Good Ideas Are Important, But Execution Is Key
Most ideas never make it to the real world. Common culprits include lack of time, money, and, yes, guts. But, as with getting any marketing initiative off the ground, turning an idea into reality should be guided by a CMO-driven process.
How many times have you been in a meeting when someone on your team comes up with what seems like a genius idea? How many notepads—analog or digital—have you filled as your brain went into overdrive?
And how often did any of those ideas see the light of day?
The truth is, most ideas never make it to the real world. Common culprits include lack of time, money, and, yes, guts. But, as with getting any marketing initiative off the ground, turning an idea into reality should be guided by a process that is driven by a CMO-driven process.
“Having an idea is fine, but without a plan for bringing the idea to bear, it’s difficult to gauge its true value,” said Margaret Molloy, CMO of Siegel+Gale.
This Just Might Work
So how do you spot a good idea—one with true potential? “An idea must be focused on client or customer benefit. It must be an idea that will improve on the service delivered,” Molloy told CMO.com.
A good idea also is simple and intersects at clarity and surprise. “By integrating an element of surprise, the idea becomes fresh and holds potential to delight its intended audience,” she added.
Good ideas have staying power, according to Scott Belsky, VP products, mobile, and community at Adobe (CMO.com’s parent company).
“One sign of a good idea is that it sticks in your mind, and it starts to become more dynamic rather than less,” Belsky told CMO.com. “Oftentimes you have an idea, and you get really excited about it because that’s the natural response, but then the next day you move on to a new idea, or you get distracted by something else. That’s a natural sign that the first idea really didn’t have legs.”
Even in the early stages, Belsky suggested marketers discuss a proposed idea with a few others. “When you come up with something or are especially passionate about it, you’re likely to oversee flaws that other people will point out,” he said. “Sharing an idea almost prematurely is a best practice for productive creative leaders.”
A good idea is one you feel in your gut, added Dr. Geil Browning, founder of Emergenetics, a company devoted to helping businesses turn ideas into reality. But first you have to be a good listener.
“It’s not uncommon for the people in the room who are the quietest to have the best ideas,” Browning told CMO.com. “I heard a quote the other day that said the quietest voice in the room has the loudest brain. But those voices are not always prized by the rest of the crowd, especially in a marketing crowd, because marketers tend to be very high energy.”
From there, CMOs must ask themselves whether the idea is implementable and how it would affect customers, clients, and the future of the organization, she said.
The Idea-To-Reality Team
Ready to move forward? “Execution is the ultimate differentiator,” according to Molloy, and it involves specific skills, starting with an individual who pays close attention to detail and process.
“Many great ideas fail to launch at all because their originator lacks the proper attention to detail and the ability to convert the concept into reality via an effective, realistic process,” she said. “The ability to meld the creativity of an idea with the logistics and strategy to carry it through to reality is invaluable.”
The ability to iterate and simplify also are coveted skills. “I cannot overstate the importance of being a simplifier,” Molloy said. “Through those iterations, ideas can become complex and overwrought. Identify what is best and translate that essence into an operating model so the idea develops real-life potential—all while keeping in close communication with all involved.”
An action-to-reality team should comprise four attributes: analytical, structural, social, and conceptual, Browning said. Another important role is someone who ensures that an idea adheres to the vision of the company, according to Mark Miller, who works with Browning at Emergenetics as VP of marketing.
“I think that’s really important in conveying whether this idea will actually advance the business of being very rigorous on tying that into the vision,” Miller told CMO.com. Bringing a marketing idea to fruition doesn’t mean only marketers are working on it. Other parts of the business, such as IT, are also involved, he added.
For Adobe’s Belsky, the team executing an idea involves two types of people: the dreamers and the doers.
“Dreamers are the people who love solving a problem, who love thinking and brainstorming,” he said. “They go to bed at night excited when they can introduce something new to the pipeline the next day, some new idea or some new dimension, new insight. Doers, on the other hand, go to bed happy when there’s nothing new. There’s no surprises. Everything is on track and as planned, under budget and structured.”
Problems occur, Belsky said, when teams are led by dreamers who hire more dreamers. “It becomes this kind of crazy, never-ending idea generation process, and nothing ever gets done,” he said.
Now that you’ve identified a good idea and assigned the right people to the task of bringing it to fruition, the next step is execution.
According to Belsky, execution continues the vetting that began when an idea first arose. Marketers need to share their ideas liberally so they can get feedback. “Everything after that is all about endurance and optimization,” he said.
It is also time to subject the idea to some testing and elicit customer input, Siegel+Gale’s Molloy said. Echoing Belsky, she also emphasized brainstorming with other constituents around the organization who may have unique perspectives to share.
“It is critical at this point to quickly pilot or prototype the idea,” Molloy said. “Many have said to fail fast and fail often, and that’s particularly true in this stage.”
Piloting the idea allows the team to gain knowledge and then push forward. “This step is irreplaceable as it avoids the risk of overthinking the idea before bringing it to market,” Molloy said. She suggested piloting a few versions to see which holds the most promise.
Once an idea is brought to fruition, marketing’s work isn’t done. Optimization—the last step—is a must, according to Belsky. That means figuring out a process for getting feedback from users and constantly watching to better understand how people are putting the offering to use.
“Just because you have an idea that you have now pushed into something actually tangible doesn’t mean your job is done,” Belsky said. “You’ve got to commit to optimizing constantly and making it a little better with each optimization, until it’s a great product market fit.”