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Part 6 of 6: Marketing Tactics on a Map

Let’s set the stage for this final article in our series detailing an active engagement with BS LLC: the research is over, and you’ve determined a workable marketing strategy. What’s next? Tactics to grow your business, of course. But, how do you visualize the scope of your work? That’s where the Tactical Map comes in.

Use a visualization tool

If you’re a marketing agency, you probably have purpose-built tools for strategic and tactical visualization. However, if you’re a solo entrepreneur or a small business, this could be new to you. 

Seeing how all your strategic marketing tactics will harmonize is critical to successful planning and team communication. There are many ways to do this. 

Remember the good old days of using sticky notes or a corkboard to capture brainstorms? (For some of us, the good old days are still here!) However, if you prefer to be more digital, some great tools are available for free or limited cost. Two of our favorites are Miro and Figma

These highly intuitive and collaborative whiteboards enable fluid brainstorming, repeatable planning (since you can duplicate successful workflows for use with similar clients and industries), and document linking (for example, linking to an inspiring website or a relevant spreadsheet saved elsewhere.)

You may well ask, “Fluid brainstorming? After all the previous research and strategy work, shouldn’t we be locking down plans according to a rigid structure?” 

Yes, and no. 

A Tactical Map will show you which tactics you’re going to execute against which goals and for which stakeholders. However, as your clients or customers are different, their needs are different, and your capabilities as a company are different, you need flexibility. Not all plans encompass the same scopes or tactical executions. Some customers will have more or fewer stakeholders than others. Additionally, our process allows for more tactics than you’ll deliver. (Stay with us, more on that later.) 

Here's how we go about doing it.

Create a Legend

This is an icon-based approach, and you can be as creative as you please in defining your tactics. Our miro.com example not only shows the types of tactics mapped for this engagement, but it also demonstrates who is responsible for what, but also if a tactic is “in scope” or “out of scope,” and if there is specific feedback or discussion needed before production can happen. 

You can be as action-specific as you want for your Tactical Maps. For us, we map the tactic, whom it affects, who’s responsible for it, and how that tactic connects with other tactics. Time and budget are not usually reflected. But that’s just our way of working. As they say, your mileage may vary! 

Also, in our example, you see four specific tactical types (digital, PR, live events, and traditional.) You’ll likely add and subtract tactical types as your map evolves, so don’t think it’s imperative to have your Legend built before working on your map.

Start with Goals and Stakeholders

You started this journey with a specific reason in mind: such as selling X amount of product to  Y customers by Z date, or increasing sales leads for X product by Y percent by Z date, or something equally definable. Define a “space” within which your Stakeholder (or target market) and goals can play out. You’ll see this defined in our example with light gray boxes, with the Stakeholder defined in green at the top.

Pro tip: If you haven’t already, now is a great time to “characterize” your stakeholders. Instead of “millennial men,” consider “millennial men who lift weights for aesthetic purposes.” 

Then, to keep your efforts grounded, place the Goal for each Stakeholder at the top of each space. Our version shows a little “idea cloud” to contain that language.

Before you place your first tactic, remember: Don’t Be Constrained

We believe that freedom when constructing tactical approaches to marketing is crucial. If you allow time and money to constrain your thinking, you'll wind up with constrained plans. 

At BS LLC, when we construct tactical maps, we always adopt an ethical "what the business needs" mindset. If it needs PR, indicate where PR is necessary regardless of if it's "in scope" or not. If additional focused market research is needed regarding a complex behavior, indicate that. Once the entire map has been fleshed out, the next step will be going in with some reality checks. You’ll know when you hit the “complete for now” milestone. For most professionals, this is a self-regulating exercise.

Place Tactics and Connect as Needed

Use a new color for each tactic tape. Different colors usually indicate assignments for various team members or different outside contractors. They almost always call out other disciplines or marketing channels. Once you believe you have assembled the most robust group of tactics, use your app to show which tactics feed or are dependent on each other. For example, indicate where search engines, SEO work, and content marketing efforts join. Label clearly how social media drives registrations on your website. We do this through workflow arrows.

Tag the Tactics

With all of your stakeholders’ spaces filled out and adequately interconnected, now is the time for the reality check. Our example contains tactics tagged with yellow plus signs indicating what we will accomplish as our clients’ agency (noting that which is in scope) and red triangles for actions our client must complete. However, you also see two additional graphic notations: blue diamonds indicating recommended tactics that we cannot justify under our current agreement, usually for economic reasons, and black squares indicate areas where we need more information or discussion to incorporate that tactic into the plan.

You can annotate your map in any way that will help your teams. This includes web links and links to internal documentation such as calendars, timelines, spreadsheets, contracts, etc.

Build It. Then Use It. 

This is meant to be a bridge document. So often, in business consulting, advertising, and other forms of marketing communication, planning documents like those are built, discussed, and then shelved. Why? Because ultimately, they want to get to tactics.They want to "build the stuff."

Sales departments want sales tools. The SEO team wants keyword-rich blog posts. Everybody wants a new website. Often, everybody gets "shiny object syndrome," and we lose track of the big picture.

Creative agreements, messaging grids, and tactical maps (all documents we produce every month here at BS LLC) are vital tools that we create and then go back to over and over again throughout an engagement. Use and evolve these tools to keep each other honest and ultimately grow the business. It's fantastic to create tactics, check them off the list, and put them into service. But you also want to know how well the integration with other tactics serves you. Planning in this organic and straightforward way puts everybody literally on the same page to do just that.

About the Author: Sam Lowe conducts research to help build full-featured road maps and strategies for BS LLC clients ranging from hospitality to healthcare and manufacturing to high tech. He’s also delightfully addicted to 2-wheeled vehicles, classical music, and fine teas.