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Distinguish the difference: Strategy versus Tactics in Marketing

It seems to me that many people still confuse tactics and strategy and both are important pieces when defining a marketing plan.

Summary: Strategy is a description of your destination and what must be accomplished to get there. Tactics are the specific initiatives that you will execute to get there.

Strategy and tactical execution are a team that rely on each other and support one another. It is crucial that they are in alignment and all tactics are based on the overall strategy.

  • Strategy as plan – a directed course of action to achieve an intended set of goals; similar to the strategic planning concept.

  • Strategy as pattern – a consistent pattern of past behavior, with a strategy realized over time rather than planned or intended. Where the realized pattern was different from the intent, he referred to the strategy as emergent.

  • Strategy as position – locating brands, products, or companies within the market, based on the conceptual framework of consumers or other stakeholders; a strategy determined primarily by factors outside the firm.

  • Strategy as ploy – a specific maneuver intended to outwit a competitor; and

  • Strategy as perspective – executing strategy based on a “theory of the business” or natural extension of the mindset or ideological perspective of the organization. [Wikipedia]

And Michael Baker defined marketing strategy specifically:[Wikipedia]

“Marketing strategy is a long-term, forward-looking approach and an overall game plan of any organization or any business with the fundamental goal of achieving a sustainable competitive advantage by understanding the needs and wants of customers.”

When is it tactical?

A tactic’s purpose is to support your strategy. It typically is defined by starting point and an endpoint during which a specific activity will be completed, and milestones will be met. You will measure tactical efforts using Key Performance Indicators (KPI) that will be used to evaluate the success or failure of the initiative.

Campaigns are a tactical execution to get you to your strategic goal. Many successful tactical executions in a marketing plan will help you to get you to your destination.

The core of a good marketing strategy?

Strategic planning seeks to address three deceptively simple questions, specifically:

  • Where are we now? (Situation analysis)

  • What business should we be in? (Vision and mission)

  • How should we get there? (Strategies, plans, goals and objectives)

  • How do we know when we got there? (analytics, data driven metrics)

A Basic Strategy Framework

When working on your business strategy your focus is on the desired outcome, the “Where are we going?”. This is the foundation that defines all marketing activities. Usually, it is directly related to the positioning within the category that you are trying to occupy.

Multiple models can found to outline a Marketing Strategy. I have found that some of the most basic visual marketing frameworks often lead to quick successes in a brainstorming session that becomes the vision board for a more detailed plan.

Business strategy roadmap template
A fun and easy template to start a conversation on business strategy

What is your destination?

I help businesses to get to their destination. My services include B2B Marketing, Account Based Marketing, paid media campaigns and search engine marketing.


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