Discussion on growth and marketing usually takes place in the tactical world of growth hacks, paid ads, and social posts.
What's our digital strategy? How about our content and SEO strategy? 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. In marketing, strategy involves deciding who you are going to target and how you're going to position your products and services.
Developing a good strategy is difficult because it requires sacrifice. It demands hard decisions about what to do but also what to avoid. The tactics follow the strategy.
Take TransferWise for example. They target people 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 the tactical decisions they make, such as:
- running around naked in New York City (PR stunt)
- sharing useful information on their blog and disclosing their sources (SEO)
- pursuing partnerships with companies that align with their mission (distribution)
- reducing their fees at every opportunity (pricing)
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 social ads are good examples of focused tactical execution that stems from their strategy.
You can't make tactical decisions without a strategy, 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. These components work in sync. Your tactics will fail 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?
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