Marketing strategy and implementation: what’s the difference?

What’s the difference between marketing strategy and implementation – and which one is most important? We’re often asked which to prioritize and invest in; in fact, it’s one of the most common questions we hear. It’s a tough question, as they’re incredibly interconnected. The short answer is, you need to do both well to succeed.

Strategy vs. implementation

Think of strategy as defining the goal – or the end-destination – and setting the course to reach it, whereas implementation is the journey itself. The important thing to note here is that implementation should also be strategic.

Why? Because even the best strategy has no value unless and until it is implemented properly. In addition, proper implementation includes monitoring and measurement to inform future strategies; you always want to be ‘adjusting the compass’ (so-to-speak), to ensure the next tactic will help you reach your goal as effectively and efficiently as possible.

All to say, strategy and implementation are not two completely independent steps; they are equally important and interconnected parts of an informed marketing program. To build on that, see below for two important (but often unpopular!) truths regarding strategy and implementation that can make or break the success of your marketing efforts.

Unpopular truth #1: Strategies alone do not produce results

In our experience, most companies are prepared to invest in strategy – but often hesitate to do so when it comes to carrying out that strategy, meaning hiring implementation experts (designers, copywriters, digital specialists, and so on) to do the work. This approach will rarely – if ever – net results. In marketing, we all compete globally for talent; standards for every marketing campaign are high, because every day, we are exposed to many examples of great, personalized marketing. It is the rare in-house employee who can compete on this new playing field.

As a rule, Imaginis does not provide strategy without a plan for proper implementation. A key pillar of our commitment to Financially Responsible Marketing is ensuring your investment nets a return. To put it another way, creating a strategy without a plan for implementation can lead to outcomes you may be familiar with, such as the strategy sitting in your inbox, or the implementation being intermittent and uncontrolled.

Part of what we help our clients do is find the balance between strategy and implementation so both can be done purposefully, successfully, and within budget.

Unpopular truth #2: Implementation without strategy is a waste of time, energy and money

The flipside of the above truth is another common mistake: underestimating or dismissing the importance of strategy and diving into implementation of some currently favoured tactic without it. We often hear “Oh we tried that once and it didn’t work/produce results” – and this is precisely why.

Implementation that is not aligned with your business goals is the equivalent to traveling without your phone; there’s very little chance you’ll reach your destination, you’ll miss all the information that would have helped you navigate your trip – and there’s a good chance you’ll waste resources and lose ground to your competitors in the process. All this becomes more true every day, as marketing technology becomes more complex and the choice of tactics, AI tools, and types of required professionals expands exponentially.

The key is to start with a small strategic initiative and build from there. Once you get on the track of strategic, measured marketing activities, you’ll get greater transparency into your results, more control, and with any luck, greater company-wide understanding and appreciation of your marketing investments.

Questions about your strategy or need support putting your plan into action? Connect with Melanie.