“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”
― Sun Tzu, ‘The Art of War’
Though both strategy and tactics have been pivotal to warfare, it’s the former that encompasses the latter. For instance, a commanding officer may employ guerrilla warfare as a tactical move to distract the enemy and gain control over a territory (a strategic move).
Put differently, a tactic is several chunks of a Plan of Action; whereas ‘strategy’ is the larger framework, that’ll eventually lead you to the desired result.
The rules are no different, be it an administrative work taken up by a city Mayor, a game of chess or a Digital Marketing strategy.
Here’s a 5 point checklist to separate the wheat from the chaff and find someone who can offer you a strategy, not a tactic in Digital marketing.
1) Is your Strategist paying heed to your Target Audience?
It’s vital that your Digital strategist understands what your target audience wants as lucidly as you do (if not better). You would be surprised to know how similar the first meetings of most strategy providers go with a variety of clients. Even Doctors don’t prescribe the same medicines to all their patients, especially if they have different illnesses.
If someones suggests you to do what they have advised others (even if that’s shown favorable results), get to the bottom of it. It’s most likely a tactic, as had it been a strategy, no two cases should have been similar. Even if it’s a coincidence; then coincidences don’t occur too often!
Rethink it: If they keep egging you on going for Search Engine Optimization or Google Adwords in the first meeting, chances are that’s what you’d likely get since it preoccupies their minds already. This might work for you in the short term, but that’s NOT a Customized Strategy for long term gains.
2) Can your Strategist offer your customers a compelling reason to buy your product?
Does your strategist know how to motivate your customers to buy your product? How well do they understand your product? Is it meant for businesses or end users? Can it be promoted as a new infrastructure (in offices, residences), can it fix problems or does it offer a superior value over an existing similar product while having no potential risks. These things have to be clear in your strategist’s mind, as it will serve as the premise behind charting out a communication plan for your potential buyers.
If your strategy provider understands these things only on the surface, then they won’t be able to go far. Their efforts would be reduced to fostering your existing selling drive, as a tactical move. This can be a big marketing mistake which will eventually affect your bottom line. In contrast, a strategy would be to internalize the want for your product and create a new need for the buyers. Can the strategist do that?
Rethink it: Nobody knows your product like you do, so delve deeper into how they perceive it as a buying option. Put yourself into the shoes of the buyer of your own product, you’ll understand how persuasive their plans are.
3) Does your Strategist care about your Competitors’marketing strategy?
Is knowing your competitors a priority for your strategist? Understanding them better can offer you a yardstick. It should be a part of your strategist’s research and must be done meticulously. It can also give you peek into your competitors’ market spend, and conversely their budget. If your digital strategy provider urges you to take your competitors seriously, it’s only for you to be at an advantage before you start allocating your millions.
But if a strategy provider stresses a lot over what your competitors are doing, it can be a tactic (to emulate their ways). In contrast, taking it as a starting point and building on it to move ahead could count as a strategy.
Rethink it: If a strategy provider is harping way too much over studying your competitors, it can be because of their shallow understanding of your product or business. You’ll smell the rat when it happens.
4) Is your Strategist stressing on revenue on a micro level instead of talking about CSFs , KPIs, metrics, leading up to a larger Goal?
A smart strategist, even before opening a discussion around data or tools, will have a well-defined goal for your digital marketing strategy. If your strategist can’t distinguish between your Goal, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), Critical Success Factors (CSFs) etc., it’s already a botched up affair. Goals for one, are above your commercial metrics or marketing performance indicators. All your effort and use of metrics must ensure you’re inching towards it. An example of a goal could be- to offer the best customer service in your industry.
If your strategist leans towards tools, metrics and data it might be a tactic for offering you a quick ROI, but the longevity of it remains questionable. On the other hand a strategy would be to work around defining your (in a descending order of priority), Vision -> Goals -> Objectives -> CSFs and KPIS -> Metrics and Measures.
Rethink it: If your strategy provider doesn’t speak to you in the aforesaid language, either they’re deliberately doing so or they’re incapable of it. And both the cases are hazardous for your brand/product. Apart from growing your sales, the idea should be to focus on engagement with your potential customers and creating an awareness for the new visitors. It would all lead to REVENUE only, eventually.
5) Picking the right Tactics, to build your strategy, is the real McCoy!
It’s no mean feat to decide upon the tactics your strategy will have. Whether your strategy needs Email marketing, SEO, Display advertisements, Adwords, Video marketing, Social media advertising (on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.), or Content marketing.; it would need analysis. For instance, if you think Television was the best bet to pursue 18-34 year olds in the United States, you might be luckier in reaching them through YouTube.
If your strategist is going hammer and tongs after one (or two) such tactic(s), s/he is only trying to untangle the last part of the puzzle. A strategy, on the contrary will be about engaging your customers in a holistic manner, spreading a good word about you while meeting the surrounding issues head-on.
Rethink it: A digital strategy works best with a top-down approach. If your strategist’s starting points are any of these marketing tactics, they are taking the bottom up approach; which is fundamentally INCORRECT.
Look a little deeper, and you’ll realize why a strategist is trying hard to promote one or two tactics. They either hold an expertise in it or they have seen success because of those.
However, it’s nothing short of blatant maneuvering. But it gets worse when those ill chosen tactics starts meddling with the positioning of your brand and underestimating your customers.
What if your Digital strategist was a highway motorist whose lone skill is to put the pedal to the metal, with no destination plan, no gas and no time limit to reach―you might surely get somewhere.
Or,would you rather rely on luck or hand over the keys to a DIGITAL MARKETING expert who possesses a foresight?
The ball is in your court!