Planning for implementation

Having identified one, or several market strategies as part of the Creative Step, it takes hard focused work to develop the core plans that will lead to implementation.

>Sometimes this planning stage can be overlooked in the enthusiasm that comes from deciding the strategy, but planning is essential if the strategy is to be cascaded through your organisation.

Planning for implementation means identifying the areas in your business that your newly created strategy is going to affect, and deciding on resources and timescales that will see change take place.

There are six main elements that need to be considered:

A brief case study of a loyalty scheme illustrates how implementation affects each of these areas.

Internal communication and buy in

Internal communication is the first step in implementation. To get the strategy implemented, your own people have to understand what the strategy is, how it affects them and then use their skills and expertise to help get the strategy implemented. Even the simplest strategies (for instance just changing your packaging) will need explaining to customers by your staff and may have implications to many unexpected areas of the business.

To get this communication and buy-in, being able to articulate the strategy clearly and effectively (the last step in the Creative Step) is essential. So having a strong story to tell that is well thought out and logical helps people internally understand what it happening and why and how they can contribute to the implementation of the strategy.

Aligning structures and people

Once your internal people know of and understand the strategy, you also need to align structures and people to make sure the strategy happens. Because the strategy is new and you are unlikely to have staff with large amounts of free time on their hands, this is likely to involve some changes in work and possibly responsibilities.

For instance you may need to make someone project manager to be responsible for making a product launch happen and giving that person access to resources and other people in other areas to make the launch happen. Such changes therefore may also involve dropping other projects to free up time and resources. If you don't plan for the extra or different work required, there is a danger that the new market strategy won't happen.

Developing new resources

Much of marketing is do with the creation of new products, new promotions or looking for new ways of communicating to the market, and developing such resources requires time and effort.

These new resources needn't necessarily be developed in-house, advertising is a prime example, but time and management effort will still be necessary to get the implementation under way, and there are likely to be additional internal resources that are also needed.

For instance, if you are developing something like a new catalogue sales operation, not only will you have issues about the creation of the catalogue, but you will also have to source the product, possibly sell advertising, and put in place a customer service and logistical operation to ensure fulfilment and returns can be handled appropriately.

Indeed for products such as software, you might also want to involve other partners in the development to make sure it meets their needs and they are able to use it when it goes live.

Ultimately getting your resources right is critical. Typically you can work around internal issues or put temporary fixes in place to allow your staff and systems to catch up. But with new resources such as new products or new advertising it is typically all or nothing at the launch date. So allowing time in your plan for market testing and revision otherwise a great deal of money might be wasted, not because the strategy was wrong, but because the implementation didn't work.

Implementing appropriate systems and processes

Developing new adverts or new products is just the front- end of a marketing strategy. It is also important to tie in the back-office systems so that your organisation can actually process and keep track of the new offerings. For instance ensuring that the financial systems can cope with the accounting involved in a new promotional scheme, or linking web system to your warehouse management software, or working out the procedures for returns of a faulty new product.

Ideally you want to be able to monitor and track the implementation of a new strategy by associating sales to the scheme in place. A common marketing strategy is segmentation, but many companies do not have systems in place to monitor sales per segment, so how do you know the segmentation works?

Working through the communication to the market

Once all your bunnies are lined up, then you can go live. Typically your communication will be in a form of a roll-out covering areas such as channel, PR and journalists, key partners and then target customers.

Ideally, all the systems, materials and resources would have been tested beforehand to uncover and prevent unforeseen obstacles and to make more certain of the success of the launch, but sometimes this is not possible.

Most marketing relies on some form of momentum to turn a drip-drip-drip of communication into a flood of orders and satisfied customers. Consequently, you will need to keep refreshing and reminding your audiences of your messages regularly to build awareness and to encourage trial and repeat purchase.

It has become common practice to try and build the momentum before the product/service is actually launched by lining up the channel, journalists and making appropriate leaks and announcements prior to the arrival of the product.

There are some downsides to this approach such as making a late launch after the channel has cleared out old stock ready for the new and failing to meet expectations in the eyes of the customers, or allowing competitors visibility of your plans. A famous case is Osbourne Computers who made the world's first portable computers where an uncontrolled early release of information killed sales and consequently killed the company off.

However, experience suggests that controlled release of information and early involvement of partners does work if you can meet the delivery dates you set for yourself.

Monitoring and review

Once you've launched, it's at this stage that anything you've missed will become apparent and where flexibility in your strategy will be necessary. What if a competitor produces a spoiler? Or there is a major channel shake up?

By having done sufficient planning up front and looked at scenarios and pre-tested, you can be prepared for the major contingencies you might face and hopefully have an appropriate response ready and waiting. If the main strategy is right and robust, but the details aren't quite in place then you would have the option of tweaking as you go, without throwing out all the work and effort that has been put in place.

To ensure you know how you are doing, It is important to having monitoring and reviews in place. You have to be able to prove success by having set appropriate measures, as much as achieving that success in the first place. Monitoring can include internal financial and quality indicators, but these normally need to be combined with external measures such as customer satisfaction, brand tracking, or market share monitoring.

For help and advice on monitoring how well your strategy is being implemented contact