I loathe process. I truly do. I love creating process for other people, but getting me to follow a process is like pulling teeth. And yet, success is often based on nothing more glamorous than being able to follow the process.
One of my old bosses, Dan Carney, used to tell me all the time, "You need the 'run book' for this. I need to go over to a blue three ring binder and find step 1, 2, 3, and so-on. I need to see the reporting for it, everything." (He'd always say blue, three-ring binder. I'm not sure why, but it stuck in my head. Years later, when I was creating a run book for something, I bought blue binders from Staples.)
What goes into a run book?
For marketing or any business operation, the purpose of a run book is to write down a series of steps or a workflow, so that you can go back to that workflow for future projects. For instance, if you were going to build a run book for doing a social media outreach project, you might put some steps in like this:
- Review marketing materials.
- Decide on appropriate name for project.
- Set launch dates and social media flow dates.
- Decide success measures.
- Create an "anchor" blog post.
- Decide which social networks to target.
- E-mail marketing? (Yes/No)
- Create a related hashtag for Twitter for this project. Use this tag for Flickr photos, for YouTube, etc.
- Build a related event for Facebook.
- Find bloggers through outreach programs to gauge any interest in announcing or participating in the project.
- Provide assistance to outreach helpers.
- Create reports to track measures.
- Set up listening stations for decided-upon keywords.
- Set up workflows for what the listening stations capture.
- Relaunch or augment the launch
Now, I could add tons more to the above, or I could remove tons. It's up to the sophistication of your run book, up to who's going to execute the book, up to whether this is something you've practiced a thousand times or something you will constantly be training someone to accommodate and execute.
The better the run book, the better the chance that someone will follow it and help you accomplish your goal.
Run books are freeing
Once you have a great run book in place, it's easier to focus on what needs doing, instead of worrying that you haven't really remembered all the tasks necessary to be successful. The best possible success comes from having things all lined up so that you can focus on the parts that are tricky, even when listed out. Getting 10,000 people to "like" something on Facebook is hard. Having the process you've used somewhat successfully written down in your run book is at least one step towards getting that success in place each time.
Run books help sell a business
And if you hadn't thought of it, the more you can place into your run books, so that your business is something that can be learned, at least to some extent, from documentation, the more likely it is your business is sellable for a future purchaser. Even if you currently have no intent to sell, having run books for the most important operations of your business is work you'll be able to use in the process of selling in the future.
So, get those three ring binders going and see what might lend itself to process creation!