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“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” — Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Understanding the difference between marketing strategy and marketing tactics is a critical step toward turning those SMART goals you set into reality.

Listen to the audio now, or read the transcript below.

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This is Adam Fout with The Marketing Forge by Blue Steele Solutions, and this is part three of Marketing with Clarity & Confidence: Creating a Strategy and Choosing Tactics

Here’s one of my favorite quotes from The Art of War by Sun Tzu:

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

Marketing Strategy vs. Marketing Tactics

Here’s the difference between strategy and tactics. Strategy is your high-level roadmap for achieving your goals. Tactics are how you get there.

For example, in the strategy phase of your marketing, you look at your goals, one of which might be gathering 1200 leads for the year, and then you decide what the most efficient, effective method of making that happen would be. That might be part of a larger goal of increasing sales by 20% for the year.

You might decide that radio ads and TV ads are no good, but Google Adwords and email marketing are a great idea.

That’s all strategy. Tactics are the specifics of how you turn your goals into reality. When you get specific and decide that $1000/month for Google Adwords targeting four specific keyword phrases, with monthly A/B testing and regular updating of the landing pages and ad copy, along with quarterly reviews of ad performance and keyword suitability, now you’ve gotten into the nitty gritty — those are tactics.

But before you can properly define your strategy or even begin to think about tactics, you need to back up and look at how your current marketing is performing.

How Is Your Marketing Performing?

2018 is wrapping up. We’re all moving into the new year and discovering the challenges it holds. This is a time when a lot of people are looking back on what they’ve done over the last year and thinking about how can they make next year even better.

Something that we love to do around this time of year is to spend time running through a full analysis of our marketing before creating next year’s strategy.

It’s critical to look back at where we’ve been, what we’ve done, what’s worked, what hasn’t worked, and then think critically about those things before creating a new plan, a new budget, and a new strategy for the coming year.

If you haven’t been tracking data on your marketing tactics, then you’re going to be in for a little guesswork. This is why it’s so important that you go back to those goals and decide how you’re going to be measuring your progress.

Having some sort of tool to track the efficiency and effectiveness of everything you’re doing is also critical. This might be as simple as using Google Analytics to track the effectiveness of your Google Adwords ads. This ensures that, the next time you look back and you want to analyze your marketing strategy, you have some hard data to rely on.

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If you’ve never done a marketing analysis before, The Art of Marketing ebook is a comprehensive guide designed to take you through the process of considering every marketing effort you’ve got going on right now, going through your current marketing piece by piece and thinking about how that is affecting your sales and marketing funnel, and then defining who it is you want to market to and who those ideal customers and clients are that you’re trying to attract. This process of defining your brand and who you want to be in your customers eyes is a critical pre-strategy step.

The Funnel

To understand marketing strategy and tactics, you need to consider another staple marketing term — the sales funnel. A proper marketing strategy is going to have a variety of tactics to move potential and existing customers through the funnel.

The point of a marketing funnel is to start with a wide range of potential customers and then narrow that group down to the people who will actually make a purchase.

You start with your entire target market, that ideal customer that you created with a customer persona template of some sort, and you start interacting with them, with the goal, on both sides, of learning if they are a good fit.

So you’re interacting with them on social media, sending them emails, giving them valuable content on your website, holding phone calls with them, showing them case studies and your reviews and testimonials, anything that helps them to learn what kind of a business you are, and vice versa.

Now as you’re doing that, some people may self select their way out of your funnel, decide that you’re not really right for them, and you may remove people from your funnels when you realize that they’re not the right fit for you, because your goal is to target a narrow audience, a small slice of your target market that is going to be an excellent fit long term.

As more and more potential customers are leaving that initial pool through all these different marketing tactics, we move them down through our funnel, which gets more and more narrow as the size of the pool decreases. Our marketing tactics are going to change as we get further and further down the funnel.

Now, realistically, does every person go through this nice neat funnel process? No. But it’s still a great visualization for us to think about each stage of the customer journey. They start by getting to know our company, getting to know our products and services, and deciding if they’re going to hire us/buy from us/work with us.

Moving Through the Funnel

At the top of the funnel is where we’re generating leads, we’re generating interest, we’re introducing members of our target market to what we do, letting them know our value and what we stand for, and we’re helping them to self-select to see if we are a good fit for each other.

Then we get to our “moving to close” process. We’re taking those people that we’ve introduced ourselves to and we’re following up, helping them (and ourselves) decide if we are right for each other, seeing if some sort of a sale is possible and a good idea.

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And then we get to the end, where they’ve come out the other side and become our customer. This is great, but it’s not the end. We want to take them and hopefully move them back through the funnel again. We want to continue to sell to them, we want to continue to increase the work that we’re doing with them, or grow our relationship with them in some way.

In an ideal world, as they come back through the funnel, they’re bringing their friends and colleagues and business partners with them. They’re becoming our evangelists and our referral sources because they’re so excited about the work that we do that they want to see other people share the same success or have the same great outcomes.

Most Focus on the Top of the Funnel

What happens a lot of times is that we see the most energy is focused on the very top part of the funnel. The focus is on generating those leads, generating the interest, making sure people know who you are and what you do, and very little time and energy gets spent on the rest of the funnel.

Sometimes this is because the person gets turned over to sales and we just say “oh well, we passed it off to sales, and now it’s their job to work them all the way through” or we’re just really not good at considering how we can use marketing to help nurture people through the rest of the funnel and turn them into our raving fans.

That’s why we need an overarching marketing strategy. We need a plan for how to get customers from beginning to end, how to keep them happy once they’ve become our customers, and how to get them into other funnels for other products or services.

If we focus on tactics, we usually focus on lead generation. If we think about strategy first, and we look especially at our data, we may see that our strategy ignores existing customers, ignores mid-funnel customers, and that our customer retention rate is trash, which necessitates a change in strategy. If we’re stuck on tactics, we might only see that we generate lots of leads and leave it at that, which ultimately hurts our business.

A focus on tactics may also be the reason we’re failing at our goals. Strategy helps us remember the bigger picture, helps ensure we’re choosing the right tactics, backed up by data, to achieve those big-picture ideals.

I want you to make a quick list of the different tactics that you’ve used over last year and different ways that you try to reach your audience, and I want to try to map those to each part of the funnel, and I want you to see if you are really meeting people at every level of the funnel, or if you are focusing most of your energy generating leads and then just letting them go.

Then, I want you to look at those goals you made in the previous lesson and ask yourself if you have a strategy to make them happen. If not, it might be time to back up from the tactics you’ve been employing and create a larger strategy.

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