The importance of good planning and execution seems obvious to most of us, and as we continue creating and finalizing our plans for 2014, that importance is even more evident. A good strategy that is well executed has the ability to impact a market, competitive position or business model. Yet, there are many companies at all stages that invest time in planning, but lack the processes and leadership needed to ensure a strategy achieves the desired results. Failure is expensive and wastes precious resources.
What causes execution to go wrong? Two common causes: lack of communication and shifting focus of the strategy. Forbes Insights has conducted studies on why strategic plans fail and has found that an almost all CEOs say “communications is critical to the success of their strategic initiatives and that strategic initiatives often fail due to a lack of understanding, commitment and follow-through by key stakeholders.”
It’s not uncommon for companies to change strategies, the challenge is to be sure the organization can support the shift. For example, if your initial strategy is to compete on price, then your processes and focus need to support the execution of this strategy. If you then try to change your strategy to be one of service, the organization may not have the infrastructure for this strategic shift.
Perhaps a simple way to start addressing execution is to think about how your organization is going to synchronize itself to ensure the right products get to the right customers at the right time. Synchronization is not easy. It can involve reconfiguring supply chains, knowledge of numerous foreign markets, addressing your cost structure and more. Communicating the plan to all the people involved and securing their support are critical to success. It’s common for organizations to resist change.
Managing change and addressing the resistance, which may be well-founded, are important steps. Once the plan is decided upon, the infrastructure and processes put in place to support it, and the organization is on-board, it all comes down to follow-through. Studies continue to indicate that less than 15% of companies routinely track how well they performed in comparison to their targeted performance. The first year’s goals may be measured because they are often tied to bonus thresholds, it’s the follow through that tends to slip. Companies who invest in putting the right people in place to get the right things done and emphasizing process deliver the best results. Companies that combine attention to process with executive development tend to deliver the best return to shareholders.
We like the four steps outlined by experts at Wharton that any company can take to improve the odds of execution success:
1. Develop a model for execution. You can adopt Michael Porter’s theory of comparative advantage, William Sharpe’s capital asset pricing model, or some other model. The important point is to have a model that defines the critical variables to support successful implementation of the plan.
2. Choose the right metrics. Without a doubt sales and market share are going to continue to be the dominant metrics of business, but there are additional metrics that are critical to monitoring performance and success. Keep in mind that marketing is given money to invest on behalf of the organization. The leadership team wants to know how this money is helping the organization achieve more of something, faster, and less expensively then if that money were directed somewhere else. Use these mandates to guide your metrics selection. For example, speed to penetrating new markets as a way of understanding marketing’s impact on achieving something faster.
3. Keep the plan center stage. Once you’ve earned internal and stakeholder buy-in, initiate a formal process that will keep the team engaged and focused. Meetings between the executive team and unit managers should be regular and ongoing and they should foster collaboration, dialogue, and problem resolution in order to maintain momentum.
4. Assess performance frequently. Annual reviews don’t allow the organization to make necessary adjustments. Assess the performance frequently to secure real-time feedback on the quality of execution down the line.
Jamie, the VP of Marketing at one of our manufacturing companies, in a recent conversation expressed excitement about securing someone from the finance group to support marketing data and analytics. “It took 2 years of lobbying but now we’ll be able to make better and more informed decisions,” said Jamie. To which I replied, “Awesome!”
Then, in my usual fashion, I asked a series of rapid-fire questions:
- What decisions are you hoping to make and in what priority order?
- What and where is the data that they will be accessing?
- What is the data capture and management plan?
- Is he just going to start delving into the data( A.K.A. boiling the ocean to see what treasures await) or are there specific insights about customers or the market that you want to gain?
- How will his contribution be measured?
- Is his role specifically digging into and analyzing data- and if so for what?
- Will he serve your team in a broader capacity a.e marketing ops, performance management and reporting?
Well, you can see the line of questioning.
Jamie said, “Whoa, I didn’t really think about what he was going to do or how, I just knew we needed someone who was comfortable with data and analytics because this isn’t my strong suit.” I said, “Adding this capability to your team is a great win, and demonstrating how it will prove and improve the value of marketing will create an even more important win. Now that you have this person, it might be a good idea to take some time to think about and decide function’s scope, role, purpose, etc.”
Jamie said, “Yeah, these are good questions and getting off on the right foot and in the right direction is really important for the team and for him. It almost took a miracle to get this person; we won’t get a second chance at it.”
Jamie asked if we could schedule a meeting next week to discuss things further. I said, “Of course, it would be our pleasure. In the meantime, your person may find our Marketing Operations: Enabling Marketing Centers of Excellence and from Intuition to Wisdom: Mastering Data, Analytics and Models white papers helpful .” As we set a date for our next call, Jamie said in closing, “ Downloading these as we speak.”
None of us would agree to play a card game with cards missing from the deck; we would know that the odds of winning would be significantly diminished. Yet surprisingly, many marketers are willing to implement marketing programs sans analytics.
In the past few weeks I have attended several marketing conferences. At each event, marketers are talking enthusiastically about how to make Web sites, SEO, social media, email campaigns, and mobile better. However, there is very little conversation about how to be smarter. Analytics is an essential card — actually an ace — in every marketer’s deck for enabling fact-based decisions and improving performance, and most importantly, for being smarter.
While the ace alone has value, when played with other cards its power is truly revealed. And when it comes to analytics, the other card is data. Yes — we have all heard the common complaint about the elusiveness of quality data. Unfortunately, data quality has been an issue in organizations for so long that it has now become the ready excuse for why marketers cannot perform analytics. To harness the power of your analytics card, identify your data issues and create a plan to address them.
