Strategy before tactics and why that really matters

I love Mark Ritson's amazing columns in Marketing Week – a great read for any of you who are serious about marketing and growing your business successfully. In his latest article he breaks down strategy into simple steps:

✅ Diagnosis (I call it audit but it amounts to the same thing)

✅ Strategy – what you will not do

✅ Strategy before tactics – only deciding which tactical levers to use (e.g. Facebook ads, podcast, etc.) once you’re clear on your strategy

I met Mark 'virtually' when I did his Mini MBA in Marketing last year. Having worked in marketing/digital/media for 20 years I've spent my time on the ground doing the work scaling businesses. But despite that, I also wanted to get the trained marketer tick. I’m pleased to say I got it (as well as an A!).

Honestly, it was one of the best things I did. I've now got the confidence when handling my client work to know that I’m not only bringing my unique expertise + insight but I’m also delivering it in a way that Mark, one of the top global marketers, would advocate.

So how does this advice or framework tie in with the work that I do with my clients?

With my 1:1 clients, I follow a framework that I’ve used for some time because it reaps results. It’s a mix of my own strategy and 20 years’ experience of scaling businesses, along with learnings from leaders like Seth Godin and Mark Ritson who I’ve done various courses with. Not forgetting Dave Chaffey – a digital expert – who runs Smart Insights, of which I’m a member.


So, always start with the audit (or diagnosis). This is the big, chunky and often the most time-consuming bit. I always underestimate how long this will take as this is the part where so much is revealed. You don’t know what you are going to find until you get under the bonnet!

The things that I consider at this stage are:

  1. SWOT – a no-brainer for any business, I use this very popular business tool to better understand my client’s business and see how I can add value in the most effective way
  2. Previous 12 months’ marketing – what has and hasn’t worked, and why
  3. Current tracking and reporting set-up
  4. Competition in the market
  5. Market trends
  6. Paid advertising audit
  7. Content audit
  8. Website audit
  9. Social media audit
  10. SEO audit
  11. Customer audit – looking at current data and targeting
  12. Customer journey review (this might involve mystery shopping!)

I don’t do all this myself: I have a team of experts who do the work and then provide me with the insights.


I love this bit – it’s taking all that detailed insight and rich data from above and making a plan to maximise profit, streamline marketing and get better results. Which let’s face it is what I am paid for!

  • Mission, Vision and Values 
  • Who are we going to target? 

My clients aren’t massive brands so they don’t have the luxury of targeting everyone with mass marketing. Together, we have to be very clear on who the target audience is.

  • What sets you (my client) apart from the competition? 

How can we position you in a crowded marketplace - we need to understand the reasons that someone would buy from you over any other option.

  • Finding new opportunities for growth

This is how (I made and) you can make all your money/success, by identifying the untapped opportunities. They’re out there!

  • Agree on the long term goal and then choose 3–4 key things to focus on.
  • What tactical levers do you need to achieve this?
  • Set SMART goals


Digital is naturally a part of the overall strategy but, given that it’s my expertise and my clients are specifically looking for growth from better digital marketing, the work I do also includes:

  1. Social media strategy
  2. Content strategy
  3. SEO insights and recommendations
  4. Paid ads plan and strategy


This bit is wrapping up the points mentioned above:

  1. Working out what budget is needed for each channel and how to split that up over the 12 months. My clients are always amazed by how I can do this so quickly. My love of Maths!
  2. Identifying what resources are needed to implement the plan - agencies, freelancers or team members.
  3. Once we’ve identified what’s needed, I introduce my client to my network of trusted suppliers


Reporting and tracking are super important. I’m amazed by the sophisticated companies that are struggling with tracking so they have to make business decisions without clarity. No worry I can help with that.

You have to stay on track with those SMART goals and review what’s working and what’s not working. I recommend the following:

  1. Monthly marketing reporting doc
  2. Weekly (depending on the size of the business) reporting for social media, content and paid ads 
  3. Weekly, monthly and quarterly tasks sheet
  4. Quarterly business review

This is an extensive process and normally takes 6 months to get to the stage where all of this is completed. However, for smaller, less complex businesses it may only take 3 or 4 months.

The elephant in the room is that SO many businesses are wasting huge amounts of time and money on marketing, and specifically digital marketing, that is just not delivering the ROI that it should. Why is no one talking about this?

It’s usually down to a combination of the issues below:

  • No audit – no one is looking at what is and what isn’t working
  • Lack of data, tracking and insightful reporting
  • No strategy and therefore confusion on tactics
  • The wrong budget allocation between activities
  • Agencies or freelancers who aren’t delivering the expected ROI

Next steps

Hire me to help you grow your established (or fast-growth) service-based business >. Get in touch

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