What You Need to Know about Marketing Strategy vs Tactics

by Oct 28, 2021Marketing Strategy

Marketing Strategy vs Tactics vs Plan

Marketing can be confusing enough. But nothing often confuses new business owners more than the terms marketing strategy, marketing plan and marketing tactics.  Heck, even some marketers get confused. So, it’s no wonder that these terms are often intermingled and thought of as one thing. But there is a difference. The question is, what’s the difference and do you need all three?

What do you think of when you hear the words marketing strategy?

Do images of Facebook Ads, Instagram Reels and Email Newsletters spring to mind?

You may be surprised to know that these are not marketing strategy and that many people confuse marketing strategy, marketing plan and marketing tactics, thinking they’re the same thing. But they’re not. They’re different things.


What is a Marketing Strategy?

A Marketing Strategy is a process that a business takes to identify specific marketing goals. It acts as a blueprint for how the business can reach those goals.

For example, as a new business, your main objective will undoubtedly be to get clients. To achieve that objective, you need to get members of your target audience to know you, like you and trust you enough to become a client and refer you to others.

Therefore, so that your business can position itself in the marketplace and gain a competitive advantage, your strategy may incorporate elements of strategic business planning as well as branding. For example, it may include identifying ideal clients, creating mission, vision and value statements, brand messaging and a website review.

A Marketing Strategy does not list actions to be followed on a day-to-day basis. Instead, it’s in the Marketing Plan that these actions are detailed.

What is a Marketing Plan?

The marketing plan is an extension of the marketing strategy. The plan often includes specific campaigns and outlines the timeframes and methods your business will use to meet the campaign’s objectives. It is these methods that are known as tactics.

Individual marketing campaigns are focused on achieving a specific goal, such as creating brand awareness, building trust, or launching a new product.


What are Marketing Tactics?

Marketing tactics are the methods used to achieve the objectives outlined in the marketing plan.

Examples of online tactics may include running ads, using social media platforms, publishing blog posts and case studies, hosting webinars and podcasts, and creating an email or videos series. Offline tactics may consist of running events, participating in tradeshows, networking, PR and sponsorships.

For example, your strategy uncovers a need for your business to build trust. Your marketing plan recommends publishing case studies. The content you create to promote your case studies are social media posts, landing pages and webinars. It’s the case study that’s the tactic.

Do you Need All Three?


There’s no point in doing a strategy unless you execute on it. And to do that, you need a tactical plan – they’re symbiotic.

Often marketers refer to all three terms under the umbrella term of Marketing Strategy or Marketing Plan. They do this because it keeps things simple.

(I refer to all three terms as a marketing strategy)

Marketing Strategy, Plan and Tactics explained

How often does a business need to do a marketing strategy?

A marketing strategy has a longer lifespan than a marketing plan because it contains the core elements of a business brand as well as the big picture goals.

However, you should revisit your strategy at least once a year to review your goals and marketing activities or to ensure you are still on track.

As the Marketing Plan usually covers short-term objectives, it should be revisited once your objectives have been achieved. Or your goals for the year change.

Top 5 Benefits of a marketing strategy

Marketing is critical to a business because it tells the world who you are and what you can do. It also helps your business define its purpose.

A marketing strategy affects how your business operates by putting the focus on the customer and how your products and services can help them.

A marketing strategy helps a business to

1.  Identify and understand your ideal target markettso you can understand their needs, values and motivations and how your product/service meets these needs. Then you will know how to address their problems in a way that creates value. Which makes your marketing easier.

2.  Save time and money spent on advertising and marketing that isn’t working and helps support your return on investment

3.  Identify competitors. Knowing who your competitors are means that you can keep your eye on them and what they’re offering. It allows you to look for gaps in their offering and things that they do or don’t do well. This can guide you to improve your business offering by improving on or including products or services to gain a competitive advantage.

4.  Differentiate from your competitors so you can develop your Unique Selling Proposition, which positions your business in the marketplace.

5.  Provide clarity and focus while giving your business goals direction and a greater chance of achieving them.

A wise woodsman once said that if he had only five minutes to cut down a tree, he would spend the first three sharpening the axe.

Planning is the Driver of Success

We start a business for various reasons. We want to make a difference, to enjoy the freedom of being our own boss and for our business to succeed and make a profit. But to do that we need customers who like what we do and buy our stuff. And we all know that marketing is the way to achieve that.

Running a business is not easy, and many businesses fail. But planning has proven again and again to be the driver of success. So, no matter what you call it— a marketing strategy or marketing plan, it’s a powerful tool for guiding your marketing, a driver for business success and should be a part of yours.


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