Web Toolbar by Wibiya Dave Gallant: Marketing Blunders - Choosing Tactics Over Strategy

Marketing Blunders - Choosing Tactics Over Strategy

" The purpose of this post is to spark conversation on the various challenges we as Digital Marketers and Social Media Strategist face. Please feel free to share your experiences and solutions in the comment section."

Why is it that so many businesses choose tactics first, before doing any strategic planning? I think one of the culprits is because we live in a world that revolves around instant gratification. From fast food, to TV on Demand, to the Internet, society has embraced Nowism with no signs of letting go.

Nowism (Image from Trendwatching.com)

Unfortunately, so have many businesses. When organizations decide to take their marketing efforts to the next level, often they go about it backwards, choosing tactics over strategy.  They focus on deploying social media technologies like Facebook , Twitter , Blogs or online communities first before focusing on what they really want to accomplish.  Why is this the case?

Here are three reasons why I believe businesses do this, as well as some methods that I've used to address them.

1. They desire an immediate return on investment:

When setting up a blog, Facebook page, or Twitter account, they're able to see something tangible (the product). Yet taking a "tactics first" approach is probably one of the biggest marketing blunders out there. Why? Because it often lacks direction, producing mediocre results, ultimately costing them more financially in the long haul (not to mention the investment of time).

A Caveat: In specific scenarios, a tactical approach with social media can actually act as a catalyst, motivating the client to take further action, moving into a strategy. This tends to be more prevalent when working with independant professionals. But these tend to be few and far between.

Takeaway: We need to assist our clients to shake the " Nowism " mindset, understanding that social media, digital marketing, and success in general does not come instantaneously. Great. But how? One approach that I use is to craft a brief paragraph (seen below) to be placed into the proposal which essentially summarizes what I'm discussing in the post. By doing this, you assist the client make an informed decision, and position yourself as an advisor.

Excerpt from one of my proposals

2. There is a lack of funding for strategic planning:
Ah, the chicken and the egg scenario. In order to be profitable, have longevity, and maintain corporate probity, a clear, concise, marketing strategy or social media strategic plan is needed. Yet, to do this, there needs to be a budget to pay for that strategic planning.

Whether it's a small business looking to do local business marketing, or a marketing department with limited funds, taking a tactical approach and leveraging low cost social media technologies such as Facebook, Twitter, Wordpress, etc may be their only viable choice. Having bootstrapped a startup in the past on a shoestring budget, I understand this.

Here's the danger though. Without a strategy (or at least some form of strategic planning), they're riding blind. It would be comparable to doing a cross country road trip without a map. And in the future, they may discover that they did not have the proper resources required to manage these tactics.  How many dead social media accounts have you seen floating around on the web? Not only does this look bad (especially if it's one of the big 4; Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ ) but it can have a negative impact on a company's brand.

Takeaway: If your client is adamant on a tactics first approach, encourage them to start small. Explain the scope of each platform, helping them select one to use that will get them to the next step. Remind them not to dive into something without serious consideration the ability to handle it in a long term capacity.

3. They are unclear as to what a strategy means to them:
Some businesses don't understand how to devise a strategy, and how it will translate to business. It's an intangible. And truthfully, many digital marketers and social media consultants don't fully understand either. It seems that we all have a different explanation or perception as to what a social media or marketing strategy should look like.

Takeaway: As marketers it is our job to clearly explain how a strategic plan translates into business success, giving them clarity, direction, and a roadmap to meet their objectives. An approach I use is breaking down what the strategy means in the eyes of the client, both verbally and on paper, with an emphasis on the deliverables.

I use Jim Tobin's approach from Ignite Social Media as a basis when formulating strategies. He does a fantastic job in explaining what a social media strategy is, and how to create a strategic plan using the POST methodology ( People, Objectives, Strategy, Tactics )

Why do you think businesses skip out on strategic planning, when it is so vitally important to their business longevity? What methods have you used to help the client "see the light" so to speak?


Ray Hiltz said...

