Marketing strategy vs tactics

Published on October 16th, 2016 | by charliesaidthat


Marketing Strategy vs. Tactics – Explaining the Difference

It seems to me the misunderstanding between marketing strategy and tactics is far too common amongst marketers, PRs and perhaps more importantly clients who never really question it. I think this is perhaps because strategy is a sexy buzzword used by management consultants and the self-proclaimed ninjas, gurus and The Apprentices of the world to infer some secretive superior knowledge.

Actually, though I think it’s quite a simple distinction. As we’ll find all strategy and no tactics is simply not enough to gain traction in the noisy overcrowded marketplace.

So, what is the difference between strategy and tactics?


Tactics are highly practical things you will do every day. Writing blog posts, sending tweets, replying to emails, outreach to bloggers, changing page titles and appointments you make/attend etc.


Strategy is a strong overarching vision, intended to fulfill your predetermined goals and objectives. Strategy is the plan that ensures all your day to day activities (tactics) contribute to your monthly, quarterly and annual business goals.



With this in mind you can go ahead and work on your marketing strategy. Let’s just sketch out a quick example.

Before you dive headfirst into the strategy shindig and party hard, you’ll need to have set solid objectives and goals. I know it might sound cheesy, but it’s true – and one of the things I see overlooked most commonly.

In order for strategy to be effective you should already have outlined your goals (it’s surprising how many companies don’t do this), and know your intended audience. All goals you set should be SMART:

Specific – Can the detail in the information sufficiently pinpoint problems or opportunities?

Measurable – Can a quantitative or qualitative attribute be applied to create a metric?
Actionable – Can the information be used to improve performance?
Relevant – Can the information be applied to the specific problem faced by the manager?
Time-related – Can the information be viewed through time to identify trends?

Okay, so here’s an example

Here’s a quick overview of what your strategy and tactics may look like for an overly simplistic goal. Of course you will usually have several goals running at the same time and you actually should structure your strategies to differentiate your business.


Increase sales revenue by 25% by the End of the Year


Increase Awareness of our website to Target Audience (TA) by 100% by the end of the year

Increase Traffic To Website by 50% compared with last year

Increase Repeat Purchases by 10% compared with last year

Increase Average Order Value from £50 to £55 this month

Example Strategy:

1. Engage Target Audience at key touch points in their day when receptive to brand messaging
2. Drive traffic from new unique visitors to your website

3. Encourage Repeat Purchases from Existing Customers
4. Increase Average Order Value from within the cart

Example Tactics:

1a. Run TV ads targeted at TA in the middle of the day

1b. Run Facebook Advertising at lunchtimes based around similar interests

1c. Acquire Coverage in National Magazines targeted at TA using PR

1d. Run Online Banner Advertising on XYZ sites targeted at TA in the evenings

1e. Sponsor Local Sporting Events

1f. Create content around the shopping & lifestyle needs of your customers

2a. Ensure website URL is featured in TV ads

2b. Add URL to Twitter Bio

2c. Start 10+ conversations per day with TA on Twitter

2d. Lead Industry based Tweet chats on Twitter, encouraging influencers to join in

2e. Create video based responses embedded in well SEO’d blog posts with transcripts

2f. Share video blog posts to people on Twitter (monitoring for people asking Qs and responding)

3a. Email existing customers with referral % deal for new customers

3b. Print vouchers added to all orders sent out this month

3c. Competition: invite friends to enter mechanism (opt-in email data capture)

4a. Add attractive deals to the cart automatically (worth around 10% of transaction value)

4b. Increase the Free Delivery Threshold from £35 to £45

4c. Add gift wrapping options to the cart (with images of premium gift packaging)

4d. (If you’re feeling particularly naughty) Auto opt-in to higher cost delivery / up-sells

Well, that escalated quickly, eh?

An interesting point to consider is that strategies are usually timeless (people still react in pretty much the same way as they did 100 years ago) whilst tactics are technology/time sensitive. So, if you change the time frame (e.g. 1900, 1980, 2013) your strategy would remain the same, whilst the tactics will more than likely change.
e.g. Engage Customers In Store To Increase Sales

1900 – Put up posters in your shop promoting deals

1980 – Electronic screens updating your specials board

2013 – AR app, mobile optimised website, foursquare deals, customer service in social media etc.

To sum up, being better thought-through and organised than your competitors will add to your bottom line – by pursuing clear and achievable objectives and implementing tactics that support your strategy you’ll be doing what most businesses don’t.


photo credit: Mr. Kevin Thai

About the Author

Hi I’m Charlie, a digital strategist, I have an interest in social media, SEO, lead acquisition and understanding consumer behaviour to make a definitive difference to the businesses I work with. Find me on: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Linkedin | or just Email Me  

  • Jack Norell

    I’d like to telepathically blast this into the brains of quite a few people I’ve come across. Nicely outlined.

  • Arshad Amin

    You aced it mate, must say! though the whole approach is for the pro’s, gurus not for everyone, so I will add to the example you have given, that will give common people more insight into what relationship strategy and tactics have, like in the sales target example, the goal is to increase sales by certain percentage, the means to achieve that is to advertise or promote, now that is the strategy but the goal now changes with those means now your goal is communicating USP’s and objective of your strategy is increasing sales. The more effectively you communicate your USP’s the more sales would you generate.

    Like I said even if you understand the difference between strategy and tactics, it’s not that easy to make an effective strategy supported by effective tactics. I appreciate your approach Mate, What you have written over here would be of great value to business and management students but not to practitioners/business owners as a strategy/tactics aren’t something so easy to understand, so leave that to the gurus ;)

  • Luella

    Good work, c-dawg.

  • Peder Enhorning

    This is perfectly explained. We often struggle to get clients to understand how Strategy and Tactics differ but this does it well. Your example is great because it clarifies how Goals and Objectives drive that process. All too often people seem to confuse Objectives with Strategy as being the same which they are not. We work with clients to devise KPIs that are actionable and as part of that we need them to delineate between Strategy and Tactics and so this is really useful. Thanks!

  • Kayode ogunwale

    Good job. Nicely and clearly explained. Many thanks.

  • Online Marketing

    I agree with the
    majority of the points in this article and it’s great without any doubt.
    Really a
    wonderful post!
    I like it very much. Here I find everything in
    details. I hope I will see this type of post again in your blog.


  • François Reynier

    This is really well explained and done in an entertaining way, which is always a difficult balance to achieve. Thanks

  • Adam Cree

    Great post! Well explained, and to the point! Shared it with my team, such a key component to an effective strategy and marketing mix!

    Download our free eBook “Your Guide to Growth in 2017” here –

  • Arianna Pulliam

    Charlie! Thank you so much for drawing the lines so clearly. I was having a real difficult time explaining to my team what the difference between strategy and tactics were because they typically think of tactics as the strategy. I love the example at the end of how strategy is timeless. This is a great definition for them to keep in mind!

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