Marketing Tactics vs. Strategy: Striking a Balance

One of the biggest differences between marketing jobs at a large company versus doing marketing at a startup is the breadth of responsibility.  At a large company, marketing roles are highly siloed and folks are slotted into field marketing, PR, communications, strategy, etc. and they rarely work on projects or tasks that cross those lines.  At a startup there aren’t enough people around to start splitting up jobs like that so more often than not there are one or two people doing everything.  That’s is the fun part of doing startup marketing (and one of the dangers of hiring a person who has only ever worked at big companies for your startup, but that’s another blog post).  The challenge of course is that you have to wear a lot of hats simultaneously

So how do you find a balance between the strategic and the tactical sides of the equation?  In my experience most marketers are more comfortable on one side or the other and they tend to spend too much time in that comfort zone.  For example, folks that are awesome at lead generation can easily spend all their time doing only that.  Folks that are good at strategy often find lead generation “boring”.

All strategy and no tactics – you might never get off the ground

There are obvious problems with not paying attention to short term revenue.  Even though your positioning and strategy might establish you as a thought leader (yeah, hate that word but you know what I mean) in a market, you might not survive long enough for that strategy to translate into revenue without a concerted effort in lead generation. Traction and revenue wherever you can get it today can buy you a lot of runway to become whatever you want to be in the future.  If you ignore it too much, you run the risk of never really getting off the ground.

All tactics and no strategy – you risk stalling the longer-term growth engine

Nobody will ever complain that you spend too much time on lead generation.  The business heads will be happy because you are focused on revenue.  The danger of course is that if you don’t ever worry about the longer-term strategic issues – i.e. how your product strategy is evolving and how marketing needs to change to accommodate that, messaging and positioning in markets that are undergoing a lot of change, channel and partner strategies to expand the business into new areas – then the risk is that the real growth engine of the company is stalled.  You could in essence, sacrifice long term revenue for short term revenue.

How you know you’ve got the right balance is hard but I think you can start feeling when the scales are tilted and then work to get them balanced again.

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26 thoughts on “Marketing Tactics vs. Strategy: Striking a Balance”

    1. My favourite line “one of the dangers of hiring a person who has only ever worked at big companies for your startup, but that’s another blog post”

      I’ve found that to be so true. Would love to see your blog post on that.

  1. Hi April, I agree completely with the need to balance the need to plan properly with the need to actually get things done. Having worked for a large US IT company we used to joke that us Brits loved planning but never actually progressed to doing anything while the Yanks sprang into action immediately without planning anything first.
    While there was an element of truth in those stereotypes the underlying issue was a lack of understanding that all tactics HAD to be linked to a strategy and that a strategy needn’t take an inordinate amount of time to develop. I also guess not enough people understood the difference between an objective, a strategy and a tactic…but hey that’s a whole different story.
    Keep up the good work!

  2. Hi April,
    I have been participating in a strategy session where, as often happens, the conversations descend into “cool”, “Flashy” marketing tactics.

    In an effort to restore the balance you mention, I shared this link with the teams. Thanks for being so concise in your post.

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