“IT IS NOT ENOUGH TO AIM, YOU MUST HIT.”
~ ITALIAN PROVERB
WHATEVER YOU SAY, do not bring up the “Build it and they will come” mantra to Christopher Tompkins.
When it comes to sales and marketing strategies, execution is everything. So, if you are going to recommend sitting around waiting for a plan to come to fruition, forget about it.
The outdated mantra—i.e., sitting around twiddling one’s thumbs—is just one of those things that drives him crazy. Tompkins, founder, head strategist and CEO of The Go! Agency, is one of those “if-you-are-going-to-do- something-just-do-it-now-don’t-talk- about-it” marketers. The philosophy, which seems like a no-brainer on the outside, is something that too many marketing agencies struggle with, whether they do not have enough faith in their ideas, are not fully sold on the strategy or not excited about diving in for a fear of failure.
“Many marketers are not sure how to track the success of their ideas or where they would fit in the overall picture of the marketing strategy,” Tompkins says.
As Tompkins sees it, many ideas—or brainstorming meetings—must have a bit more structure so that the ideas generated can be put into the right “buckets” for further discussion and planning. Being bold, especially in times where bold is rewarded, is a move he recommends. Just make sure you know what your overall strategy looks like first.
“I always advise to consider your team and company ethos when building any strategy,” Tompkins says. “You work together as a team, so you must have elements of the strategy—or the results you wish to gain through execution—that directly benefit the team, either monetarily or enhancing their feeling of success and worth. You must also show how your strategy will build and fortify your company for years to come. Remember: It isn’t always about what you want; it is about creating a triple win: for you, the company and your employees.”
Tompkins recalls the strategy a recent client that offers a socially conscious apparel brand implemented. The company planned to sell a certain type of merchandise, but because it is supportive of different causes, it created a new line of T-shirts with a unifying message. Sold at cost, all proceeds from the shirts were earmarked for charity. The brand not only gained massive media attention, but also increased awareness at grassroots level, resulting in even more sales. The success formula: The company created the T-shirt line, stuck to its goals, and reaped the benefits.
When it comes to execution, there are two paths you can follow: strategic thinking and strategy execution plans. Strategic thinking involves using the right metrics, goals, and KPIs during the brainstorming and planning processes. Strategy execution is using these metrics, goals and KPIs to track the effectiveness of your campaign and make adjustments along the way. “It is important not to confuse the two as they are mutually exclusive,” Tompkins says. “You need the thought process to set things up for success, and the execution portion to track, refine, and access the success.”
And if you think your planning is apt to be derailed due to these unparalleled times, think again. Tompkins says this is the perfect time to dust off any ideas that may have been set aside, and reinforce your internal processes and how to deliver your message. He believes today is a “Refocusing Revolution.”
“Anyone that is focusing on making positive changes and looking to the future by implementing new processes and strategies will be the ones that really reap the biggest spoils during this time,” Tompkins says. “Those who sit around and wait for normality to return will be left behind. Change, refocus and renew or you will be blow away with the wind.”
Where is the Breakdown?
LACK OF LEADERSHIP. Lack of a champion or cheerleader. Corporate culture. Internal bureaucracy. Past history. Afraid of commitment, especially in uncertain times. When it comes to delaying that idea you have been wanting to implement, it could be any of the aforementioned reasons.
But it does not have to be. Edward Segal, CAE, Crisis Management Services believes there is a thin line between thinking about something and doing something about it. The 30 year veteran in crisis communications has witnessed just about everything you can imagine.
If there is one thing he knows it is that without execution, your ideas will not become reality—turning into an endless cycle of unfulfilled promises and proposals.
“You can fall victim to paralysis by analysis and get frozen in place,” says Segal, author of “Crisis Ahead: 101 Ways to Prepare for and Bounce Back from Disasters, Scandals, and Other Emergencies” and host of the weekly “Crisis Ahead” podcast. “It is about forcing companies and organizations to take a hard look at how they do business and may make it easier to overcome traditional challenges that prevent things from being decided or enacted quickly.”
For proof, Segal says to look at how Amazon did its part to keep the national supply chain working so that essential goods are delivered in a timely and effective manner during the past five months. “You need to create or update standards and guidelines for what constitutes success and establish criteria for what will justify pivoting.”
The tenets for success rest in how easy your plan can be achieved, the availability of required resources, budget constraints, creating a realistic time frame and having a sense of urgency. “You have to find ways to have your team own your ideas or be able to claim/share some credit for them.”
Getting a buy-in from your team is a critical part of your execution strategy. Tompkins says that now more than ever people have a little more time to thoughtfully sit down and have a conversation, so talking shop and seeing what trends they see—even what they have seen to work for themselves or their own peers, is absolutely invaluable. “That is way more important than spending hours on market research and trend analysis. All of this data at the moment is in a constant state of flux.”
If you want your idea to succeed, the plan is simple: Create a strategic plan. Set your budget for execution. Make sure you have the bandwidth to get the idea implemented. Create strict measurements and reporting structure. And, more importantly, have the flexibility to change on a dime if you see one piece of the strategy is more effective than another.
Do that, and there is not anything from keeping your idea from being executed.
by MJ Pallerino