You need a marketing strategy, not just a marketing plan. Here’s why.

In marketing, football, and military campaigns, strategy always come before tactics. But developing that strategy is a step that too many marketers skip. In a rush to get results, they start with the tactical side of marketing—building a website, posting on social media, or developing brochures and ads. While these tactics may reach the target audience, a scattershot approach won’t continue to build and nurture that relationship or translate into ongoing sales. That’s where marketing strategy comes in.

Plan vs strategy—what’s the difference?

A marketing strategy clearly and succinctly lays out how marketing will help an organization reach its goals, whether that’s hitting a dollar amount in sales, introducing a new product or service, or expanding into new markets. A marketing plan outlines the tactics you’ll use to achieve those goals.

There are 4 reasons a well thought out marketing strategy should be the foundation for all of an organization’s marketing efforts:

  1. It’s a chance to set realistic goals

Of course you want your organization to be a leader in the field or grow from $1 million to $1 billion in revenue this year, but there’s a problem with both of those goals. The first one is too vague and the second may not be realistic. A marketing strategy provides the opportunity for an organization’s stakeholders to set specific, relevant, attainable, measurable goals as well as set the timeframe for reaching those goals. And through the process of developing and securing approval for the strategy, you’re setting expectations and getting everyone on the same page.

  1. It helps ensure consistency and cohesiveness

Marketing efforts include multiple channels—ads, articles, blogs, PR, social media campaigns, webinars, brochures—but the message should be substantially different from channel to channel. Marketing strategy is the blueprint that helps ensure you’re delivering your message consistently, and that your marketing tactics are working together to reinforce that message whenever and however your target audience receives it.

  1. It defines your target market

Who’s your customer? You need to figure out the answer to that question if you want to target your marketing wisely. Target markets are defined by a number of factors: looking at the current customers and those of top competitors, choosing which demographics to pursue, defining the market niche in which your product or service best fits, and prioritizing which customers you want to focus on first.

  1. It prevents duplication of effort and waste

When more than one person or team is doing your marketing, it’s important that they communicate. If one group isn’t aware of what the other is doing, it can lead to the duplication of each other’s work, wasting time and money. An effective marketing strategy outlines who’s responsible for what, the budget for each marketing tactic, and how the people involved with marketing will communicate and share information and resources.