Mind the Gap Between Strategy and Execution—and Five Ways to Close It

Topics: Marketing Strategy

Strategies that make all the difference

Almost everywhere business is discussed, strategy is hogging the limelight—and for good reason. Superior strategy can make all the difference. At the highest level, it’s how organizations can differentiate themselves and uncover new, innovative and profitable opportunities. Just ask Netflix. The company’s strategic approach led to complete dominance in its space. In fact, it’s even enabled them to compete effectively against entertainment companies and cable operators.

And don’t think for a second that strategy is just for CEOs. It’s critical across the entire business, from raw goods sourcing to online marketing communications. A website without a strategy, for example, can end up little more than a cobbled-together collection of pages. But with the right strategy, a site can be a powerful business driver.

In fact, the right strategy can elevate a seemingly secondary component to the role of primary differentiator. Amazon.com is an obvious example. Its site followed a customer-centric strategy while its competitors focused on hard-selling goods. They gave customers the ability to review products with blunt honesty, which competitors avoided out of fear they’d alienate suppliers. Of course a sleek supply chain, unique business model and Jeff Bezos himself all played critical roles too. But its Web strategy made all the difference when it came to persuading customers to accept online shopping—and in creating the highest valued company in the world.

Unfortunately, few strategies reach their full potential and make all the difference. Instead, they often end up as long-forgotten presentations sitting unopened on old file servers. So the big question is, what’s the difference between the strategies that reach their potential and those that disappear without a trace?

Succeeding at strategic execution

The difference between success and failure often resides in the execution of the strategy. There are many potential hurdles between initial strategic idea and its full realization. It can be tripped up by a lack of buy-in or support, differing expectations across departments or a lack of focus that leads to wandering far astray.

But when organizations and their agencies “mind the gap” between strategy and execution, strategies are much more likely to live up to their full potential. Following these five principles can help:

01. Focus on strategy.

In a recent Strategy& survey, 55% of executives said they were concerned that their company wasn’t focused enough on executing strategy. That lack of focus happens on every level. Think of the advertising campaign that veered away from the strategy, or the site that became all-inclusive for every agenda. Consistent, ongoing calibration between the strategy and its execution will keep the focus. Then if you veer, it’s a conscious choice—not an accident.

02. Provide enough of the right resources.

Yes, sometimes “right resources” is about money. A traditional media campaign strategy can’t be executed effectively without an appropriate budget, for example. But it’s just as likely about bringing together the right expertise at the right time. If, say, your campaign strategy depends on a cutting-edge digital execution, serious technology skills need to be called in. Seems obvious, but without discipline, strategic execution can quickly take a backseat to daily fire drills.

03. Align the organization behind the strategy.

Politics are a reality. They can also derail a strategic execution. If varying agendas are at play across the organization, each pulling the strategy in different directions, chances are the execution will fail. Having clear, early, strategic buy-in from all relevant parties can help alleviate this.

04. Clearly communicate the strategy.

Another reason organizations don’t rally behind strategies is because they’re communicated poorly. The strongest strategies tend to be strong and simple. Strong and simple are also qualities you want when communicating strategic direction to your organization. When a strategy makes sense and is powerful, everyone from C-suite to temp staff can rally behind it and make it their own.

05. Alter the strategy.

Strategies need to evolve with evolving situations and feedback. Just as Twitter moved from podcasts to micro-blogging to meet customer needs, so might your marketing strategy. More likely, you’ll just need to adjust components as you start to get data feedback. And data is the key word; rejiggering based on gut feelings or internal opinions will quickly sap a strategy of all its potential.

Superior strategy and execution make all the difference

The right evolving strategies can elevate an organization. Learn how Axis41 can assist with strategy as well as execution on all levels, including website designbrand strategy, and more.