Marketing tactics are the more granular means by which you will accomplish the objectives described in your strategy. While strategy is focused long-term, tactics are focused more on the present and near future, and are very focused on a single objective. It is a step in a direction towards a goal.
Marketing strategy is the overall strategy your organization has decided on, or created, and tactics are ways in which you will implement that strategy. If general guidelines are established in the strategy, then tactics become a means by which you will accomplish those strategies.
In this case, you could describe leadership, with tactics (products and services and marketing strategies) to market, but all of that will lead to the general strategy (increased profitability). That will, in turn, lead to specific tactics (a plan to achieve that profitability).
A common hackneyed example for marketing strategy would be the marketing plan for the Coca-Cola Company. Their marketing strategy certainly includes tactics, and those tactics fall under two general headings. The first is the product marketing strategy which isn’t so much tactics in this case as it is a basic strategy, but the other type of tactic the Coca-Cola does is called competitive and inventive. This is the recruitment of marketing managers that often come from other established brands. Coca-Cola’s advertising and marketing tactics are designed to influence the purchasing decision, and often do not directly compete with other brands. This is in sharp contrast to companies that do direct competition and they are more often willing to shed all the “innovation” and “creative” and “innovative” tactics to focus on a more direct approach.
The reason that there is usually an element of innovation in the very early stages of a new company that is not in an established organization is often because the marketplace (people buying products or services) is not very well defined yet. Once a market is fully defined, those best at what you do will tend to gravitate towards that area. Competitive financial accounts are very much a selling point to potential investors. A market where no one has to buy anything at all is not a place for a new company to be unless they have a tried and true brand or product to offer.
The line between marketing strategy, product, and marketing tactics is more defined for direct competition and direct competition tactics. With this type of tactic, you can easily see the success of a company being dictated by the tactics they engage in. This is called a “battlefield” and is focused on what they do the most, and is the most effect.
Generally speaking, the field is well defined and the tactics are simple and exaggerations of what the field already is, setting up an obvious win for whoever engages the most people. This is usually supported with compelling advertising, media advertising, billboards, and landmark buildings. You can take the same baseline and product or service and use it for political campaigns, or videos, or whatever you want to get your message out there.
For this reason, it is hard to effect change in a default marketing strategy, and those who specialize in political campaigning or documentary filmmaking (one of the most dull forms of media marketing I’ve ever seen on TV) understand this common tactic. To them, it doesn’t make a difference that your content might actually be better. The effect is the same. The strategy is the same and in fact, it is the same for all of these types of marketing tactics. And the tactics are usually so focused and well done that they can make the difference between success and failure. The importance is the tactics, not the content.
It is the tactics that give these types of marketing strategies the “wow” factor. And when it is overused, it can create a template that others can play off of. But when used appropriately, it is a disruptive force that can really shake up your established marketplace. Even for marketing tactics.
(See here, here, and here for an example of a marketing strategy with focusing on the product. This one is my favorite because the first two are competitors while the last one is totally a marketing tactic.)
Marketing Strategy vs Tactis: Common Mistakes
A mistake, by definition is “a cause for failure, distress, or disappointment that can adversely affect a company, organization, or individual.” This is pointing to tactics.
Wait… Aren’t tactics tied to the performance of a product or company? Or sales? Yes, of course. But this is a leadership mistake. Not understanding “market strategy”.
Marketing strategy is never coordinated with product strategy, which is always very important, but it is not a mistake. It might be, but more often it isn’t.
What is wrong is coming up with a specific tactic and then figuring out how to implement it. It’s easy to say, “We should do more public relations”, but the publicity on which you should do it is important as well as how you will do it.
What is wrong is thinking, “We should have more social media presence.” This means getting social media in place first. Also, it may mean having the people who are good at social media to take care of it. It may mean even making a social media department so it can be coordinated across different departments and employees. It is not that “we should have more social media presence”. It’s how you do it.
What is wrong is, “We should make a stronger advertising push.” What advertising should you make? What television, radio, and newspaper advertising, where should that advertising appear? Who will sponsor them? If you don’t have the money for television or radio advertising, there’s no reason to do it. There are a million reasons. It’s the implementation that is the problem.
What is wrong is to say, “We should beef up our public relations.” You need to find what is lacking in your public relations department, how much money you can spare for hiring a publicist, or public relations person or two. You need to find out who has the experience for the job, and what skills they have. If they don’t, you need to hire someone with those skills. You need to get a plan from your public relations person as to what you hope to accomplish with the funds, and where that money should go. If you don’t have money for a public relations person, then you can’t afford one.
