Tactical vs. Strategic Marketing Professionals: Are They Different?

by Debra Andrews | April 11, 2017

No Marketing Results. Marketing Staff Turnover. Wasting Valuable Time. Wasting Financial Resources. These are a few of the most important reasons why Presidents, Owners, Executives, and Partners need to care about understanding the difference between strategic marketing professionals and tactical marketing professionals.

If you’ve been spinning your wheels with marketing, maybe this blog post is your tow truck to better marketing outcomes.

Who are Strategic Marketing Professionals and What Do They Do?

When you give a strategic marketing professional a set of goals, they’ll create a detailed plan on exactly how you’ll achieve them (instructions included). Marketing is a very fuzzy field when there isn’t a formal set of guidelines or one right answer. Experienced strategic marketers, however, will feel conviction about their recommendations and can confidently say, “this is the best path forward.” Their confidence stems from a deep understanding of business, modern-day marketing methods, available marketing technologies, marketing roles and responsibilities, and marketing planning best practices.

A strategic marketing professional thrives when faced with an opportunity to build a department from scratch or troubleshoot and refine a team that’s not producing results. Those situations tap their creative juices and put all their experience to the test.

Which types of companies do strategic marketing professionals work best in?

High-growth companies in competitive industries can benefit from a strategic marketer’s skillset, as can moderate-growth companies looking to expand services or expand into new verticals. Companies focused on new product or service launches could also use a strategic professional to help plan and support rollout.

Which types of environments do they thrive in?

Strategic marketing professionals work best in situations where non-marketing executives don’t dictate the marketing initiatives or programs. They view micromanagement and destined-to-fail circumstances as a waste of their knowledge and talent. They’re results-driven and don’t take marketing consulting work or projects for the money. They sign-on to achieve something special.

What are they called when they’re in-house and outsourced?

In-house strategic marketing professionals are typically Chief Marketing Officers or CMOs. When this role is outsourced, they are strategic marketing consultants or fractional CMOs.

Who are Tactical Marketing Professionals and What Do They Do?

Tactical marketing professionals tend to be task-oriented and committed to the execution of various tasks. Typically, they can’t create marketing plans that drive results. But when given a plan, tactical marketers can push them forward and tend to be exceptional project managers. Tactical marketers can be generalists and dabble in all facets of marketing, or they can be specialists in content, social media, digital, analytics, and more.

Your tactical marketer thrives when there is a marketing plan in place and executives are aligned with his / her priorities. They work best when they’re encouraged to receive training to execute marketing tasks in the most effective and efficient manner, or when they’re able to outsource initiatives that are outside of their expertise.

Which types of companies do tactical marketing professionals work best in?

Tactical marketers can work in all types of companies, but they’ll need differing levels of support depending on the situation. For example, tactical marketers in high-growth companies need to be paired with an experienced marketing leader—whether it’s an in-house marketing director, CMO, or a fractional CMO—to ensure they get strong and clear direction. Your tacticians may do fine flying solo with occasional assistance from a strategic marketing consultant in smaller companies or lower-growth enterprises.

Which types of environments do they thrive in?

Tactical marketing professionals work best in situations where they have one point of contact within the organization to sort through priorities and assign projects. When there are multiple executives in the picture with decision-making roles, the tactical marketer can become easily overwhelmed and feel like they’re spinning in circles. This can be extremely frustrating, as they like to check boxes “done” and believe they’re making a difference. We’ve seen this situation happen to marketing coordinators on countless occasions.

What are they called when they’re in-house and outsourced?

In-house tactical marketing professionals are typically Marketing Coordinators or Marketing Managers. This role is typically not outsourced, but when it is, it’s to an outsourced marketing firm that specializes in the execution of marketing plans.

Tactical vs Strategic Marketing: Hire what you need.

Many non-marketing executives wrongly believe experience is the variable that determines whether a professional is tactical or strategic. The pivotal factor is mindset – you’re a strategic thinker or you’re not. When you put a tactical marketer in a strategic role, they will flail and fail. When you put a strategic marketer into a tactical role, they will be bored and leave.

A big part of the marketing you need depends on your business. If you’re a high-growth company, you will need a combination of both. If you’re a low growth or small business, you’ll likely just need a tactical marketer, and possibly an occasional visit from a strategic marketing consultant. (You can download our guide on how to structure your marketing department for more information on this front.)

The marketing profession is very misunderstood, which results in unfortunate marketing staffing scenarios and underperforming results. Hopefully, you now understand the difference between strategic and tactical marketing professionals and are one step closer to better outcomes for your company!

Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you soon!

Check out these recent insights from our subject matter experts.