All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved. - Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Many marketers - inexperienced and veteran ones as well - often fall into the trap of mistaking tactics for strategy and then wondering why their “strategic plan” did not work. The answer is simple: You can deploy a whole list of tried-and-proven marketing tactics, but you won’t get the outcomes you desire unless said tactics are derived from a specific and clearly defined strategy. In this blog, we’ll help you clearly differentiate between strategy and tactic so you can grow your B2B business and stay on top of your game.
Let’s start with the basics.
A marketing strategy is a plan, one that supports your corporate strategy and actualizes your company vision. On the other hand, a marketing tactic is an action step, one you take to realize that plan. Here’s an example of a goal and a strategy: acquire 10K leads within 12 months for a new secure access app in the healthcare sector by targeting high-level healthcare security professionals. The tactics include utilizing email, content, and social media marketing and increasing trade show presence, implemented with increased security/healthcare trade show participation, product briefings, partnership with industry influencers on content, and social media activities.
What does strategy do that tactics don’t?
A well-defined strategy lets you clearly see how you are positioned against your competitors, helps you determine how and where to allocate your resources - especially your budget, and provides specific goals, such as sales targets, that you can measure your performance against – the ROI. It also clearly defines your market and, therefore, helps you develop the right personas and the best way to reach and communicate with them, as well as determine how you want them to perceive your brand. Finally, strategy can help you see a long-term vision for your business and may provide direction for future initiatives. Tactics, no matter how successful, provide none of these results.
Five-step process for creating a B2B marketing strategy
Before you dive into creating a marketing strategy for your B2B product, you’ll need to determine your marketing goals - these are quantifiable objectives that relate to your overall business direction and your competitive position.
- Do you want to generate more leads?
- Increase current customer retention?
- Differentiate your brand in a crowded marketplace?
- Educate customers so they can better understand your solution/technology’s benefits? Increase revenues or profits?
Once you have locked down your goals, decide on your marketing budget. Then, take the following steps to create your B2B marketing strategy:
- Determine your market positioning - Understand your marketing environment, your competitors and their strengths and weaknesses, your unique value proposition, and the specific problem that only your product can solve- Lowest price? Unique feature? Best post-sale service?
- Do your customer research - This step leads to your buyers’ personae. You’ll need to thoroughly understand your customers: their demographics/psychographics, position/title, major pain points, preferred communication channels, decision-making style/process, purchasing behavior, etc. Find out how they behave on your website, what problems they communicate to your support team, what they talk about in their social media pages, what type of content they prefer.
- Define what success looks like and then set your goals - They must be SMART - specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound, made in tandem with your sales team. Then, work backwards to determine what actions – tactics - you’ll have to undertake to achieve those goals. Finally, define a success metric for each tactic to help you track your progress.
- Map out your B2B customer journey - Know the different touch points your B2B customer reaches as he travels through your sales funnel so at each stage so you can identify the key stakeholders, the questions/concerns/pain points she may have, what influences his decision making - and you can then match your content to respond accordingly with the right message.
- Develop your brand messaging - Your key messages should always be based on your brand priorities and the needs of your customers. Before you finalize your messaging and align it with various elements of your campaign, ask yourself if the message speaks to your core values, clearly differentiates you in the marketplace, absolutely and without a doubt speaks to and resonates with your target audience, all while it maintains consistency across all brand assets.
In many ways, marketing IS war. That’s why, when talking about strategies and tactics, we’ll conclude with some further Sun Tzu wisdom: “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”