How to Choose the Right Marketing Tactics

Laura Petrolino At Spin Sucks
on Mon, 09/28/2020

Throughout college and in my early twenties I taught a lot of step aerobics. Making up an aerobics routine is sort of like choosing marketing tactics. You have to find the right mix that works best for your audience. You don’t want them to get bored, but you also don’t want them to be so overwhelmed they leave or collapse of exhaustion.

Marketing Tactics Aren’t About What YOU Can Do

Instead, they are about what your target consumer needs.

Soon after I was promoted to head of the aerobics department, I felt I really needed to define myself as a rockstar instructor. Each week I put together increasingly technically-difficult and challenging routines. Although I pushed the boundaries of step aerobic norms with these creative feats, I paid no attention to how my classes responded to said feats. As a result, my class numbers diminished.

The tactics I used didn’t align with my goal and so instead of moving me closer to my goal, it did the opposite. Plus, I ended up working hard for diminished results. Too often we see the same scenario play out with marketing communications.

When Are You Using the Right Tactic?

This failed tactic would have been right on target had I wanted to turn my classes into more exclusive, advanced classes for professional dancers or gymnasts. I would have focused in on the needs of that niche market and nailed it. But that’s not what I wanted. I wanted the classes to drive more people and be enjoyable for everyone.

This is important: unless a tactic or strategy is illegal or harms others, it’s not bad by itself. But it’s quality depends on how well it aligns with your objectives and goals.

Marketing Is Not Your Goal

This problem often develops when we stop seeing marketing as the “craft” (or means to your goal) and view it as the final  “product,” or goal. Let’s define the difference with some examples:

  • If you are on a reality TV show focused solely on who could come up with the most unique and creative marketing tactics, then marketing is the “product “ (your goal).
  • If you are using marketing to help a client or your own organization reach their business goals (revenue, customers, mission), then marketing is the “craft” (or the means to your goal).

This is a VERY important distinction.

It’s very easy for us (understandably) to get so caught up in the joy of the craft, we forget it isn’t the actual goal.

This is often what happens when you see elaborate, ridiculously creative, and awe-inspiring campaigns that accomplish absolutely nothing in terms of actual business goals (Super Bowl ads are the obvious, most expensive example….but there are many others, probably some you’ve done yourself).

As genius as your latest campaign is, if it doesn’t align with the needs of your audience you are missing the point.

Checklist for a Solid Communications Plan 

The first place to start is with a solid communications plan. Then, consistently self-check with these questions when you evaluate marketing tactics to fill out that plan:

  • How digitally advanced is my market?
  • How do they prefer to consume information?
  • What influencers do they resonate with best? And what tactics do those influencers employ?
  • Are we making this more difficult than it needs to be?
  • Are we continuing to implement tactics that aren’t driving our goals, “just because?”
  • Have we covered all the “low-hanging fruit “opportunities?
  • What is the goal of each tactic we employ?
  • What do the analytics and PR metrics say? Are you measuring the right ones?
  • What feedback have we received from our market?
  • How does each tactic support the whole?
  • Do our tactics work together, or in opposition?
  • Is this campaign based on ego, or goals?

You won’t outstep the competition if you outstep your target market with misaligned marketing tactics.

An Example from My Own Business

When COVID-19 hit and business suffered, we had to re-prioritize our actions. Our already lean team became significantly leaner and it was impossible for us to do all the things we were already doing, little less the things we had planned to grow the business.

So, we took a look at the marketing tactics that directly drove our goals. Not the things we did that were nice, or all the extras we gave because we wanted always to go above and beyond, or even the stuff people expected us to do for them (for free). We looked at the actual work we did that provided our clients with what they needed. And guess what happened?

Our website traffic increased. Engagement on the social channels that mattered went up. And many other metrics that mattered showed improvement. The sky didn’t fall, and we were getting a lot more out of a lot less.

It taught us we didn’t need a lot of fancy dance moves to drive our business and support our community. And we also didn’t need to do what others expected of us if it didn’t serve our goals and the service/product/results we supplied to the stakeholders of our organization.

Measure, Measure, Measure

So how do you figure out what marketing tactics to choose?

First, you must have a communications plan that starts with goals and objectives. Those goals and objectives will drive your strategy and your strategy drives your marketing tactics. Learn how to build such a plan, here.  

After that, you measure, measure, and measure some more. Execute, evaluate, repeat.

And take your ego out of it.


Laura Petrolino is Chief Marketing Officer for Spin Sucks, an integrated marketing communications firm that provides strategic counsel and professional development for in-house and agency communications teams. She is a weekly contributor for their award-winning blog of the same name, Spin Sucks.