Why Marketing Strategy Trumps Tactics

| August 29, 2023

Marketing is hard. 

If you’ve been in business for longer than a few minutes, then you know how challenging it is to stand out from the crowd. You also know, it’s a necessity. 

And to top it off, the marketing landscape is ever-evolving. Small business owners can easily get caught up in a whirlwind of marketing tactics and trends. 

However, diving headfirst into marketing activities without a solid marketing strategy can and (almost certainly) will lead to subpar results. That’s why it's critical to develop a solid marketing strategy before investing time, effort and resources into tactics.

Marketing Strategy vs. Marketing Tactics

Let’s start by defining marketing strategy and marketing tactics.  

A marketing strategy is your overall game plan for reaching prospective consumers and turning them into customers. It aligns with your business goals and outlines your marketing goals, target audience, value proposition, offers, positioning, messaging and more. 

Marketing tactics, on the other hand, are the actions you take to execute your strategy. These might include SEO, social media marketing, PPC campaigns, etc.

So why do so many small businesses jump straight into tactics without a proper strategy in place? 

Well, quick-draw tactics do offer the possibility of instant gratification. You can put something together and hope to see the results quickly.  Maybe an increase in website traffic from a PPC campaign or engagement on a social media post. 

Sometimes it actually works out that way, but it’s a roll of the dice.  

Without a strategy guiding these tactics, your marketing efforts may not align with your business goals and may not reach your target audience effectively. It might produce nothing. Or it might produce something that amounts to nothing.   

4 Major Pitfalls of Skipping the Marketing Strategy

Neglecting a marketing strategy in favor of tactics can lead to several problems: 

Problem #1: Wasted Resources 

Without a clear strategy, you may end up investing in marketing activities that don't produce. For example, if a small business pours resources into a social media campaign without understanding whether their audience is even active on those platforms, they’ve risked that time and money spent and will get little or no ROI. 

Problem #2: Inconsistent Messaging

A lack of strategy often leads to inconsistent brand messaging. For example, a small business might have a friendly and casual tone in their social media content but a more formal tone on their website. Prospects will recognize the inconsistency and find it confusing which leads to distrust.

Problem #3: Opportunity Cost

Small businesses typically have small budgets and that doesn’t leave room for much waste. For instance, while spending time and resources on random tactics that didn’t produce, you could have been focused on making progress on a strategy and tactics that align with it. 

Problem #4: Hindered Long-Term Growth

Short-term wins don’t always mean long-term success. Without a clear marketing strategy, you’ll be hard-pressed to build strong customer relationships and establish brand loyalty — which lays the groundwork for sustainable growth. For example, a discount campaign might boost sales momentarily, but without a customer retention strategy, those customers might not return, resulting in no sustained growth.

The Benefits of a Well-Defined Marketing Strategy

A comprehensive marketing strategy is the roadmap for your marketing plan. 

It is the linchpin between your marketing activities and your business goals, ensuring every activity serves a purpose. This tight alignment leads to more efficient use of resources, more consistent messaging, and ultimately, better performance.

The Major Elements of a Marketing Strategy include:

  • Business & Marketing Goals: Your business goals are the broader, business-wide objectives. They should be used to set your marketing goals, which in turn leads your marketing plan. 

Why It Matters: If your business goal is to expand into a new market, then your marketing goals need to work toward achieving that overarching goal. In this instance, your marketing goal might be to increase brand awareness in that market. Without the proper alignment, you’re going to waste time and money.

  • Target Audience: This involves researching and creating detailed profile(s) of your ideal customer(s). It includes their demographics, behaviors, preferences, pain points, needs, wants and aspirations. 

Why It Matters: Knowing your audience will help you meet your audience where they are (think: marketing channels) and tailor clear marketing messages that will cut through the noise and resonate with them.

  • Competitive Landscape: This involves an in-depth analysis of your competitors - who they are, what they offer and how they market their products or services. 

Why It Matters:  When you understand your competition, you can find opportunities to differentiate your business and carve out your unique space in the market. 

