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Marketing Strategy, Plan & Tactics

What’s the difference between a marketing strategy, marketing plan or marketing tactic? Are they synonymous? This is a common misconception and confusion, even among some marketing professionals. Not understanding the difference and using each intentionally is the biggest mistake a marketer or business owner can make.

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A marketing strategy is all of a company’s marketing goals and objectives combined into a single comprehensive plan. It is more of a high level, overall strategic plan that is connected to the entire company and its objectives. It also determines how you will evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing tactics and success of your marketing plan.

A marketing plan is a much more focused, short-term initiative set out to achieve a very specific goal. Your marketing strategy should be used to help inform your marketing plan. A marketing strategy encompasses the bigger picture. A marketing plan, on the other hand, describes the logistical details for each specific strategic initiative.

A marketing tactic is a series or set of actions that make up the logistical details of the marketing plan. Commonly used marketing tactics include:

  • Social media marketing

  • Paid advertising

  • Blogging & Content marketing

  • Video marketing

  • Email marketing

  • Search engine optimization

Therefore, in marketing, the strategy describes the ‘what‘. The plan describes the ‘how.’ The tactics are the ‘how.’ Unfortunately, many people try to achieve the ‘how’ without first determining what the ‘what’ is.

What is Marketing Strategy?

So, let’s talk strategy. A marketing strategy aims to answer four primary questions:

  1. What is your primary business goal(s)?

  2. Who is your ideal client?

  3. Who are your competitors?

  4. How will you measure the success of your marketing efforts?

Once these questions are answered, you have a direction established for your marketing efforts. This helps you identify what will be most effective, ultimately saving you time and money.

1. What is your primary business goal(s)?

​Ultimately the primary goal for any business is to get more customers and make more money. But the more specific you can get with business goals, the more effective your marketing stratgy can be.

  • Introduce your good or services to new customers

  • Turn one-time customers into repeat customers

  • Improve your company reputation

2. Who is your ideal client?

Depending on what your primary business goal is, your target audience will differ.

If your goal is new customers, you might want to analyze who your competitor’s customers are.

If your goal is repeat customers, your target audience is your existing customer base.

If your goal is improving company reputation, your target audience is also your existing customers, but segmented into those with positive experiences and those with negative experiences.

3. Who are your competitors?

In the lawn and garden industry, identifying competitors can be tricky. Does it annoy you that Lowes and Home Depot are stealing customers away from independent garden centers? Of course! Can you go head to head with them with your marketing budget? No.

I’ve worked with small businesses in the tax preparation industry. They have the same struggles with H&R Block and Turbo Tax.

In these situations, using data from those big box stores can help inform you of who your target audience isn’t, and help you hone in on an audience that might be looking for more unique or specialized goods and services. This will help you build a plan that attacks big box competitors from the flanks rather than head on.

Then you can research which other local providers off those same specialized goods and services, and that’s who your direct competitors are.

4. How will you measure the success of your marketing efforts?

Your measure of success will also depend on what your primary business goal is, but ultimately you need to calculate a return on investment.

If your goal is to introduce your goods and services to new customers, your measure of success might be to increase the percent of your website traffic that are categorized as new users.

If your goal is to turn one-time customers into repeat customers, your measure of success would be to track customers who purchase your goods or services a second time.

If your goal is to improve company reputation, your measure of success might be your Google Business Profile review score or net promoter score.

If you can then attach a value to what a new visitor, repeat customer or customer review is worth on average, then you can calculate return on investment.

There are dozens of metrics to track with a digital marketing campaign. Establishing a baseline metric for success for your marketing as a whole will then help you identify more nuanced metrics of success for the various marketing tactics that make up your overall marketing plan.

How to Create a Marketing Plan

Let’s assume your primary business goal is to introduce your goods and services to new customers. Your target audience is potential customers who don’t know you or haven’t used your services before. You will have to rely heavily on data from your competitors, as well as your existing client base to build your marketing plan.

However, if your business goal is to turn one-time customers into repeat customers, you will want to focus on data about your existing customers. Key pieces of information to consider are:

  • How often do they purchase your goods and services

  • How much do they spend on average each month or year

  • If the purchases or leads are coming in through your online platforms, how

Oftentimes businesses don’t have the infrastructure to report on this data and are then unable to build a marketing plan that is data-driven. This is where hiring a marketing consultant can be invaluable to your business. We offer monthly or quarterly consultation services to assist with identifying metrics that need to be tracked, analyzing them and advising on where to adjust and pivot the marketing plan to use the most effective tactics available.

What are the Most Effective Tactics Available

If you need one take away from this article, let it be this:

When it comes to determining the best or most effective marketing tactics, a true marketing professional will always tell you it depends.

That’s not a cop out. That’s honesty. Square pegs don’t fit in round holes. Some agencies will try to tell you that SEO is the most effective marketing tactic, but that’s only because it brings their business the most revenue.

Our mission is to help your business identify the most effective tactics available to achieve your business goals. If you’re not ready to commit to a long-term relationship with a marketing consultant, start with a free consultation with one of our marketing professionals.

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