A Competitive Strategy and a Killer Marketing Plan are Not Enough

Dr. Brian Monger

Good opportunities, a well conceived competitive strategy and a killer marketing plan are not in themselves enough.

What is required is action.

Results require action

What counts are results.  Results do not occur until something happens, until implementation takes place.  Plans don’t bring results by themselves and won’t work without commitment to success.

Marketing Implementation

Strategy formulation, marketing planning, programming, allocating, and budgeting all lead to marketing implementation. This is the execution phase which produces the actual results.  Poor implementation can ruin even the best strategies, plans, and programs.  The total purpose of all that goes before implementation is to ensure excellent execution.

Implementation means different things to different people in the organisation.  To the salesperson, it means going through all of the steps of the selling process, while to the national sales manager, it might mean reorganising the whole sales force.

Implementation is very people oriented. 

The results of implementation are manifested in people doing things-buying, selling, training, reorganising, etc.  Marketing implementation is different from implementation in most other functional areas because the primary focus of marketing is outside the company.  Thus, marketing implementation focuses on prospects, customers, distributors, retailers, centres of influence, advertising agencies, etc.  But marketing implementation also includes dealing with other functional areas to gain support and to develop coordination.  Product managers, for example, must implement their plans and programs through product development, production, service, and logistics personnel in other functional areas.

It is wise to start considering ways to implement aspects of the plan during the planning process.  This has the double advantage of speeding up the eventual implementation stage but is also ensuring that the plan is able to be implemented.

Marketing implementation is the aspect of organisational structure and behaviour that determine how a given strategy or plan is carried out; specifically, it is the actions of marketing managers, sales and customer service personnel, distributors, and other personnel. The success of any strategy is limited by the effectiveness with which it is implemented.

Facilitating plan implementation

Managers are the key to the implementation process.  To be effective implementers, managers need:

  • The ability to understand how others feel, and good bargaining skills.
  • The strength to be tough and fair in putting people and resources where they will be most effective.
  • Effectiveness in focusing on the critical aspects of performance in managing marketing activities.
  • The ability to create a necessary organisation or network to match each problem with which they are confronted.

Elements of successful implementation of marketing plans

Several years ago McKinsey & Company, attempted to define the key business practices that seemed to characterise well-run organisations.  A McKinsey’s manager, Tom Peters, later summarised the results in his book In Search of Excellence.  Perhaps the most fundamental conclusion of the study was that the most successful companies were successful because of how well their strategic plans were implemented. (In Search of Excellence : Lessons from America’s best-run companies – Thomas J. Peters and Robert H. Waterman, Jr. Sydney : Harper & Row, c1982.)

There are risks in assuming that an organisation’s strategy implementation capabilities are high. The costs and approaches to marketing strategy implementation involve considerable variation across organisations.

The Implementation Plan is an extension of the main (marketing) plan.  It needs to be part of the Strategic Planning and Development process.  Tactical decisions must be measured against the defined strategy to achieve strategic coherence.Each element of the tactical plan needs to be consistent with the overall strategy.  For example when creating advertising copy it is important not to lose sight of the strategic brand thrust just to be creative.

Plan implementation concepts:
  • In reality day-to-day events, shape marketing strategy processes more than formal planning in all firms.
  • Implementation affects strategy effectiveness more significantly than the strategy or the plan’s content.
  • Marketing strategy processes are more effective when the implementers are involved in the strategy development and market planning.
  • Marketing strategy processes are more effective with better information exchange between planners and implementers.
  • The relationship-building skills of individual managers will have more impact on implementation effectiveness than formal planning mechanisms.

 Requirements for successful implementation of marketing plans

Ownership becomes more complex in team-oriented implementation, but ownership also enhances the process by leveraging the unique talents of the team.

Supporting the plan involves gaining organisational commitment to the strategy being implemented (providing time to succeed, resource allocation, communication, and the necessary skills to succeed).

Adaptive planning recognises the essential role of continuous improvement, feedback measurements, persistence, and corrective (staged) implementation.

Perceived Benefits – There must be potential benefits for the CEO, managers and the organisation as a whole.

Understanding the Goals and Objectives – Strategic plans must be explained, applied, and implemented so that the relevant people can understand them.  Is management ready to undertake the processes needed to yield the desired outcomes? Is management ready to make any changes in the structure, operations, and cultural environment to accommodate the needed changes?

