2 mins • Strategy

Building Blocks of Growth

Great marketing has three core components: research, strategy and execution.

 Illustration of three interlocked puzzle pieces

Most marketing discussion is tactical: growth hacks, paid ads, social posts and so on.

What’s our digital strategy? How about our content and SEO strategy? What are we going to do on Tik Tok?

These are not strategies, they are tactics. They may be useful but they are short term, tiny decisions in the grand scheme of growth.

The distinction is subtle but important: Tactics help you get things done, but they don’t tell you which things are worth doing in the first place. That is the job of strategy.

Strategy is about making choices. It is about figuring out where to play and how to win. It is about deciding who you are going to target and how you’re going to win them over.

Developing a good strategy is difficult because it requires sacrifice. It demands hard answers to what to do but also, what to avoid. The tactics are just an extension of the strategy.

For example, take TransferWise. Their main target audience is individuals and businesses who need to transfer money overseas (where to play). Unlike traditional banks, their strategy is being transparent, cheap and fast (how to win).

This in turn informs their tactical decisions:

Sure, they might try a few tactics to see which ones work better, but only after they know who their target audience and what their positioning is.

Want another example? Look at Shopify Plus. They target big e-commerce brands that are frustrated with their existing platform (where to play). They position themselves as the modern alternative (how to win). Their ads are good examples of focused tactical execution that stems from their strategy.

You can’t make tactical decisions without a strategy, just as you can’t develop a strategy without research. Marketing research helps you understand your customers and the market you operate in. It helps you survey the lay of the land and make sense of the world. It provides the foundation for you to build your strategy on.

Growth comes from combining deliberate tactical execution with a clear strategy informed by research. They all work in sync. Your tactics won’t work if your strategy is wrong, and your strategy will be wrong if your research is flawed.

The next time you are tempted to buy facebook ads, hire an SEO expert or write blog posts, ask yourself: who are your customers and how are you going win them over?