Tactics Put Strategy into Action
Date: June 22, 2016
Your marketing strategy lays out your big-picture marketing plans in support of your business strategy. But few people talk about strategy without mentioning tactics. Others use the words interchangeably. What exactly are tactics? How do they differ from strategy? And why are they essential to success?
Simply put, strategy is the plan that puts tactics into action. As Chinese military genius Sun Tzu wrote, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory.” Strategy without tactics means your business is all plan and no action—or all reaction. Tactics bring your strategy to life by identifying objectives and creating and implementing plans to achieve them. They address the immediate and ongoing needs required to ensure strategic success.
Go back to the Four Ps.
The Marketing Mix—the same Four P’s that help you map out your marketing strategy—is essential to devising your tactics. The Marketing Mix outlines four areas in which you can create effective tactics:
Product: Built-In Tactics
When companies create products and services that are solutions to real-world consumer wants and needs, product development functions as a marketing tactic. Consider line extensions. Prior to 1982, Coca-Cola only sold diet soft drinks under the TaB and Fresca labels, fearing a product named Diet Coke would tarnish their flagship Coke brand. Research eventually told Coke execs that they were wrong. Consumers wanted a Coke-branded diet product. Consumers were actively demanding a product that didn’t exist—and became a huge hit when it did.
Price: Price-Tag Tactics
Pricing often functions as a tactical means for achieving strategic goals. For instance, a company interested in growing market share may keep the price low to generate consumer trial. A company pursuing a luxury goods strategy will avoid any form of discounting and keep prices high as a tactic to maintain a super-premium image.
Place: Territory Tactics
How, where, and when consumers purchase and receive products can also function as a marketing tactic. Companies following a luxury-goods strategy must be very careful about this aspect of The Marketing Mix. Offering a luxury product at exclusive boutiques strengthens branding and ensures large margins, but may restrict overall sales. Selling a luxury product online—or even in department stores—is often a tactical error. It may derail the overall business strategy by reducing margins and diminishing the brand.
Other products need to be as widely available as possible, because convenience and access drive sales. Diet Coke is available at nearly all grocery stores, restaurants, food trucks, convenience stores, and entertainment venues. It’s available from online retailers, and sold in vending machines everywhere from offices to interstate rest stops.
Expanding distribution through new or diverse platforms or new locations may serve your products and services well. But whatever your place tactics, they should always be in line with your overall strategy and branding.
Promotion: Tell Your Story Tactics
Once you’ve established your target market, your promotional tactics will power awareness, branding, sales, customer loyalty, and more. Today, there are more ways than ever before to let people know about your product or service, where to find it, and how to buy it. And the digital revolution has turned promotion into true, real-time, two-way communication.
Promotion can be sub-divided into a number of tactical opportunities:
- Earned Media: Includes public relations (PR) and word-of-mouth (WOM). Press coverage of your business, whether generated with the help of paid PR professionals or simply because the press is interested in the story of your business, is the most typical form of PR. Word-of-Mouth is what your customers say about your products and services. Positive WOM has always been an ideal way to gain new customers. But in the digital age, it’s power has been magnified exponentially. A positive comment about your business can go around the world in a matter of seconds.
- Internal Vehicles: Include employee empowerment and employee evangelism. A positive work environment can reach far beyond the physical walls of your business. Employees who talk up your brands, products and services, especially on social media, can be as powerful as a paid PR firm. Working with your employees to spread the good word is not to be underestimated.
- Paid Channels: Any advertising or marketing you pay to use is a paid channel. This includes print, digital, outdoor, and broadcast. Online advertising, in all its forms, is the newest and fastest-growing area of paid media.
- Owned Channels: These are media that you as a business owner control. They include a mix of new media and classic techniques. If you run a retail business, for instance, you can turn your physical space into a marketing vehicle using retail front and point-of-purchase (POP) materials. Newsletters and other self-publications can help customers get to know all you can do for them. Your business social media channels can provide a consistent touch point, allowing for daily communication.
- Alliances and Partnerships: Teaming up with other businesses to make the most of your shared resources is a classic promotional move. For example, Uber and Spotify recently created a partnership that lets consumers hear their favorite music whenever they catch a ride. You can also partner with a charity organization to the benefit of both your business and a worthy cause.
Metrics measure effectiveness.
Most of your promotional efforts can and should be measured using a variety of metrics. Metrics empower you to adjust your tactics and maximize results. They can even indicate that it’s time to address your strategy. Anytime you use paid media as a promotional tactic, the representatives of the advertising platform should be able to provide you with detailed regarding your results. If they cannot, go with someone else.
We can help.
If you’d like to put measurable, results-driven tactics to work for your business, contact us today. We’d love to partner with you—and help turn your business plans into action.
Ferrell, O.C., Hartline, Michael, (2012) “Marketing Strategy,” South-Western College Publishers
Perrault, William, Jr., Cannon, Joseph, McCarthy, E. Jerome (2014) “Essentials of Marketing: A Marketing Strategy Approach,” McGraw-Hill.
Owyang, Jeremiah, (September 10, 2013) “The Difference Between Strategy and Tactics,” Web-Strategist.com, Web Strategies, LLC.
Reis, Al, Trout, Jack (1997) “Marketing Warfare,” McGraw-Hill
Editorial Staff, (2016) “The Marketing Mix and the 4P’s of Marketing,” MindTools.com, MindTools, Inc.