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How’s this for a great digital marketing strategy:

  • We’ll optimise for three more important keywords
  • We’ll increase our online advertising budget by 15%
  • We’ll increase our Twitter postings
  • We’ll get more reviews (hopefully positive)
  • We’ll run an SMS mobile campaign
  • We’ll use more video
  • We’ll promote coupons and discounts to get more conversions

Sounds well-thought out, uses a lot of different digital marketing channels and covers a lot of ground, right? Well, perhaps not.

What you’re looking at here is actually a list of individual tactics, but without any justification or supporting evidence that these are the most appropriate actions to take.  There’s no consideration of what the overall objective is, what specific goals are currently being worked on, what realistic targets should be set in terms of achieving those goals, and what measures of success should be used to evaluate results.  A lot of money and resources could be expended without any idea of what the return on investment could or should be.

Let’s remind ourselves of some essential terminology:

  • Goals are outcomes that you want to achieve, such as increasing revenue or brand awareness, together with associated targets and ways to measure success
  • Strategies are the things that you need to do to achieve your goals
  • Tactics are the specific actions that you’ll take to fulfil the strategies

For example, a goal of growing brand awareness might have an associated strategy of increasing social media followers.  The tactics for this strategy could include more postings on platforms that are used by the target markets, as well as calls to action to share content and “follow us.

You’ll probably have several tactics listed under each strategy, but as you can see, there’s a clear distinction between the two, and both are necessary.  As Sun Tzu famously said:

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.

So let’s go back to the “plan that we started with.  If we backtrack on it, we can probably tease out some goals and strategies, and while we’re at it, let’s add some targets and KPIs:


Goal:  Increase brand familiarity

Strategy:  Increase non-branded SEO traffic

Tactic:  Optimise for three more important keywords

Target:  Increase share of search for these keywords by 10%

KPI:  Share of search


Strategy:  Increase online advertising effectiveness

Tactic:  Increase advertising budget by 10%, test and optimise ads

Target:  Improve return on ad (ROAS) spend by 5%



Goal: Increase revenue

Strategy: Increase mobile sales

Tactic: Run an SMS campaign promoting specific products

Target: Increase mobile sales revenue by 10%

KPI: Revenue from mobile sales


Strategy: Increase online traffic to physical stores

Tactic: Promote coupons via email offers and on website

Target: Increase coupon downloads by 20%

KPI: Number of coupon downloads


If all of this sounds pretty complicated, don’t worry – you’re not alone. A Smart Insights study in 2017 found that 49% (that’s nearly half!) of businesses were running digital marketing tactics but confessed to having no strategy.



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