Marketing Strategy vs Marketing Tactics: What's The Difference?

Now that you’ve ventured into entrepreneurship, you’re probably looking to market your business. But what comes first: the marketing strategy or the marketing tactics?

Most business owners get this wrong and, as a result, they waste hundreds and thousands of dollars on generic advertising:

  • Facebook ads that bring in low-value leads.
  • Email campaigns that deliver dismal click-through rates.
  • Blog posts that never get read.

If you want to earn a return on your investment, you have to stop chasing bright, shiny objects—a host of tactics (think TikTok)—and instead focus on creating highly targeted marketing. To do that, you need a strategy.

In this article, I’m going to explain the difference between marketing strategy and marketing tactics and why you need both to attract high-value leads.

But let’s start with: What is a marketing strategy? Is it something you can identify without having any marketing knowledge, or do you outsource your marketing to an agency?

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Marketing strategies vs Tactics:

What is a marketing strategy?

Think of your marketing strategy as the big-picture. It’s the overall strategy you use to attract your ideal prospect and convert them into a lifelong customer.

So, your marketing strategy identifies the long-term goals or marketing objectives for growing your customer base and scaling your business.

Without a strategy, most small businesses invest in, what I like to call random acts of marketing—essentially tactics. You jump on the latest social media network or you rush into creating a series of videos without understanding why.

What is the point of investing in a video series? If it’s to capture new email subscribers, how many opt-ins do you need a week to break even?

Most small businesses haven’t thought about this. They equate marketing with customer growth and increased revenue. But if you’re not up-to-date on industry trends and how this, along with demographics, affects your customers’ buying habits, the only result you’ll get is a headache and low bank balance.

You need strategic planning. By outlining a strategy, you give your team a clear direction. Everyone knows the answers to these questions:

  • Why are you investing in marketing?
  • Why would your ideal prospect care about your business?
  • How are you going to reach your target market? Which media will you choose?
  • What brand messaging would make them notice you?
  • How are you the pain relief for your ideal customer?
  • What is your competitive advantage?
  • How can you get them a result?

As a business owner, you have to own your marketing strategy. I don’t expect you to handle the tactical implementation, but you must be on board with what your company goals are and the strategies you’ll use to get those results.

Marketing Plan vs Marketing Strategy

Interestingly, many entrepreneurs often confuse a marketing strategy with a marketing plan. Unlike a marketing plan, a strategy highlights the goals your company wants to achieve. Your marketing plan explains how you will achieve those goals.

Now let’s discuss tactical marketing.

What is a marketing tactic?

Digital marketing (social media) is a tactic. Investing in a CRM, SEO, pay-per-click advertising and Google Adwords are marketing tactics. Creating a website or brochure, writing blog posts, designing, and developing your marketing collateral, it’s all tactics.

So marketing tactics are the things you create and do to reach your target audience. And the problem with focusing on tactics is that without the strategy you’re throwing your cash away.

Because while you may be reaching an audience, is it the right target market?

You could hire the world’s greatest copywriter but it won’t matter. If you haven’t  and learned what they need, what message would grab their attention, and why they’d purchase from you, well, no marketing tactic is going to get you a sale.

You’ll just attract unqualified leads that take up time, energy, and resources. So you really want to be strategic about which tactics you use to reach your digital audience.

Market segmentation is a great way to research your ideal audience, figure out where they live online, how their location affects their buying behavior, and much more. It really gives you a competitive advantage. It also ensures you won’t waste your dollars.

Marketing strategy vs tactics: What is the difference?

The reason why so many small businesses struggle to get traction with their marketing campaigns is because they don’t understand the difference between strategy and tactics.

Most will create a Facebook or LinkedIn page because that is what everyone else is doing. Companies know their prospects are online and if they create an account and start posting customers will appear.

Or they rush to put together a website that’s really an online version of their brochure. It speaks to heritage, what they do, and how to get in touch with them. But it offers no compelling reason to connect.

Yes, you should be marketing but not before you’ve formulated a strategic plan of action. So strategy first then tactical implementation.

So what is the difference between strategic marketing and tactics?

Simply put, a marketing strategy focuses on the long-term goals of your business. So what objectives do you want to achieve and how are you going to get there?

For example, are you scaling to attract investors, or are you looking to expand and serve a global market? Whatever your goal, it’s best to start with market segmentation. First, understand your ideal customer and their buying behavior. Then, conduct surveys, review the data, and strategize:

  1. Who is your niche target audience?
  2. How do you position your brand?
  3. What is your unique selling point or competitive advantage?
  4. How will you establish trust or build your authority and credibility?
  5. What tools do you need to deliver a world-class experience?

Marketing tactics, on the other hand, are the details, the actions that should be taken to accomplish the objectives outlined in your strategy. So tactics are the doing, the short-term goals that focus on implementation.

For example, let’s say you decide to implement a direct response marketing campaign. Your short-term goal is to attract high-quality prospects that you can get into your email database and nurture. But what are the steps you have to take?

  1. Create a how-to lead magnet that targets your ideal prospects' pain points and build a landing page. This is perfect for lead generation.
  2. Invest in digital marketing to drive traffic to your website. Having done your strategic planning, you know which social media to advertise in, what blog posts to write, whatever.
  3. Hire a copywriter to create a series of lead nurturing emails that you load into a CRM. Or if you're going to be handling the writing yourself, here's what you need to know to craft better writing.
  4. Make a compelling offer once you’ve built a relationship. Offer something specific like a discount or a two-for-the-price-of-one deal. Something that’s too good to resist.

