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Marketing Mix-up: Strategy vs. Tactics (and why we mix-up the two)

In the ever-changing world of marketing, we far too often hear the terms "strategy" and "tactics" thrown around interchangeably. Let's agree, here and now, that this needs to stop. While the two are obviously interconnected, they serve distinct purposes and require unique approaches–getting them confused creates a lack of clarity for your team. Most of all, however, it minimizes the power and the value of great strategic thinking, which should never be an afterthought but, instead, should be the bedrock of business and marketing success.

Deciphering the Lingo

Marketing Strategy: Your marketing strategy is the big-picture game plan. It's the 'what' and 'why' of your marketing efforts. Think of it as the grand vision that guides everything you do. It's your roadmap for achieving long-term objectives that will drive the business forward.

Marketing Tactics: These are the boots-on-the-ground actions you take to implement your strategy. Tactics are all about the 'how.' They're the nitty-gritty, day-to-day maneuvers you use to engage your audience and meet short-term goals. Tactics are practical and adaptable.

Key Differences

Scope and Timeframe:

  • Strategy is the long-term view, focusing on overall objectives.

  • Tactics deal with the short term and immediate actions that support your strategy.


  • Your strategy remains relatively stable over time.

  • Tactics are agile and can adapt to changing circumstances.

Concrete vs. Abstract:

  • Strategy is abstract, dealing with concepts and principles.

  • Tactics are concrete, dealing with specific, actionable steps.


  • Strategy is set at the top level in your marketing plan.

  • Tactics are executed at a lower level, guiding daily marketing operations.

Common Mix-ups

  1. Swapping Terms: The biggest blunder is using "strategy" when discussing day-to-day actions, and "tactics" when setting long-term goals. This mix-up can lead to confusion and misalignment in your marketing efforts.

  2. Lack of Clarity: Sometimes, marketers jump into tactics without a clear strategy. This can make it tough to distinguish between the two and may result in a series of unrelated actions rather than a well-thought-out plan.

  3. Contextual Influence: In marketing, tactics can sometimes masquerade as strategy, especially when a string of tactical moves appears to be a grand marketing plan. It's important to keep the big picture in mind and ensure your tactics align with your overall strategy.

Mastering the difference between strategy and tactics is like unlocking a cheat code to long-term success.. A well-defined marketing strategy offers guidance and purpose, while efficient tactics ensure that the strategy materializes. The confusion surrounding these terms often arises from their interconnectedness, but it is crucial to clearly articulate and communicate your marketing strategy. This way, your tactics can effectively support your broader objectives and drive business success.

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