Most of the clients I deal with are in the service industry. Margins are small and marketing budgets, smaller to non-existent. For many, social media is social media marketing. It's the domain of whoever they hire to do their PR  & advertising to figure out.
I've seen two general reactions when I present a proposal:

1. They all impressed that social media really is serious business. But the technology is overwhelming so they hand over all responsibility for the execution of the strategy to the consultant. They seem to understand that it takes time but get antsy after 3 months about paying out consulting fees and seeing no discernible ROI.

2. They don't need "all that", just get them up on Facebook & Twitter. Blog's ok, but they have no time to do it, These are the ones that check their number of followers on a daily basis. They can barely get a staff schedule up a week in advance let alone a business strategy.

As there are some businesses that have healthy cultures and care about strategy and innovation, there are many more that fly by the seat of their pants. Social media won't change that. 

I've yet to find the magic potion that improves the vision of short-sighted businesses. I believe that some companies get it and others don't. The trick is to be in a position to be able to chose to exclusively with the former.

Love this post. Thanks for the video link.

Saul Fleischman said...

"nowism" is a great - and Gallant - word, Dave.  Great talking with you, and fun sharing this far and wide... Let's get each other seen, and as you seem to agree with me completely, always be providing take-away value.

davergallant said...

This is so true Ray, I totally agree -> "They seem to understand that it takes time but get antsy after 3 months about paying out consulting fees and seeing no discernible ROI."
I believe much of this stems from the clientele we are attracting as well. Those that don't have a budget see social media at a low cost or free form of marketing, which could be further than the truth.  Others see that their competitors are doing it, so they need to.  

I also believe that we need to clearly explain to the client the actual scope of social media /digital marketing. Explain it in a way that makes them decide if they can or can't afford the investment (not just monetarily, but time also).  

Do most of your clients in the service industry come through word of mouth?

Ray Hiltz said...

I've found most of my clients through referral. I'm looking at revisiting my business plan to examine some options such as partnering with a or group of consultants so as to be able to offer a more comprehensive service.
As you said, most of the clients that approach me are small and have limited resources.
Although I enjoy working with small business owners, the time it takes is more than they can afford usually.

davergallant said...

I typically get my clients through referrals as well. I also look at companies that may be hiring for a position that is in my line of expertise. I'll approach them with a consulting proposal as an alternative to hiring staff. I'm starting to do more networking and community events as well. 

Ivan Walsh, Media Writer said...

Hi Dave, 

I know it sounds strange but... sometimes the client knows they need to change SOMETHING but are not sure where. Or how. 

To help them get there, you sometimes have to work backwards, ie how did they get into this postion in the first place and THEN help them navigate a path. 

Hope that makes sense. 

Great site you have here, btw. 


davergallant said...

Hi Ivan,

That's interesting. I can see how working backwards can help. It's like unraveling some that has been tangled up, so that you can get to the root of the problem. The challenge is getting them to pay for that unraveling process. It almost seems that some companies "get it" and some don't.

Thanks for popping by!

Ivan Walsh, Media Writer said...

Yes, that's the Catch 22, isn't it?

I try to
get the conversation to... “so, what’s your current baseline and where do you
want to go?”


If they don’t
respond to that, it’s time to move on. 

Sushil Kumar Kushwaha said...

you are making a living off of personal ventures, you won’t have an
income without them. There are many ways to market your company, from
blogging to networking to word-of-mouth. Once you’ve impressed a client
with your design skills and business sense, it’s amazing how word can
get around, and there are ways to encourage it. When starting or
attempting to grow a graphic design business, a key factor is finding

Scott Levy said...

Nice post.  Here’s
a post that describes how you can generate free content and traffic to your
website, without much effort http://blog.caspio.com/web-database/is-database-publishing-in-your-content-marketing-strategy/

narvkelly said...

Tell me detail  whats  lack of funding take place in strategic planning .
marketing strategy for translation agency

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Marketing Blunders - Choosing Tactics Over Strategy ~ Dave Gallant