The President of the United States is sometimes called the most powerful man in the world. Suppose that the President sends a bill that contains many popular provisions to Congress, and Congress passes it. A signing ceremony is scheduled, the TV cameras are set up, and the President signs the bill with much pomp and ceremony. He makes a short speech about making the United States a better place.
What has changed? Life goes on. People outside the White House continue about their everyday work, worrying about their daily concerns. Nothing really changes until the wheels of government machinery go into action. Money needs to be allocated and transferred. The new law needs to be communicated. Government agencies need to enforce the law or create mechanisms for carrying out the measures in the law.
The Presidency has power as a branch of government because there are systems and people in place to implement laws. With no system, there is no implementation, which means there is no change.
A System for Marketing Execution
As a businessperson, you know about systems and processes: you either have them or know that you need them.
How does this fit into marketing? Marketing activities can be hard to accomplish. Unless you are bumping up against a hard deadline, they often don’t feel urgent—they feel outside the scope of “what needs to be done today.” The changes and initiatives you envision and plan for (either by yourself or with others) won’t get far without someone with “boots on the ground” doing the hard work of implementation and someone providing guidance around obstacles.
Imagining a new brand for your business doesn’t get you one. Deciding that you need a new approach to your advertising doesn’t make it happen. Knowing that you need to get several new dealers signed up and trained doesn’t mean you automatically have time to do it.
This article outlines a simple method you can use to move your marketing projects forward throughout the year. It assumes you have an annual marketing plan and budget in place. This system helps you integrate marketing activities into your schedule and calendar. Remember, “What gets scheduled, gets done.”
Schedule monthly review sessions.
The cornerstone of executing your marketing plan is a review session that happens once a month, every month. Schedule these sessions into your calendar for the entire year, preferably on the same day of the week each month. Based on your business activities, decide whether an early-month, mid-month, or late-month date would work best for you.
At these meetings, you will review the status of projects in progress, make decisions, and plan or launch new projects.
Keep a consistent rhythm.
Settling into the rhythm of these monthly meetings is important. There will invariably be reasons to skip a session once the day arrives, so you will need to prioritize them to keep other things from crowding these out. Over time, you will begin to see the value these sessions bring to your projects and your business overall.
Don’t do it alone.
Include at least one other person in your marketing review session. Who this person is will depend on your business situation. A larger business may have several people involved in marketing projects. For a smaller business, invite an employee or partner who works on or is familiar with marketing issues. Another good option is your outside business advisor or someone from your marketing agency.
There are several reasons not to do it alone. Having someone else scheduled to attend the meeting helps you keep your commitment to holding the review in the first place. But more importantly, their perspective adds depth and balance to your point of view so that you can make better decisions together.
Follow a consistent agenda.
The review session is designed to accomplish two things: 1) effectively manage your projects so that you reach your goals and 2) make changes to your plan based on business developments throughout the year.
Use a checklist like this one for your meeting prep:
- Review S.M.A.R.T. goal progress
- KPIs entered
- All to-dos completed
- Check the status of active projects.
- Check if any upcoming projects should get started this month.
You can use or adapt this agenda to your liking.
- Review “to-dos” from the last meeting.
- Review reports and discuss any issues.
- Review active projects and solve any development or triple constraint issues.
- Kickoff any new projects.
- Any other concerns/questions.
It works well to keep the same agenda as a template for each meeting. It becomes a reliable and consistent framework for your discussions.
Your active marketing projects should be reviewed at least once a month in your review session. Some projects may benefit from more frequent reviews. This review keeps you in control of costs—you will find out sooner rather than later if a project is costing more than expected. The monthly review also keeps you aware of any delays and allows you to change course if needed.
These monthly review sessions give you better control over the outcome of your project, ensuring that the completed project meets your expectations.
Manage the Triple Constraints.
Triple Constraints is a general project management theory that can be applied to many types of projects. We have found it to work well with marketing projects. The three foremost constraints on a marketing project are time, cost, and performance.
Notice how these three constraints are interdependent, standing in tension with each other. Like pushing one side of a balloon creates more pressure on the other side of the balloon, pressure on one constraint requires an adjustment on another constraint to compensate.
- Time: Completing the project by the deadline.
For example, your desired launch date for your new website may not be possible if its features require extensive development, even if you have plenty of budget to pay for them.
- Cost: Completing the project within the budget.
You may need to reduce features on your website if the project starts to go over budget or other resources are not available.
- Performance: Completing the project with the full scope of work or maximum results.
The fewer features and narrower the scope of your website project, the less time and money it will take to complete, allowing you to work within a tighter deadline and smaller budget.
Rosewood was working on a billboard campaign for a client. The project took longer than expected to find the right photograph that we needed for the project. The ones we had were not up to par. This quality issue would fall into the performance constraint. The extra time we needed to spend on photo research meant that we would go over budget (the cost constraint).
In this conflict between cost and performance, which one was most important to the client? That was a choice only he could make, based on his specific situation. In this case, the client decided performance was more important than cost. He adjusted the budget, which allowed us to source the best possible photos.
There are always trade-offs like this because no one has unlimited resources. You should know which constraints are the most important on any given project, because when they conflict, as in the example above, you will need to choose one over another.
Number the constraints in order of priority. Which of the three is a non-negotiable? That will be number one. You need to know which constraint is number one because the other two will need to be adjusted to compensate for the non-negotiable constraint.
When any constraints are at risk, a conversation is needed to discuss these questions: Why is it at risk? What options do we have to deal with it? Should we change the constraint? Should we change the priority order of the constraints?
Communicate with stakeholders.
After your marketing review session, communicate any changes, updates, or instructions to those involved with your projects so that they can continue to move forward. Parkinson’s Law states that “Work expands to fill the time allotted for it.” Your periodic involvement and direction on a project are key in keeping it on track.
Marketing projects involve two seemingly opposing disciplines: creativity and structure. Project management and monthly action sessions are primarily in the structure category. Some of us get bored with the repetitive attention needed to keep the annual plan on track. If this is you, figure out how to stick with it or delegate it to someone trustworthy and capable of handling it for you.
A hefty portion of the success of your projects lies in their execution. As Ray Dalio wrote, “Great planners who don’t execute their plans go nowhere.”