Gerri Knilans, President, Trade Press Services
Marketing tactics and marketing strategies. These two phrases are used interchangeably, but are tactics the same as strategies? The simple answer is no. Here’s how to understand the differences between tactics and strategies and ensure day-to-day activities support the company’s growth initiatives.
What is a strategy?
A strategy is a concept or idea that illustrates what a company needs to do in order to achieve specific goals. Strategies answer the question: “what.” What does the company need to do to increase market share? What can the company do to improve customer loyalty? What approach should the company take to introduce a new service? Strategies are about positioning, competition and corporation distinction. Often, strategies are developed from a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis. They are the foundation for growth and arise from a company’s vision, mission and values. Strategies begin with words such as: capitalize, develop, utilize, eliminate, reduce and investigate.
However, strategies are not the means to accomplish organizational goals. While, they set the direction, strategies are realized through the execution of tactics.
What is a tactic?
Tactics have to do with implementation of strategies. Tactics answer the question “how.” How can the company use print advertising to increase market share? How will the company measure the effectiveness of email newsletters on improving customer loyalty? How many social media channels should the company use to announce its new service? They are more concrete than strategies and include the application of programs, activities and tasks such as direct mail, advertising, bylined articles, white papers, customer success stories, tradeshows, special events, press releases and other initiatives. Tactics begin with words such as: implement, conduct, produce, attend, show, advertise, exhibit, mail and design.
While strategies may stay the same over time, tactics can change, depending on their effectiveness. For example, a company may have a strategy to expand its social media reach. One tactic the company implements is posting five Facebook updates each week. Upon examination, it was determined that the tactic wasn’t successful because the target market does not use Facebook. Does the strategy change due to the failure of the tactic? No, because the company still wants to reach its target market via social media. Instead, revise the tactic to focus on the social media platforms most used by the target market.
Tactics also change as technology changes. Marketing tactics looked very different in the pre-internet days. They primarily consisted of using promotional materials and advertising in print, mail, TV and radio. Now, many marketing tactics contain a digital component, including email, social media, websites and online advertising.
Use tactics to support strategies
Many companies plan and budget for tactics without considering if they support their growth strategies. Others don’t even incorporate strategies in their marketing plans, or they fail to execute their strategic plans. Implementing tactics without tying them to a marketing strategy will fail to produce the desired results. Here’s an example of aligning tactics with strategy. The ABC Company sets a goal to bring in “X” number of new customers. One strategy to accomplish this goal is to expand into new marketplaces. The tactics to achieve the strategy might include conducting market research, building a list of new prospects, implementing an email marketing campaign and advertising in publications in the new market segment.
Tactics, while important, need to be selected carefully. Don’t use tactics just because they are convenient, inexpensive and available. Instead, make sure marketing tactics relate to, support and deliver based on the company’s strategies. For example, sending out email newsletters to current customers may be a worthwhile tactic as part of a customer loyalty strategy but may not be an effective tactic for bringing in new customers. Knowing the difference between strategies and tactics and applying that knowledge is more likely to produce the results companies seek from their marketing plans.
About the Author
Gerri Knilans is president of Trade Press Services. As marketing communications strategists, serving organizations of all sizes and types since 1995, the company provides writing, media outreach and general marketing support to help clients accelerate growth and generate more visibility, credibility and name recognition in their marketplaces. For additional information, please visit http://www.tradepressservices.com or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.