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Implementation: The Key to Effective Marketing If you don't buy a ticket, you can't win the lottery. Find out why the implementation is the most important stage in your marketing plan.

By Al Lautenslager Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I speak to a lot of groups and associations on guerrilla marketing tactics and how they can take your business to a whole new level. I sometimes get feedback from individuals who've attended my workshops but are still challenged by their marketing. When I ask what tactics they've tried to implement that I shared with them, their reply is often, "Well, I haven't tried that yet," or "I haven't had time to implement any of those things." It's no wonder their marketing efforts are still a challenge to them.

Wayne Gretzky, the great hockey superstar, once said "You can't score a goal if you don't take a shot." Marketing without implementation is like trying to score profits without taking the necessary shots. And implementation is one of the largest challenges small businesses and face today.

I can offer suggestions on networking, PR, direct mail, selling, advertising, positioning and online marketing, but unless a small-business owner actually puts these suggestions to the test, nothing will happen. I usually suggest that people do three to five things related to marketing a day. And studies have shown that if you do something every day for three weeks, it becomes a habit. So doing something related to marketing every day for three weeks will become a marketing habit, and a good marketing habit will solve the implementation challenge most businesses face.

Effective marketing implementation starts with managing your marketing activities. Measuring and control are all parts of good management. Using a simple chart to monitor your initiatives will increase your implementation effectiveness. (If you don't have a chart, you can use your marketing plan itself as a review mechanism or develop a marketing management accountability checklist.)

A simple accountability system can consist of a spreadsheet with the following column headers: date, action, details, cost, person responsible, target completion date, date completed and resources required.

The heart of the implementation of a marketing plan is the execution, the actual "doing" of the planned marketing activities. Initiatives don't get completed by stating them on paper--they require action, management and follow up.

Successful marketing implementation requires:

  • Effective and efficient coordination of activities--who's doing what and by when
  • Deflection of distractions or objections by focusing on the tasks at hand and determining where your time is best spent
  • Attention to detail. Guerrillas love details and thoroughness.
  • Staying on top of "who's doing what. Never assume someone else is doing something--guerrillas never assume. It's that simple.
  • Elimination of procrastination. No waiting allowed. If it's good enough to do later, it's good enough to do now. There's no time like now to further your marketing efforts.
  • Over-delivery and under-promising. Delighting your prospects and customers will turn your marketing efforts into sales dollars.
  • Doing what you do best and outsourcing or delegating the rest. Unless you have more than 24 hours in a day, you can't do it all and you certainly can't do it all well.

Accountability is a good marketing habit. Plans fail because those responsible for getting things done aren't held accountable for their assigned tasks. This includes one-person, entrepreneurial businesses. The leader or leaders of the organization must know who's responsible for what and must manage those who are responsible for getting things done. They monitor the specific responsibilities for the specific tasks related to each and every marketing plan component.

For example, you need to determine who's in charge of writing press releases and when they'll be done and issued. Who's going to update the website, and when will it be done? Who will be researching your main competitor and when will each stage of the research be complete? Following up and checking completion and due dates on a regular basis will make sure you're practicing the habit of marketing accountability.

The absence of this follow-up--of asking these questions and holding people accountable to due dates--will almost ensure a lack of implementation and lack of success. And if you're the chief implementer, you have to hold yourself accountable to ensure that implementation gets done. This is tough sometimes for one- and two-person businesses because of the distractions, delivery and daily business routines that have to be done. But it must be done if you want your marketing efforts to be effective.

Remember if you have effective marketing implementation and your competitor doesn't, you have a competitive advantage.

Al Lautenslager

Author, Speaker, and Consultant

Al Lautenslager is an award-winning marketing expert, bestselling author, highly sought-after speaker, consultant, and entrepreneur. He is the principal of Market For Profits, a Midwestern-based marketing consulting firm; former president and owner of The Ink Well, a direct marketing, printing, and a Certified Guerrilla Marketing Coach.

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