If operating correctly, marketing serves two distinct purposes. Strategic marketers work mostly with design, research and development and upper management to find new customer needs and develop new products and features, whereas tactical marketers work mostly with sales to market existing products.
Splitting these two sides of marketing into independent entities that report directly to upper management can help streamline workflow and reduce confusion over the purpose of marketing.
Strategic marketers work upstream in the development of products and services, assessing market trends and the real needs of customers. They work to find new approaches for new and existing customers, building customer needs awareness within the company.
Using the data they collect, strategic markets layout an overall strategy, working closely with design, research and development (R&D) and senior management. Strategic marketers must be involved in business strategy from day one to create a defined vision for the company. They must look to the future to find new opportunities for expansion and potential market changes that might threaten the company’s survival
Tactical marketers work downstream on the nitty-gritty details of marketing existing products and services, according to the strategy already laid out by management and strategic marketers. Tactical marketers deal heavily with the four Ps of marketing: product, price, place and promotion.
Tactical marketers often work closely with sales teams, especially in the dynamic development of brand image and value propositions, constantly finessing the approach based on customer feedback. If strategic marketers, design teams, and R&D have done their job, they should already have a good product, but it is up to the tactical marketers to create the value proposition that explains their product’s specific benefits and what differentiates it from the competition.
Many combined marketing teams get lost in micro-management, working closely with sales to create great value propositions and perfecting the four Ps. This is great for existing products in the short term, but it leaves design, R&D, and senior management flying blind in the long term. On the other hand, combined marketing teams that work mostly upstream with design, R&D and senior management often lose track of what customers actual want, leaving sales teams to do all the legwork.
Keeping the two sides of marketing independent keeps them focused on what they do best instead of trying to do everything at once. It gives them defined roles, allowing companies the flexibility to plan for the future as well as staying in the present game.
The guiding question for strategic marketing teams should be, “what problem do customers need solved?” And they should make sure that design and R&D teams also keep to this question instead of developing new features and products mindlessly.
The guiding question for tactical marketing teams should be, “what problems do our current products solve?” They should be close to the ground to make sure value propositions are resonating with customers, all while collecting data and feedback to send back upstream to the strategic marketing team and senior management.
Split marketing teams still need to remain aligned with each other. Team leads should be in frequent contact, including joint planning sessions to assess problems from their differing perspectives. This helps avoid the sort of stale thinking often found in combined marketing teams.
Data collected downstream by sales and tactical marketing teams should flow back upstream to the strategic marketing team. This is especially important with the rise of data-driven digital marketing. Businesses can now take advantage of analytical opportunities provided by precise return-on-investment data from online advertising and social media marketing.
The size of each marketing team will vary considerably by the type of company. Companies working in stable industries only need small strategic marketing teams to keep an eye out for potential trouble ahead, but large tactical marketing teams to do battle with the competition. On the other hand, companies working in emerging industries need large strategic marketing teams to constantly reassess the company’s approach in the face of ever-shifting market patterns.
Some businesses in stable industries might be tempted to ignore strategic marketing entirely but doing so leaves them blind to potential future opportunities. Even giving a single person the specific job of tracking outside trends can help keep companies away from the destructive effects of complacency.
By demarcating two independent marketing teams with the very different tasks of strategy and tactics, businesses can avoid getting lost in tactical micro-management unaligned with market trends or strategic jargon unaligned with the realities of customers and sales. Instead, both can work in tandem, keeping their business in the present and poised for the future.
– Dan Natividad, a Stockton native, owns Port City Marketing Solutions. Dan can be reached at [email protected].