Living in a vacuum is a problem faced by companies small and large, alike. Making decisions without proper intelligence gathering may be faster, but you are shooting in the dark and hoping to hit the target. Build better active intelligence gathering processes and utilize logic tree decision making to yield better decisions.
Another one of my favorite books and a process I often bring to my clients is detailed in "The 4 Disciplines of Execution" by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling.
The four disciplines or 4DX is focused on helping organizations achieve their strategic goals. The key points include:
1. Focus on the Wildly Important: Prioritize a small number of critical objectives that will have a significant impact on the organization's success. This is key as it is easy to simply get bogged-down in every tasks. Moreover, by selecting a small number of critical objectives that will move the needle it helps avoid being spread too thin.
2. Act on the Lead Measures: Identify and focus on the specific actions (lead measures) that will influence the achievement of the chosen goals. These are proactive measures that drive success. In other words, if your lead measure for increased sales is X phone calls per week to potential customers and you focus on that, then the lag measure, sales dollars, will take care of itself.
3. Keep a Compelling Scoreboard: Create a visible and engaging scoreboard that tracks progress toward the goals. This helps in maintaining motivation, transparency, and a sense of accountability among team members. The bottom line is that we all perform better when we are being visibly tracked and there is a sense of competition.
4. Create a Cadence of Accountability: Establish regular meetings and routines for team members to report on their commitments and progress. This ensures that everyone is aligned and accountable for their contributions to the shared objectives. Accountability breeds enhanced performance.
I like to tell my clients that I want them to become comfortable being slightly uncomfortable. Not so uncomfortable that they are not sleeping at night, but enough that they feel just a touch uncertain as to what is going to work and what won’t. The reality is we don’t know. My job is to take all the information and data I have and make educated guesses. Sometimes, I am 100%. Other times, the market shifts or a competitor does something unforeseen, and the initiative misses its target. There are a number of extraneous variables, outside your direct control, that can influence the success or failure of your marketing plan. The best you can do is be aware and be nimble.
You should plan for such potential shifts with regular review meetings. Depending on the complexity of your plan and how truncated the sales cycle is (some companies do a majority of their sales in one quarter), you will want to have these meetings monthly or quarterly.
During these meetings you will want to accomplish the following:
“No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.”
Now you are in the thick of it. You have scrummed, schemed, planned, and socialized, and now is the time to put that plan into action. There is no turning back now.
Executing a great marketing plan for the coming year requires thoughtful planning, ongoing monitoring and adaptation, and a touch of humility. Here is the play-by-play:
1. Review and Finalize Your Marketing Plan:
Ensure that your marketing plan is well-documented, with clear objectives, strategies, tactics, and a timeline for the year. Make sure all team members are aligned with the plan.
2. Allocate Resources:
The plan should have outlined the budget, personnel, and technology resources needed to execute properly. Ensure that all necessary resources are secured.
3. Assign Responsibilities:
Define roles and responsibilities for your marketing team. Clearly communicate who is responsible for each aspect of the plan.
4. Establish Performance Indicators (KPIs):
Your KPIs for each goal should have already been established but take it down to the next level so that the individual contributors working on the tactics know what they need to get done and what success looks like. Tactical KPIs should roll up into the larger goals. This information will help you gauge the success of your efforts and make data-driven decisions.
5. Create a Content Calendar:
Develop a content calendar that outlines when and where specific content pieces will be published. This includes blog posts, social media updates, email campaigns, and more.
6. Launch Campaigns:
Begin executing your planned marketing campaigns and initiatives. Ensure that each campaign is launched on schedule and according to your strategy.
7. Content Creation and Distribution:
Create and distribute high-quality content that aligns with your marketing goals and resonates with your target audience. This may include blog posts, videos, infographics, and more.
Depending on your market and your target audiences the execution of your plan may include:
8. Social Media: Maintain an active presence on relevant platforms.
9. Email Marketing: Execute email campaigns and monitor performance.
10. SEO: Optimize your website for search engines.
11. Paid Advertising: Monitor and adjust paid ad campaigns for ROI.
12. Legal Compliance: Ensure marketing efforts comply with regulations.
The execution phase requires an “implement and adjust” mindset, where you will move forward as outlined in your plan but with wary eye towards what may require adjustment. Make sure you are regularly reviewing how your target audience and the market is responding to your efforts and adjust accordingly.
The scrum brought together all your data and metrics and started the process of taking this information and turning it into concrete goals and initiatives. Now is the time to turn this into a real plan.
