Streamline your processes and increase your team’s productivity.
The goal of a standard operating procedure (SOP) is to document a step-by-step list of instructions that lets anyone execute a routine marketing procedure. These are often tasks that only one or two people on your team typically do, and allows the entire team to take on this process should someone be away on vacation, leave the company, or fall ill.
Common examples include:
- How to look up a specific data point, analytical measurement, budget line, or metric.
- How to do a single marketing task, such as post to the company’s Twitter feed or check the status of a project.
- How to avoid a specific but common error.
Choose a format for your SOP template that best matches the complexity of the process you’re documenting.
Most marketing departments have a few pre-existing SOPs that you can use as a template, or you can find free templates through tools such as Trainual or Smartsheet. The most common SOP formats include:
- Simple steps or a checklist: Best for easy to follow, short procedures, such as How to download monthly Google AdWords expenses.
- Hierarchical steps: Best for processes that have many steps, some of which may involve decisions or choices.
- Flowchart: If the process involves different outcomes based on different decisions or scenarios, a branching flowchart can help map out and visualize the full process. For example, How to assemble a media kit might have numerous branching-off points in the process.
Narrowly define how much information and how many prerequisite steps you’ll cover. Base this on the size of your audience, their skill level, and the complexity of the process.
Some marketing processes may be dependent on other processes. Your SOP may include all prerequisites, or you may decide to establish specific SOPs for each prerequisite. The best choice varies based on:
- Your audience’s skills: If your team is primarily made up of well-versed marketing professionals, you may not need to break down every little step that must occur before the process outlined in this current SOP. But if your team has a lot of turnover, or has a mix of junior and experienced staff, you may need to go into deeper detail about things that you might otherwise take for granted.
- Your audience’s size: If these SOPs are meant to be shared across the entire organization, you may need to include far more details about who covers related roles and processes versus if you’re writing it just for your core marketing team.
- Your SOPs’ overarching goal: A SOP intended for a new employee training manual may include far more basic information than an SOP intended to help cover someone’s vacation leave.
Draft a header that clearly identifies the SOPs use case for the reader, and includes any other identifying information your company needs.
- A clear title that tells the reader exactly what they’ll accomplish.
- Pertinent identification information, such as document-tracking ID numbers, department names, management names, and who created or approved this SOP.
- A use case summarizing why this marketing process is important, and why this SOP was created.
- Definitions for any acronyms, technical terms, or platform or tool names that a reader who doesn’t typically manage this process may be unfamiliar with.
Write the SOP as a series of single action steps as you go through the marketing process you’re documenting.
Don’t write an SOP from memory. If you do, you will miss steps that you do out of habit and don’t think about.
- Make each step a single action, such as Login to website.com and Click My Account versus Login to website.com and go to your account.
- Use specific language and avoid ambiguous terms, unnecessary decision-making, or insider jargon.
- Include small details that, if overlooked, could slow down the process or affect outcomes.
- Add screenshots or helpful written cues to help the reader find exactly what they need to do on a website, app, or tool.
Summarize the instructions with a basic checklist to make your instructions clearer and provide a quick-glance reference for people who know the process.
After completing the marketing process using your SOP, the reader may not need the full instructions again. However, a checklist that summarizes each step ensures key actions aren’t missed, and it also serves as a quick refresher when they return to the SOP. Use tools such as Figma, PowerPoint, or Canva to create these checklists.
Distribute your written SOP and test it on real colleagues. Have them complete the marketing process you documented, then review the outcome:
- Were there errors in their work?
- Did it take them too long to complete it?
- Did they voice their frustration or confusion?
Note down anything that was inaccurate, slow, unproductive or confusing.
Revise your SOP and test again. Repeat until you, any relevant stakeholders, and your test users are happy with the process and the outcome.