Marketing Strategy vs. Tactics: What Is the Difference?

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The 1-Page Marketing Plan" by Allan Dib. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is the difference between a marketing strategy vs. tactics? Why do you need to understand your marketing strategy before thinking about tactics?

Your marketing strategy is a high-level plan to achieve your marketing goals. Marketing tactics are the activities and methods used to put it into practice. The key difference between your marketing strategy vs. tactics is where you use them in your marketing process.

Find out the difference between marketing strategy vs. tactics below.

Understanding Marketing Strategy vs. Tactics

In The 1-Page Marketing Plan, Allan Dib defines marketing as your business strategy for reaching your target market, getting them to like your product or service, and converting them into loyal, ongoing customers. He also explains the need to differentiate between a marketing strategy vs. tactics.

He contends that of all business activities, marketing gives you the most leverage, or greatest impact for your effort, because by growing customers, marketing directly drives business growth. (Shortform note: Management expert Peter Drucker also argued that marketing is critical to business success. He said it’s one of only two functions—marketing and innovation—that contribute to a business’s purpose: creating customers.) So growing your business is why you need a marketing strategy or plan. Here’s what he has to say about marketing strategy vs. tactics:

Many businesses struggle to tell the difference between their marketing strategy vs. tactics.

A strategy is your high-level approach to reaching and winning new customers, while tactics are your methods. Your strategy dictates your tactics.

Dib cautions that small business owners often become enamored with the latest digital marketing tactics—such as SEO, video, or pay-per-click advertising—before they’ve come up with an overall strategy. They cobble together a collection of random tactics in hopes of attracting customers, then wonder why they’re not getting results. (Shortform note: As one marketing strategist put it, that’s like going on vacation without picking a destination—you’re driving blind.)

Or, they mistakenly believe having a great product or service constitutes a marketing strategy—that if their product is great, it will naturally attract customers. However, a great product retains customers—once they buy something and like it, they’ll buy from you again. But first, you have to acquire customers through marketing. 

Understanding the difference between your marketing strategy vs. tactics is key for successful marketing, according to Dib.

(Shortform note: Marketing experts debate whether customer acquisition or customer retention is more important. Each has an advantage: retention yields a greater ROI while acquisition brings long-term growth.)

Marketing Strategy vs. Tactics: What Is the Difference?

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  • How to create a marketing plan using a simple template
  • A guide to the three customer-focused phases of marketing
  • How to create enthusiastic superfans—and why they're essential

Elizabeth Shaw

Elizabeth graduated from Newcastle University with a degree in English Literature. Growing up, she enjoyed reading fairy tales, Beatrix Potter stories, and The Wind in the Willows. As of today, her all-time favorite book is Wuthering Heights, with Jane Eyre as a close second. Elizabeth has branched out to non-fiction since graduating and particularly enjoys books relating to mindfulness, self-improvement, history, and philosophy.

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