Tag Archives: Strategy

Why Strategy Must Come Before Tactics (And How Research Fits In)

One of the most-read Tuesdays With Coleman blogs (which was published on December 4, 2018) is “Direct Marketing is Easy. Brand Marketing is Hard.” Digital marketers, some of whom may disagree with me on that statement, spend countless hours tracking the success of campaigns and optimizing messages based on the data.

A/B testing is a way of life.

And while the trackability of digital campaigns is great and immensely useful, playing the short-term game and tweaking your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is only one part of the equation. Most importantly, if you don’t have a clear strategy to inform the tactics, you set yourself up to hit roadblock after roadblock.

Consider how many times this flow has been executed “out of order.”

Here’s an example of how it should play out.

Let’s say the Carolina Panthers want to improve their fan base in the state of North Carolina outside of their home base in Charlotte.

First, they should conduct research to determine where the strongest opportunity is, which informs the strategy. Based on the results, that might turn into “Grow the fanbase in the Raleigh and Greensboro markets.” Or “Grow the fanbase in Asheville.” Or maybe it shows there’s a greater opportunity in another region that the team wasn’t aware of.

Now the strategy can be executed with tactics, which is informed by both elements of the flowchart above it. Research can indicate which markets are most ripe to grow the fan base, and it can also show the best ways to reach them. What shows do they watch? What social media do they use? What radio stations do they listen to?

Only then should a goal be drawn up, because research will have indicated how much opportunity is available in the market. Is the goal to get 1,000 new season ticket holders in Greensboro? 2,500? 5,000? The goal should be ambitious but also based in reality, which research helps provide.

Ever had goals thrown around in your business with no fundamental basis?

Consider how blindfolded you are when starting with each layer other than the top.

  • If you set goals without deeply understanding the consumer landscape, how do you know if they are realistic?
  • If you focus on tactical without mapping out the strategy, how do you know if the tactics are on target?
  • If you focus on strategy without conducting research, how will you know if the strategy is a winning one?

At Coleman Insights, we follow the Research>Strategy>Tactics>Goals flow in our Plan Developer studies.

You likely have beliefs about your market, target audience, strengths, and weaknesses. Perceptual research is designed to test those beliefs. Answer those questions. Identify the strengths and weaknesses. Once we understand the landscape, we map out a strategy to take advantage of what we’ve learned. The tactics, including who to target and where/how to reach them, are informed by the strategy. Finally, specific, actionable, and achievable goals can be set for the team.

Strategy: built on data and opinions, this is how you answer the question: “why are we doing that?”

Tactics: built on strategy, these are individual investments you make to achieve the strategic goal.

Following the process from research to goals is more rewarding, more efficient, and reduces the time and expenditure spent on the wrong direction.

10 Quotes from 100 Blogs

Tuesdays With Coleman

On October 10, 2017, we started our Tuesdays With Coleman blog series as a way to share branding, content and research strategy. Last week’s entry, “Seven Solutions for the Podcasting Brand Challenge,” was the final of three consecutive blogs about podcasting, centered around the increasingly popular Podcast Movement conference in Orlando.

It was also our 100th Tuesdays With Coleman blog.

We love a good benchmark, and 100 blogs feels like an opportunity to look back and mine some nuggets from the past couple of years. Since 100 quotes seems excessive, here are 10, curated from a wide range of topics, strategic advice and members of our team.

“We sometimes get too close to the product for our own good, and are unable to see it through the lens of our customers.”

Warren Kurtzman, in “Is Inside Thinking Blurring Your Strategic Vision?” explains the Coleman Insights principle of Outside Thinking and how to achieve results by changing your mindset.

“If Bill Belichick showed up to a station remote, what would he think of a station banner hastily hung behind a bored jock eating a cheeseburger?”

One of our most-read blogs, “What if Bill Belichick Programmed Your Radio Station?” features Jon Coleman imagining New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick as a radio station program director.

“We’ve all become so hyper-focused on the now, the instant gratification of numbers, that it is easy to take your eye off the big picture.”

After attending a talk by marketer Seth Godin, I wrote “Direct Marketing Is Easy. Brand Marketing is Hard” to reinforce the value of brand marketing, despite its lack of trackability.

“The Trader Joe’s lesson is that you beat a leader not by being better. You win by finding the inherent weakness in their strength and creating your points of differentiation.”

In “The Branding Genius of Trader Joe’s,” Sam Milkman explores why Trader Joe’s is so profitable in an industry with traditionally low margins and how to apply the lessons to your brand.

“TV is looking for talent in new places and banking on that talent. Why can’t radio?”

In “When it’s Time to Hunt (for Talent), Go Outside,” Jessica Lichtenfeld makes the case that radio should look outside the industry to find fresh, new, memorable stars for the medium.


“Don’t confuse the lack of 90s music exposure with the desire for hearing 90s music.”

In “The 90s Music Research Conundrum,” John Boyne explains how compatibility, not appeal, influences 90s airplay on many Adult Contemporary and Classic Hits stations.


“It’s possible while you’re programming on intuition alone, your competition is making data-influenced decisions.”

In “How Research Won The Super Bowl,” Sam Milkman debunks the myth that Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was a crazy risk-taker in winning the 2018 Super Bowl, when in fact he used a combination of research and instinct to take down the Patriots.

“There are a few iconic brands in every category and there isn’t much changing going on.”

In “Don’t Change Your Radio Station,” I explain how the instinct to “freshen things up” can be detrimental to brand growth.


“Chipotle doesn’t sell pancakes. Hip Hop stations don’t play Taylor Swift.”

In “Should I Play That Song On My Radio Station,” Jon Coleman warns that playing popular songs or even songs that test strongly on your station that don’t fit your brand is a slippery slope.


“The ultimate success of the industry will depend on its ability to build brands.”

Warren Kurtzman, in “Joe Rogan and the Podcasting Brand Challenge,” writes that while producing great content is very important, listeners won’t discover it if the brand isn’t strong.

Thanks for reading Tuesdays With Coleman. If you haven’t yet subscribed, we invite you to do so. If you have an idea for a topic you’d like us to cover, feel free to reply and let us know. It may just show up in one of the next 100 blogs.