Strategic Marketing Plan 12: Programs and Tactics

What’s the difference between a strategy and a tactic?

If you answered that a strategy is an idea and a tactic is an action or vehicle used to engage a strategy, bravo. If you didn’t, you just learned something.

I’ve been talking mainly strategies in this series. After all, these posts are all about how to build a strategic marketing plan for your business. As I close out the first season of the series, I’m opening the door to the follow-up second series, injecting discussion on tactics to help you develop the strategies you’ve discovered and reach your marketing goals.

As you consider the intimate marketing dance your customers do with your branding and marketing efforts—often referred to as the customer lifecycle—it can be helpful to lay out your programs and strategies in a linear chart like the one below.

The first column, listing objective-driven points in the customer experience, will define the coordinates locating a customer in the lifecycle. The second column lists the media, or vehicles, you will use to accomplish program goals. The third column lists the content, or what you will load into those media vehicles, to complete that part of the program.

Some tactics will be broadly relevant, proving their worth at every stop along the customer lifecycle experience. For our study company, Big Wood Ski, that might be the Big Wood Ski website. Other tactics will have more-limited relevance. Press releases, for example, may not deliver as powerful a punch, at least until brand awareness is solidly established. But hey, even Nike and Apple were once unknowns.

Here’s the chart for Big Wood Ski, designed to help this exciting new company earn the market share it deserves:

How to use this chart

Look at this as a guide to show you which tactics to use and which publishers to engage for each program as you build your market reach. Consider which media and distribution tactics for each program are right for your business, then insert the content tactics for that media in the next column.

While it is written in linear fashion, know that the customer lifecycle is a continuous one. Ideally, your customers will follow a path that goes from building awareness through branding and advertising. Branding and advertising then work to inspire consideration and generate demand, which drives purchases through information on the Web and at reseller point of purchase. Ultimately, retention and loyalty are supported through customer satisfaction, prompting advocacy and influencer activity through use of the product.

Your customers won’t always follow the logical path, however, and their behavior, while sometimes predictable, won’t always be a step-by-step process. They may jump in at advocacy after viewing a video, even before purchasing the product. They may just skip a step or two, going directly to the buy at a moment’s notice. Make sure your tactics welcome them wherever they decide to engage.

Up next: our wrap up of this series will be a comprehensive discussion dovetailing Season One’s theory with Season Two’s practical application.