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Marketing #101, Tip #4: It's Not a Sprint

Updated: Jan 1, 2023

It takes 16 weeks of training, a healthy diet, desire, and a plan to run a marathon. That plan will take you from the first day of training to race day. When race day comes, you work your plan. This is called plan execution. It usually takes time and it's something that you can't race through.

Marketing is similar. You research, prepare, develop a plan, and, when the time comes, you execute your plan. That is the general course of business. But many companies and organizations struggle with this last part, execution. So we are going to give you a few ideas on to avoid that mistake. Side Note... Our company, this website and most of our Blogs are dedicated to marketing and marketing tips. But today’s topic covers principles that can relate to planning in general. It could be a marketing plan, budget plan, sales plan, recruitment plan, etc. Without execution, a plan is just a wish.

Let’s kick off this week’s blog with thoughts from another expert.

Lee Colan wrote in a 2014 article for Inc. magazine that you need three things to take your plan from concept to actionable. They were: 1) Sharp Focus 2) Build your Competence

3) Ignite your Passion. You can read the article here and learn more about Lee online. . These are sound fundamentals and easy to agree with. But I have three alternatives that simplify executing a plan even more.

In my 20+ years of experience in marketing and in helping hundreds of businesses, the best companies at executing a plan had these three things in common: 1) Someone was in Charge 2) There was a Clear Process 3) Established Timelines. Let’s break these down:

  1. Someone in Charge: A plan needs a clear leader. And it’s best to have only one leader. This leader shouldn’t rule without advisers and should certainly get input from the team. However, when the time comes for direction and final decision, there should only be one voice. Again, not that they have to act alone. Getting input, advice, and information from your team is very important. Those that do lead this charge do not have to be the owner, CEO or even the CMO, but once given the power to make decisions, this one person should be the ultimate "decider” (shout-out and thanks to GWB for the term "decider"). Another person once said, “Hierarchy is the bones, but collaboration is the beating heart.” This is very true in successfully executing a plan.

  2. Clear Process: Your process for executing a marketing plan can be as simple as going from Point A to Point B and then to Point C. First, it’s important that the leader of this project is clear and consistent with the process. Then equally important is that the process for execution is clear and the messaging of it is consistent with the. Consistency does not exclude flexibility. The plan should be reviewed and the progress measured throughout its lifecycle. If at any time changes needs to be made, then changes should occur. What shouldn’t change is the leadership, team members, workflow to accomplish the goal of getting results through the end of the plan.

  3. Established Timeline: If you don’t have direction, you will go in any direction. The same is true with time. If don’t know how long it should take to go from Point A to Point B, then take however long you like. We will see at Point B sometime in the distance future. Timelines are important throughout, the starting with the end and working backwards. Think of it as you would when you build a house. You start with the date you want to move in, let’s say November 5th. Inspections need to be done by October 15th. Finishing work, paint, flooring and lighting done by October 10th. Electric, plumbing, HVAC done by October 1st. Interior walls up by September 20th. Repeat this process until you at your start date of breaking ground on August 1st. This is the same for your marketing plan. For example, we want to grow sales by 5% by the end of the fiscal year, December 31st. Final recap of sales are due by December 1st. The final Ad campaign recap due November 30th. Sales promotion ends October 15th. Launch advertising campaign announcing Sales promotion by August 1st. Research for Ad Campaign due by June 15th. Prior year Analysis due by May 1st. No matter if your details are more complicated and your timelines need more goals or if you need three steps with end dates in mind, set timelines along the way. It not only keeps you on point but will help keep the plan, and team moving forward.

It’s crucial that you have a system in place to execute your plan. Winging it won't work.

It starts with having someone in charge, then having a clear process on how they and the team will move through the plan, and use timelines to keep moving forward and measure progress. These are three uncomplicated steps that don’t need to be dressed up and made over-complicated. Let the competition do that. Keep it simple and don’t overthink it.

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