Digital Marketing Strategy Part 4: Executing Bad Ideas Of Others

Continuing my series on digital marketing strategy development problems, today we tackle issue #4:  executing the bad ideas of others.

The problem, as stated in the original post:

4.  Placating executives by executing their bad ideas

If this is happening to you – stop, now.  No one wins when you’re creating things merely because someone up top is forcing down a one off idea here-and-there they feel might work (especially if they have limited  experience with digital marketing).  If it doesn’t play into the strategy, it doesn’t matter who it comes from.  If you see this happening put a stop to it.  No one wins when resources are drawn away from a winning path to placate bad ideas of the king.  If the emperor has no clothes, say it – if you’re that valued you’ll be respected for it.

This wasn’t entirely fair to call out only executives: bad ideas can come from all directions.  But as a strategist you need to know what elements roll to your objective and be ruthless at keeping out the junk.

At a high level, you could have devastatingly effective tactics, but if they support an ineffective strategy they’re never going to feed something larger.

At a tactical level, bad ideas are equally as dangerous.  Consider the following story from Sean Moffitt, author of Buzz Canuck

There was a guy at Labatt, a client at the time, that I think nailed it about the risk of over management, risk avoidance, paint by numbers marketing and analysis paralysis:

“Sean, there are a ton of things you could do in an average day – marketers could feasibly work 168 hours of week and feel justified. But let me tell you – if you can find the 3 most important things to affect your brand tangibly, importantly – focus as much time, attention and effort on those and do the minimum on the rest.”

In digital marketing, this is especially true:  there’s just too much at your fingertips not to be focused.  While you also need to experiment, having a core focus on your formula is too effective to ignore.

Let’s consider a few items which cause random, unstrategic ideas, efforts and tactics to get thrown into the mix:

  • Different levels of understanding by all team members – so when a team member reads an idea in a blog post or industry publication that “feels official,” they might automatically think it’s a smart move when in fact it’s a terrible idea.
  • Everyone else is doing it – if someone sees another brand is having success with something like a viral video they might think “we should do that too!” without any reason other than being a me too.
  • Case studies – someone will read a case study of social media success, think it’s easy and want to jump into social without a fleshed out plan.
  • Misunderstanding of effort required – it “seems” easy to do many things internet marketing related.  Like blog everyday.  And while it’s possible to fit blogging into a busy schedule, it’s still going to require a long-term commitment.
  • A division at the company or business unit “just discovered” digital – and yet other parts of the company already have efforts buzzing along.  What’s dangerous here is the people who are new may think they know everything after going to a conference or two.

So how do you overcome bad ideas, over management, risk avoidance, analysis paralysis, reporting at a granular level and time wasters that get in the way of great marketing?

Learn to push back

If people up top are randomly throwing wrenches into your digital marketing strategies, you need to stop them.  Say your CMO is obsessed with creating a Twitter page for your brand, yet it doesn’t really make sense for your current strategy.  Learn to push back and take a stance against it.  If they have shiny new object syndrome without substance behind it, make a clear business case against it.  If you’re consistently getting pushed to execute bad ideas you’re working with the wrong management team and need to get out.

And if you’re that trigger-happy CMO and you’ve got the right team:  relax.  Your tacticians and strategists are on the pulse of not just what’s new – but what’s important – and they will want to roll in new ideas that help the program.  But the right team is extremely conscious of scope creep and focusing efforts, they know not to add things to add things.

Show opportunity cost, project loss

Show things like traffic or revenue you might lose by moving efforts that are working into a new area you know is the wrong approach.  Project numbers lost and it will crystallize in people’s minds this may be a slippery slope.

Hedge it altogether

Sometimes, ideas will be pushed down from others due to a lack of knowledge of the current strategy or a feeling not enough new elements are being added to a marketing mix.  Make sure key people are up to speed on what your team is up to and the reason it’s being approached in a certain way.  Others will be less likely to disrupt a well-oiled machine if they understand what makes it run (and at that point, they may even provide ideas to make it better).

Another approach is to be the one who frequently shares new ideas, tactics and methods that aren’t currently being used with your whole team (management and tacticians) that do play to the strategy.  Even if those ideas never come to fruition, sometimes others just knowing you’re thinking is enough to quell random elements thrown into the mix that don’t work with your strategy.

Previously in this series: cohesion of content

Next in this series: having to translate ideas for multiple parties