Strategy before Tactics

All can see the tactics with which I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.

Sun Tzu, “The Art of War”

From the outside, all we can see of our competitors are the tactics they have put into action, but we don’t see the strategy (or lack thereof) that led to those tactics being chosen in the first place.

What is a marketing strategy? Simply put, it’s a plan outlining how you’re going to promote and sell your products or services. A good marketing strategy should guide your decision making and help you achieve your business goals.

Just as in warfare in China 2500 years ago, it’s essential to develop a strategy before choosing specific tactics. Imagine Sun Tzu telling his emperor to field an army without knowing where they were going or what their goals are. Why would you do the same with your marketing? It may work for a while, but the odds of long-term success are dramatically reduced. There are many pitfalls when starting with tactics:

  1. Inconsistent messaging: Without a clear strategy, it’s easy to end up with inconsistent messaging across different marketing channels. This can confuse and alienate your target audience, leading to lost opportunities and sales.
  2. Wasted resources: Choosing marketing tactics without a defined strategy can lead to wasted resources. You may end up spending time and money on tactics that don’t align with your business objectives.
  3. Missed opportunities: When you don’t have a defined strategy, you may miss out on opportunities to reach your target audience or differentiate yourself from your competitors.
  4. Poor ROI: Tactics without strategy can result in poor ROI. You may end up investing in tactics that don’t generate leads or convert customers, resulting in financial losses.

And here’s how a good strategy can help:

  1. Understanding your target audience: Developing a strategy allows you to identify and understand your target audience. This understanding is key to creating effective marketing campaigns that speak to your audience’s needs and interests.
  2. Aligning marketing tactics with business objectives: A well-defined strategy helps you align your marketing tactics with your overall business objectives. This prevents wastage of resources and ensures that your marketing efforts support your business goals.
  3. Consistent messaging: A strategy ensures that you have consistent messaging across all marketing channels. This enhances your brand identity and helps build trust with your audience.
  4. Measuring success: A strategy helps you measure the success of your marketing efforts. With a defined strategy in place, you can track and analyze your marketing campaigns’ performance and adjust your tactics accordingly.

Now that we’ve highlighted the importance of developing a strategy before choosing specific tactics let’s take a look at some essential steps in developing a marketing strategy:

  1. Define your target audience: Understanding your target audience is the first step in developing a successful marketing strategy. Without knowing who your customers are, how can you target them and communicate effectively?
  2. Analyze your competitors and market: Conducting a thorough analysis of your competitors and market landscape is essential to differentiate yourself from your competitors and tailor your marketing efforts to meet your audience’s needs.
  3. Set marketing goals and objectives: SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) marketing goals and objectives are a crucial part of an effective strategy. Align your goals and objectives with your business objectives to achieve maximum impact.
  4. Develop a unique value proposition: Your unique value proposition (UVP) is what sets you apart from your competitors and captures your target audience’s attention. Develop a compelling UVP to differentiate your business and attract customers.
  5. Identify the best marketing tactics to achieve your goals: Identify the most suitable marketing tactics for your business based on your target audience, budget, and goals. This ensures that your tactics are consistent with your overall strategy.
  6. Create a budget and timeline: Develop a realistic marketing budget and timeline to ensure that your marketing efforts are feasible and sustainable over time. Allocate resources effectively across different marketing channels.

This may seem like a lot of extra work, but I assure you that it’s worthwhile. You don’t need to go overboard with this – a little bit of alignment at the beginning will make a huge difference in preventing you from going off-course.