Good Timing – As Sun Tzu said (see Chapter 5 – Strategy)When the time is right, act swiftly and decisivelyDo not act precipitously, but do not hesitate when the conditions for victory are present.

Complex planning tasks must be capable of being broken down into smaller elements.

Organisational Design – The plan must identify parts of the business that can be planned for and managed in a strategic manner.

Understanding the Need for Change – To the extent that the plan breaks with tradition, successful implementation occurs as a natural evolution of experience and understanding.  Employees can be quite wary of any kind of change in the business processes, particularly during periods of economic downturn. Ill-trained employees who fight the changes in the business process tend to be poor performers. Therefore, to increase the chance of a successful implementation and to reduce users’ resistance to change, end users, especially those who are very knowledgeable with the operations, must be involved in all stages of the implementation process.

Leadership – New things do not happen without direction and leadership.  The better the leadership the better the implementation

Implementation Team – An implementation team under the auspices of a senior manager must take charge of the implementation process at all times. They must oversee the key processes, reassign job responsibilities, restructure the organisation’s chart, and redefine work relationships. Further, they must also learn how to manage resources and outside suppliers and facilitators.

Roles and Responsibility – There must be a well-defined, readily identifiable sponsor for each planning and implementation task.

Toughness and Focus – This is a key task and needs focus and commitment to succeed.

Experience and Expertise – The more experience and the better the abilities of those responsible for implementation the better the likelihood of successful implementation.

Belief in Success – Good strategists understandthe need for belief in a cause.  This must be thoroughly understood by those who would affect the outcome.  Shared belief creates the necessary unity of purpose among the leaders and those led.

Support – Success is rarely the result of one person’s efforts.  People-related issues such as corporate philosophy and leadership style can play an important role in the implementation process. Research has concluded that active top management support and commitment are essential to the success of any system implementation.

Unity of Purpose – There must be commitment to support and participate in the planning effort by all.

Understanding of the Resources and Their Effective Utilisation – There must be a realistic assessment of resource needs.  This includes making necessary staff and support facilities available, providing necessary budgets for training, meetings, equipment, implementation, and so on.  Is the organisation financially and economically prepared to invest in effective implementation?

Internal Marketing and Communication – Staff and other stakeholders needed in effecting the implementation need to have knowledge and be inspired to act effectively.  Internal marketing (see later in this chapter) is about creating this knowledge and spirit.

Training – Employees must be trained about the plans and implementation. Such training should include a concise introduction to the basic concepts and details. During these training sessions, it is important to discuss the managerial issues involved and to build a basic understanding of the concepts prior to the actual implementation.

Morale and Motivation – Motivation is the driving force behind getting things done.  Morale is the capacity to maintain belief in the organisation and its goals the internal willingness to get things done.  Good organisations also create élan – a vital driving spirit.

Trust – stake holders are going to be more effective in an environment where trust is the norm. Trust forms the foundation for effective communication, employee retention, and employee motivation and contribution of discretionary energy, the extra effort that people voluntarily invest in work. When trust is present, everything is easier.

Tactical Information and Intelligence – Implementers need to be aware of the current situation and changes in their environment/landscape

Prioritising – Strategies are composed of many elements.  They will not all be implemented at once.  In fact many will need to be sequential

The Change Process

Effective implementation often requires organisations to reengineer their business processes in fundamental ways, changing old ways of conducting business, redefining job responsibilities, and restructuring the organisation.

Here is a seven-step process that managers can use to manage change.

The first step is to create a comprehensive change vision and to make the vision operational.

In the second step a change strategy is defined to assess readiness change within the organisation, to select the best change configuration, and to establish change governance.

The third step is to develop leadership, in order to lead the change program.

In the fourth step commitment from teams is built through communication, managing resistance, and transferring of knowledge and skills.

The fifth step is to manage employee and stakeholders’ performance by establishing needs, and implementing performance management and people practices.

The sixth step is to develop a better culture in the organisation by understanding the current culture, and then to design the target culture and to implement cultural change.

The final step is to design the organisation by understanding the current organisation, and then to design the target organisation and to implement organisational change.

Dr. Brian Monger.

Brian Monger is the Executive Director of MAANZ International and a Principal Consultant with The Centre for Market Development.

Did you find this article useful?  Please let me know

Also check out the article on Positioning on http://smartamarketing2.wordpress.com

Contact – info@marketing.org.au

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