Anthony Basile

So you want to be more strategic with your content marketing. More intentional. More data-driven and outcome-based. How can you work all these concepts into your marketing mix, and make sure they stick? You’ll need a central document to guide your efforts. In short, you’ll need a marketing playbook.

What is a marketing playbook?

Your marketing playbook is the place where your team’s tactics and deliverables are stored for easy, on-demand access. When there is a marketing playbook, team members don’t have to reinvent the wheel to create a piece of content or launch a new engagement.

Think of a marketing playbook as more of a cookbook than a menu. It’s a list of what your team can whip up on short notice, along with the ingredients and recipes they need to complete the dishes. Making the document available to both internal marketers and creative agency partners is a way to ensure that every member of every team — within your company walls and outside of them — is producing content that fits the company’s overall vision.

And the playbook isn’t just for the content stakeholders to consult. Everyone with a hand in your marketing campaigns can access this document to study the brand’s messaging and goals. Upon checking the playbook, people across groups and teams will realize where they fit into the marketing picture, helping them make meaningful contributions.

So, to recap: The marketing playbook provides all the relevant information on how your company markets itself, including high-level messaging but focusing on ready-to-go tactics and deliverables that can be created at a moment’s notice.

Why is it important to have a marketing playbook?

Marketing today is so complex and fast-moving that it’s easy to see how deliverables can fail to live up to their potential if there’s no plan. Messaging can go astray when two teams have different ideas about how to express a company’s values, and deliverables created on short notice and with no central guiding principles can fail to convert.

A reliable, updated and comprehensive marketing playbook is something to refer back to. It’s a guiding document that can get your team through potential confusion resulting from short timelines, complex team structures or both.

With such a great resource on hand, even the trickiest content strategies can come together, no matter how many different stakeholder groups are involved. Without it, plans can slow down or go off track.

What should be included in a marketing playbook?

While every company’s marketing needs are slightly different and your playbook will necessarily differ from any other, there are a few general subject areas that every one of these documents should cover.

To get conversions, your team should be experts at reaching your target audience. Information about the people who make up that audience, what they value and the best ways to reach them should all be in the playbook. The following are some of the ideas to remember when putting together your version of a marketing playbook:

Customer personas

Getting customer conversions from your marketing efforts isn’t really about the marketing, but about the customer. Marketing materials that aren’t aimed at a specific audience aren’t likely to work today — people have high expectations for the type of content they’re exposed to and engage with. By enshrining your high-priority customer profiles in your marketing playbook, you give every stakeholder access to essential information on how best to customize their messaging.

Go-to deliverables

The marketing playbook takes its name from sports. The list of workshopped and practiced content “plays” to choose from is the part of this document that is most in tune with its namesake.

Each deliverable has unique factors — some are impossible to execute without technical expertise, others work best when there’s an emotional connection, and so on. Listing your options and breaking down their pros, cons and best practices is a great way to get your marketers ready to create top-quality deliverables on relatively short notice.

Performance data and results

Your playbook shouldn’t be theoretical in nature. The info you’re giving your team to work with should be backed up by hard facts taken from previous experience. There is real value in knowing which techniques and tactics have caused conversions or increased engagement, and with which types of audiences.

Monitor your digital deliverables’ performance, and allowing the results to inform your playbook.

Roles and responsibilities

Who is responsible for social media posting? Who takes charge of content strategy? How do internal teams and agency employees break down their contributions to joint projects? When all of these rules are laid out in the marketing playbook, you can save time and prevent confusion. Having two people working on the same project is a waste of effort.

Creating a clear roadmap for marketing content creation is only possible when this clarity exists around roles, especially as today’s campaigns become more sprawling. Every person who interacts with the business’s audience, from a customer care rep to a social media manager, is setting the customer experience, and they should know what they will be asked to do.

Branding and general messaging

Brand awareness today has evolved along with the channels people use to communicate with companies. A person’s experience with your company’s Facebook page will color their expectations when they log onto your e-commerce website or dial a call center, though there may be different teams behind all those touchpoints.

Your marketing playbook’s section on branding and messaging can ensure that everything produced, from spontaneous social media reactions to long-gestating high-value content, flows from the same general strategy. Your brand can and should have a consistent style and tone, not to mention uniform visual language, including colors, logos and fonts.

How often should you review your marketing playbook?

The rule of thumb for updating and changing your marketing playbook is to make edits every time the business world changes around you.

While the pandemic is an extreme case, more subtle forces are always making their presence felt. For example, when your audience migrates to a new social media platform, it’s time to add some stylistic guidelines on it to the playbook. When Twitter launched its “Fleets” feature, your social media marketers may have been wondering whether they should treat these the same as Instagram and Facebook stories. The playbook should be a place to find answers to that type of question.

What types of results should the playbook focus on?

Since your marketing playbook is the guide to all your marketing efforts, it should be all about achieving the types of overall business goals your company craves most. There shouldn’t be any separation between your objectives and the concepts in the book. If you’re most interested in turning inbound leads into paying customers, that’s the focus. If you’re more concerned with retaining long-term subscribers, your playbook should reflect that choice.

The people in your marketing department and beyond are responsible for making your strategies work. The playbook is at their disposal when they need it, so they know at a glance what they’re aiming for, the agreed-upon methods of getting there and the best practices you’ve learned from past campaigns.

If you’re hesitant to take the time out of other marketing department work to make an official playbook, it pays to think of the little everyday ways this document could keep people on track. Readymade instructions help your team members put together every deliverable effectively and keep their content on-brand. The time savings that comes from having the answers at employees’ fingertips can and does add up.

If your marketing concepts are good, they’re worth writing down and repeating. That’s where the playbook shines.