Tactics vs. Strategy: An Important Marketing Rant

Because I run a design-focused marketing agency, I get a lot of requests for one-time projects, like designing a brochure, redoing a website, creating a magazine ad, etc. In other words, I have a lot of clients who want to use me to employ a single marketing tactic for them rather than building an entire marketing strategy and cohesive campaign.

In the early days of my business, I accepted these projects without hesitation. Hey, you want me to design a brochure for you? Bring it on!

But lately, I’ve felt, let’s just say, unfulfilled. And maybe even a little guilty to be honest.

The truth is, many companies out there are haphazardly employing marketing tactics without creating an overall strategy. They think that simply printing up a brochure will help their company, but they don’t take the time to question why they need that brochure or how it will fit into their overall branding efforts. And in the end, they wind up with a mish-mash of marketing tactics that don’t add up to anything special.

That’s why I’ve started asking people who want to use me to work on a single piece of marketing collateral a simple question “Why?” I ask them why they want that brochure, that website redesign, that magazine ad, or that direct mail piece. I ask them what they hope to accomplish with it, and I ask them how it fits into their overall marketing strategy.

You see, there’s a difference between tactics and strategy. Too many times, businesses focus only on the tactics, paying no attention to how everything ties together in their overall marketing campaign. When the truth is, they should be taking the opposite approach.

They should first focus on creating a sound marketing strategy. And to do that, they need to:

  • Identify their goals as a company
  • Learn as much as possible about their target audience
  • Study the competition’s strengths and weaknesses
  • Create a unique selling proposition to differentiate themselves from the competition
  • Determine the best marketing tactics for spreading their message effectively to their target audience

See, the tactics are actually the final piece of the puzzle. Deploying various marketing tactics, whether it be social media, direct mail, SEO, etc., is actually the last step of the marketing process. You can’t start using these tactics until you’ve identified the reason for using them.

Simply put, a strategy is an idea, a realization of how you can achieve your goals. Tactics are the actions you take to implement the strategy.

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