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Difference between Marketing Strategy and Tactics

Too many times, Marketing defaults to tactics as compared to strategy. As this graphic so visibly suggests, if you start with tactics, you literally never reach the top of the mountain. You’re literally walking the base of the mountain without experiencing those glorious views from the top. Since I live in Boulder, CO, I can truly attest that the view at the top of the mountain is much more impressive than the view from the bottom.


Source: The Proper Marketing Club https://www.linkedin.com/company/the-proper-marketing-club/


While they may be related, marketing strategy and tactics are distinctly different in their intent and purpose.

Marketing strategy defines your target audience and what you understand about your target audience, identifies your unique selling proposition, and understands competitive offerings and customer pain points. Knowing this information is critical as to what issues or opportunities your targeted customer is facing, how they source a solution to an issue or opportunity, and what segments might be the greatest potential. A well-defined strategy will inform the direction of marketing initiatives in creation of a go-to-market roadmap to achieving revenue objectives. Said simply, the strategy is the goal.

Marketing tactics are the specific marketing actions and initiatives that you might consider to execute your marketing strategy. Tactics might include SEO, paid search, email marketing, online marketing, social media marketing, content development, sponsorships, events, media coverage, and promotional pricing to name just a few. A successful marketing campaign requires a well-defined marketing strategy that is supported by effective marketing tactics. Said simply, the tactics are the steps to achieve the goal defined in the marketing strategy.

Here are some key reasons why a marketing strategy is important:

  1. Focus: A marketing strategy helps a business to focus and prioritize those marketing tactics that are most likely to drive results.
  2. Differentiation: A marketing strategy communicates how the product or service is differentiated from its competitors.
  3. Cost Efficiency: A marketing strategy helps a business to target resources on those initiatives and differentiated messaging that drive results.
  4. Consistency: A marketing strategy helps a business to maintain a single, consistent message and identity – a requirement to reduce confusion and build credibility.
  5. Measurement: A marketing strategy helps a business to measure the effectiveness of its marketing tactics by tracking progress against objectives and key results.

That being said, if I still haven’t convinced you as to the need to develop your marketing strategy prior to a default to tactics, I’d like to highlight that the CEO lives at the top of the mountain. CEOs want their marketing focus to drive top-line revenue. As such, the truly effective Marketing organizations are focused on the following:

  • Understanding the customer. Within any organization, Marketing should be the true “champion of the customer.” Knowing and understanding your customer is a critical factor and Marketing is best positioned to offer the perspective of the customer based on the marketing strategy work completed.
  • Introducing innovation. Again, because you’ve spent the time to understand the customer perspective via the marketing strategy, Marketing has the opportunity to introduce true innovation. Innovation might be a new revenue stream, an improved customer experience, or a new strategic partnership.
  • Delivering ROI. To state the obvious, the CEO is focused on driving profitable growth so where Marketing can track and report a return-on-investment, this aligns your efforts with the CEO focus. Demonstrate how investing in your marketing strategy delivers the ROI associated.

Back to our graphic, without a marketing strategy, you could get lost in the river of execution without clearly understanding how and why your marketing tactics are working or not working. So, my advice to you is to climb to the top of the mountain to ensure you have the right strategy that will predicate a more successful outcome of marketing tactics to deliver the ROI required.