Marketing Strategy vs Tactics: Your Guide

Marketing strategy vs marketing tactics – what’s the difference? It’s a question plenty of people have once they start delving a little deeper into marketing.

The answer is fairly straightforward. Strategy and tactics interlink but they’re not the same thing. Both are instrumental aspects of successful marketing.

So what part do they play in helping to advance your firm’s marketing and get you closer to your goals?

Difference between strategy and tactics

Your strategy will lay out your overarching plan to achieve your marketing goals. Your tactics are the specific actions you’ll take to move your firm closer to that goal. Strategy looks at the long term, while your tactics will be used in the short term.

Consider it this way: strategy is the why and tactics are the what.

Comprehensive strategies set out the milestones you want your firm to achieve and the tactics that will be employed to do so.

Strategic thinking

When planning your strategy, think holistically. You’ll want to consider all elements of your marketing, whether it’s on or offline. Your tactics will work together to support your strategy.

Your marketing strategy will include a focus on your goals, who you’re targeting, the tools and tactics you’ll use, the budget you’ll allocate and the kinds of campaigns you’ll focus on. It will set out how you plan to get where you’re going, but it won’t go into the specific detail that your tactical plans will.

As an example, your strategy could be to increase the PI leads you get into your firm by 25% through organic digital channels in order to boost revenue and grow the business. That sets out your goal, as well as the path that you’re going to take to get there.

It helps you plan your budgets as you set out where resources will be allocated. You’ll identify the most important activities, which will assist you when planning your team’s workload.

Clarity is vital to a successful strategy. This Harvard Business Review paper explains: “One major reason for the lack of action is that ‘new strategies’ are often not strategies at all. A real strategy involves a clear set of choices that define what the firm is going to do and what it’s not going to do.”

Tactical planning

The tactics you plan should be carefully considered. In the above example of boosting PI leads, your tactics could include focusing more time on keyword research to target the most appropriate keywords for your firm in order to increase online visibility.

These are the steps that will be taken along the path to reach your goal. With each tactic, you’ll have to break your actions down further. This could include focusing on keyword research to improve organic visibility or building up your site’s backlinks to increase its credibility in search engine algorithms.

You’ll be able to continually monitor and measure the success of your tactics. If something is not paying off like you thought it would, you can change course and try something new. Your strategy won’t restrict experimentation or attempts at correcting efforts that aren’t working. The tactics offer you the opportunity to report on your strategy’s successes and failures in real time.

But be careful not to work on tactics without implementing an encompassing strategy. Strategy and tactics will both help you get where you need to be. One simply won’t work as effectively without the other.

Marketing may not be war, but don’t forget what Sun Tzu said: “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”


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