Another reason that you may overlook this missing card in your deck is that guessing or gut instinct has been working well enough. Unfortunately, this approach may not suffice in the long-term and your “luck” may run out as organizations push to make “smart” decisions. As marketers, analytics is our opportunity to actively contribute to fact-based decisions. Through analytics, marketers achieve new insights about customers, markets, products, channels, and marketing strategy, programs and mix. It also enables marketing to help improve performance, competitiveness, and market and revenue growth.
As the importance of analytics gains momentum, marketers with analytical acumen will be in great demand. According to some resources, the complexities of data analysis and management are becoming so enormous that there is a shortage of people who are able to conduct analysis and present the results as actionable information. Taking the initiative and honing your analytical capabilities will enable you to make sure you have this ace in the deck — and preferably, in your hand.
Most of us are already working with a time and resource deficit. Try to find a way each quarter to bolster you analytical skills. Attend a conference, read a book, take a class, and bring in experts you can learn from. Here are some key analytical concepts and skills to add:
· Quantitative Decision Analysis
· Data Management
· Data Modeling
· Industry and Competitive Analysis
· Statistical Analysis
· Predictive Analytics and Models
· Marketing Measurement and Dashboard
If you can build your analytics strength, you’ll always have an ace in your pocket.
If you’re like us, you probably have one of those piles on your desk that keeps being moved from one corner to another. You know that pile you need to get to but avoid because it will take some real effort to tackle. For many marketing professionals, marketing accountability, analytics and ROI are in this pile. Not too long ago at a marketing conference where Laura was speaking, the organizers had set up round tables with specific topics for discussion over breakfast. Laura was sitting at the measuring marketing ROI (return on investment) table (of course, where else would I be sitting?) which was strategically located right next to the buffet line. While she was sitting there waiting for people to join her, she kept hearing people say, “Oh measuring marketing,that’s just too hard.” There were hundreds of marketers attending this conference, and about 2 dozen tables of 10 were set to accommodate the early risers. Yet only four other brave souls joined her.
We must stop avoiding this topic and tackle the pile. As Sylvia Reynolds the CMO of Wells Fargo says, “Marketing must be a driver of tangible business results…we must start with the goal in mind and a clear way to measure that goal.” ROI is important for accountability–besides being able to justify spending and enable us to run the marketing organization more effectively and efficiently, knowing what is and isn’t working helps marketing achieve greater influence and serve in a more strategic role. Various surveys suggest that over a third and as much as 42% of marketing budgets are not adequate enough to achieve the outcomes and impact expected.
Perhaps your organization like many others is in the thick of budget planning. A key part of budget planning is to establish and validate the money you plan to spend. The more aligned marketing is with the outcomes of the organization and the more the plan includes performance targets and metrics, the more likely you will be allocated the budget you need to achieve the expected results.
So what does it take to tackle this Marketing Accountability pile? Here are six affordable steps any marketing organization can take to start whittling away at the marketing accountability and measurement pile.
1. Focus. Nothing of importance miraculously gets done on its own. To effectively tackle the marketing measurement pile will take all of Covey’s seven habits: from taking a proactive approach and beginning with the end in mind, that is the outcomes you are expected to impact, to keeping the effort a priority when other things present themselves as urgencies to making marketing measurement a win/win for you, your team, and the rest of the organization. More than likely, you are going to need a cross-functional team to tackle this pile – people from finance, sales, IT, operations, etc. working collaboratively together to define the metrics and hunt down and organize the data.
2. Plan an attack. You know that age old question, “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer being, “One bite at a time.” This is true for the marketing accountability and ROI question. If this is a new effort for you, you need to break it into manageable pieces. Quantify your objectives, decide how you will measure them, collect the data that you need to meet the objectives, establish a baseline, gain commitment to the measurement plan, and finally, measure.
3. Get data: “Data is the new creative,” declares Stephan Chase of Marriott Rewards. Establishing metrics, determining effectiveness, understanding efficiencies, all take data. Without data you cannot monitor and measure results. And don’t assume that you have the data that you need to measure your objectives. For example, if you want to measure how many new customers you interest in a new product, you may find that you need first to determine what a “new” customer is. This may require different views of your existing customer records or new strategies for evaluating.
4. Analyze: Once you have the data, the challenge is to generate insights that facilitate fact based decision making. One of the most valuable applications of data and analytics is in leveraging your metrics. The metrics are what enable continuous improvement as you strive to achieve and set new performance standards. Just looking at numbers doesn’t tell you as much as evaluating trends or creating statistical models that help you identify an optimized approach to your marketing efforts. Consider looking at your measurements for what isn’t immediately obvious such as what might have happened if that campaign had gone to the three bottom deciles of customers?
5. Use a systematized process: You may need to set up systems and processes that enable you to capture and track results on an ongoing basis. Many organizations put a substantial amount of energy into initiating these programs and then let them fizzle as other priorities surface. It takes both process and discipline to sustain a measurement effort. Systems help you automate a process so that the process can become a manageable part of your day-to-day operations. Today every marketing organization is moving at a breathless pace. Implementing test and control environment can keep you from having a fatal, head on collision
6. Train. Many marketers are unaccustomed to living in a metrics-based environment. You may need to invest in measurement, analytics, as well as data training and skills development. Start by taking a skills inventory. Find out who in the organization has data management, analytics and measurement skills. Decide what skills they need to perform at your expected levels. Develop training that fills the skill gaps. Doing this in-house allows you to tailor to your needs, but consider courses from universities, associations and external consultants to fill out your requirements.
Moving marketing performance metrics from the “too hard to” pile to the “we can do it” pile can reap rewards for the entire organization.
For more information on Marketing Alignment and Accountability, download our Free White Paper: Charting a Course for Marketing Effectiveness: Alignment & Accountability