Strategy Before Tactics: Avoiding the Scattergun Approach

Digital Marketing Strategy

At ICS-digital, on the odd occasion, we’ll get requests from prospects wanting to quickly focus on digital marketing tactics before even discussing the fundamentals first; the strategy. However, without a solid strategy before tactics, how can businesses ensure their marketing activities will work and actually generate the positive results they require? 

In its simplest form, a marketing strategy is a long-term plan a company will take to address its goals and its target audience’s needs. Whereas tactics are strategic actions, based on the agreed plan from the marketing strategy. 

When deadlines are looming, it can be very tempting for businesses to jump straight into tactics to try and hit ROI. It’s easy to get caught up in it all and want quick outcomes. However, it’s never a good idea to run before you can walk, so to speak. Jumping into tactics before considering the wider picture is bound to lead to poor quality results, unless a bit of luck and good timing happens to be involved by chance, but that just can’t be relied upon. 

Why Do Businesses Need a Digital Marketing Strategy?

Strategy before tactics is essential for planning marketing activities effectively. A marketing strategy should look at the fundamentals of why, whereas the tactics are the actions that follow. Strategy should always come first. Not only will taking the time to plan an effective strategy help ensure the agreed actions are the right choice, but it will also likely save plenty of money and time in the long-term, so it is the most efficient method. 

If tactics were to come before the strategy, efforts would be unfocused and very much a scattergun approach. Having a solid digital marketing strategy will help guide a business's decisions to which tactics will have the best chances of success, based on research and evidence, which ties back to the objectives of the business. 

Why Doesn’t the Scattergun Approach Work?

With the advancement of AI it seems like quick results are where the focus is in the industry at the moment. But has marketing become too reliant on quick-win solutions to the potential detriment of building effective strategies?

This isn’t to say there isn’t a place for AI in digital marketing. In fact, quite the contrary. If utilised smartly, AI can play a crucial role in any marketing strategy. Using AI as a ‘co-pilot’ to help with processes such as the research phase of a digital marketing plan will save humans the time to do what they do best; be creative and strategic thinkers, offering their expertise and creating high-value work. 

A scattergun approach is essentially targeting anyone and everyone. When businesses fall into this trap, they will risk failing to resonate with their true target audience and will lack a strong brand identity. This will result in marketing campaigns not leading to the intended outcomes they had hoped for, as they will lack any kind direction or consistent messaging behind the tactics. In turn, this means wasted time and money. 

A famous example of when tactics went wrong for a company was a free flights promotion by Hoover in 1992. The overall aim was to boost sales during the global recession of the early 90s, however, the plan was not thought through effectively. Hoover offered free flights to the US to any customer purchasing £100 worth of Hoover products. 

However, they could not keep up with demand as they had counted on customers spending more than £100 on products, as well as hoping there would be a potential barrier to entry from completing the application process and not meeting its exact terms. This resulted in Hoover trying various tactics to stop winners claiming the free flights, due to the soaring number of entries to the competition. In turn, Hoover made national headlines due to the furious reaction from its customers, which damaged its reputation and subsequently, Hoover Europe was sold to an Italian competitor in 1995. 

So, when it comes to the scattergun approach, sure, these types of tactics might bring in a few leads here and there but overall, to get the best, targeted results that will lead to conversions, strategy must come first. 

Considerations for Planning a Digital Marketing Strategy 

It starts with going back-to-basics and asking the right questions. A digital marketing strategy in its basic form should ask the who, the why, the what and the how, for example:

  • What are the key objectives and goals? What problem needs to be solved?
  • What’s going on across the marketing landscape? Who are the key competitors? 
  • Who is the target market and why will they care/how will they be impacted? What is the USP?
  • How is the core messaging being positioned? What is the call to action? 
  • What is the budget and timeline? 

If you can’t answer these questions, there is no strategy. 

What Should a Digital Marketing Strategy Include?

A digital marketing strategy should include a variety of cross-channel components to ensure a company is hitting their target audience with the right message, in the right place and at the right time across various touch points. 

The following key elements should be considered for digital marketing success:

Digital Marketing Success graphic

And when it comes to content as part of a digital marketing strategy, an important aspect of any solid content plan should be ensuring E-E-A-T is adhered to. This acronym stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. E-E-A-T is a framework made up of four criteria which Google uses to assess the quality and credibility of content. 

Finally, once there is a strategy in place and the tactics have been mapped out, it’s time to plan and deliver.  But in a nutshell, always remember:

  • No strategy is set in stone - it will likely evolve and this isn’t a bad thing as long as the goal/objectives remain centre focus
  • To assess how strategies are going along the way, evaluating campaigns and reporting against key metrics
  • Not to lose sight of the end goal when considering activations
  • To problem solve along the way, and pre-empt issues  
  • To make sure the strategy doesn’t get lost among the tactics 

Need Help with a Digital Marketing Strategy?

We understand how tricky it can be as a business owner or within a specialist in-house role to move away from the day-to-day and find time to look at the bigger picture. This is where we can come in and help. We're passionate about all areas of digital marketing and our integrated team of specialists are very experienced when it comes to strategy both at a local level and on an international scale.