Don’t Confuse Marketing Tactics with Strategy

Marketing Strategy vs Marketing Tactics

Something I often see in marketing and technology is people who choose tactics without a strategy. Even if the goal is implicit, always start marketing with a clear defined goal and terms of success.  In this article, I will discuss the problem of choosing tactics before strategy.

Strategy vs Tactic

In marketing, a strategy is defining the choices of who you will and won’t go after and what you will and won’t stand for, after diagnosing your market. It’s having a business goal, clear targeting, a distinct market position, and a small set of objectives related to what you intend to accomplish within 12 months.

Tactics are the tools used to help achieve an objective to move closer to the goal.

Strategy and Tactics Example

Marketing Strategy and Tactics Puzzle

After some analysis, ACME realized 60% of its sales come from their newsletter. Getting more website visitors and social media followers to signup for the newsletter will likely create more sales.

Goal: Increase newsletter signup by 20% in 6 months.

Strategy: Optimize the website to increase newsletter signups, place newsletter call-to-action in content, and share newsletter signup in relevant social media posts.

Tactic: Website design, content marketing, social media marketing

Notice the flow:

Before the goal, there is a premise – a form of analysis about the state of the business. The premise is understanding what is and is not working in the business.

The goal can be made to continue to move in the direction of what is working or change the direction away from what is not working. The strategy defines the actions, given the business’ capability, budget, and timeline. And finally, the tactics are clearly defined.

Also, notice the strategy begins defining which tactics to use. This is a natural progression of the exercise. Because you start with a clear goal, you immediately create a focus on the tactics that can be used to accomplish the goal. And most important, the tactics are aligned with the goal.

The Problem of Starting with Tactics

If you start with tactics, you haven’t defined what success is. Knowing what you want to achieve will help define the specific options to move closer to the goal.

A closer look at tactics

Think of a tactic as tools. Below is a list of common marketing tools:

Brand Strategy
CRM / Loyalty
Customer Experience
Data/Web analytics
Direct Marketing
Market Research
Product Development

Depending on the marketer, you may hear something like: “you have to use video for maximum engagement” or “you need strong brand messaging”.  Keep in mind, what they are saying may very well be true, but is it true for you and your current strategy?

You know the tactic is right for you if:

(1) it helps the business move closer to the goal,
(2) it fits within your budget,
(3) it fits within your timeline, and
(4) you the capacity to be consistent.

Return on Investment

Marketing Strategy ROI

You can’t win without a finish line.

Part of creating a strategy is to define a goal and define a timeline. Having a timeline creates a focus for structuring tactics so they deliver results within the timeline.

Understanding the goal creates a picture of value.

From the example above, ACME can calculate the value of 20% newsletter increase using email conversion rates. With the estimated value of the goal, they can compare the ongoing costs of the tactics to calculate ROI.

Calculating and measuring ROI is important for long-term success.

With this experience, your business has a benchmark to compare against future results. Benchmarking and measuring marketing performance is how you determine if the marketing strategy is working for you.

If you have no goal and no timeline, how will you measure success!?

Don’t focus on the tools without having the full strategy!

Always start with a marketing strategy so the tools (tactics) are aligned with what the business needs.

Sure Optimize Marketing Strategy

We do marketing differently:

  1. We start all engagements with a marketing assessment to define your strategy.
  2. We produce a thorough roadmap that takes into account your goal, timeline, budget, and internal capabilities.
  3. We refer you to a “tactic expert” if your roadmap requires marketing tactics that we don’t specialize.

Your marketing strategy is your blueprint for marketing success!

Contact me to discuss your marketing needs.

President, Sure Optimize

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