Although lot of research and writing is being done on formulation of marketing strategies, little has been said about execution of those marketing strategies. Many problems arise when the marketer fail to properly execute strategies in the market place. It is said that 70-80% of new product launches fail in the market. Most of them fail not because of lack of strategies but because of poor implementation.
For example, most of the Customer –Relationship programs fail at the implementation stage where the program gets morphed into a crude form of database marketing.
Poor implementation of marketing strategies can either dilute the effectiveness or can accelerate failure faster. Unlike other functional areas like finance or production, marketing implementation is external in nature. Take the case of advertising or personal selling, the implementation happens outside the organization. The parties involved in the implementation process are also external. Marketing implementation also requires co-ordination with various other functions like production, finance human resources etc. Hence managing implementation becomes both complex and critical.
For example, when the management decides to cut production costs, the implementation remains largely simple because it is internal. But a decision to reduce marketing expenses will have far reaching effects on various stakeholders like channel members, advertising agencies, media, sales personnel and customer.
There are lot of factors that marketers should focus in order to ensure proper implementation. Most often, implementation is confused with control. While control is of utmost importance, it only helps to correct deviations from the standards. Implementation is more than control. Implementation is about skills, communication, teamwork and culture.
Marketers tend to focus on systems and process for effective implementation forgetting the human side of implementation. Process orientation alone is not sufficient in marketing implementation because the implementation environment is dynamic in nature. In order to make perfect execution of marketing strategies, one has to look at the skill set of the managers who are in charge of implementation.
Harvard Business School Professor Thomas V Bonoma in a 1984 Harvard Business Review article ‘Making your marketing strategy work ‘identified four critical skills for effective implementation. They are
Interaction skills : Providing leadership to the team and communicating
Allocation skills: Allocating right resources to the right team at right time.
Monitoring skills: Controlling and monitoring on a continuous basis
Organising.skills: Identifying and organising resources and creating an execution culture.
These human skills are a necessary condition for marketing strategy programs to work. In most of the marketing organizations, the implementation is the responsibility of the middle-level managers. Hence it is important that these managers are having execution skills for implementing the marketing strategy.
While implementing strategies, firm must take an objective view of its implementation capabilities of its managers before venturing into execution. It also has to see whether the managers have the ability and the authority to interact, allocate, monitor and organize the necessary resources to execute.
Most of the implementations fail because of lack of communication between the planners and the implementers. Marketing plan should be treated as an execution manual and the implementers should be able to understand the essence of the strategy.
It is also important to encourage communication flow from the external stakeholders like customers and channel partners to the top level executives. Often, these communications do not reach the senior management. Feedback sessions and other communication channels should be tapped in order to make sure that the management gets the real time feedback from the market.
Employees are also a vital element in your implementation plan. In an organization, it is important that the implementation team is also aware about their role in the marketing plan.
This is especially important in the sales management perspective. The quality of customers and the quality of presentation will have a great impact on the success of marketing implementation. The recent sub-prime crisis is a classic example of a failure of proper implementation. While the strategic plan envisages acquisitions of quality assets, the implementation team went after poor quality assets.
Managers must device new communication channels to connect with the internal partners. Companies extensively use internal chat forums and blogs to keep talking to the lower layers of the team.
It is also important to get the commitment of the implementation team for the flawless execution of the marketing strategy. Employees tend to perform better if they realise the relevance of their role in the overall strategic vision of the firm.
Marriott International is famous for its exceptional customer service. The staffs of the hotel called as Marriott Associates represent a remarkable example of commitment and initiative. Once, a very young guest left her favourite Teddy Bear in the hotel while checking out. The staff found the teddy and safely returned it to her home .Although this sounds trivial, it made a big difference to that little guest. This happened because of the commitment of Marriott Associates to take customer service excellence to perfection. No where in the service manual, we could have a process or a budget allocation for such acts. These acts should come from the employees themselves.
It is important to create a culture of execution in the organization. This has to be consciously created and not to be hoped for. For creating a culture, it is important to have the involvement of top management. Execution oriented culture can be developed by encouraging team members to perform without worrying about failure. One of the biggest resistances to change is the fear of failure. This fear causes managers to tread cautiously.
Organizations should encourage the marketing implementers to fearlessly execute their tactics. This could be done by bringing in transparency, encouraging communication and clearly spelling out the deliverables.