Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with a prospective client who said, “We can’t wait to hear your ideas.” I took that as simply a part of our conversation, and not necessarily an important part considering the many challenges they faced. But it got me thinking about where the real value lies in business development and marketing.

Everybody craves ideas, and some more than most. What does an “idea” mean to you? Is it something that no one has ever thought of before? Is it an innovative approach to a special event? Or a compelling promotional offer? Or is it simply, as someone once said, “a fresh pair of eyes?”

Marketing ideas serve one simple purpose. And that’s to attract the attention of your prospect or buyer. So what’s most important is knowing the type of prospect you’d like to attract. Clients often say, “We’re not looking just to give something away for free or at a discount.” That’s usually because in truth a monetary incentive may not always attract the right type of customer. The key is in providing your ideal prospect—the person willing to pay your pricing level and who wants to be associated with your product or service – with an impetus to purchase.

For example, why do we often see images of successful people in print campaigns? Because most of us like to associate and assimilate ourselves with successful people. So ideas that are customized and catered to reflect your ideal prospect are essential. But beyond that you’re really not just looking for an “idea.” You’re looking for its execution.

It’s in the execution where the rubber meets the road. Consider this: How often has a client or prospect said, “We’ve already tried that idea.” Well, the reality is, for most businesses today, there aren’t many truly original ideas left. Think of well-established industries like automobiles or pest control or realty. In their long history, you’d be hard pressed to come up with a recent revolutionary marketing approach.

Sure, you may be thinking that automobile leasing is a fairly new marketing phenomenon. Think again. The earliest record of equipment leasing occurred around 2010 B.C.! And it was in the late 1940s – more than 60 year’s ago – when significant automobile leasing began on both an individual and fleet basis.

So where can you improve and what will make all the difference? Simply put, the real big idea is in the execution – the tactical plan and the follow through. And perhaps nowhere is this better illustrated than in the recent unmatched success of the Ice Bucket Challenge which raised an unprecedented amount of money for ALS in a very short period of time. Was it a new idea? No. Similar ice bucket challenges have been used for years to raise money for charity. What was new this time around was the execution of the idea: a social media marketing campaign that quickly went viral. And what did millions and millions of people see on their computers, Smartphones, tablets and televisions? Both celebrities and normal folks doing – and saying – the same thing over and over and over again.

That’s because repetition is also essential in marketing, the actual consistency of a concept or the consistency of a message. When a marketing message is first launched, it might not appear to make an impact. Think about 1978 when FedEx first communicated, “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” Today, just the word “FedEx” means overnight delivery the world over. And although their taglines continue to evolve (e.g., “The world on time”), FedEx persistently and consistently communicates that core message.

Finally, never forget the importance of follow-through. When people initiate a promotion, sometimes they don’t get as much interest as they hoped. So they fail to follow through with the program. They give up too easily. Don’t give up. Marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. The message communicated by your brand gets stronger and stronger each day, year after year. But every time you change that message, you’ve reset the whole board and are basically starting all over again.

So exactly what’s my big idea? It’s simple: Don’t ignore an idea because your competitors might have already done it. Plan to do that idea in a way that’s consistent, memorable and monitored. And always remember: No one stole your idea. They just executed it better.

That’s Q from the Street

Anthony Quaranta is the president of Q Group, Hauppauge, N.Y.