A lack of good ideas is almost never to blame for a marketing team’s failure. In fact, most teams have way too many ideas. Many marketing leaders live with the nagging feeling that they aren’t doing enough. They aren’t maximizing every channel. They aren’t on the cutting edge of every trend.
This feeling drives marketing teams to sloppily chase a plethora of ideas in a state of confused frustration. Why is nothing working? They blame the ideas. They need more ideas. The cycle picks up speed making the level of execution that much worse. Now the team is under scrutiny from company leadership. This new pressure aggravates the problem.
If this sounds like you, put down the EXPO marker and step away from the whiteboard. Ideas are not the problem. Execution is the problem.
Here’s the thing > Winning is a skill as much as it is an outcome.
Teaching your team to execute effectively is the same as teaching your team to win and it’s a core part of marketing leadership.
So where do you start? Your marketing team needs an execution plan. My recommendation – The Execution Ladder.
The Execution Ladder: Your Marketing Team’s Execution Plan
The Execution Ladder is a framework that will teach your team to execute. First things first – always start from the bottom rung of the ladder and work your way up. Starting with the top rung, tactics and strategies, is a recipe for a chaotic existence described above. Start where the winners start, with company culture.
Rung 1: Start with your company’s mission and values
When I talk about culture, I’m not talking about team building activities, inside jokes, or fun rituals. Those are great things but they aren’t your culture. They are sprinkles on top of a good culture. When I say “culture,” I’m talking about your company’s mission, vision, and values and how your team lives those out on a daily basis.
At the base of The Execution Ladder, there’s very little room for dissent. Your team needs 100% alignment. There will be room for debate and discussion further up the ladder.
As the marketing leader, you must be a walking billboard for your company’s culture. You’ll need to live it, breathe it and coach it. Infuse the company’s mission and values into everything you do. If you buy-in and your team buys in, you’ll have alignment. Alignment creates chemistry and will become the foundation your team will build upon.
So step 1, buy into the company mission and values and expect the entire team to do the same.
Rung 2: Serve the company’s goals and initiatives
The marketing team serves the company. Don’t set goals for the team until you understand what the company is trying to achieve. Then make sure the goals you set for the marketing team align with the direction of the company. Never set goals in a marketing silo.
Examples of company initiatives:
1. Serve 1 million customers in 2023 with an average margin of 43%
2. Increase market share by 5% among millennials by end of year.
3. Improve Net Promoter Score by 15 points by the end of Q3
Rung 3: Set team goals that inspire your team and help achieve company objectives
Next, set 1-3 team goals that will inspire and challenge your team. Make sure that hitting these goals will contribute meaningfully to the company’s stated goals and initiatives. Remember – each rung of the Execution Ladder builds upon the last. Team goals are built upon company goals. This prevents a disconnect with company leadership.
Your whole team will share in the victory if you hit these goals. They will share in the failure if you miss. Sharing the pressure is what creates buy-in.
How to set goals for your marketing team
Before we go any further, let’s cover some important vocabulary around goal setting.
Lead Measures: The actions you’ll take to win the game. If you are taking the right lead measures, you’ll achieve the lag measures you want in time.
Lag Measures: The score of the game. Tells you if you achieved a goal.
Example Lead Measure: Calories consumed and burned per day
Example Lag Measure: Your Weight
Lead Measure: Client calls made per day
Lag Measure: New deals closed
You need to measure both lead and lag measures. If you only measure lag measures, your team will lose heart when they don’t see progress quickly. They will stop pushing. Your team needs to feel progress before you see improvement in the lag numbers (revenue, deals, etc). Measure and reward your team for taking the right actions.
If you want to dive deep into lead and lag measures, read The 4 Disciplines of Execution.
Your team needs a scoreboard so they know if they are winning
Put your top lead and lag measures on a scoreboard. This scoreboard can be digital or it can be kindergarten teacher style – poster board, stickers, glue sticks. As long as it’s simple, clear, and compelling.
Rules for a great scoreboard:
- Teams can glance at the scoreboard and immediately know if they are winning or losing the game
- Can be updated at least weekly. Daily or realtime is better.
Here’s an example of a new scoreboard I’m having printed for our team:
Each rocket represents a new retail location. When a store hits its revenue targets, it becomes a satellite in orbit, symbolizing that it is leaving its launch phase. At the end of every month we will move the rockets up or down. Important to note – this board only tracks a lag measure (store revenue performance).
Fun idea: Here’s a Bingo board I printed for our team. If we get a BINGO in 6 months, we’ll go out for a team lunch (apps, entries, and desserts – the whole 9 yards!). If we blackout the board, we’ll skip work and take a day trip. This Bingo board can’t replace a team scoreboard (simple, compelling, 1-3 goals). The purpose of this board is to celebrate what I call “trail markers”. Trail marketers are little wins that tell us that we are on the right path and making progress towards our team goals.
Every time we put up a Bingo sticker, we blast music and celebrate. The feeling of winning creates momentum.
So when your team hits a small goal, celebrate. When you hit big goals, go nuts. Recognize the behaviors you want to replicate.
“Recognition, appreciation and encouragement are the free fuels which power human performance. Burn lots of it everyday.”
Lee Cockerell – Former EVP of Operations at Walt Disney World
Rung 4: Create individual Key Performance Indicators for your team
Every member of your team needs 2-4 Key Performance Indicators or KPI’s. KPI’s are a set of clear performance expectations for a specific role.
Individual KPI’s contribute to Teams Goals which contribute to Company Goals. This waterfall effect only happens if you start with Rung 1 of The Execution Ladder and work your way up.
I recommend using a scale for KPI’s – Gold, Green, Yellow, and Red. Here are example KPI’s for a content marketer.
- Gold: Crushing it. Exceeding expectations.
- Green: Target met. Good work!
- Yellow: Not quite on target. Keep pushing. Yellow moving towards green can be good. Yellow moving towards red, signals a problem.
- Red: Off target. Needs immediate attention and course correction.
Some positions are easy to KPI and others are more difficult (ex: Graphic Designers have puzzled me for years). Here are a few ideas for more difficult positions:
– How well they are serving the company? Measured with internal survey
– How are they managing their budget?
– Are they hitting project deadlines? % of tickets/projects completed in expected timeline
Rung 5: Now it’s time to brainstorm tactics and strategies
At the top of the ladder, your team will discuss and debate possible tactics and strategies.
If your team is aligned with the culture, knows what the company and team are trying to accomplish, and knows what is expected of them, you’ll be amazed at how good the ideas become.
As you select tactics and strategies, you’ll set mini-goals for each. Examples: When will this idea/project/campaign be completed, how much will it cost, and what are the expected outcomes?
Take on as many tactics as your team can execute reliably and with excellence.
If a tactic doesn’t work, toss it. You’ll have more than enough ideas.
Bring it all together
Rung 1: Company Culture
Rung 2: Company Goals
Rung 3: Team Goals
Rung 4: Individual Key Performance Indicators
Rung 5: Tactics and Strategies
The Execution Ladder is that simple and that hard. It’s far more important for a marketing leader to be a great teacher and coach than a marketing expert. Great coaches create winning teams. And teams that have learned to win will keep winning.
The higher you go up the Execution Ladder, the more likely things are to change – tactics and individual KPI’s may shift often. Stay flexible on these. At the bottom of the ladder, things should be stable. Company mission and values should very rarely if ever change.
If you have questions about the execution ladder, email me at Teddy@TeddyCheek.com. I’d love to connect!