Why Tactical Marketing is So Hard for the C-Suite to Get Right

Tactical Marketing Often Trips Up Even the C-Suite

The C-suite—any organization’s brains and brawn—sets the course for a company’s success, but even these top leaders sometimes stumble over the nitty-gritty of tactical marketing. The question is, why?

There’s often a disconnect between the high-level vision that CEOs and CFOs excel at and the day-to-day realities of customer engagement. C-suite executives are masters of strategy and big-picture thinking. But the constantly evolving world of tactical marketing demands a deep understanding of customer preferences, ever-changing channels, and the delicate balance between data-driven results and emotional connection.

Sometimes, a C-suite doesn’t completely understand these factors or lumps together two different, though related, marketing elements: tactical and strategic. We’ll define and compare each, show how one complements the other, and offer tips for implementing tactical marketing to develop a more robust, successful marketing program.

What is the difference between strategy and tactics marketing?

The main difference between marketing tactics versus strategy? Their objectives.

Strategic marketing—an area where the C-suite excels—takes a big-picture approach. It defines the overall direction of your company’s marketing efforts and considers factors like target audience, brand positioning, and competitive landscape. This long-term vision helps companies build a sustainable competitive advantage.

Tactical marketing, on the other hand, focuses on the specifics of executing that strategy. It involves marketing teams’ day-to-day activities to achieve short-term goals, like increasing website traffic or generating leads for a specific campaign. These tactics should align with your company’s overall strategic plan.

Strategic marketing: The breakdown

This long-term vision prioritizes understanding market and customer needs, fueling a marketing plan to address those needs effectively. The process includes comprehensively analyzing the business environment and pinpointing a company’s ideal target markets. These insights empower you to tailor a marketing mix aligned with the organization’s goals.

Key components of a strategic marketing approach

The first step involves conducting market research—gathering data about the market, competition, and customer behavior. Analyzing this data helps uncover trends, opportunities, and potential threats. These insights inform the creation of products and services that resonate with your target audience’s preferences, buying habits, and motivations.

Next: Developing the unique value proposition (UVP). A strong UVP clearly communicates the unique benefits of your product or service—something your competitors simply can’t offer. A well-crafted UVP fosters customer loyalty and lifts you above the competition.

Last: Strategic marketing plan creation. This roadmap outlines the specific strategies and tactics to achieve your marketing objectives and includes your marketing budget, a defined timeline, and clear metrics to gauge your goals’ success.

Strategic marketing in action

Suppose you wanted to boost your social media campaign’s click-through rates (CTRs) by 15% on Facebook over 30 days. Your strategic approach might include redefining your target audience and using that info to craft and launch new ads.

Tactical marketing: The breakdown

What are tactical decisions in marketing?

While strategic marketing is the blueprint, tactical marketing is the toolbox used to execute the plan. Tactical marketing encompasses specific channels and methods to reach your target audience and goals. Tactics focus on the daily execution of marketing activities, translating strategic information and content into impactful presentations to drive short-term results.

While tactical marketing thrives on immediate results, it shouldn’t operate in isolation but align with your broader strategic initiatives. For example, a company might leverage social marketing to introduce and launch a new product and achieve short-term sales growth. The ultimate goal? Extracting valuable insights from tactical marketing to inform and refine your overall marketing plan and build a sustainable competitive edge.

Key components of a tactical marketing approach

A well-stocked tactical marketing toolbox overflows with tools and channels: advertising campaigns, promotions, events, and sales techniques designed to deliver a quick boost. You might develop a user-friendly website, strategically place targeted ads on social media, or send informative brochures or newsletters via email drip campaigns. These tactics all serve to get your product or service in front of the right audience at the right time.

Tactical marketing in action

Let’s say Happy Cow brand is preparing to introduce a new ice cream flavor—S’mores Explosion—in July (National Ice Cream Month) to boost sales and brand awareness. A tactical marketing campaign might include a pre-launch tease in the weeks leading up to July, with Happy Cow creating a buzz on social media platforms. The marketing team could post teaser images featuring shadowy silhouettes of ingredients or close-up shots of textures to spark conversation. The company could engage its audience with interactive polls asking followers to guess the new flavor and its ingredients or run contests where followers could share their most creative S’mores recipes for a chance to win free pints.

Tactical marketing channels & how to use them

The list of tactical marketing channels is quite varied — and long! Examples include:

  • Catalogs and brochures
  • Direct selling/phone customer service
  • Email marketing channels
  • Indirect marketing via retailers
  • Industry networking events
  • Marketing events and company conferences
  • SEO marketing channels
  • Social media platforms

Another impactful channel? Tactical advertisements, which are essentially targeted ads designed to achieve specific, short-term marketing goals. They’re the action-oriented component for executing your marketing plan and can include digital advertisements like social media and search engine ads or email marketing campaigns.

Tactical advertising offers measurable results that are easy to track and measure, allowing you to see (and communicate to the C-suite) the immediate impact of your campaign and optimize it for better performance. You can target your ads to very specific audiences based on your ideal customer profile (ICP)’s demographics, interests, and online behavior to maximize the ROI of your ad spend. The short-term nature of tactical ads facilitates flexibility and adaptability in messaging and approaches based on real-time results.

Designing a tactical marketing strategy

Don’t confuse your tactical marketing strategy with branding strategy as you develop it. Branding strategy outlines how to build and strengthen your brand identity, while tactics are the specific actions that translate the strategy into reality.

  1. Conduct a business assessment
    Define corporate goals and your audience, identify threats (external factors that could impact the success of achieving corporate goals), weaknesses (internal factors hindering business performance), and opportunities, and then identify your company’s market position.
  2. Define your marketing goals.
    Use the insights from your business assessment to develop your company’s marketing goals. Those goals should leverage any identified opportunities and strengths and address threats and weaknesses.
  3. Choose your marketing tactics.
    The best approach depends on your company and its products, the market, and available resources. While planning, include a clear timeline for each tactic to keep the execution focused and help measure the progress toward your goals. Define the metrics you’ll use to measure performance.
  4. Implement your strategy.
    Use the timelines from Step 3 to guide the implementation of each tactic. Lean into the sales funnel stages here and let each stage guide you on which tactic to implement and when. For example, social media campaigns might work well in the awareness and interest stages. Offering a discount might help potential customers to say “Yes” when they reach the decision stage.
  5. Review the plan
    Once you’ve implemented your plan, monitor its effectiveness based on the metrics you defined earlier—whether it’s an increase in sales, new customer growth, or something else. If the numbers don’t align, adjust and try again.

Strategic and tactical marketing are two sides of the same coin. Strategic marketing provides the overarching direction and long-term vision, while tactical marketing implements specific actions to achieve more specific short-term goals. Understanding the interplay between these two elements—and keeping the coin in their pocket—empowers C-suite executives to create a more solid, effective marketing program.

Many growing companies need C-Suite person to drive that top-level strategy and ensure the tactical elements get executed but don’t want (or can’t) add a full-time executive. That’s where we come in. Download our overview below to learn about our fractional CMO services.

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