Marketing plan implementation

Getting things approximately right is better than getting them exactly wrong, so you want your marketing plan to work as an overall strategy and not simply as a series of tactical details.

To implement marketing plans, there are 15 factors that matter.

The Implementation Profile1 was designed to help managers implement projects and systems in organizations. The idea was to compare (profile) a project against an empirical database of other successful and unsuccessful projects. The resulting profile would give managers an indication of the current project's chance for success as well as guidelines for managing the implementation process. This was done for 12 factors including management support, personal stake, goal congruence and availability of resources to get the implementation job done.

By analogy, the 15 marketing implementation factors can be used to profile the marketing organization against a benchmark. If there are problems or issues with any of the factors, the chance of implementation failure will increase. Since the implementation profile concept applies to both new products and existing products, a poor profile would indicate a high chance of failure. But rather than leaving things to fate, the profile provides guidelines for where and how to improve the product's chance of success.

The profile factors help to explain the success or failure of overall marketing plans as well as marketing strategy for individual products. But by looking at products specifically we can more easily see the main factor in product—and ultimately marketing—failure.

For example, why have product failure rates not changed significantly in 30 years despite significant advances in marketing science? In a word, the answer is bias. Or in two words, ego involvement.

Consider automobile products. General Motors bankruptcy had many causes, but one of the main ones was a decades-long series of product failures. From the rebadged-Chevy Cadillac Cimarron through everyone's favorite ugly Pontiac Aztec to the more recent black-holing of Oldsmobile (see illustration), GM consistently thought they had big winners. The demise of the Saturn brand was perhaps even worse. In just a few years the "A Different Kind of Company, A Different Kind of Car" became the same kind of company, the same kind of car. What could account for GM managers missing things like this except for ego involvement?

Standing in front of industry analysts, Starbucks executives gleefully proclaimed that the coffee chain's rapid-fire expansion was so successful it could even support two outlets in one building. Not only that, executives bragged, but the brand was so strong it could be used to sell everything from Scrabble boards to breakfast sandwiches.

Company executives now freely admit that such thinking was largely to blame for the woes that led to the closing of hundreds of U.S. stores and the elimination thousands of jobs.

Source: MSNBC.COM, July 2, 2008

Product managers have high exposure for product success or failure, and so they are expected to be ego involved. To the extent that a new product is a pet project, they are expected to be further ego involved. The rub is that, because of their ego involvement with new products or existing products, managers overestimate demand, setting off a chain of events that results in actual or relative product failure. Due to overconfidence—itself the result of bias due to ego involvement—products get launched that should not be launched. Resources go to products that do not deserve them. Managers may succeed but their products fail.

Ego involvement can be controlled through the makeup of product teams and overconfidence through the solicitation of "outside" views. By understanding and controlling for these factors, companies can get things approximately right rather than exactly wrong.

Can you doubt that Starbuck's management would have been better off considering ego involvement as a danger rather than letting ego dictate a marketing plan that threatened the entire retail concept?

Besides ego involvement, there are many other behavioral and organizational factors that get in the way of sound marketing decisions. These include situational factors such as management by common sense (which is inconsistent with management by logic), management factors such as lack of organizational support for marketing, marketing factors such as departmental conflict (as in the traditional marketing vs. R&D friction) and individual factors such as personal stake, where, if there is nothing to gain, individuals will not try to gain at all and goal congruence, where, if an individual's goals are not the same as the organization's, individuals will be less likely to cooperate.

Success is good. An implementation profile shows how to achieve it.

1Randall L. Schultz and Dennis P. Slevin, "The Implementation Profile," Interfaces, Vol. 13, No. 1 (February 1983), pp.87-92.

Summary of the marketing logic

  • Strategy dominates tactics.
  • Great tactics will not save a poor marketing strategy.
  • Even a good marketing strategy will fail if not implemented correctly.
  • Get an "outside" view to compensate for ego involvement.


Follow up


More on Product Failure

Original paper reporting experimental results

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