“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat”—Sun-Tzu
Tactics and strategy: Two words which are often conflated and much confused. While they don’t mean the same thing, they do go hand-in-hand, much like reputation and brand. Unlike reputation and brand, however, one can live without the other. But if you choose to rely on only tactical quick fixes—like pumping money into a paid social campaign—you’ll find this unreliable.
In marketing, tactics are used to achieve an objective. They are the actionable pieces of the plan that support each other and are continually adapted, rather than working over the long term. And because of this, they are fluid, they can alter to suit the business aims.
Whereas a strategy is the long-term planning of goals—the direction in which your tactics are aimed towards. Without a proper strategy, your firm’s reputation and purpose can suffer, and this is why you need more than a tactical quick fix.
What tactical marketing means in practice
An example of tactical marketing, in the case of a professional services firm, might be focusing on a video marketing campaign as an avenue for growing brand awareness—an initiative that can be adapted or dropped altogether if it fails to produce results.
Initiatives work alongside others, such as an email campaign or focused social advertising, to improve brand awareness which serves the greater objectives of differentiating the firm from its competitors and building up trust.
Collectively, tactics set the direction of the strategy and contribute to business aims by putting your services or products in front of the right audience. One way to decide on what your tactics should be, is by building ‘personas’ of your ideal clients: their age, gender, location, and business function, etc.
Personas allow you to make an informed choice about the marketing channels that are most effective at reaching your audience. For instance, if your accounting firm decides to increase clients in manufacturing or TMT, you could leverage your personas to identify whether your audience would be receptive to advertising in specific industry press or a 5,000-word white paper, to generate new conversations.
Tactics are not static; they need to be shifted and altered, to allow for the whims of the market. Use a mix of direct marketing tactics (like email) and indirect (like video) to get in front of as many people who are in the market for your services as possible.
What strategic marketing means in practice
Strategic marketing looks at the bigger picture for your firm, including the goals you have set. Such as, increasing market share, or changing the perception of your firm in the eyes of your audience.
Strategic goals are invariably more conceptual than a tactical objective but should still be specific. Instead of setting a general goal of increasing clients, choose a certain percentage or specific demographic in the market—small businesses or sole-traders, for example. That way, your tactical marketing focuses on bringing your services to them in a tailored way.
If you work in the legal industry, for instance, then knowing the advantages and disadvantages of implementing AI technology will be a boon for your firm—if the plan includes aligning with technology. Knowing whether your firm has the financial security to compete with firms developing AI technology, or if it could gain an advantage over those not implementing it, will steer your strategy accordingly.
Combine the two
As you can see, tactical marketing can work without strategy, but there is little point doing it in the long term. At Propero, we call this ‘Random Acts of Marketing’, which we avoid ourselves and strongly recommend our clients do the same. Without a plan behind the action, you could be targeting the right people with the wrong messaging—for instance, going for the hard sell to those at the top of the ‘marketing funnel’ when you should be simply telling them you exist—hoping for them to engage.
However, without tactical marketing to support your strategy, you’ll have no tools to action it.
Therefore, a combination of the two is necessary to keep your firm running and provide longevity and growth. Having a well-balanced strategy that is grounded in evidence and based on previous performance, sets your firm up to succeed. Like the old adage goes, “failing to plan is planning to fail”.
TIP: There are two questions which will help you to understand the difference between the tactical and strategic, and how to avoid a tactical quick-fix.
What do you want to achieve? The answer will shape your strategy.
What do you need to achieve it? The answer will shape your tactics.