Blog post

An Idea without Execution is a Dream

By Jennifer Polk | October 23, 2015 | 2 Comments

digital marketing

Marketers are known for creative ideas, but an idea without execution is a dream. Much attention is paid to strategy, vision and planning, but equal or greater time should be devoted to putting plans into action. This is where the rubber meets the road. It’s the day-to-day routine comprised of seemingly mundane tasks. Yet, it makes all the difference. How do you shift gears from planning to execution? How do you turn ideas into outcomes? It starts with finding the right people and casting them in the right roles.  It requires processes that enable speed and agility. It relies on technology in order to achieve scale, track results and change direction on the fly.

Here are some ideas to best use people, process and technology to improve your marketing execution:

Use People, Process and Technology to Improve Marketing Execution


There are visionaries, and, then there are practitioners. Bring in a visionary upfront to brainstorm big ideas and develop marketing strategy. But, once you’re in execution mode, you’re not looking for someone to rewrite the plan. You’re looking for someone to adopt and implement that plan, with an eye toward optimization. Hire or staff people with experience, skill, speed and agility.  If possible, find marketers on your team, or within your agency team, who have executed a similar campaign or tactic before and who can point to demonstrated successful results. This doesn’t mean ignore people who bring creativity and fresh perspective. Rather, it means find people who can infuse new ideas into the existing plan and who are willing to take ownership for integrating and executing those ideas.


Marketing budgets are on the rise, but marketers still operate with lean resources. This is where process comes into play. If you’re running a lean team, managing a tight timeline or trying to stretch your budget, process can make the difference between success and failure. And, when you’re moving fast and you lack process, it’s easy to miss details that distinguish a good program from great program. Start by defining the execution process, with a focus on repeatable steps that can help your team find a rhythm.  Then improve the process by removing or reducing redundant or unnecessary steps. Finally, streamline execution by implementing automation (stop manual button pushing), workflow management (stop back and forth emails), dashboards (stop redundant reporting) and notifications (stop watching everything, watch what matters).


Technology budgets often go toward infrastructure, but be sure to carve out some dollars for marketing execution. Start with a multichannel campaign management tool that enables execution across media, mobile, social, email and search. If you can’t afford a comprehensive marketing platform, start with a tool that enables marketing automation on the channels you use most often, like a stellar email service provider. As you pick providers, focus on those that meet your current marketing execution needs and have a healthy product roadmap. This improves the likelihood that they’ll be able to meet your future needs. Also think about their ability to offer connections to other technology, both infrastructure-level technology like a data management platform and point solution providers that may offer best-of-breed capabilities.

There’s nothing wrong with marketing planning. As the adage goes, “If you fail to plan, plan to fail.” However, success depends on more than just the plan. It requires executional excellence. What are your top tips for marketing execution?

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  • As I see it, the huge roadblock to progress is still the digital marketing talent shortage. Most companies have a limited ‘talent puddle’ of skilled practitioners that are able to work on progressive market development strategies. Meanwhile, the majority of their old-school marketers have not attempted to learn the required new skills — so marketing organizations are dominated by staff that view the world through their legacy media-buyer mindset. To them, digital marketing merely means buying Google Ads or advertising placements on Facebook and LinkedIn. What can a CMO do when 80+ of their current team are not skilled for today’s demands? Clearly, it’s a big ongoing challenge.