Implementation: It’s Follow-Through or Just Fall Through

 “Vision without execution is hallucination” – Thomas Edison

Alice SmallWe were having an internal strategy planning session for one of our newer clients, and things were going great, when one of our account executives said “All of this stuff is great but if the program doesn’t get implemented like it’s supposed to, it’s going to be considered a train wreck.”  How true, how true.

You see, developing “strategy” is fun on so many levels. It takes thought, understanding, sensitivity to the marketplace, and creativity to come up with a really good strategy.  It’s found everywhere and so everyone wants to get in on that fun. You have MBA courses that emphasize strategy. As marketers we’re concerned with social media strategies, mobile marketing strategies, customer experience strategies, advertising strategies, online strategies, acquisition and retention marketing strategies, sales strategies, and so on and so on.  In fact, any time two or more people in marketing get together, they discuss strategy. A well-crafted strategy is critically important to the success of any marketing initiative, right?

But the most vulnerable part of strategy is the implementation. To deliver results that we as marketers want, we have to find a way to give strategy a life beyond the paper on which it was written and without implementation, even the most dazzling strategy is just words on a page…a hope…an unproven idea. While we all know this to be the case, we don’t necessarily follow through on that knowledge.  You see, too many times, implementation is delegated to one of the junior member of the team or to “specialists” who might not appreciate where their role fits into the whole.

I think we all understand that someone has to do the hard work that puts a strategy into the marketplace. But by the same token, we can’t just assume that everyone who is working away in the trenches on their tactics is actually supporting the overall marketing and business strategy that was created.  We can’t just assume that implementing the various pieces of the program is the same as implementing it in the right way in order to achieve the company’s marketing and business objectives.

We’ve seen implementation snafus, some more legendary or awful than others. From companies running ads for their products that drew people into stores only to find that the product hadn’t arrived. Or a major bank announcing a new customer loyalty program but hadn’t explained the plan to its branch managers. Or, as happened with me this past year, a athletic shoe manufacturer sent me email after email telling me to stop by their upcoming trade show booth and by turning in a printed copy of the email, I would receive a certificate for significant savings off on their athletic shoes. Guess what happened when I showed up at the booth? Yup, no one, and I mean no one at the booth knew anything about the offer. “Don’t know what this is all about” or “No one told us about this” was said over and over again.  So in effect, all the strategy development to get my attention and have me purchase a pair of their shoes (admittedly, at a discount) came crashing to the ground with a large thud.

Poor coordination and communication, and a poorly implemented strategy has led to as many market failures as a poorly conceived strategy…maybe even more.  As well, too often, marketing is criticized for not having measurable indicators of effectiveness and success.  Too often, marketers have taken the easy road, measuring their likes, followers, or the number of comments they get on Facebook or other social media.  These metrics simply measure tactics. But the measure of a strategy’s success is, quite simply, in the revenues. And those revenues are directly affected by how the strategy is implemented.

Today’s marketing executives must manage the organization’s marketing operations and not just oversee them.  It’s where the fundamentals of how the various tactics work together (or don’t) that marketing success will be determined.  Simple implementation is not all that  difficult.  Implementing cohesively (getting everyone on the same page with the same level of commitment) is the hard part.

For those leading the marketing operations of their organizations, remember that it’s not just about the strategy. You can have the best strategy, you can even frame it and put it up on the wall, but if you’re not executing correctly…it’s just artwork.


Rolf Gutknecht is vice president, director of account services for LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Rolf on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit  You can also connect with Rolf on LinkedIn.

This entry was posted in Advertising, Marketing, New Business, Sales & Marketing, Strategic Planning, Strategy, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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