Out of the Clouds, Into the Weeds

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Who would have thought as a chief marketing officer or vice president of marketing, or whatever high-level you hold, it would be difficult to focus on execution? Every day, I work with my clients on this exact issue. In fact, I would say this is the most common issue I see within marketing teams today.   

No good brand or campaign is built without great strategic planning. I’m the last person who’s going to sit here and tell you strategy isn’t important. That said, there’s a trend in the marketing and advertising space where the desire to gather data and build big strategy documents has caused marketing leaders to disregard tactical thinking.  

Marketing leaders are so driven by their goal to stay 30,000 feet above the ground they’re either scared to get their hands dirty or don’t respect the most important part of any marketing effort: Execution.   

Here are three tips for leading your team through execution without losing sight of strategy.   

  1. Maintain and Grow Your Knowledge. 

    Do you have the right resources in place to get from a concept to an execution that customers actually see and engage? Are there inefficiencies within your internal team and vendors that will hinder your ability to ship the work?  

    It is nearly impossible to answer those questions unless you have working knowledge of what it will take to execute the marketing tactics in your plan. Maintaining a working knowledge of the time it takes to create content, manage media, and what technologies are required is imperative to not only succeed in execution, but also eliminate risk of inefficiencies.  

    Never let your drive to be more strategic take away from your knowledge and understanding of the tactics and execution. Great strategists always know how to get the most out of their execution team because they actually understand what they do that gets results.  

  2. Don’t Be Afraid to Let Tactical Ideas be a Part of the Strategic Process.

    A common misconception: Marketing strategy should never be influenced by tactical thoughts or ideas. This is the kind of thinking that leads to slow execution. Finding the right balance between conceptual thinking and tactical execution is key – and that is the most important part of any marketing leader’s role in the process.  

    A typical issue we see in the concepting phase is that no one is challenging the team to actually consider how we will execute high-level ideas. Simply asking in a meeting, “How are we going to bring this to life on our channels?” or “How do we actually get this done?” can make a huge difference in successfully going from conceptual thinking to an executable idea. 

  3. Project Management is the Key to Success.

Every strategic session, every meeting, even every brainstorm or concepting session needs to end with someone establishing the next steps needed to get the ideas discussed to see the light of day. The not-so-secret weapon in successful execution is project management. The production and distribution of work that follows concepting and creative is complex.  

The key to successful execution is making sure someone is responsible for owning the follow up. Having this process in place and a team that respects it is the difference between ideas dying on a Post-It® on the wall or being a game-changing campaign.  


It’s becoming more important than ever to emphasize getting great work in front of the customer, and not just to the boardroom. In this golden age of data, it’s easy to forget that execution is the most important aspect of marketing. In order to achieve goals and improve KPIs, work actually has to get done and shipped.