Marketing Tactics vs Strategy - Which One First?

Picture of Andrew Chao Daongam
Andrew Chao Daongam on 03 May 2018


When I have discussions about marketing with a firm, they typically have a very good understanding of what tactics are and how they plan to execute them. I usually start off the conversation by asking them what their marketing initiatives include. Here are some example answers that may resonate with you:

  • “We are active on social media by sharing content that we find related to our financial service business.”
  •  “We signed up to attend 3 finance trade shows this year and be a speaker for each to gain exposure and to generate leads.”
  • “We send out mailings every month for either an invitation to an event or to contact us to speak with an advisor about our investment solutions.”
  • “We blog 4 times a month about the trends of our investment solutions.”

However, when I ask firms what their marketing strategy is for all these activities, it becomes a different story and many are puzzled by what exactly I am trying to ask. This is an indication that they might be lacking the most important element to be as successful as they can be, that which is their marketing strategy.

Does this resonate with you? If so, you are at the right place to learn marketing tactics vs strategy and the importance of having one strategy before planning out all your various marketing tactics or activities.

First, Can You Identify the Difference between Strategy and Tactic?

 I often hear the words tactic and strategy being used interchangeably. However, these two terms have their own distinctive roles. Before we explain each one, let’s start with a self-evaluation. Can you identify which of these 4 statements are tactics and which are strategies?

  1. “Our [strategy or tactic] is to launch 1 new  product by the end of Q3 to cross sell with one of our current ones.”
  2. “Our [strategy or tactic] is to target affluent investors –mainly business owners and physicians.”
  3. “Our [strategy or tactic] is to ask each salesperson to write and publish 1 blog article on the company’s website about the trend of our investment solutions.”
  4. “Our [strategy or tactic] is to ensure that our content covers what type solution would be best suited for their needs.”

If you’ve identified that A and D are strategies, you are correct!

To make sure that we are on the same page, let’s clearly define the difference between strategy and tactic.

What is strategy:

Strategy is the direction of where you should and want to focus your marketing efforts. It is your playing field and will be your ultimate reference point to justify if your tactics are aligned to be successful.

For Example: We want to target accredited investors who are physicians between the ages of 50 to 65 who are looking to diversify their assets with alternative investments and are at the stage of exploring different real estate options.

What is tactic:

Tactics is essentially an activity that supports your strategy such as an ad campaign, trade show to attend, sales presentation in a hotel, direct mailing, etc.

Why Work on strategy vs tactics first for your business?

The strategy is like a rule book. It implies what you should do and what you shouldn't. At the same time, it will help you narrow down what needs to be done to reach your goals. Without a strategy, your tactics are not justified or focused, and could end up being futile.

Setting up your Inbound marketing for success with Strategy First:

Inbound Marketing is about attracting and nurturing the right people with the right content at the right time. Notice that this statement comprises of 3 parts, which represent the strategy:

1. Attracting the right people:

Who are you going after? Did you develop your buyer persona to know exactly how to best reach them?

2. Attracting with the right content:

What are the goals and challenges that your buyer persona is facing? Could you write content that will resonate with their needs?

3. Providing the content at the right time:

Which stage of the buyer’s journey are you focusing on with your upcoming tactics?

Deciding on the number of blog articles to write, email campaigns to launch and social media activities are great, but without a strategy in place, it will be hard to write content with a clear purpose and objective, leading to tactics that come across as scattered and ineffective.

You can blog as many articles as you want, but what will you write about? You can send a well crafted and creative email, but who do you send it to? You can share articles about the trends related to your industry, but are your followers are at that stage to care about it?

Work on building your strategy first, determine what tactics you would like to run, and then decide the amount of content that you would like to produce or share according to your budget and the goals that have been set.


Understanding Inbound Marketing


Topics: Inbound Marketing, Marketing Strategy

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