Marketing Tactics vs Strategy & Why It’s Time to Change Your Approach

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Hundreds of thousands of dollars are poured into one-off marketing tactics, like Facebook advertising, on a monthly basis with (often wildly inflated) metrics like “impressions” and “reach” reported back with supposed success. Month after month, brands continue to press go on the ad budget, because click-through-rates (CTR) are high, conversions are growing each month, and overall the metrics seem to look solid. But dial into those metrics a little more, do a little investigating into the kinds of leads converting and you’ll quickly realize that while the quantity might be there, the quality is not.

The problem with this approach is the complete lack of a defined strategy at play. Marketers with a documented strategy are 538% more likely to report success than those who don’t, according to CoSchedule.

Deploying marketing tactics without an overarching strategy as guidance is kind of like setting sail without a destination or GPS. Sure- you may encounter some momentum and the ride might feel like it’s doing you a lot of good, but what is the point of casting off if you have no idea where you’re going, or why?

The difference between strategy and tactics

Your marketing strategy is the combination of strategically linked tactics you deploy to meet the goals you’ve put in place to reach a specific outcome. This strategy is born of deep research and audience insights. Put simply, it’s your marketing plan. Tactics are what help you get to that desired outcome. Tactics are the actions you take to execute your plan. Your marketing strategy informs your marketing tactics. Marketing tactics without a proper strategy, in the long term, are a waste of everyone’s time, energy, and money.

HubSpot

HubSpot, an inbound marketing and sales platform, has a traffic rank of #5 in the world in the category of online marketing tech. In eight years, HubSpot grew from zero to $100M in revenue. Their success is largely thanks to a well-developed marketing strategy. The company puts a strong focus (unsurprisingly) on inbound marketing, leveraging content partnerships, a strong SEO strategy, social media, and thoughtful, quality content that is useful and that their audience values. Not a single marketing tactic is without a connection to HubSpot’s overall marketing strategy.

What goes into a marketing strategy?

Know Your Audience

As stated above, a lot of research and data is needed to create an informed marketing strategy. According to a Forbes Insight Report, 87% of marketers consider data to be their organization’s most under-utilized resource. You need to understand your customer as a whole person beyond typical age and location demographics; what their needs and wants are, what stage of life they’re in, what influences them. The more you know about your audience, the better you’ll be able to serve them with quality marketing tactics that are informative, relatable, or inspirational, based on their stage in the sales cycle.

Define Your Goals

A marketing strategy is nothing without goals. Marketing goals turn your intangible marketing desires into measurable outcomes, so you can gauge what’s working and what isn’t. Marketers who set goals are 429% more likely to achieve success than those who don’t. Your marketing goals should be set in relation to your overall business goals. If your company is new, your goals could be more focused on building brand awareness, and SEO ranking. If your company is established and looking to grow, your goals may be more focused on growing website traffic and generating more (quality) leads.  

Determine Your Tactics

Once you have insight into who you are marketing to, and goals for how you are going to reach, engage, and convert them then you can figure out which marketing tactics you are going to use. You will know what platforms are relevant to your audience, how they like to be contacted, what questions they are asking, and what information they are searching for. This will help you determine your marketing mix, be it content marketing, paid social, paid search...you name it. Again, your goals will help you track which of these tactics is proving to be successful and which need some rethinking.  

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Glossier

In a highly crowded beauty industry, Glossier, stands out. This is, in part, thanks to their strategic marketing tactics which take a holistic marketing approach. In 2010, Emily Weiss launched “Into the Gloss” - a blog where she reviewed beauty products and interviewed celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Karlie Kloss on their personal beauty routines and products. The goal was to create a connection between consumer and product in an (at the time) inaccessible beauty industry. Content and influencers remain two of the core pillars of Glossier’s marketing strategy. The brand also leverages user-generated content and has set new standards for beauty brands on social media, with a highly engaged community of 1.7 million followers on Instagram alone.  

Marketing strategy = long term gain

An under-discussed element about quick-fix marketing tactics is the immediacy - that it feels good to see instant (albeit, short term) growth. It looks good to be able to report a line going up and to the right month over month. It’s safe. It’s easy. But the minute you stop paying for the ads, the traffic vanishes. If you had a holistic marketing strategy in place, this would not be the case. An informed marketing strategy may take more upfront legwork, but the impact is a sustainable, measurable plan that will lead you towards long-term growth.