  • Offer: A clearly outlined offer is one that speaks to your target audience. Not just what your product or service is, but why it's valuable to them and how it meets their needs or solves their problems. 

Why It Matters: If you're selling a project management tool, you're not just offering software—you're offering a solution for teams that struggle to collaborate and stay organized.

  • Brand Positioning: This is about defining how you want your brand to be perceived in the marketplace and differentiating yourself from competitors. 

Why It Matters: You can position your brand as a luxury product or a cost-effective solution, and how you position it will determine who will want it and whether or not you beat out your competition.

  • Core Marketing Messaging: This is the underlying idea or concept that you want to communicate consistently across all your marketing channels. It should encapsulate your brand's values, benefits and personality. 

Why It Matters: If you're a small business, your message needs to stand out and differentiate you from the competitors in order to be heard. For instance, if you’re selling sustainable products, your core marketing message might be about environmental responsibility and promoting a green lifestyle.


Each of these elements plays a critical role in forming a sound marketing strategy. 

The small businesses that understand and address each one are able to create a strong foundation for their marketing plan and set themselves up for success.

Defining the Right Marketing Tactics with Your Strategy

Yes, your marketing strategy should always precede your tactics.  Additionally, selecting the right marketing tactics is crucial in reaching your target audience. 

A marketing plan built around the wrong marketing tactics is a flop. So getting the tactics right is paramount. 

Your marketing tactics are the specific actions you'll take to execute your strategy. These might include SEO, social media marketing, email campaigns, content marketing, PPC and others. But how do you determine which tactics are the "right” ones? 

This is where your marketing strategy comes in.

As mentioned above, your marketing strategy should include a thorough understanding of your target audience, including their demographics, preferences and online behavior. This is the type of information you use to determine which marketing tactics are most likely to reach them.

For example, if your strategy involves positioning your brand as an industry leader, you might publish thought leadership articles on LinkedIn. If your strategy involves building a community around your brand, you might use Instagram to share behind-the-scenes content and interact with your followers.

So, while the allure of getting quick results might tempt you into rushing into tactics, remember to take a step back. Consider how each tactic aligns with your marketing strategy. This way, you ensure that every action you take serves a purpose and drives you closer to your business goals.

Measure Your Marketing Performance

A marketing strategy is not a set-it-and-forget-it tool. It requires continuous monitoring and regular adjustments. 

The digital marketing landscape is evolving faster than ever, and what works today may not work tomorrow. Reviewing your strategy at regular intervals (every 90 days is a good place to start) to reassess, update and recast your marketing plan will keep your strategy sharp and your marketing efforts dialed in.

In addition to regularly assessing and adjusting, tracking and analyzing marketing metrics is crucial for keeping your finger on the pulse of the plan. These metrics provide a snapshot of the performance of your marketing tactics, giving you actionable insight on what's working and what's not.

Marketing metrics can also provide valuable insights into your audience, i.e. their behaviors, preferences, and needs. That can inform your marketing strategy in the future, helping you create more effective, targeted marketing campaigns.

Key Takeaways

  • Small businesses can’t afford to look at comprehensive marketing strategy as a luxury. It’s not. It’s a necessity. 
  • Marketing strategy guides your marketing efforts and ensures that every action taken aligns with your business goals and resonates with your target audience. 
  • Tactics may get you some quick wins, but a strategy is what fuels sustainable growth. 
  • Before you dive into the next marketing trend, take a step back and ask yourself how it aligns with your marketing strategy.
  • A marketing strategy is an investment well worth making.


About The Author

Debbie Oster_Headshot

Debbie is the owner of Entrepreneur's Edge, a strategy-first marketing firm, and she serves as the fractional Chief Marketing Officer for multiple clients. From startups to $300M companies, Debbie has successfully guided an array of businesses in both the B2B & B2C sectors. She is a strategic, results-driven marketing expert and thought leader with more than 12 years of experience. 

Website: https://entrepreneursedge.biz/