Do you need strategy and tactics to create successful marketing campaigns?

In 500 BC Sun Tzu said, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

While Tzu was speaking about war, the same applies to marketing your business.

Without a strategy, you haven’t identified who are the major players in your industry. So you don’t know if there are gaps your business can fill which means you can’t capitalize on your competitors’ weaknesses. Basically, you’ll never convince prospects to figuratively cross the road to come to your business.

And without tactics, you don’t have a presence in the marketplace. You’re relying on word-of-mouth marketing to bring in new leads and new customers and that’s like living on a prayer, unreliable.

So let’s look at how strategy and tactics work together.

An example of marketing strategies and tactics in action

Say you live in an isolated town and you’re the only vendor selling apples. Not the tech kind. Juicy, crunchy apples. So you’ve got 100 percent market share. Under these circumstances you’d require little marketing, probably just a stand and a sign saying, “Apples for sale.”

Word spreads around the town and you attract people to your store. But soon, another vendor starts selling apples at a similar price, and halves your market share.

If you want to claw back sales you’ll need to differentiate yourself. And that’s where marketing becomes vital.

What is your long-term business goal?

To win back at least 25 percent of the market share you lost.

How will you achieve this business goal?

Through strategic marketing. Having segmented your market you know that offering home deliveries is key to winning back customers. So you plan and execute a strategic marketing campaign.

Your marketing mix defines how you'll use digital marketing (website, blog posts, email, and social media) to achieve your business objectives and increase sales.

You set your tactical campaign in motion. Reminder: make sure you track the performance of your tactics. Sales increase and your business propels to a higher market share.

Strategy vs tactics? Which one can upscale your business?

The first thing I want you to stop doing is thinking in terms of marketing strategy vs tactics. Yes, there is a difference between strategies and tactics but they're not independent of each other. You need both to level up your business.

Unfortunately, most start-ups will focus on tactics like SEO, social media, PPC, email marketing, digital marketing, and so on without understanding why? What long-term and short-term goals are they trying to achieve?

Prioritizing tactics over strategy is like building a house without a blueprint. It's bound to collapse. You might get lucky this time. But what about your next digital campaign? What if it fails? Tactical marketing isn't sustainable without a plan or strategy underpinning it.

To make the most of your marketing dollars, start with a plan (goals), outline the strategy, and implement the tactics.

Marketing strategies drive growth. You need to see the bigger picture to upscale your business.

If you want people to remember your business name. If you want to achieve goals and level up your business, invest in strategic marketing, followed by tactical marketing. Here’s how.If you want people to remember your business name, if you want to take your business to the next level, invest in strategic marketing. Here’s how.

  1. Start with a plan. Define your business goal. What objectives do you want to achieve?
  2. Be specific. What marketing strategies and tactics will you use to attract customers and build your brand? Will you focus on digital marketing, so email reactivation campaigns, crafting strategic blog posts and specific social media campaigns? Which digital media will deliver the highest success?
  3. Time to implement. Upgrade your website. Start working on creating compelling marketing creative. And make sure to use your marketing tactics wisely.

Which marketing tactics are most effective?

As long as you've defined your business goals, these are the tactics that deliver the best results for small businesses. And remember, what is the strategy behind each tactic.

Email marketing

One of the reasons I really love email marketing is it just creates so much leverage. It has literally generated millions of dollars for me and my clients across multiple businesses that I've been involved with.

Unlike other tactics, email marketing offers a personal experience. It builds relationships and boosts engagement with leads, prospects, and customers.

If you'd like to know more about using email check out this: 9 ways email marketing can fuel your inbound strategy.

Referral marketing

Referral marketing is one of the most effective marketing tactics you can implement. It promotes a win-win situation.

You get free marketing for your business. A customer gets social validation (or a reward) to spread the good word about your products or services, and their friend gets a recommendation from a trustworthy source.

Digital marketing

Think of your website as your storefront. It needs to entice people to shop. A good way to attract new customers is to make it user-friendly. Make it about your target audience. Speak to their needs. Show that you understand them and make the customer journey easy.

You can use social media, email, PPC, whatever you like to drive traffic to a landing page on your website.

Content marketing

Content marketing is the best strategy for sharing interesting, relevant, and valuable content to your target audience. Content comes in many forms, but the main goal is to establish a reputation as a thought leader in your field. You want people to see you as an authority figure in your industry. And this can happen by continuing to create valuable content.

A plagiarism checker must be used to ensure that the content you’re writing for marketing is original. In this way, your content will be 100% unique and free of any copied content.

To recap

So that's the difference between strategy and tactics.

Don't get me wrong, having a strategy and tactics are both important. They go hand-in-hand, but without a good strategy, a shiny new website won't attract the leads you want. Any email you send will probably result in low conversions. It's a waste of your time and money.

So if you have the goal of building a successful brand, have a plan and make sure to include strategy and tactics in your marketing mix. Or consider investing in a business coach. The benefits are substantial.

Click here to learn more about hiring a business coach.

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