As a busy small business owner, it’s tempting to think, “Oh, I’ll get around to documenting standard operating procedures later. I’ve got other priorities now.”
But take it from me, lovely, documentation should not wait.
Having standard operating procedure templates, guides, and forms hammered out before you get new team members onboarded and new business projects underway sets you up for success!
Without them, both you and your virtual team will struggle.
Communication will break down, steps will be missed, and everyone will get frustrated. All of which can be avoided if you take the time to construct a few key documents first!
Here are 7 different standard operating procedure examples for small business, the reasons why each one is important, and how they build the foundation for your business:
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Standard Operating Procedure Examples for Small Business #1: New Client Onboarding
Whether you’re a coach or freelancer, you need to have instructions that help bring new clients into the fold.
The first few interactions an incoming client has with you and your virtual team leaves a HUGE impression, so they need to be handled carefully.
Client Onboarding can include information like:
- Templated language for first emails or phone calls
- Questions to ask and information to gather at the beginning of the relationship (contact info, goals, how they heard about you, etc.)
- Common issues/concerns new clients express, and how to handle them
- Next steps for new customers after onboarding is complete
Standard Operating Procedure Examples for Small Business #2: Product Launch Plan
Launching new products and offerings on a regular basis keeps income flowing and clients engaged. It’s a good idea to create and launch something new for customers to purchase several times each year.
Now each of your products should have some variation, but the way you get them ready to sell should be consistent. Otherwise, you’ll be creating unnecessary work for yourself and your team! In your standard operating procedure template, may out the steps you want followed to prep and promote new offerings.
There are four components of a typical launch:
PRE-LAUNCH: This phase focuses on promotion and buzz-building, generating interest and conversation. Pre-launch usually lasts several weeks, and should be designed to ensure that readers and fans are talking about a product across multiple social platforms.
LAUNCH: After a strategic series of reminders, previews, and nudges have been broadcast, the official on-sale date arrives and purchases flood in! To create a sense of urgency, registration/purchasing is available for a set number of days (usually five to ten).
DELIVERY: Once customers are registered and the registration period has ended, the class, workshop, or product is made available. If you’ve included built-in interactivity for a period of time, such as discussion within a private Facebook Group you may need to manage that yourself.
FOLLOW-UP: Once delivery is complete or a class has wrapped up, don’t forget to circle back with customers. Get their feedback, gauge their interest in future or similar offerings, and thank them profusely for participating. This is also a great time to gather testimonials.
Document steps, procedures, and tools to use for each of the four. Also consider whipping up FAQs to address issues and hiccups!
Standard Operating Procedure Examples for Small Business #3: New Team Member Onboarding
Even if you plan to train in ALL freelancers yourself, it’s helpful to create templates and documentation for new team member onboarding.
Codifying these standard operating procedures ensures that all contractors receive the same training on the same tasks; gives them common ground to start from; and will make it easier for them to onboard future team members if you decide to share that workload in the future.
Virtual team member onboarding can include information like:
- Preferred communication media
- Passwords and access to shared drives, documents, calendars, etc.
- Do’s and Don’ts for team member interactions and/or client interactions
- Org chart
- Weekly checklists or recurring work templates
Standard Operating Procedure Examples for Small Business #4: Help Desk Manual
Clients have questions, and your team needs to have answers!
Create some standard operating procedure templates and decision trees that will enable them to handle the most common questions quickly and calmly.
Otherwise, you’ll have to handle every query yourself, which is a massive waste of your precious time.
Building a help desk manual empowers your team to address issues without bugging you for approval or input.
Standard Operating Procedure Examples for Small Business #5: Product Release Calendar
Creating an annual product release calendar may be challenging if you don’t have many products or coursesd, but even a rough schedule can be helpful from the outset.
Creating a standard operating procedure document gives both you and your team the big-picture view: Goals for the year, information on how to space out project planning, and when crunch-times may hit.
Without it, you’ll be so focused on daily and weekly targets, you might never move beyond them to creating and launching money-making products!
Make sure that your SOP template includes all four stages of your launch (pre-launch, launch, delivery, follow-up) so you can determine when to begin work and when deadlines should fall.
Standard Operating Procedure Examples for Small Business #6: Editorial Calendar
Running a small business means creating loads of content for current and prospective clients. You may be writing and building everything now, but eventually you’ll outsource at least some of your content creation.
And if you’re constantly scrambling for topics, images, and outlines, you’ll drive yourself and your team insane. Not to mention posting inconsistently, which leads to a decrease in interest and follows!
So create a standard operating procedure template that maps out your entire content creation and publishing process.
Some examples of guidelines that you’ll want to include in your SOP are:
- Research (topics and keywords)
- How the content should be created
- Formatting of content (colors, sizes, fonts, etc.)
- Proofing / Editing
- Content due dates (when your team should tasks completed completed)
- Where does the content get saved (dropbox, google drive, project management system, etc.)
- Where does the content get published
- When does the content get published
- Creation of graphics & copy to promote your content pieces
- How to repurpose your content
Some examples of content that you’ll want to include instructions for are:
- Blog posts
- Social Media Posts
- Freebies (like workbooks, checklists, etc. to grow your mailing list)
- YouTube Videos
- Facebook Live broadcasts
Standard Operating Procedure Examples for Small Business #7: Key Performance Indicator (KPI) Reports
In order to make data-based decisions about future projects, it’s essential to have some KPI reports in place.
While trusting your gut can be helpful in some instances, your entire team needs to be comfortable utilizing more concrete metrics and influencing factors.
Tracking KPIs also gives you a clear picture of where performance can be improved, and which elements of your business are thriving.
Train your team with a standard operating procedure template that will guide them in how to collect, track, and store the analytics reports for your business.
Some common KPIs include:
- Sales conversion rates
- Email open and click rates
- Member enrollment and dropoff rates
- Number of clients
- Subscriber totals and rates
- New vs. repeat site visits
- Customer acquisition cost
I wholeheartedly recommend implementing all 7 of the standard operating procedure examples I’ve outlined here, since each will bolster growing your small business in a different way.
But even adopting 2 or 3 is bound to help you and your team feel more prepared, informed, and primed for success!
P.S. Want to get all your documentation up to speed fast? Grab my done-for-you project plans. They include all the checklists, workflows and templates you need to document your entire business. And best of all, you can do it without spending hours (and hours and hours) creating training and instructions. I’ve done all the work for you! Check them out right here.
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