What is activation, and how does it differ from execution?
In chemistry, activation is the slight transformation of a molecule or atom into a condition capable or reacting. In other words, it’s the process of taking a substance from dormant to reactive.
In B2B, marketing activation planning is the process of taking a well-defined strategy and translating into tactics that get results in market. A strategy is just words, after all. Activation is the process of taking that strategy and putting it to work.
Let’s look at an example. Say you have a robust collection of intent data. That data is potentially valuable — but not until it’s activated. Activating your data means choosing the metrics you want to measure and implementing a system to sort and analyze data. With these components in place, your data becomes usable, ready to inform your marketing actions.
Another example is brand activation. Brand activation is an intentional marketing campaign that produces engagement with your brand. These activations allow your audience to form a lasting connection with your brand. They enable a reaction.
Activation and execution are similar but not synonymous. In theory, execution means putting your strategy into action. But execution can be myopic, repetitive, and divorced from strategy. Activation is the magic ingredient that turns on your strategy. It’s the tools, tactics, and processes that make your strategy work.
There are four pillars to successful activation. Hint: these pillars rest on a firm base of synchrony.
- Campaign management. Your campaign can’t happen without someone working to, well, make it happen. How will you know who is doing what? What has to happen to meet each stage in your campaign? What tasks are most important right now? Project management systems and positions are essential to assign and track tasks, visualize projects, and stay on top of all the details.
- Synchronicity between functions. Over the years, marketers have tried many different tactics to rise above a cluttered and ever-evolving field. One of these is specialization. Specialized teams work hard and fast within their narrow zone of expertise. But specialization also leads siloed teams. Synchronicity brings everyone to the table, ensuring your teams work together on unified strategies that engage the target audience from the beginning to the end of their journey.
- Leadership and consensus-building. A good B2B marketing leader can be the difference between an inert marketing strategy and one that will produce results the second it’s put into action. Leaders define the results they expect and track progress toward these results. They build consensus and break down siloes between sales and marketing, getting everyone on the same page, with the same goal, and empowering employees to do what they do best.
- Cross-functional tactical expertise. Train your skills specialists to work across the martech stack, instead of giving them responsibility for only a narrow slice of knowledge. Talented stakeholders might have specific knowledge of one marketing component, but they should also collaborate across teams and functions, understanding how their expertise is helpful in multiple contexts. Build buy-in and synchrony by including functional leaders in planning and goal setting.
Let’s go back to chemistry for a second. Activating a substance requires activation energy: the minimum amount of energy needed for a substance to be ready for transformation.
The four pillars of marketing activation are your activation energy. They are what enable you to execute a strategy that gets results. They’re all the little details that happen behind the scenes and make your strategy work. And your activation energy rests in the basic principle of getting your teams to work together, across functions, toward a common campaign goal.