An ongoing debate exists in the marketing industry that begs the following question: Is it more important to devise a marketing strategy or to execute actions to achieve your goal?
There are good arguments all the way around this debate, but when it comes down to it, the answer is really… neither. You simply can’t be successful without either one.
The problem, however, is that many companies, consultants, and marketers do a lot of “theory” and talking, without taking it beyond that. They can sit around and discuss all the latest marketing tactics and even try to put them in place, but in the end, it’s all for naught if they don’t develop a solid strategy and execution steps to make it work for their business.
It’s like school—you can sit in a classroom and learn all the information and theory that is taught to you, but what good is it unless you can apply it in real life? We all know this, but as marketers, we forget that it works the same way. Understanding theory is helpful, but you need to know how to develop a strategy and execute that strategy to actually see results.
From Marketing Theory to Strategy & Execution
Successful marketing is really a 3-part process that involves following sound marketing theories, creating a detailed strategy, and executing that strategy. Let’s look at each of these steps in more detail.
Follow Sound Marketing Theory
Marketing theory is the science of marketing. It’s the “rules” and guidelines we follow. It’s the methods we use to form our strategies.
Marketing theory can lead to strong marketing strategies, but too often, we get stuck on the former. We might feel as though we are getting things done by talking and learning about various types of marketing theory, but in essence, we are just spinning our wheels.
Mike Roach, CEO of CGI, was quoted as saying, “Strategy without execution is hallucination!” If that is true, then marketing theory without strategy and execution is psychosis. It’ll get you nowhere.
Create a Detailed Marketing Strategy
According to strategy-business.com, strategy is “the series of choices you make on where to play and how to win to maximize long-term value. Execution is producing results in the context of those choices.”
Your marketing strategy is your map. It’s like a light shining in the darkness, guiding every decision you make. Without it, you’re driving in the dark without headlights, expecting to find your destination and not crash in the process.
Your strategy shines light on the road ahead, making it clear when you could veer off path and driving you forward in the right direction. With it, you’re able to work your way around your obstacles, follow your objectives, and illuminate the choices that will get you to your goal efficiently.
According to the Small Business Association, only about 50% of small businesses succeed within the first 5 years. It’s not that businesses don’t have some sort of plan in place; the problem is that most small businesses don’t have a clue how to map out a plan that will lead them to success.
They don’t have a strategy that is based on sound evidence, data, and experience. Instead, they read a lot of marketing theory and try a lot of different things.
That is not the same thing as having a strategy.
Without a sound strategy, companies struggle to keep up with their competition, they miss opportunities that would lead to better results, and they win fewer customers.
Execute Your Marketing Strategy
Execution is what seals the deal. Without it, no strategy will be realized, which is why it’s crazy that so many companies create a business plan and then file it away in a binder on a dusty shelf.
We know that we can’t get anywhere in business or life if we don’t take action, so too often we find ourselves spinning our wheels moving from idea to idea. We’re taking action, but it has no real strategy behind it.
When we skip over strategy and start executing based upon abstract marketing theory, we’re shooting in the dark hoping we hit something, but we rarely hit the thing we want to hit. Unfortunately, that’s what too many companies are doing.
We should use marketing theory to inform our decisions and help us plan our strategy, and when we do that, our execution will be solid.
Why Companies Struggle with Marketing Strategy & Execution
There are so many reasons why it’s easy for companies to struggle with strategy and execution…
Where to Start?
Right off the bat, it can be downright scary to figure out where to start when it comes to drawing up a strategy and executing it to success. Digital marketing has become more and more complicated as new technologies and opportunities keep cropping up.
With so many options, how can companies choose? How do you know which marketing ideas to subscribe to and which ones to ignore? Just because one marketing theory works for one company or even thousands of companies doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for another company.
How to Maneuver the Marketing Paradox of Consistency & Change?
The fact that marketing is ever changing makes it that much more difficult to execute a sound strategy. How do you know where to place your time, money, and energy? And what if you put all that effort into 1 or 2 marketing tactics and then they lose their effectiveness?
How do you create something concrete that is ever changing? How do you know when to be flexible and change your marketing plan versus when to stay steadfast? After all, remaining consistent is essential when it comes to digital marketing, but so is changing with the times. It’s a paradox that can be difficult to maneuver.
How to Know (Not Just Guess at) Who Your Customers Are?
Most companies don’t spend enough time discovering who exactly their customers are to be able to draft a marketing strategy that will lead them to success. It takes customer data, assessments, feedback, and a lot of investigation to really get to know your customer, but knowing how to compile all of that information can be overwhelming.
Since different marketing tactics should be used for different customers, knowing this is essential, but too many companies guess at who their customer is rather than knowing them in depth.
How to Bring It into the Everyday Details?
Understanding how to integrate your business plan into daily work is not as easy as it might seem. As a result, decisions are often made without the consultation of the marketing strategy, and that means they are not likely to be in alignment with the strategy.
Methods need to be put in place for sharing the company’s marketing strategy with all team members and keeping them on the same page. This ensures the company’s message and interactions are carried out consistently. Expectations and follow-through need to be set up so that there is no duplication, which only leads to wasted time and money. Every decision should be made with the strategy in mind.
How to Not Let Everything Else Get in the Way?
Especially for small companies, one thing or another can come up that gets the business owner off track, and unfortunately when that happens, marketing tends to move to the back burner. Unless time is dedicated each and every week to working a marketing strategy, forward movement in a business is highly unlikely.
Look, here’s the bad news…
For most small businesses, overcoming all of the obstacles that get in the way of creating and executing a sound marketing strategy is not really feasible. Without an in-house marketing team that is skilled and dedicated to marketing planning and execution, it is understandably difficult.
But here’s the good news…
That’s why most small businesses turn to marketing experts for assistance, and when they do, their business explodes.
It is so important to partner with a company that can do more than just talk about marketing theory. Your marketing partner needs to be able to come up with a solid strategy and determine which tactics will best fit that strategy for your unique business.
By moving from a marketing theory focus to a strategy/execution focus, you can move past your obstacles and charter the course to success.