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The key differences between a marketing strategy vs. tactics

marketing strategy vs. tactics marketing strategy vs. tactics

Sun Tzu believed that “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” While the Chinese general’s philosophy applies perfectly to business, many entrepreneurs struggle to understand how marketing strategy and marketing tactics work together.

If you feel confused about the marketing strategy vs. marketing tactics, you might face obstacles in your course business like:

  • You have a well-crafted ebook as your lead magnet. This attracts new subscribers, but just a small percentage of them convert to new students.
  • An Instagram account with a huge following and good engagement. But your followers don’t sign up to your email list.
  • You write educational, engaging blog posts to your business blog. But you don’t get enough traffic.

So, to overcome these obstacles and start seeing the results with the marketing efforts you want, you’ll want to make sure you know the difference between a marketing strategy vs. tactics. And what part each of these elements plays in your overall marketing plan.

Marketing strategy vs. tactics: What’s the difference?

There are three crucial marketing terms that entrepreneurs tend to use interchangeably: Marketing plan, marketing strategy, and marketing tactics. But there are huge differences between the three of them.

All three of them work together to help make your marketing more effective. But they are all different and require different approaches.

Marketing plan

Your marketing plan is a roadmap for your business that identifies your business and marketing goals. Also, it outlines, tracks, and organizes the strategy that will help you achieve your business goals. Usually within a given time period. Your marketing plan will have your business goals, strategies, and tactics. And it will be a key reference point as your business grows.

Marketing strategy 

A marketing strategy is your overall game plan for identifying the key marketing objectives to help you reach your marketing and business goals. Each online course creator will have different goals for their business. So the strategy can include any of the following:

  • Grow your online course business
  • Sell more courses
  • Onboard more students 
  • Increase your average customer value  
  • Grow your email list

Your marketing strategy will often remain unchanged despite algorithm and industry changes. And it’s the key element of ensuring that you meet your business goals.

Marketing tactics

On the flip side, marketing tactics are various activities you use to execute your marketing strategy and reach your business goals. They are most often small scale things like:

  • Joining the newest social media platform and utilizing it for growth and reaching new audiences.
  • Publishing blog posts to increase brand awareness and visibility.
  • Using influencer marketing to reach new audiences. 
  • Producing podcasts and doing guest podcasting to build your brand’s authority.
  • Running Facebook, Google, and Instagram ads. 

Unlike marketing strategy, you can execute multiple marketing tactics simultaneously. And you can change them often. As the trends and industry change your tactic can too to ensure that you’re always on top of your game. 

Marketing strategy vs tactics: examples

To help you better understand the key difference between a marketing strategy and marketing tactics, let’s look at a few examples. These examples show how strategy and tactics work together to help online course creators achieve their marketing and business goals.

Example 1: Bread-making online course

Let’s say you run a bread-making online course business where you teach people how to make artisan sourdough bread from scratch at home. Your main business goal is to grow your audience and onboard more new students. 

Marketing strategy: Use digital marketing to engage your target audience.

Implementing this strategy will allow you to reach and engage possible students who would be interested in signing up for your course.

Marketing tactics: 

  • Optimize your social media profiles for easier discoverability.
  • Create content for all of your social media platforms.
  • Use paid advertising on Google, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest to reach a new audience.
  • Utilize guest podcasting and guest blogging to find a new audience.
  • Engage with influencers to build brand awareness.

Example 2: Watercolor 101 online course

Let’s say you have an online course teaching people how to paint with watercolors. You have one online course live. And you have an online shop where you sell ebooks and other tools that compliment your course. Your business goal is to increase your profit. 

Marketing strategy: Increase your average customer value. 

This marketing strategy will help you reach your business goal of increasing your profits with your business without adding more courses and products.

Marketing tactics: 

Example 3: Coding cohort course

For this example say you run a coding cohort twice a year where you teach your students how to build websites. To do so, you have an active blog filled with educational content relevant to your audience. And your business goal is to increase the number of new sign-ups.

Marketing strategy: Utilize inbound marketing to increase the number of new sign-ups.

This strategy will allow you to use what you’ve already got in place to maximize your business gains to reach your goals. 

Marketing tactics: 

  • Optimize your website for SEO
  • Target specific keywords with your blog posts to rank in Google. 
  • Create a relevant, good-quality lead magnet that entices people to sign up for your email list.
  • Create a quality onboarding email sequence to nurture your new leads.

Adapting and moving forward

Once you understand the difference between marketing strategy vs. tactics, you’ll be able to withstand industry changes which will help ensure your long-term success. You should now know what your own tactics are vs. your strategies. And be able to identify what needs to change and evolve with your potential customers. These are all important skills to develop for every entrepreneur.

For example, say you’ve adapted by integrating TikTok into your roster of social media platforms. You make videos about your fashion illustration sketching to find new students who are interested in your fashion illustration course. To execute your marketing strategy of getting more students, you found an effective tactic to help you do so.

So, you capitalize on this discovery by creating TikTok videos and racking up new student sign-ups. But after a while, as other online course creators discover the effectiveness of creating TikTok videos to attract new students, you start noticing that your tactic is not as effective as it used to be. 

You’ll need to adapt and find new effective tactics to help you support your marketing strategy and continue growing or maintaining your business. Once you know the key difference between strategy and tactics, you’ll be able to easily change and adapt and move towards new things that work. 

Hopefully, this will also help prevent you from struggling with algorithms and other things out of your control. There will always be new, better marketing tactics to explore. And once you have developed the skill of identifying and utilizing them, your marketing efforts will become fool-proof.

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Author: Karolina Wilde, Karolina Wilde is a freelance writer. Her work has been published on Better Marketing, The Ascent, and Sexography reaching over 25,000+ readers. In her free time, you can find her podcasting, reading, or creating TikTok videos.