Every marketer needs a playbook, this is not to be confused with a portfolio that the ad guys have. Portfolios are for public display to demonstrate skill and creative talent. A playbook is just like that of a sports coach’s playbook, it is where your best tools and moves are placed in. And just like that of a sports playbook, you don’t show that off. Ask the coach of the Chicago Bears to hand over his playbook, don’t hold your breath waiting for it! Playbooks have many standard plays but also many surprise plays that are just not for public viewing until it is time for that play to be used.
Playbooks are not that popular in marketing, but they are actually a really good tool for every marketer. I have one, actually my hard copy is several binders now, I have a lot of ideas! This is where my customized metrics and measuring tools are, what if scenarios, promo ideas, pricing strategies, tips and tricks for various tools, marketing plans, product development ideas, etc… It’s good to keep this because after a few years, you just can’t keep all that in your head and keep it clear. Also, it is a great tool to go back and look at because I have run into situations that were similar to past experiences and could go back and pull out several tools that made the company very happy with the results. Also, to be honest, I don’t always remember every metric off the top of my head instantly.
For anyone thinking, “hey, when interviewing I could just require a marketer to hand over their playbook and get their ideas for free!” Good luck, anyone who has one, probably had individualized it so much that it is impossible to copy it with the expectation of getting good results. I had a company I worked for that changed my job requirement to actually leave them a portion of my playbook. Ok, I did, we had 25% growth and rapid market share expansion of 33%. I left and watched, they were not able to duplicate the results, even though market conditions had actually improved. Why? For starters, they had finance use the metrics, not marketing, the way we look at numbers is different. Second, the very obvious things like, focus on the client more than the numbers, were not done; to me it was so obvious, I never wrote it down. I figured anyone would know this, apparently not. Add to that, how someone interacts with their own playbook is individualized, how I write things down is unique to me, they found it difficult to understand where my thinking was coming from once I left. For me, I understood and just translated it to the situation, they could not do this step. Also, a lot of marketing metrics is still pulling from fuzzy areas, how do you measure a clients true feelings, you can’t really do that in a calculation, it comes from experience and the individual marketer brings that and you still need them to be there to do the calculation and bridge the fuzzy nature of some human feelings and bottom line accountability. There is still a lot of art in the science of marketing metrics.
For marketers, I think many are selling the discipline short by not having a playbook or being too greedy with their playbook. I’ve come up with some really great ideas, only to find out there are two or three others who have very similar ideas. I even went and talked to them and we shared our views on the ideas and came up with better ideas, taking our different approaches and smoothing it out and coming up with something more refined. There is room enough for many people to share ideas in marketing. Yes the potential of someone stealing an idea is there but like any idea, people can only copy so much, they can rarely duplicate it, and if they can, go study them!
From my perspective, I want as many ideas as possible and since I have so many and I doubt I am ever going to run out, I don’t mind sharing a few if I can get something out of it to add to my playbook. There are always ideas out there that I’m working on, such as this one on moral and client satisfaction, I can’t get it to work 20% of the time, the calculations are off, so there are missing variables. I’d be happy to talk to people about that and have. In talking to them, I have found they have the same problems I do with their calculations. There seems to be something we can’t measure that is missing. This is very cool! Why, because we are much closer to understanding the situation and coming to a conclusion. If we are all having the same problem, that means the answer is not so clear obvious and more out of the box thinking is needed, now we have a course to follow.
There are ideas I had 10 years ago in my playbook that I had sit in there for years, only to have them come up and be ideal for a situation. Frankly if I had not had that playbook, I would not have been able to recall all the details I had written down, some are rather detailed. I would recommend both a hard copy and digital. Some things are just easier to handle in hard copy, although digital is of course a lot easier to move around. No matter what you do, get a playbook, start putting all your ideas in there. It may be years before you see the benefits but the benefits of a playbook go way beyond the time you invest in creating one. I started mine back in college, I spent some of my free time studying ideas that were not part of my course work and it paid off years down the road. If you have any questions on how to do a playbook, feel free to email me.