Strategy vs. Tactics


The Yin & Yang of Marketing

In Eastern philosophy, yin yang represents the concept of duality… Two halves working together toward wholeness and harmony. It’s the dance of opposites where seemingly contrary forces are actually complementary.
Like marketing strategy vs. marketing tactics.
“Wholeness” — ie optimal results — is only achieved when you strike that delicate balance between the two. When the tactics flow naturally from the strategy.
If your marketing efforts are predominantly tactical, without adequate strategy, you’ll be throwing money at ill-conceived tactics. Ready, fire aim! If it’s tipped the other direction, you’ll spend all your time preparing, planning and aiming, without pulling the trigger.
When you employ both halves of the marketing equation you can touch a glorious chord of emotion while still employing a data-driven strategy. It’s old-school story telling balanced with new technology and analytics.
Right-brain creativity with left-brain analysis. Yin and yang. One cannot live without the other.
All marketing programs are a mix of strategy and tactics, but most small business owners gravitate heavily toward the tactical side of the equation. They forego the strategy part for several reasons: Because they can’t do it themselves, because they perceive it as being too expensive, because they don’t have time, or because they don’t see the value in it.
But they pour a lot of money into tactics.
They use social media specialists and graphic artists to produce content. They purchase TV time and digital ads. They produce videos for YouTube and run radio ads, but there is no thread of continuity. No consistency of voice or message. No strategic platform from which to work. No yin yang balance.
Therefore, the effectiveness of each tactic is compromised.
Before you dive into another media schedule, website redesign or video production look inward. Think about the yin of strategy relative to the yang of daily tactical marketing. Here are some of the opposing elements of all good marketing programs:
Inward vs. outward
Many businesses are too inwardly focused when it comes to marketing. Instead of addressing the needs, wants and emotions of their prospects, they talk about themselves and their industry. It’s all me, me, me, me, with a bunch of jargon thrown in for credibility purposes.
Not only that, outward facing marketing tactics and messages are often out-of-balance with the internal operation of the company. The ultimate success of your brand doesn’t hinge on what the marketing people say, it hinges on what you actually do. When you do great things, effective marketing messages are much easier to come by.
So what are you doing internally that your marketing department could build a strategy around?
Emotional vs. rational
Never underestimate the influence of feelings. Many business owners operate as if cold, calculating characters like Spock make all the buying decisions. They line up the spreadsheets, produce some charts and graphs, and expect facts and data to do all the work.
But the latest brain research shows that’s just not the case. fMRI testing proves that emotion commingles with reason, even in rigorous business-to-business purchasing decisions. In fact, many studies show it’s emotion that triggers action.
As one writer put it, “emotion is in the Oval office while the rational brain is in the press center, justifying the decisions that have already
been made.”
Fast vs. slow
Some tactics need to get done quickly. For instance, social media posts are often very time sensitive, so there’s not much consideration for craftsmanship. TV commercials or print ads, on the other hand, demand careful attention to detail, so you need to leave time to do it right.
Strategy also takes time and thoughtful consideration. Strategic issues arise when the strategy is rushed to accommodate the tactical to-do list. Confusion and credibility issues arise when the tactics are produced in a vacuum, with no strategic guidance. All yang, and no yin.
Positive vs. negative
Some marketers believe that you should never mention the competition. Always stick to a rosy picture of positivity, they say. But there are some strategic situations that demand a negative approach to execution. Sometimes it’s simply stronger to refer to someone else’s weakness than to talk about your own strengths.
The yin yang of competition is often the most poignant and effective approach for campaigns. All great brands have arch enemies. Coke has Pepsi. McDonalds has Burger King. Apple has Microsoft. Don’t shy away from that just because you’re afraid of offending someone. Better to offend some, than be invisible to everyone.
That said, you can’t have a marketing campaign that’s completely negative, all the time. Especially in small town like Bend. It’ll probably come off
as snarky.
Male vs. female
A comedian once said that women make 80% of all the decisions — and they have veto power over the other 20 percent. Keep that in mind when you’re working on tactics, planning your strategy and building a brand. Women remember things! And they’ll attach very strong emotions to those memories, so you better not piss them off.
On the other hand, if you show genuine empathy, and make them feel good, they’ll be great brand ambassadors for you. And don’t forget… Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram skew heavily toward women.
Yin Yang is not static. Neither is your marketing
The nature of Yin Yang flows and changes with time. So does your marketing. The seasonal nature of most businesses means that tactics may be bunched heavily into one time of year, while planning takes place another. Some initiatives are purely tactical, while others are more strategic. Factors outside your control can change your strategy completely or rob you of tactics that you once counted on.
So you can’t just upload the same marketing plan year after year and expect it to work. You can’t keep running the same ads on the same shows or websites. The balance point is always shifting.
Hot & cold. In and out. Yin and yang. Marketing enlightenment is only achievable when those opposing forces are aligned and in balance.
John Furgurson is the owner of BNBranding in Bend.


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John Furgurson

John Furgurson is the owner of BNBranding. Want to learn more about the difference between marketing strategy and tactics? Visit If you need help thinking strategically, or executing any of your marketing tactics, let’s talk. John Furgurson, 541-815-0075,,

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