How to Choose the Right Marketing Tactics Throughout college and in my early twenties I taught a lot of step aerobics.

In fact, I was head of the aerobics department in college (yeah…I’m kind of a big deal) and then, during summer breaks, I taught five to 10 classes a week at various gyms where my parents lived.

Step aerobics was cool then!

Cooler than Zumba ever dreamed of being and I took my dance and cheerleading background and brought it into my classes, which made them very interesting (and rather challenging).

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 (literally in aerobics, figuratively in marketing….or at least we’d hope).

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. My classes were always full to the brim and I wanted to make sure participants left exhausted and wow-ed by my amazing choreography.

Each week I put together increasingly technically difficult and challenging routines.

I was so proud of myself for my ability to push the boundaries of step aerobic norms with these creative feats of aerobic magnificence, I paid no attention to how my classes responded to said feats of magnificence.

Had I some how found a way to look beyond the glow of my own fabulousity (totally making fabulousity a word) to observe them, I would have realized they were confused, frustrated, and pushed well beyond their limits.

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 communications pros.

When This Would Have Been 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 it aligns with your objectives and goals.

Marketing Is Your Craft, Not Your Product

This problem often develops when we stop seeing marketing as the craft and view it as the product or goal.

Let’s define the difference:

  • If you are in a reality TV show focused solely on who could come up with the most unique and creative marketing tactics, then marketing is the product.
  • 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.

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 transmedia, augmented reality, Instagram filtered, <insert bright, shiny new marketing tactic here> campaign is, if it doesn’t align with the needs of your audience you are missing the point.

Check Yo’self Before You Wreck Yo’self

……Because Ice Cube always has sage advice for all of life’s difficult situations…

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 then 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 (hehehe….outSTEP, get it? Taking it alllll the way back to the beginning folks, like a pro)

A Spin Sucks Example

When COVID 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)

But the actual work that provided the people who drove our business 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 actually mattered showed improvement.

The sky didn’t fall.

We were getting a lot more out of a lot less.

In many cases, we had let our expectations of what people required from us fill our days with a list of tactics that we KNEW weren’t the best to drive our actual business goals. But felt trapped in. Like they were required of us.

We had become indentured servants to our own expectations of ourselves and the reputation we built.

Now don’t get me wrong, are there still things we hope to do when we have more capacity? Of course!

My little CMO heart longs for the program I envision.

I started as CMO not long before 2020 became a pandemic and we all just tried to survive.

But 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 other’s 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 –>

But after that, you measure, measure, and measure some more. Gini recently did a great post on how to measure results in the PESO model HERE –>

Execute, evaluate, rinse, repeat.

And take your ego out of it.


photo credit: Pixabay

Laura Petrolino

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. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

View all posts by Laura Petrolino