Tactical Marketing vs. Strategic Marketing: what’s the difference?

The more you can break down your marketing strategy, the more you will be able to turn it into a working roadmap for success. There are two major parts to a marketing strategy: tactical marketing and strategic marketing. Many business owners don’t break down their strategy to understand how these two different pieces should work together to get consistent results.

Casey Stanton - Fractional CMO

Casey Stanton
Fractional CMO & CMOx Founder

This post was written by Casey S. Stanton. 

Casey is a marketing strategy expert and founder of CMO Exponential (CMOx), the Fractional CMO company. For over 10 years Casey has been leading marketing strategy for 7 and 8 figure businesses in both digital and brick-and-mortar markets. 

See Casey’s Bio.

Strategic vs. Tactical Marketing

For a short summary: strategic marketing outlines what you are trying to achieve, while tactical marketing covers how you will try to achieve it.

Both of these approaches are very different and can work solo. But, they won’t deliver at full potential until they are combined into your digital strategy.

Tactics and strategy have worked as two sides of the same coin forever. For an in-depth article on this idea, our friends at Farnham Street have written an excellent piece outlining the difference between tactics and strategy. This article will focus on the difference exclusively for marketing purposes. 

Tactics vs. Strategy

What is Tactical Marketing?

Tactical marketing gets into the weeds to discover what actions will best serve the strategy. It details what digital marketing campaigns should be created, how those campaigns are executed, what distribution channels will be used and how outreach will be measured. 

This part of your strategy will take into account the budget, your customer’s behavior, available platforms and the kinds of content that may be effective for reaching your goals. Tactical marketing builds from strategic marketing and asks questions like:

  • Where can you reach your target customer?
  • What current gaps exist in your content marketing?
  • What will you do for optimization to reach your goals?
  • Who on the team is tasked with what, and when?
  • What metrics will be used to monitor performance?

Tactical marketing looks at the very near future to determine your actions to support both short-term and long-term goals. This part of your strategy focuses on generating leads, creating ads, updating social media, optimizing your website and writing content. Tactical marketing will be in a state of constant flux as you work to understand what is working and what isn’t.

What is Strategic Marketing?

Strategic marketing is defining the bigger picture and answering the big questions about what you want to accomplish. This part of your marketing strategy is focused on your company’s goals and brand awareness. Strategic planning will look at customer behavior, competitor placement, pricing and overall market research. Strategic marketing asks the questions like:

  • What are your strengths as a company?
  • Where are you filling gaps in the market?
  • Who is your target audience or demographic?
  • Where are you now vs. where do you want to be?
  • What perception should the brand give off?

Strategic marketing looks at the long-term picture and marketing goals for your company. It doesn’t try to answer “how” you will get something done, it only needs to discover “what” is missing that needs to be focused on in your strategy. Strategic marketing is when marketers identify how the marketing should look and how things should be accomplished when it’s all said and done.

How to Build a Tactical Marketing Plan

You can put together a tactical marketing plan to support your strategic marketing plan and help your marketing efforts succeed. This will be more detailed than a plan solely focused on strategy and it will explain how the actions will be done. A tactical marketing plan becomes all about how you will meet goals and not stop with the goals themselves. Sometimes, the hardest part is breaking down the goals into reasonable objectives you can meet.

Tactical Marketing Plan

Understand How Tactics Affect Your Marketing Strategy

Tactics are the bricks in the wall for marketing strategy. A marketing strategy is the sum of its parts and this can be seen in good and bad tactics. If you write the right tactics, then you will support your strategic goals. But, if you aren’t placing enough of a focus on your tactical marketing, then the strategic part of your marketing strategy is going to suffer.

A great marketing campaign could be undermined by a poor sales team.

Or, the marketing strategy could include an automated email sequence, but if the emails are written badly or lack segmentation, the strategy is doomed.

Tactical marketing allows you to spend time solely focused on the “what.” What will make my goals happen? What drives success?

And, while your strategies may stay the same for quite some time, your tactical approach should not. Breaking down the tactics into their own category allows you to focus on how they should change to best support the strategy.

Create Marketing Objectives

Once you’ve spent time building the strategic plan, you will break down the goals into objectives. OKRs (objectives and key results) will help you create the kinds of goals with actionable plans behind them. You need SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely) goals and OKRs to take you to the next level. With your objectives in place, you will define the key results that will help you achieve those objectives.

This gives your tactical plan a focus. You can’t be all things at the same time. So, your tactical marketing plan has to be focused on prioritizing your goals into the top objectives.

If your business goal is to increase growth, then the objective could be to acquire 10 clients in the next month and the key results might include actions like: establishing a focused Facebook ad, writing a gated white paper to increase your contacts list and sending out a 3-part email campaign with a special deal focused at new customers. If you fail within that month, then you change up your key results for the next month and adapt.

Pinpoint Your Gaps

Tactical marketing is going to look at how you are approaching your strategy and what actions need to be completed for a success. Realizing where you have gaps in your approach can really help shore up those places where leads may be falling through the cracks.

Part of your tactical approach should be to audit your current content and see how your sales funnel flows. You should be meeting customers at every point—from awareness, through consideration and decision and into conversion.

If you find too much of your content is focused on one area of the funnel, then your tactical marketing plan should include the content calendar needed to fix those gaps. Identify what content you are missing and add it to your marketing strategy as a part of your tactical approach to improve reach and SEO.

Not only should this apply to your content, but consider your events and paid advertising gaps as well.

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Break Down Marketing Tactics

You can even break your tactical marketing down further for an even more detailed approach. Your tactical marketing can be divided into foundational and ongoing segments.

Foundational tactics are the things that will always be there, like keeping your website, social profiles and evergreen content up-to-date, or working to get positive reviews on Google. Foundational tactics include ensuring your branding is consistent and your content represents you at all times. Foundational tactics are the parts of your tactical marketing that don’t change.

Ongoing tactics change as needed and may be used differently at different times. These will have to do with specific campaigns and time-sensitive content. You should have flexible parts of your tactical marketing plan that are quick to change when you aren’t hitting objectives the way you want to. Ongoing tactics should be in constant flux and refreshed as often as new options arise.

Assign Tasks to Your Team

After the initial marketing planning, you need to decide who will be responsible for completing key tasks. Be specific in assigning tasks to your team and track project details with a project management software (PMs) for improved collaboration with in-app messaging. Some of the top PMs include:

  • Asana
  • Monday
  • LiquidPlanner
  • Celoxis
  • Wrike

If you don’t have a large team, you may want to consider outsourcing parts of your marketing. You could hire a photographer or writer to help your team get the pieces needed for your specific marketing tactics. You could even hire marketing leadership to outsource strategy and help give your small business marketing team guidance.

Building a Stronger Marketing Strategy

Using both the tactical elements and the strategic pieces, you can build a successful marketing strategy for agile marketing that is efficient and effective—you won’t need to go back to the drawing board every time you hit a bump in the road or want to change directions.

If you need help with your marketing strategy and implementing these pieces, we can help.

At CMOx, we help connect you with a fractional CMO or marketing strategy consultant to help guide your marketing team. You can outsource a marketing manager for a strategy that is tailor-made to support your company goals.

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