This post is about a messy, non-mainstream, but highly practical approach to process documentation for digital marketing – based on the needs of a practitioner.
It continues my theme of how to get over the dilemma of being “too busy to stop being too busy”. The solution I proposed in 7 Reasons Why We Need Systems and Processes is to make use of ready-made systems and process documentation.
Having effective (but flexible) systems and processes is essential to the success of any business – but creating them is far too time-consuming for most small businesses to undertake.
And that is the starting point for my current project – to create a collection of systems and process documentation relating to digital marketing for my OWN use, and also for use by other businesses.
In this post I’m going to focus on
What I mean by a process is any task, or sequence of tasks, that you perform on a regular basis. I’m being very general about this and including the full spectrum of complexity, from very simple to complex.
And by “documenting a process”, I don’t mean the approaches which are usually described by the process improvement, business process management and process documentation communities. Examples of that (which is what I don’t mean) are here and here.
Specifically, I’m not talking about process mapping. And I also don’t mean creating PDF “how to” guides – although the “how to” aspect is definitely part of it. And I don’t just mean creating a checklist – although sometimes that is sufficient. And I don’t mean creating a handbook of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) – although something like might be derivable from what I’m proposing.
My ideas are, sadly, much messier that each of those. But they DO reflect the reality of what’s needed. At least, they reflect the reality of what I need for myself. And I’m pretty sure my process documentation needs are very similar to most other one-person businesses as regards digital marketing.
So, as far as I’m concerned, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all mechanism for process documentation. I think you need to have three methods, with variations, depending on the complexity and need for associated record-keeping.
Here are some examples.
A) Process documentation for very simple tasks
e.g. Sending a canned response to a support request.
A note within Evernote would be a good mechanism for this.
e.g. Performing daily “engagement” activities on your Twitter account.
You could represent this as a simple checklist (again, I would personally use Evernote)
You’re likely to end up with a very large number of this type of process document, so the issue here is having them well-organized. You need to be able to access the exact document you need, at the time you need it, with minimal effort.
These documents would obviously also include links to resources for performing the task – such as a system to help you with your Twitter engagement. And they would also include links to any documents where you might want to store records about the task completion. For example, you may want to record the amount of time you (or an outsourcer) spend on each Twitter engagement activity.
B) Process documentation for moderately complex tasks
e.g. How to upload a video to YouTube and fully optimize it
e.g. Setting up the various Google tools (such as Analytics and Google Tag Manager) for a new WordPress site.
I would say there are three things that characterise a moderately complex task.
- First: that before you perform such tasks you need to go through some sort of once-off setup procedure.
An example would be creating and optimising your YouTube channel
- Second: that information created during one of the steps, or during the setup phase, is used in other steps.
For example, the keyword you decide to associate with your video is required in several of the optimisation steps.
- Third: very often you want to keep a full record of the activities performed during the task.
For all three of those reasons, I would use something like Google sheets. This means:
- You can document the process as a “template” in a way which you can easily modify and keep up to date
- At any point in the process, you can easily reference information stored at any other point in the process, and
- You can copy the template each time you want to run the process and use it to record any data associated with each step
I have a number of prototype processes that use this mechanism, including the two examples I mention above.
I’ll show exactly what I mean in a future blog post.
C) Process documentation for more complex tasks
e.g. Creating a skeleton website
There are not many processes that fall into this category.
You could regard them as being simply bigger examples of moderately complex tasks. However, I think it’s best to manage the extra complexity by breaking the overall process into sub-processes, each of which you might regard as being “moderately complex”.
For example, creating a skeleton website would include the process of setting up the various Google tools, amongst quite a few other processes.
Note that you would consider “creating a website” as a process only if you create sites reasonably regularly – for yourself or for clients. If you’re only likely to do it very few times in the lifetime of your business, you should regard it as a project rather than a process. And in that case there would be little point in having process documentation for it.
Other examples of processes
You could probably identify dozens of process in your business. Here are just a few examples – in no particular order – including those mentioned above
Sending a specific canned response to a support request
Cleaning up your email list
Uploading a video to YouTube and & optimizing the entry
Researching & writing a blog post
Posting & syndicating a blog post
Creating a new property on Google Analytics
Creating a new container in Google Tag Manager
Setting up a new WP Site
Configuring a WP site with Google’s tools
Researching a niche for a new YouTube affiliate video
Performing keyword research for selecting blog content
Creating and growing a Twitter account
Creating a new marketing campaign
Setting up an automated backup for a website
Setting up a sales webinar
Posting an article on LinkedIn
Creating monthly management accounts
Creating your tax return
Finding and negotiating with an Instagram influencer
Finding blogs where you can do guest posting
Converting an MP4 file into MOV format
Assessing the performance of an email broadcast
Doing a weekly performance review of your website / Twitter account / YouTube channel ….
Deriving multiple tweets from a blog post and scheduling them
Finding relevant content to syndicate on your blog
Performing daily “engagement” activities on your Twitter account
…. it’s hard to know where to stop!
I’d love to be able to brag that the above is a partial list of all the processes I’ve documented for myself – but that would be akin to an “alternative fact”. Some I have in detail, some only as brief notes, some I have nothing on yet, and some I may never do.
In my next blog post I’ll focus on the closely related topic of record keeping. I will again be focusing on Google sheets, but this time using them in a very different way.
And I promise that it won’t be too long before I start showing concrete examples!
Let me know in the comments below about your own experiences with digital marketing processes. Do you use them? Have you created any for yourself – and if so, how? Do you think what I’m suggesting would be useful to you?
Does what I’m saying make sense at all?
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