Very specific. The scrum was a great start, but you want to go deeper. Your marketing plan should list out each goal or objective with a quantifiable measure for success and then under that objective, the tactical initiatives that will be employed to achieve that goal. Further, under each tactical measure, list out the subcomponents that need to be brought into play to make that tactical measure happen. Finally, who is the point person on each tactic and what is the due date. For every goal you need the details of what specifically needs to happen, who is going to do it, when it will be done, and what success would look like.
At the end of the day, your plan should include the following:
Your plan may be amazing, but if it is not embraced by middle managers and the people in the field it can easily crash upon the rocks of organizational inertia. I have seen great plans get destroyed by internal staff. To limit this possibility, you need to socialize your newly inked plan and gather input. What do they like? What could be done better? Honestly and earnestly listen to their feedback. You might be surprised. If they have good ideas, incorporate them into the plan. Now, you have a plan with buy-in and your chances of a successful rollout have just doubled.
Your marketing plan is a living document. Things will change, priorities will shift, and your plan will have to change as well, but having that initial source document that functions as a compass for where you are going will make all the difference.
I am sharing another book this month that I highly recommend. If you have not read any books by Ryan Holiday, give him a shot. His books are thoughtful, easy to read, and insightful. Ego is the Enemy explores the destructive nature of ego and offers insights on how to overcome it.
My key takeaways:
1. The Danger of Ego: The ego can be a significant impediment to personal and professional growth. It can blind you to your weaknesses, prevent you from learning, and lead to arrogance and self-sabotage. It is ironic that the thing that can initially lead you towards success can also hold you back, but there it is.
2. Humility: Your ability to suppress your ego and embrace a lifelong learning mindset is what allows you to excel. Ego can prevent you from recognizing your limitations and acknowledging that you have much to learn.
3. Stay in the Present: Focus on the present and, as much as possible, detach yourself from the need for recognition and external validation. The best work is often done quietly and without the need for praise or attention.
4. Resilience and Perseverance: Our Ego can often make us give up too easily in the face of adversity or criticism. With resilience and perseverance, even when faced with setbacks or failures, you can overcome great challenges and stay committed to your goals.
5. Continuous Self-Improvement: Embrace a growth mindset. A commitment to self-improvement and a willingness to learn from every experience will take you far in this world. Ego can hinder this process, so focus on humility and personal development to achieve success.
All order must initially begin with chaos. The scrum is your arena for determining what is critical, what can wait, and how success will be judged in the coming year. It is a fiery debate of data, metrics, and touch of intuition. I am not going to lie, I kind of like it.
Let the Games Begin.
Set a date, establish the team, and have them start gathering the necessary data. You are going to want to have access to all the metrics and customer insights at your fingertips when the process begins. Moreover, establish one person in the organization to act as the lead person to organize the meeting. This person needs to have enough authority to get everyone to do their pre-meeting homework and show up at the required time. If this is left to no one, the meeting will most likely fall behind the list of everyday tasks and will not be done. Discipline in this area is critical. Make it an annualized function that happens at the same time each year – people will get used to it.
A Holistic Approach
Planning is not a job for just one department. A good plan requires many voices; sales, marketing, operations, finance, customer service – all should be involved.
Start with Your North Star: Customers
The customer is the ultimate compass. The initial scrum process is the time to recalibrate this compass and dive into customer insights. Focus on customer needs and challenges and how you can improve their journey from ordering to shipping to payment – anything that enhances their experience is on the table.
Start with Data. While every company is different, your marketing team should be well-versed in the key metrics that drive success. These are the pulse checkers to determine how well the strategy is being enacted. NOTE: Whenever possible opt for lead measures over lag measures. Lead measures are the specific activities that an organization has determined will lead to success (e.g. – an established number of sales calls per week). Lag measures, on the other hand, can only be judged after the fact (e.g.- revenue) and therefore are too late to do anything to influence the outcome. For example, if the revenue number comes in 20% low for the month of April, it is too late when you have that number in hand (in May) to effect any change for April. If, however, you know based on history, that 20 sales calls per week per salesperson produces the desired amount of revenue than that becomes your lead measure, and you focus on that. The lag measure is then used to confirm or deny if the lead measure is accurate. In essence, if your lead measure is correct, the desired lag measure will take care of itself.
From Chaos to Order:
By the end of the scrum, you should have achieved the following:
Maybe I just love the process, maybe I had good coaches, but in my years of running obstacle courses, throwing my body over mud-soaked walls, 5Ks, 10ks, pull up and push-up competitions, and a variety of other endeavors that pushed me beyond what I thought I could do, I never thought about the finish line or what waited for me there.
So, while we as a society like to run for the finish line, keep in mind that the gift is not the trophy or a t-shirt but the endeavor itself. Enjoy the ride – even the hard parts. They made you who you are.