Flipping through Mark Schaefer’s snappy presentation, Social Media Engagement Is Not a Strategy, I was struck by how easy it is to mistake marketing means for ends. Certainly plenty of companies do it—including those with savvy marketing leaders who really do know better.
Schaefer’s main point (his whole presentation is worth a look) is that many businesses are mistakenly trying to engage people on social media as if engagement itself were the goal. But it’s not—or it shouldn’t be. The goal should be to meet a business objective, such as acquiring new customers or improving customer service. If you’ve achieved engagement but not your goal, you haven’t succeeded.
I see this same strategic miscue applied to other marketing tools. Take public relations—everyone wants more and bigger hits because the more and bigger, the better, right? Not necessarily. What are you trying to accomplish with PR? Are you trying to raise brand awareness generally? Then yes, it’s worth trying to get into the general-interest media as much as possible. Are you trying to support B2B business development? Then you may be more likely to reach your goal by targeting the trade media that serve your market.
Finally, there’s the bigger question: is your organization even ready for PR? Do you have a strong, clear message? Good stories to tell? Articulate (and interesting) spokespeople? The capacity to handle a surge in sales, if that’s what your PR campaign is designed to produce? A plan for countering negative publicity?
Content marketing also engenders tactic vs. strategy confusion. Marketers are churning out more content than ever, but to what end? You can’t pummel people into submitting to your charms with a barrage of content. Most businesses are trying to attract customers and nudge them along through the sales funnel. Will your content marketing do that?
You can probably go through a similar exercise with a number of marketing approaches. The key to avoiding the tactics trap is to look away from the shiny object (the trendy or sexy tactic). Focus first on what you want to achieve, then figure out the thing that will do that.