The Difference Between Marketing Strategies and Marketing Tactics

“What’s your marketing strategy?” one entrepreneur asks another, and the second entrepreneur replies, “Oh, I thought I’d do a mailing list, and maybe some cold calls.”

“Great ideas!” the first says, “You should have a Facebook page, too.”

The problem with this conversation is that neither of these entrepreneurs is discussing any sort of marketing strategy. Both are listing marketing tactics.

Why is that a problem?

Without a marketing strategy, tactics are just random shots in the dark at marketing success!

So what’s the difference?

A marketing strategy maps all of your goals and objectives out into a actionable plan. Marketing tactics are the tools and action steps in that plan.

A marketing strategy needs tactics to work, and likewise, tactics need to be organized in a strategy in order to create the most benefit.

For instance, our entrepreneurs above are both photographers. The mailing list and cold calls our second entrepreneur referred to, on their own, are unfocused. But if this photographer has at least one clear buyer persona in mind, and knows those buyers’ needs based on a proper assessment, a strategy can be easily developed that will put those tactics, if they are the right ones, to good use!

In this case, the photographer has a very targeted list of leads looking for wedding photography. Since this is their specialty, it won’t be wasting anyone’s time with random contact. They also have a landing page where prospective couples can opt-in to the mailing list and receive a free guide to getting the best pictures on your big day.

After the initial sign-up, couples will get a weekly email showcasing the photographer’s expertise and talent, while giving the couple great information that will help them make a solid buying decision (if done right, with the photographer!). If the photographer has strategic partnerships with caterers, wedding planners, or event halls, this would also be a great place for coupons or guest posts that have made this photographer the go-to for all things wedding!

These tactics are clearer now, but they still aren’t quite a full strategy.

The second photographer has a plan in place to call ten couples per day from their targeted list. They have great phone scripts for both a live conversation and for leaving a message. If they reach the lead immediately, or leave a message and receive a return call, they’ll be able to chat further and qualify the lead, leading to  a possible one-on-one meeting.

If they don’t qualify the lead, but are able to reach them, they can still pass along the landing page link to get them signed up on the mailing list, to continue the education process (or, conversely, they can just consider this a dead lead, which ultimately may create more time to spend converting the right ones!). Their strategy would look something like this:

Macro photograph of three wild ladybug beetles. This photograph of Harmonia axyridis has 1:2 magnification ratio, the beetle was 6mm long. This is the European red ladybug with black spots.

The first photographer’s suggestion of using a Facebook page to generate leads can also be a great tactic, as our photographer could showcase work, talk about the great couples he or she is working with, and share curated content about weddings and wedding photography in an easy way. Certainly, that’s part of a bigger social media strategy.

But, it may also be the portal to conversion by directing these qualified leads to their mailing list landing page. The landing page would have its own strategy, and the mailing list its own as well. All would be smaller parts of a much bigger, overall marketing strategy.

These are simplified for our purposes, not including budgets, development time or vendors, or schedules, but you get the idea!

It’s very important to know which tactics work best, but to get the most out of them, you’ll need to develop a marketing strategy that fits your specific buyers’ journey. If you’re still in the dark about who your buyers are, let’s talk!