Why it's time to ditch the tactic mindset and get back to strategy

5 minutes read
Mike - 06.10.2021
Marketing strategy over tactics

"Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat."

 -   Sun Tzu

Now I'm not saying that a former Chinese general best known for "The Art of War" is the best role model for modern-day marketers.

But the sad truth is, marketers as a whole have a real issue when it comes to strategy vs tactics.

As a bunch, we've become obsessed with tactics.

But spoiler alert... in marketing strategy is king (not content and certainly not tactics..).

We're like the dog that sees the shiny car and goes chasing after it.

And then another car goes by. And - well, you get the point.

This focus on tactics is a dangerous thing for marketers, especially those fighting for budgets against the 'money men' or agencies trying to prove their worth.

To be really effective, marketing needs to be a mix of well-executed, tactical ideas underpinned by solid market and brand research.

So, how can we turn the tide against scattergun tactical approaches, and start focussing on the bigger picture?


Without strategy - you don't know where you're going

For a marketing manager or agency being brought in, it can be easy to dive into campaigns straight away.

You want to be seen to be doing something - anything - so you start implementing stuff and hope to see some quick wins appear on the board.

In reality, though, you can't figure out where you're going, or where you want to be as a brand - without knowing where you already are.

And this means research. Lots of research.

To help the brand, you need to know what's going on with the brand already.

Where are you in the market?

What do your customers think of you?

Do they even know who you are?

Finding time to conduct proper brand research will take a while.

We're not talking about the 30-minute meeting where you come up with creatively named buyer personas and decide your ideal customer is a 33-year-old marketing manager hooked on coffee with a slight obsession with podcasts on the 07.30 train from Victoria.

We're talking about in-depth customer analysis.

Who are they?

What are their real challenges?

Why are they struggling to overcome those challenges?

What have they tried before that didn't work?

Are all your customers in the same group, or do you need to segment them based on product or service?

How do they consume content?

Where do they consume content?

Are they loyal to your brand already if they're a customer?

Why aren't they a customer of yours already if you've got a product or service to meet their needs.

There's a lot that goes into research and - to be honest - not enough marketers do it.

Because we're so itchy to get onto the next Twitch bandwagon.


How do we know if we're on course?

Marketing tactics should always be about how we deliver the strategy and generate success.

This is where Sun Tzu's philosophy comes into play.

On the battlefield you'd survey the enemy forces and figure out the best plan of action to attack, and with what.

After that, the individual battles that take place - securing the hills, clearing the valleys - and this is where you deploy your tactics to complete the objectives.

Without a strategy, how do you know which forces to distribute to each part of the battlefield to complete the objectives?

You don't.

And the same goes for marketing strategy.

Without getting a view of the market, the competition, and your own resources, you'll have no idea where to dispatch your marketing messages in order to complete your objective.

With a strategy in place, you know which parts of the market to go after, what resources you need to achieve success, and where to position yourself for success.

If you go in purely on tactics, you could easily find yourself attacking a section of the market you have no chance of winning and you'll do nothing but blow your marketing budget.


Why marketers have become obsessed with tactics

The reason I think we've become so hypnotised by tactics is that we're so obsessed with short-termism in marketing.

We hold monthly reviews, not to review how we're progressing towards the end goal, but how we've performed in the last four weeks.

If things are going well, we do more of what we were doing.

If it's going badly, we quickly 'pivot' to something else and hope that turns the numbers around.

And the whole thing becomes a juggernaut that we can't slow down.

Plus, there's no end of new marketing 'channels' for us to play with that it's easy to just spend some time 'experimenting' with Tik Tok to see if there's any real value.

But all the time you're pumping into that experiment, you're not focussing on the channel where your customers are (unless you've done the research and found that your customers are on Tik Tok, in which case crack on).

That's not to say you shouldn't experiment with your marketing.

But you have to be clever with it.

Take a look at that marketing battlefield again.

Is there a resource you now have that could accomplish a task better than what you've already got?

If so, use it.

But don't just throw it out there.

Because all you'll do is create a distraction for yourself and take your eye off the ultimate prize.


Time to put strategy back in the boardroom

If you follow Mark Ritson, you know he's a marketer obsessed with strategy (in fact he's the one who came up with the military analogy).

As marketers it's time we stopped looking at the shiny side of what we do, and start paying more attention to the work that will actually generate results.

By understanding where we are in the marketplace, where we want to get to, and what resources we have to get there, we'll stand a much better chance of surviving the annual budget cuts than if we show another slidedeck of the 100k YouTube followers we've amassed in the last quarter.

New call-to-action

Unleash the power of RevOps

Maximize revenue and sales today.

Begin experiencing faster growth by managing revenue generation cross-functionally. Download the complete guide to RevOps to learn how you can align your teams and scale revenue.

Get The Guide