So you devised the best strategic plan to advance your business objectives and then start putting it in to practice only to meet some issues and frustration a few months down the line. Sadly there can be many reasons why leaders struggle to meet their strategic objectives once the rubber hits the road.
For some, the end of the second or third quarter comes and you are smashing targets, under budget, on schedule and it is the potential for complacency that becomes the threat. For many others, they may find themselves below target performance, over budget, under resourced, behind schedule. In both cases what happens next is equally important. It’s neither the time to sit back in cruise control or succumb to the temptation to look for blame and excuses. It is the time to make some necessary adjustments to improve performance.
10 Ways to Improve Marketing Implementation Performance
Understanding how your role in marketing implementation is evolving
Moving forward Marketing Managers will need to hone their skills at leveraging business data, consumer data, and market data to develop strategy on one hand, and acquire the unique ability to understand rapidly changing marketing landscapes at a tactical level for better implementation on the other.
Therefore we as marketers should work in alignment vertically and horizontally within the organisation to influence the marketing mix. We also should be the catalyst for driving creative campaigns with the science of measuring results, and the complexity of managing systems and technology.
Keep strategies and plans ‘active’ to continuously improve
Regardless of whether you adopt Agile, Waterfall, Prince 2 or other styles of project management approaches it is just essential to embed one underpinning cyclical process within the team PDCA
Plan – Do – Check – Act
I still see many great strategies, annual plans, and marketing campaign plans get shelved until the end of the term before a review ahead of the next static plan. Keep plans ‘active’ with more frequent reviews to understand your level of progress, incorporate any new opportunities to exploit, make adjustments or embed improvements and go again. Trust the controls and measures within the plan to guide your actions all year round and drive performance in line with financial, time and resource based measures.
Look after the bigger picture
It’s important for Marketing Managers to show entrepreneurial flair and think like the MD. It is vital that we keep on top of the marketing environment to better understand customers, competitive moves, market dynamics and trends to exploit emerging opportunities in both a proactive and reactive (RTM) way. Marketing builds a bridge called superior value between your organisation and it’s target customers and entices them to cross it for mutual benefit.
Excite and unite the team around that focus via internal communications and leadership flair. Managing by objective helps to attack silo working mentalities and inspire collaboration. Zoom out and think like a generalist. Instead of getting bogged down in specialist details, just keep on top of the scope, capabilities, trends and best practices of specialist areas and be the glue that binds specialists with marketing direction.
Loose the battles to win the wars – cut your losses
Part of our learning is the understanding of what needs adjusting, what needs to be changed and what needs to be scrapped. Be honest and open to scrapping an investment. Well managed, controlled and data backed experimentation is necessary to gaining and sustaining a competitive advantage especially in the digital world.
Don’t throw good money after bad; throw it after the good you have found somewhere else. Tactical plans are an evolving portfolio where one aspect can fail but the portfolio can win so treat it that way. Some of the best evidence that a marketer has the building blocks to improve comes down to the willingness to face facts, especially when those facts aren’t good news
Both internally and externally (eg agencies) ensure that you have the ‘right’ people on board in terms of both functional and team roles. The former is about the blend of job descriptions and the other is about blending the attributes of people in a way that enhances the team performance. We need to build transparency, capabilities, mutual trust and respect within the team in a way that facilitates effective 2-way communications. Work towards becoming more flexible in your leadership style to understand, motivate and engage colleagues at a 1-2-1 level as well as a team level. From there is essential to look after what I call the 4 C’s Co-ordination, Co-operation, Collaboration, Controls. Better results will follow.
Great marketers also know that sales colleagues are your closest allies. They have the same goals so it is essential to work closely to obtain ‘buy in’ to plans and tactics on an ongoing basis and vice versa. Work collaboratively to develop ideas of how you can create, execute and analyze amazing marketing campaigns that deliver perfect, qualified leads to the sales team.
Data is just cog in a big knowledge management wheel
So the cat is out of the bag and it’s causing a fuss. We are collecting data easier and faster than ever before and senior management is looking for more sophisticated data, analysis and ROI. To convert data in to intelligence data visualizers come in handy helping to reformat valuable, insightful data into visual graphs, charts, and graphics that make those numbers easier to digest.
Fully capitalizing on that intelligence requires increased creative collaboration and analytical skills to develop unique actionable insights. By creativity we mean the technical abilities to think ‘inside the box’ logically and ‘outside of the box’ laterally and these are skills that can be developed but that is a whole other beast I will discuss separately.
For now you can make use of general and Round-Robin brainstorming techniques and the 5 Whys and Cause and Effect Analysis tools to develop the creative juices in the team towards building intelligence and developing insights. Increasing collaboration can go beyond meetings to software tools such as Trello, Evernote, CRM and other solutions enabling increased collaboration from the desk. Then there is the core issue of analysis skills which is where number crunching skills are needed (by you or a colleague) amidst collaboration to combine intelligence and leverage knowledge and skills to arrive at your justified conclusions and recommendations.
Develop a customer mindset
The best thing you can do in practice is to train yourself to think like a customer and then champion the customer across the business to help guide insights and decisions with keen insight into what makes customers tick, their motivations and behavioral dynamics. Then it’s about measuring, monitoring, and adjusting that experience in real-time for each customer.
Have an open mindset
The only constants in our industry is change so attempt to embed dynamic capabilities within the team and across the organisation to ensure that marketing can become agile enough to exploit emerging and real-time opportunities particularly in the digital space. That also means building on the attitudes towards risk taking upstairs and encouraging it next door, externally (the agency will love you) and downstairs to be open to new and untested but not unmeasured opportunities
Demonstrate the value
Whether brand and/or revenue focused the aim is always to tie your work directly to increasing the bottom line so that marketing is no longer seen as a cost but an investment vehicle with assets that grow the company. Coaching the team to understand the types and relationship between KPI’s, operational and activity metrics will help them distinguish what is important at a team vs individual / tactic / channel level. Vanity metrics are not redundant but marketers should understand their time and place to ensure that reporting focuses on measures that deliver strategic objectives and business objectives.
An influential budget
Done right all the above should build your influence at the negotiating table for budget and jointly funded projects with internal and external teams. Ultimately we will soon arrive at a point where sales and marketing teams will converge and understand the marketing contribution in greater detail. Then, fairly accurate income / value projections will accompany budget expenditures as the norm so get ahead and make inroads today. An overspend can be mitigated with increased returns and you can make the case why under-funding marketing from the outset is an undesirable option.
About the Author: Marvin Miller is a Marketing Management & Campaigns Specialist who works across multi channel marketing strategy, campaign strategy and marketing implementation. You can follow his daily updates via Twitter and join his professional network via LinkedIn