We are often asked about the difference between Strategic Marketing and Tactical Marketing. They are two different business areas. If you wish to have a successful career in marketing, it is vital that you understand the differences between them, what they both are, and how they work together. In this blog post, we’ll look to help you better understand the two areas of strategic marketing and tactical marketing.
Let’s Start at The Beginning: Definitions
One of the definitions that the Oxford English Dictionary gives for “Strategy” is:
“The art of a commander-in-chief; the art of projecting and directing … Usually distinguished from tactics, which is the art of handling forces in battle…”
Strategists sit at the top of the command chain. They determine overall what needs to be achieved and then direct teams, who have to make it happen through a series of actions.
Tactics are used in action; they are in the thick of it. They don’t make “big” decisions, which take time and knowledge of the bigger picture. They continually survey what’s happening and adapt what is done according to the immediate situation.
Strategy is about thinking and planning, tactics are about taking action to make the plan happen.
Let’s see how strategy and tactics play out in the marketing world.
Three steps to build our understanding
To understand Tactical Marketing, you have to understand Strategic Marketing. To understand Strategic Marketing, you have to understand company Strategic Planning.
So, the steps we are going to take to build our understanding are:
- Company Strategic Planning: Explore what goes into a company Strategic Plan
- Strategic Marketing: Understand the two areas of strategic marketing
- Tactical Marketing: Define what marketing tactics are
Step 1. Company Strategic Planning
According to Kotler et al, “The company’s strategic plan establishes what kinds of business the company will be in and its objectives for each.”
This is top level stuff. It is setting the direction for an organisation and stating what the organisation wants to achieve from its business streams. The board of an organisation, its commanders in chief, sets the Strategic Plan. So, what goes into this “company’s strategic plan”?
Kotler et al tell us: “The strategic plan contains several components: the mission, the strategic objectives, the strategic audit, SWOT analysis, portfolio analysis, objectives and strategies. All of these feed from and into marketing plans.”
Here are the key elements of the company Strategic Plan:
- The mission statement. This statement clearly tells the world why the organisation exists. IKEA’s mission is: To create a better everyday life for many people.
- Strategic objectives. These are normally around turnover, profit, market share; every department in the organisation has to work towards achieving them.
- The Strategic Audit. A clear picture, based on data, information, and research which shows the organisation where they are now and how well they have achieved their mission and strategic objectives to date.
- SWOT analysis, portfolio analysis. This analysis can be widened to a Macro and Micro Environment Analysis. At this level, it is a company-wide analysis, including all the departments. Every department in the organisation contributes to and is involved in setting the Strategic Plan. They are represented by their Directors, the commanders-in-chief, on the board.
- We’ve set strategic, company-wide objectives. Now we set the next level of objectives: departmental objectives. These feed down to the Departments. Here’s a basic example:
All the Departments need to achieve their objectives for the Strategic Objective to be met.
- Strategies are the adopted general approaches to make the company objectives happen. In our example, the strategy to increase profit by 10% is a combination of reducing costs, selling more products, and increasing efficiency.
Step 2: Strategic Marketing
Strategic Marketing has two clear elements:
- Contributing to the development of the company’s Strategic Plan
- Setting out the strategies the Marketing Department are going to use to achieve their objectives
Strategic Marketing and its contribution to the company’s Strategic Plan:
Kotler et al clearly state,
“There is much overlap between overall company strategy and marketing strategy.”
So, if you’re thinking that company strategic planning is similar to strategic marketing planning, you’re right.
Let’s now look at how Strategic Marketing contributes to the company Strategic Plan.
- Kotler et al state how:“Marketing looks at consumer needs and the company’s ability to satisfy them; these factors guide the company’s mission and objectives.”
- “Most company strategic planning deals with marketing variables – market share, market development, growth – and it is sometimes hard to separate planning as “strategic marketing planning”. These are some of the information that are needed to help set Strategic Objectives.
- When the Strategic Audit is taking place, Marketing contributes data such as sales, profits and market share achieved.
- At the Micro and Macro environment analysis stage, the Marketing Department analyses the competitive environment; researching and determining external influences (using models such as PESTLE); and providing Portfolio Analysis of all the products and services the company offers (using models such as the BCG Matrix).
- Marketing states what are realistic Objectives based on knowledge of the customers and competitors in the marketplace, and the internal marketing resource available to achieve the goals.For example: Selling 1000 more products to Market A in 12 months is possible, but selling 2000 more isn’t as there isn’t enough demand. Selling 1000 more to Market A will increase profits by 7% but will only happen if there are 3 new sales team members. The Marketing Director sets these Objectives in conjunction with other Directors; they can’t set an objective that relies on recruiting 3 more people if the HR Objectives state they will reduce costs by having a recruitment freeze.
- Finally, As marketers, we call the strategy of selling more existing products to an existing market a Market Penetration Strategy. This is one of the four different types of growth Strategies, as outlined by Ansoff.
That’s one element of Strategic Marketing. Now let’s look at the other element:
Setting out the strategies the Marketing Department are going to use
The Marketing Department has its Strategic Marketing Objectives to achieve (e.g. To sell 1000 more products in Market A in 12 months). Now it chooses the approach to achieve those objectives. This approach is called the “Marketing Strategy”.
Kotler et al define marketing strategy as, “…the marketing logic by which the business unit hopes to achieve its marketing objectives”.
The STP model can help determine the Marketing Strategy:
- Segments – determine the basis for segmentation and criteria for identifying viable segments
- Targeting – choose the segments to focus on
- Positioning – develop the marketing mix (7Ps) for each selected segment and the product positioning you wish to attain (ensuring it’s in line with the mission statement).
At this stage, STP should set out strategies not tactics, especially when looking at the marketing mix for each segment.
Let’s take our example and expand on it:
- Market: Working Women in the UK
- Segment: Women over 45 in professional roles
- Target 1: Women over 45 in professional roles, paying for childcare, working in South East England
Strategies for this Target Group:
We have stated the broad approaches that the marketing department needs to take to achieve its goals. Now, and only now, we are ready to choose our marketing tactics.
Step 3. Tactical Marketing
Let’s get practical. We have to determine how we’ll make it all happen. These are our marketing tactics. Marketing Tactics are the tools and techniques we have at our disposal to take action.
For each of your strategies, you need to choose the tactics, actions, to take.
We’ll expand of the tactics for some of our example:
As you can see, your marketing tactics should be the last thing that are chosen.
If you wish to have a successful career in marketing, then do take the time to understand the differences between strategic marketing and tactical marketing. This understanding is a crucial foundation for being effective as a marketer.
This article was written by Kara Stanford is a Strategic Marketing Consultant at KMS Marketing and a tutor with Oxford College of Marketing.
If you are interested in finding out more about strategic marketing, then the CIM Diploma in Professional Marketing could be for you. To find out more about this qualification as well as our range of study options, get in touch with one of our student advisors today: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01865 515255.
Kotler, Armstrong, Saunders, Wong (2001) Principles of Marketing, Third European Edition.
Compact Oxford English Dictionary 1994 edition