How to Ensure Marketing Plan Execution

By Emily Howard

Strategy without execution is only theory.

This is a powerful statement and one that we find ourselves repeating all too often. In the chaotic world of marketing (we call it The Jungle) it seems like there are a lot of starts-and-stops these days. Brands and their agency partners work diligently to put together strategic long-term programs, then watch them go under- or un-implemented. Unfortunately, we’ve seen this happening more commonly lately.

whiteboardSo we’ve been asking ourselves, “Why is this happening?” and “How can we prevent it from happening again?” The answer to the first question is usually due to one of these three things:

  1. Budget cuts or a change in management (which are often unforeseeable and unpreventable reasons)
  2. Higher-ups kill the program
  3. The task at-hand seems too daunting and brands don’t know where to start, so they don’t

Since the first reason is usually something out of our/our clients’ control, I won’t address it further here. However, we do believe there are ways to prevent #2 and #3 from happening to your brand. The most straightforward and easiest solution to #2 is to ensure that those “powers that be” are highly involved in the brand planning process and are an integral part of the program’s development. The extent to which top management is involved in the research and strategy design along the way is the extent to which they will feel ownership of the plan and be more interested in seeing it implemented.

As a marketer, you may be thinking, “Our CEO doesn’t have the time or the interest to help create our brand and marketing plan. That’s my job.” Yikes! We firmly believe that the CEO (as the ultimate representative of the brand) must contribute to the development of the strategic branding program. He or she should be able to make the time to help determine how the company or product will come to life in the marketplace. If that’s a non-starter, then you have a different problem (we can help with that, too).

Regarding the third reason (the task seems too daunting), we’ve outlined a fairly simple process for determining the best way to successfully execute and implement a long-term, integrated marketing program.

Step 1. Place all of the tactics down on one piece of paper and organize them by marketing category – advertising, direct, social, PR, event, in-store, promotion, website, etc. This allows us to easily see what the plan really looks like.

Step 2. Eliminate any redundancies and prioritize ideas with a simple A, B or C system. We found that it’s best to use our instincts here and not over-analyze our decisions.

Step 3. Assign available resources to each tactic by choosing one specialist to head-up each item. We try our best not to assign two or more resources to one tactic. If we don’t have an available resource for a particular idea, we simply write TBD next to it and make a note to find a partner.

Step 4. Roughly determine how long it will take to execute each tactic. We think of time in terms of whether it will take one month or less, two to six months, or seven or more months.

Step 5. Make our best guess at the cost associated with producing and delivering each item. If necessary, consult with vendors to determine these costs. We don’t want to estimate too low, but we also don’t want to guess too high and scare ourselves out of executing something before we know how much it will really cost.

Step 6. Now, we put away for a day or two the work we’ve done so far. Then we come back, take another look, and make any appropriate changes. Lastly, we create a flowchart with a timeline across the top that includes for each tactic: brief description, cost estimate, launch date, and responsible party. The timeline on this spreadsheet could start now and span over two to five years depending on the breadth and depth of the strategic plan. That’s okay. The point is that each item has a budget, timing and resource allocation associated with it. That way, it seems more digestible and hopefully less daunting to allow for more efficient execution.

You may be surprised at how these six straightforward steps help our clients ensure that work gets done. And, we’ll also help you remember to invite (or help you convince) your CEO to participate throughout the strategy development process.

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