Marketing Strategy vs. Marketing Tactics: What’s the Difference? We Break It Down


Whether you’re talking about professional sports or marketing, you need strategy to win. But you also need the tools and the know-how to fuel that strategy, or else all you’ve got is a random collection of plays and nothing to hold them together.

So what’s the difference between strategy and tactics?

Strategy is the overarching plan to meet a goal. It’s all about the thinking. Tactics are the individual activities that help us reach the goal—the doing that follows the thinking.

Put another way, you might think of strategy as a wheel, and the goal is to turn it. Tactics are the individual activity “spokes” that help turn the wheel. Spokes (tactics) on their own are relatively useless without a wheel (strategy), and the same is true in reverse. The wheel needs the spokes to support the turning motion.

So first, we need a strategy.

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Key Factors in Building a Strategy

When a business comes to us for marketing and design help, we first need to establish its strategy. One way we help determine what the ideal strategy will be is by having the client answer key questions, such as

  • Who are your target clients? In this category, we’re looking for the type of client (B2B or B2C) and ideal/not ideal buyer personas. Knowing the audience is a critical point in developing a strategy as it informs how we approach them, the messaging used, and what tactics we apply. Buyer personas enable segmentation
  • How will you reach your target audience? Here, we define all the ways you connect with your ideal buyers, such as email, website, social, digital advertising, conventional advertising, editorial or earned media, trade events, and so on. Of course, each audience has preferred ways to connect with their favorite companies, so it’s critical to meet them on their own ground.
  • What sales methodologies will you use to increase the bottom line? Sales methodologies are more about how you sell as opposed to what you sell. And because growing the bottom line is always at least one of the main goals, you want to look at the most effective ways to approach your customers. Some examples include customer-centric selling, which focuses on becoming a trusted advisor to your clients; inbound selling, which are sales that come to you through providing the customer with ways to engage with your brand (through content, for example); and solution selling, which focuses on solving your customer’s pain points and making their lives better.
  • How will you stay in front of current and potential customers? Here, we look at ways to keep the brand, product, or service top-of-mind for current and future customers. To accomplish this, you’ll first need to understand your competition and know how your customers like to connect with brands like yours.
  • What are your key metrics for growth? (HINT: don’t say web traffic!) some of the areas we’ll talk about include cost per lead, customer acquisition costs, conversion rates, number of active users, retention, annual recurring revenue, churn rates, and, of course, revenue generation. These are the metrics that really tell the tale, as opposed to web traffic, which could mean very little if it’s not leading to any meaningful interaction.
  • What are your key partnerships? Partnerships are a critical aspect of marketing because you can leverage those relationships to strengthen everything you do. This area includes vendors, business partners, manufacturers, suppliers, or other companies adjacent to your niche that add value to your business.
  • What are your advantages (outside of your product or service)? This is about how you differentiate yourself from the competition. Do you have proprietary software, equipment, or techniques? Do you prioritize customer success with a dedicated team? Are you more agile, diverse, or multi-faceted than your competitor? Paper-free? 100% remote? There’s a reason people choose you, so you should know how to articulate that.
  • What does success look like to you? Here, we want to know your one-year, three-year, and five-year goals, both as a firm and based on your service/product. In this area, it’s about vision. Once you have a clear image of the destination, we can start mapping out ways to get you there.

All of these points fuel the strategy. They are components of the total goal, and they are also how we measure your progress along the way.

For example, when we re-design a website (which is a tactic, by the way), we take all of your strategic answers into consideration to ensure that the website we build performs to support your goals. Thus, strategy is always focused on the destination.

Tactics, on the other hand, are how we get there.

Marketing Tactics

Tactics typically have various resources attached to them. They have a start and end date, action points, and milestones along the way to represent incremental progress toward the goal.

Tactics are owned—in other words, when we deploy a tactic, we assign a specific person or team to own the task. Viewed together, the tactics we apply give us the means to track KPIs related to the strategy.

Here are a few examples:

  • Website Design/Development or Optimization. A high-performing website serves your strategy in many ways, from brand awareness to establishing authority to improving conversions. Some of the tactics we might use within this context include SEO and UX/UI optimization. Ultimately, the better the user experience, the more successful this tactic—and the strategy it’s attached to—will be.
  • Content marketing includes blogs and pillar posts, white papers, landing pages—all of which serve other tactics, like SEM and PPC. Other types of content might include podcasts, videos, ebooks, tip sheets, or other types of content your audience consumes.
  • Digital advertising, such as social media ads, search engine marketing, and banner ads, leverage what you know about your audience to drive progress, and it all ties back into your content marketing and website.
  • CRM. Customer relationship management is, arguably, one of the most powerful tools in your marketing playbook. CRM centralizes data, breaks down silos, aligns your teams, enables omnichannel, automates routine tasks, and improves productivity by a significant degree. In the effort to ensure your strategy works, a CRM is essential. It makes it easy to do more in less time and helps you track critical metrics so you can attach a value to every interaction.

Finally, we use HubSpot to help us manage, implement, and track performance, right down to the individual contact level, so we always know what is and isn’t working. HubSpot is a powerful CRM, but it’s also an inbound marketing platform that enables us to get your content in front of the right audience, drive more traffic to your landing pages, and convert more leads into customers.

Plus, with HubSpot’s robust reporting features, you’ll be able to draw a straight line between your marketing tactics and the bottom line. If something isn’t working, we adjust. It’s a dynamic and strategic way to achieve your business goals—so much so that once you’ve experienced it, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.

If you’re ready to talk strategy, we’re ready to listen. Connect with us and let’s talk about your goals… or book a quick chat now:

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