Many marketing guides start with developing strategy – understanding your focus and defining your brand. I argue that execution and excellence are more important than developing vague brand and marketing strategies. As Walt Disney said:
“Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.”
While this quote may seem obvious, it has a number of implications that are frequently ignored. For example, when I talk to marketers, they frequently discuss the latest hot trend – targeting, SEO, social media, videos, paid search, etc. However, how we execute these strategies for our situation may be more important than the specific program. In addition, many marketers downplay measuring the results of marketing efforts. Now, digital marketing allows you to develop, test, measure and adapt. You can now test various programs and strategies before making expensive commitments. Paid search is an example where key words, offers, and links, are frequently the keys to success. Thus, testing various alternatives can dramatically help focus a program. However, many advocates will recommend spending thousands of dollars a month with little clue of what will work. Similarly, many marketing programs get enamored with technology while ignoring basic execution concepts. For example, I recently read some exciting marketing plans from a client that included videos, links, and many other details. However, they were so focused on technology that they forgot simple things like phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and how they would help their customers.
Here are some tips related to execution in your marketing programs:
- Goals – What are your long-term volume and image expectations? Are you building sales just for today, or are you seeking long term customers? What are your organizational and financial resources? Who is your target market? What is your competitive positioning? The answers to these questions can change during the marketing strategy process, and they will affect your program as you begin to execute in the real world.
- The Internet – It’s fast, centralized, and cost-effective. Traditional print media and many retailers are dying compared to Internet retailers like Amazon (who represent between 35-45% of internet consumer sales, and are growing at about 20% per year.)
- Pricing, Stock, Forecasting, and Value – Now with the ability to reach customers in remarkable ways, you must consider all of these as part of your plan.
- Product Expectations and Customer Service – You’re a brand. People expect a certain kind of quality based on your target demographic, so keep that aligned with your goals.
- Develop, Test, Measure, Adapt – This is the scientific method for a Lean Startup Strategy, and thanks to the Internet you can do all of this really quickly. One of the key recommendations of Eric Ries in The Lean Startup is to “test, measure, and pivot until you get it right.”
- Customer Retention – Satisfied customers are the best, most cost-effective way to grow a business.
- Traditional Advertising – While firms generally are spending less money on traditional media, it can still be an important component of good marketing (especially if your products and services lend themselves to such media).
- Distribution – How are you selling your products or services? Trends in distribution are changing rapidly, and your process needs to be in sync with the times. For example, automation and customer service are replacing the direct salesperson. Money can be saved by eliminating traditional channels and substituting direct shipping and the Internet
- Integration – The key to an excellent marketing plan is to employ all of the tools you consider relevant and affordable, and to develop a targeted plan with clear action steps and benchmarks. First and foremost, the plan must fit your goals and your budget. It is then critical to measure the results and adjust to maximize your goals and profit.
- Risk and Openness – I encourage you to consider more risk in our changing environment, and I also suggest changing the business culture to encourage more risk-taking. I often say, “If you aren’t making mistakes, you aren’t trying hard enough.” Mistakes mean you and your business are growing. Consistently exploring alternatives and evaluating your decisions will help you figure out what’s working.
- Measurement – A number of general guidelines should be followed when making goals and measuring them. First, make goal-setting a process and communicate these goals to those involved. Second, be certain to understand the different needs in different situations. Third, be sure to use clear and simple measurement tools. Fourth, be sure to use the process for improvement (rather than simply as a tool for criticism). Focus on the mediums that work the most; not based on trends, but on what has the best outcomes.
Dr. Bert Shlensky has an MBA and PhD from the Sloan School of Management at MIT. He is the President of the New York-based consulting firm The Startup Connection, where he uses his 30 years of high-level business experience to guide his clients towards maximum sales and profit. For a free consultation, please visit www.startupconnection.net.