooks to ensure you are trading legally and complying with the obligations you have as a business leader/director.

Examples of governance playbooks can include:

  • How do we keep our licences up to date, what are the processes that we need to go through? 
  • Do we need qualified personnel on the board, if so, what qualification and how do we hire? 
  • How do we keep our HMRC obligations up to date? 
  • How do we have our social responsibility activities in the community managed correctly? 
  • How do we report to shareholders?" 

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The McDonalds Effect

So, when you're thinking about it, imagine going into McDonald's. From the point that you ordered to the point that you need to sit down with your meal or you take it out from the drive-through. 

There is a systematic process where individuals have got specific jobs to do in specific orders that guarantee consistency at an output.

I don't ever think anybody will out-systemise McDonald's. Ultimately, you understand that that is where you're trying to get to with playbooks.

Recapping Playbooks

  • Playbooks allow you to think through your processes
  • Playbooks empower your team 
  • Playbooks improve customer service
  • Playbooks improve Efficiency
  • Playbooks ultimately improve your bottom line.

Getting Started With Playbooks

So, how do you get started with playbooks? The cheapest and simple way, 

  1. Get a Microsoft Word document or a Google Doc
  2. Segment by department - Finance | Operations | People | Marketing | Sales | Governance 

Then for each department, pick out all the major tasks that they've got to do and then just put some headers in the spreadsheet and then bullet points each task.

For example, task one, two, three, four, then five as it gets passed over or the salesperson completes it.

So that's a simple way of doing it. You could systemise that as an operating procedure of something as simple as a Word document.

Team Involvement 

Don't just do it yourself, get your team involved, especially the managers and an employee who's working in that department.

Cross-reference it with another employee.

Get the best process working for you and secure your team's buy-in; they will have lots to contribute.

Automate Your Playbooks Online

If you do want to go automated for playbooks, there are things like HubSpot and HubSpot Enterprise Systems; you can get playbooks and build those all out inside the app. 

They'll all link into your CRM, so you get salespeople up for sales playbooks, customer services people up for customer services playbooks.

Or if you're not quite in the level of HubSpot Enterprise, that's fine; it is a significant investment try independent apps like Process Street software that helps you grow and build playbooks and workflows with customised fields, drop-down fields, free text fields.

And that can link back into your CRM for consistency of data across your tech stack.

Are You Using Playbooks?

So, I'd love to know, 

  1. If you're using playbooks and whether you use them across your entire business or just in individual departments. 
  2. I'd like to know how they're working for you if you've seen better results, 
  3. Or if you're just getting started and this helps you to process map out what you're going to do.

Do you need help with Playbooks?

As a HubSpot Agency Solutions Partner, we regularly work with companies to improve their playbooks throughout their Marketing, Sales and Client Services teams. To learn more about how we can help you identify and implement Playbooks through our Inbound Consulting or one of our Inbound retainers, simply visit the links below.

Inbound Consulting Services - View here

Inbound Marketing Services - View here

Inbound Marketing Services - View here

Inbound Marketing Services - View here

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Published by Jamie Midgley February 28, 2020
Jamie Midgley