Is One Marketer’s Strategy Another Marketer’s Tactic?

By David Gould, President

At recent Resolution Media Senior Management Meeting, we spent a lot of time (I’d argue too much time) discussing the difference between strategy and tactics. Ironically, in the wake of that meeting I’ve seen a number of articles and blog posts on the same topic. The internal RM discussion and the online discussions all fostered great dialog on the subject and, of course, included the obligatory references to military operations, but none left me with a clear cut vision or definition of the difference between a strategy and tactic. Upon further reflection, it occurred to me that maybe, in the words of Albert Einstein, “It’s all relative”. Now I’m no Einstein, I don’t have the hair let alone the brain, but bear with me here.

In the most extreme cases, the distinction seems to be simple. If I were to give you two options, “Adjust Keyword Bids” and “Increase Share of Voice”, and ask you which is a strategy and which is a tactic, you most likely would tell me that the “Increase Share of Voice” is a strategy and “Adjust Keyword Bids” is a tactic. The fact that you are given two options allows you to juxtapose the two against each other and draw a conclusion based on how they relate to each other.

What if I were to give you just one option, “Increase Share of Voice”, and ask you whether that was a strategy or a tactic? Not so simple all of a sudden. If you are the CMO with an organizational goal of driving sales volume, you might tell me that increasing share of voice on search engines is one of a number of tactics to drive sales volume. If you are the Search Marketing Strategist responsible for adjusting keyword bids, you might tell me that “Increase Share of Voice” is a strategy and that you are going to use the tactic of increasing keyword bids to achieve this.

So where do we draw the line between strategy and tactics? Maybe it depends on where you sit in the hierarchy of a well coordinated and integrated marketing plan. One marketer’s strategy may be another marketer’s tactic.

What conclusion can we draw? It’s not really important whether we label an initiative a strategy or a tactic, it’s only a hollow moniker. What is really important is that the series of initiatives in the hierarchy of a marketing plan, whether labeled strategies or tactics, are well coordinated, fit together and build off each other.


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