Strategy Before Tactics … Please!

I am regularly asked for help with a social media challenge, an email campaign that needs a boost or a digital campaign that needs an overhaul. And every single time, I ask that the client step back and share the marketing strategy with me, so I can prepare an appropriate recommendation. More often than not, I get a blank stare.

Marketing and strategyI am regularly asked for help with a social media challenge, an email campaign that needs a boost or a digital campaign that needs an overhaul. And every single time, I ask that the client step back and share the marketing strategy with me, so I can prepare an appropriate recommendation. And more often than not, I get a blank stare.

I don’t know if the problem starts with our marketing educational system, or if marketing students aren’t paying attention in class. Or perhaps people changed career tracks and decided marketing was easy, so why not? Whatever the case, more and more marketers seem to be lacking a solid understanding of marketing strategy, and are constantly thinking about and implementing tactics which — surprise! — don’t get the results they’re seeking.

I thoroughly enjoy reading/listening/watching Professor Mark Ritson, an associate professor of marketing and columnist for UK-based Marketing Week, because he truly tells it like it is. His May 11th blog included the perfect metaphor, and it’s worth quoting verbatim, because it’s dead on. Here’s what he said:

“Marketing strategy is where we play and how we win in the market. Tactics are how we then deliver on the strategy and execute for success. In traditional military strategy, the generals of old would gather, survey the battlefield in depth, review the enemy’s forces and then decide exactly where to attack, at what time and with which forces. Strategy agreed, the orders would be sent down to the various battalions who then concerned themselves with the tactical business of executing their respective objectives. A troop charged with taking a hill, for example, might deploy its archers and then send in the infantry to finish off the enemy.”

If you have no strategy, an entire military effort might consist of each battalion conducting random acts of aggression against the enemy, without any idea of the big picture or the desired outcome.

And this seems to be how many marketers are operating today. Lots of digital initiatives because it’s cool or there’s a fear that if they don’t have a digital presence they won’t be seen as cool. Likewise for content marketing, creating video, writing a blog, emailing customers, conducting outbound calling, starting a loyalty program, etc., etc., etc.

These are all tactical details that should exist because they support an overarching brand strategy, which is also linked to measurable objectives.

If your marketing initiatives are under-delivering, step back and ask yourself a few questions in this order:

1. What’s the business problem I am trying to solve? Why?
2. Who is my target, and why?
3. What is my strategy for connecting with them (where you play)?
4.Why should they care about my product/service (how you win)?

Then, and only then, can you review your existing tactics to see if they align with your strategy. Chances are, if you aren’t achieving your objectives, they don’t align — and that’s when you can start evaluating different tactical solutions that make more sense.

Author: Carolyn Goodman

A blog that challenges B-to-B marketers to learn, share, question, and focus on getting it right—the first time. Carolyn Goodman is President/Creative Director of Goodman Marketing Partners. An award-winning creative director, writer and in-demand speaker, Carolyn has spent her 30-year career helping both B-to-B and B-to-C clients cut through business challenges in order to deliver strategically sound, creatively brilliant marketing solutions that deliver on program objectives. To keep her mind sharp, Carolyn can be found most evenings in the boxing ring, practicing various combinations. You can find her at the Goodman Marketing website, on LinkedIn, or on Twitter @CarolynGoodman.

One thought on “Strategy Before Tactics … Please!”

  1. Carolyn, great post. I see it on a daily basis from c-level executives who have no marketing experience and the recent college grads they hire to execute tactics. Based on my conversations with executives they either don’t understand, or see, strategy, as well as vision, mission, values and strategic positioning as b.s. Very sad.

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