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What is the difference between a strategic and tactical marketing plan?

4 min read

Back to Blog

4 min read

What is the difference between a strategic and tactical marketing plan?

Author: Phil Birss
Posted in Marketing on 4th February 2018 9:00 am

What is the difference between a strategic and tactical marketing plan?

When creating your marketing plan, start with a broad strategy on what you want to achieve, breaking down the specific actions in the smaller, more manageable steps. The creation of a marketing strategy is at the heart of a marketing manager’s responsibilities. If you are focused on delivering marketing results for your business, then both a strategic and a tactical plan are essential in helping to shape and realise your vision.

Strategic Marketing

At its most basic level, a strategy is a plan for achieving a specific goal or set of goals. In a business setting, your strategic marketing goals will usually focus on boosting sales, building brand awareness or increasing market share. The scope of the strategic marketing plan should focus on the objectives for the next three years, whereas a tactical marketing plan should only focus on the next 12 months.

Your strategic plan will most certainly include a review of the current market situation, the lifecycle of your service or product, the competitor landscape and any identified opportunities you can take advantage of. The marketing strategy will then dig down further addressing more specific goals such as improving customer retention, diversifying the customer audience or increasing purchase frequency.

A well-considered strategic plan will include input from all areas of the business and will be aligned to the broader growth objectives of the business, as set by the board or leadership team. Only with complete alignment and agreement across all business unit can an effective tactical marketing plan then be formed and implemented.

Tactical Marketing

Tactics are the specific methods and tools that you will use to achieve the objectives set out in the strategic marketing plan. With your strategic goals defined, the tactical marketing plan starts to hone in on the specific actions you need to take. For example, if your strategic goal is to increase revenue, one tactic may be to raise your prices or launch a new complimentary product or service that will increase the LTV (lifetime value) of your customer. If your focus is on increasing market share among your target audience, you might look at more niche promotional opportunities (e.g. if you are promoting a sports drink, you may look for an endorsement from a professional athlete).

The most common layout for your tactical plan is to follow the marketing mix model and use the 4P’s to guide you. The 4P’s model was created in the 1960s by E. Jerome McCarthy, a professor at the College of Commerce at the University of Notre Dame. The 4P’s of Product, Placement, Promotion and Price are used for product businesses, with the inclusion of People, Physical Environment and Process to create the extended 7P’s model, which is used for services based businesses.

Using this as your framework, you should state the tactical action that you intend to roll out, per audience segment and per promotional channel. Your promotional channel plan should include a month-by-month overview of how advertising, sales, PR, direct and digital campaigns will work towards achieving your goals. Depending on your business, the tactical plan may include sales incentives, pricing strategies and the wider tools which are required to deliver the desired marketing results.

The tactical plan should include the marketing budget for the 12 month period the plan covers, along with the spend allocation broken down per audience segment and, or, per promotional channel. To demonstrate ROI (return on investment) the plan should include the expected financial results from your marketing spend, again broken down by segment and, or, by channel.

Finally, you should also include any assumptions you have made, along with the implications for the business if those assumptions are not met. A typical assumption may be the impact of losing a key client account during the campaign period, and the subsequently impact on the financial results.

Many organisations take the tactical planning process one step further and develop a separate communications planning document. A communications plan takes each promotional channel and provides more detail on the how the campaign will be delivered. For example, the social media section may explain the day-to-day content schedule, a platform specific engagement plan and response time for messages received.

Final Thoughts

Sun Zu wrote, Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. Investing time to create both a strategic and tactical marketing plan will ensure that the business has a clear set of objectives, a step-by-step guide on how to get there and a way of measuring the success of your marketing efforts.

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