Marketing Know-how

What Exactly IS Marketing? Or: Marketing Strategy vs Marketing Tactics

marketing strategy vs marketing tactics

We are constantly surrounded by some kind of marketing – whether it’s adverts on the radio, a promoted post on social media or a billboard on the way to work. But is that all there is, just tactics and marketing channels? What exactly is marketing? Let’s find out more about marketing strategy vs marketing tactics!

Of course, you won’t be surprised to hear that there is (much) more to marketing than that. In fact, marketing tactics only make up about 50% of what marketing can do for your small business. So, let’s make sure you use it to your full advantage and find out what else marketing has in store for you.

marketing strategy vs marketing tactics
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What do people think of when they think of marketing?

There are a number of reasons why people come to me with a very narrow view of what marketing actually is. But it usually amounts to the same thing. The easiest way to explain it is that they all assume marketing is always something they can see.

This is why the direct side of marketing tends to be the first thing people mention. Billboards. Television. TikTok and Instagram. These are all channels that can be used to get your business out there. And they are important!

Additionally, people will come to me instantly looking to discuss captions, video ads and email copy. Again, these are all perfectly valid and are tactics that many business owners will see great success with.

And while you do need to utilise a selection of these to promote your business, the truth is that marketing is more than tactics, and involves so much more than this behind the scenes. And that’s where it’s important to talk about marketing strategy vs marketing tactics.

marketing strategy vs marketing tactics
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To illustrate this point, I thought I’d start by linking a few of my blog posts that should start showing the real breadth of marketing.

So – what exactly is marketing then?!

These five are just a few of the posts I’ve created over the years that show that marketing isn’t all about printing flyers, running paid ads on Google or appearing on television!

As much as it is about making direct contact with customers, marketing is about strategy. It encompasses all of the building blocks of your business. Especially for small businesses, it’s important to have this in place to focus your time and energy on what is most likely to get you the results you’re looking for.

And this is just your overall brand and marketing strategy. Ideally, you figure out how to apply this to each of your marketing channels as well, creating a strategy for your email marketing, your social media or advertising. That’s why we marketers often distinguish between marketing strategy vs marketing tactics.

Things that might feel like admin, are actually crucial stages in your marketing journey. And they don’t stop once you’ve started sharing content! Over the years you continue to learn from your marketing and target customers and you can use that knowledge to inform your strategy further. Your goals might change over time as well, as might your focus.

So when I say that marketing is more than tactics, what I really mean is this. You can jump on the bandwagon and utilise the biggest, most popular platforms in the world. But without knowing who you want to attract, which direction you’re headed and what your goals are, it’s unlikely to pan out the way you hope.

What does this mean for you?

marketing strategy vs marketing tactics
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In a nutshell? It means that your marketing doesn’t have to follow anyone else’s script. When thinking about marketing strategy vs marketing tactics, keep this important fact in mind – every marketing strategy should be as unique as the business itself.

People often come to me asking how they can make a channel (TikTok, for example) work for their business. They get caught up in obsessing over a popular platform and trying to twist their business to fit what it “wants”. That might mean forcing video content when it isn’t something they’re comfortable with or jumping on a trend that has little to nothing to do with their brand.

What I want you to take away from this post is that you should always start with you, your business and your strategy. The best marketing for you fits with your skills and strengths (as well as time and budget): Who do you want to work with? And how do you want to interact with them? Why do you do what you do? What makes you stand out?

Sometimes it can feel like the people (or platforms) that shout the loudest are telling you “you must do this, and this is how!”. The truth, though? There is nothing you have to do – except marketing! The how and the what are entirely up to you.

What next, then?

marketing strategy vs marketing tactics
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When considering your marketing mix and marketing strategy vs marketing tactics, go back to basics. Do a full audit of your current marketing strategy, and pull out a) what’s working and what isn’t, and b) what you’re enjoying and what you’re not. If something’s not working, see if you can improve it. And anything you’re not enjoying, explore how you could turn that around. Is it an essential piece of the puzzle that you could outsource to a consultant? Or is it something you could comfortably do without?

And then, look for the gaps in places you didn’t consider before. Forget the big, flashy tactics. Don’t like video? Don’t do it then. Really enjoy networking and public speaking? Do that instead. Play to your strengths, use your own voice and your marketing will be more authentic and enjoyable for it.

I hope this post has helped clarify the importance to distinguish between marketing strategy vs marketing tactics, and shown you just how multifaceted this subject is. Marketing is much more than just tactics and trendy channels! You have so many opportunities to do it your way. If the overwhelm of looking at tv ads and huge viral campaigns has put you off in the past, now’s the time to dust yourself off and jump back in.


If you are interested in reading more about this topic, have a look at these:
The Key Ingredients for Successful Small Business Marketing
What’s a USP, Why Do I Need One & How Do I Get One?
How to put your Marketing Theory into Practice
5 Small Business Marketing Truths You Need to Know About

Denise Strohsahl brand and marketing consultant for small businesses

Hello, I’m Denise from sandstonecastles, a brand & marketing consultancy based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

I help small business owners like yourself to find the right marketing that’s in line with your brand and values.