Yes, your media outlets will have a lot of ideas, and if you have money for advertising, you can hire a lot of people to implement those advertising ideas. But without the proper planning, they can be a diversion or a waste of money.
It is not a mistake to implement a tactic, if you can see the need for it, and how you can do it with the resources you have, instead of coming up with a very specific marketing tactic to hire a PR person, and then waiting for the money because you don’t have the money for a public relations person.
A marketing strategy should put all of these factors together, as in the slogan above, so that the tactics represent the strategy, not the other way around. If your tactics are too specific to be strategic, they might be the same tactics that have been used successfully, but are not doing anything special or different. This is called “fashion”. Marketing tactics for fashion tend to do well in the short term. They don’t necessarily keep you at the top of the market over the long term.
When you are doing direct competition, you also have to make decisions on how to implement your tactics. You don’t have to make any decisions for direct competition tactics if they are mutually exclusive, or if one strategy is more effective than another, or if you know what you are doing. But if you do decide upon a marketing tactic, then you have to choose the best place to execute it. If it is too much money, you have to find another way.
What is Wrong with Marketing Tactics?
A tactic is something that is applied to a marketing strategy. It can be tied to your product or services. This is the way “tactics” is used by business people in the 1940’s. Tactics is a military term that says, “tactics is simply the best and quickest way to kill a person, animal, or a group of people.” This is not good marketing strategy practice.
As marketing strategist Marc Goodman puts it: Tactics are what happens when strategy is used as a manager or a hammer to ding a poor strategy instead of the business’s real objective. This also happens when strategy gets tweaked into a series of advertising or promotional tactics. Strictly speaking, a marketing strategy is a statement of what the marketing of a business is going to be.
What is market strategy? Market strategy is a set of thought, captured by a statement of the market and the way the company will operate in that market. Market strategy, according to a document I’ve read from the defunct Professional Services Research Organization, states:
Market strategy is a set of principles that define a company’s overall business objectives, its competitive position, the way it will view competitors, and its general operating strategy. This set of principles and operating strategy are a deliberate, conscious choice, informed by the specific business strategy that has been established.
Marketing strategy is a set of principles and values that define the company’s overall business objectives. It is the deliberate, conscious choice of management to protect the firm against myriad risks and opportunities. Marketing strategy must guide the firm’s strategic decisions (decisions about resources, outputs, and outlets) and the strategic vision of the firm as both a whole and a series of distinct segments. It also guides the choice of the overall competitive strategy and the ways the firm defines its market space, its competitive position, and defines choices.
And this is seen as the most important marketing strategy. It is the first thing you hear about when you start a business because this a company’s unique strength. It is the first thing a company will tell you about because it is what will differentiate that company from everybody else.
Marketing strategy is executional strategy. The executional strategy is the immediate, day-to-day effort to achieve the company’s overall business objectives over a period of time. It is all about execution, day-to-day operations, decisions, and actions. It can change from day-to-day.
Marketing strategy is the goal. It does not dictate the means. It defines the means, in relation to the goals.
What good is “marketing strategy” if you don’t have a good marketing of your product? This is not too difficult to understand: A universal rule of strategy is that strategies without tactics are tactics.
Marketing strategy is strategy, therefore you can have a marketing strategy that does not have tactics. It can guide tactics, but it is not tactics. You could have a strategy that is followed by many tactics and this can work for a while in the short term, but it will be named a “fashion”, which is the term for a strategy that is popular and new, but probably not effective in the long run.
You don’t have to implement something just because “everyone else is doing it and it’s popular”. If it works, it works. Here are some examples of universal truths about strategy that you should follow:
Everything that is worth having requires effort Most strategies are relatively easy to implement It is good to get others involved, and you don’t have to implement “everything that is good”. However, you should have a strategy that will allow you to implement “something that is good” or “something that will work”. If it is your position that everyone will be doing something like yours, you are probably wrong. You should be wary of everything that is “fashion”, and avoid it.
Never confuse a tactic with strategy.
The reason that I have written this article is because I have run across numerous businesses or small business owners that are using tactics. If you are in the middle of a business and don’t know what your strategy is, find one and implement it. Train your employees. Train your customers. Change your website if you have to. But don’t fall into the trap. Find out what your marketing is, develop a marketing strategy, then implement that strategy.
Part of a marketing strategy is that you take into consideration all of the above and you will have a successful strategy.