Marketing Plan Writing

The Strategy Pyramid helps you manage marketing activities

written by Tim Berry of Palo Alto Software


The Strategy Pyramid places strategy at the top, supported by tactics in the middle, and programs at the base. Strategy means nothing without tactics and programs to make it real.

The Pyramid

This illustration shows a basic Strategy Pyramid for marketing plans.

The Strategy Pyramid emphasizes the practical importance of building a solid marketing plan structure. Most marketing plans are developed from the top-level strategy first.

Strategy, at the top of the pyramid, is a matter of focusing on specific markets, market needs, and product or service offerings. Tactics follow and set the marketing message and the way it should be transmitted. Programs, at the base of the pyramid, provide the specifics of implementation. Programs include specific milestone dates, expense budgets, and projected sales results.

The pyramid and strategic alignment

Strategic alignment is essentially matching up your strategy to your tactics and specific programs, or business activities. The strategy pyramid is a visual tool to help you act on what your plan says you’re going to accomplish.

Strategic alignment sounds simple: bring your activities and spending into logical harmony with your strategy. However, things frequently go wrong. It’s easy to think strategically for a while, and hard to consistently implement all the time. For example, blue-sky strategy is easier than day-to-day implementation.

  • Your key management team has gone away from the office for a day or two to develop strategy. Most groups enjoy that, and most are good at it too. They enjoy the experience and are excited about their accomplishments.
  • They return to the office. The phone’s ringing, emails have gone unanswered, problems come up, opportunities appear. Are they still implementing strategy or do they forget it as soon as they restart the routine?

As you develop your strategy with the pyramid, you design the tactics and implementation programs you’ll need to make it real. You develop those specific programs within your milestones so you can track implementation by assigning each program to a manager, with a budget, and milestone dates.

It is important to track and measure the expense of the programs for each tactic. Does the emphasis in spending match the emphasis in strategy? If your emphasis is on one tactic, are you spending to match? This process increases the likelihood of implementation.

The illustration shows a strategy pyramid which contains three tactics.

The next illustrations show an expenses chart broken into the tactics of the pyramids, and a partial spreadsheet table of the chart. Managers assigned their budgets to the various program activities to assigned the three tactics.

People do what they like to do. Often they twist their job descriptions around to do what they like doing. This isn’t a bad thing, really, because people are good at what they like; however, it can foil your efforts to create and implement strategy. Use milestones, with dates, budgets, and manager responsibilities, to make sure your daily activities follow your strategic guidelines.

Unfortunately strategic alignment isn’t easy. Companies frequently talk about one strategy and implement another. For example, in the middle 1980s Apple Computer’s strategy was focused on developing desktop publishing as a competitive advantage. The Macintosh was the first computer to integrate laser printing and page layout at popular prices, and Apple had a huge advantage. However, it took several years to make people understand what desktop publishing was, and by the time the message was clear Apple’s managers were tired of it. So while the strategy was desktop publishing the managers focused on multimedia and personal digital assistants instead. Budgeted marketing activities didn’t focus nearly as much on desktop publishing as the strategy dictated.

That was a lack of strategic alignment that failed to support and implement the desired strategy.

Tim Berry

about the author

Tim Berry

Founder and President of Palo Alto Software and a renowned planning expert. He is listed in the index of "Fire in the Valley", by Swaine and Freiberger, the history of the personal computer industry. Tim contributes regularly to the bplans blog, the as well as his own blog, Planning, Startups, Stories. His full biography is available at Follow Tim onGoogle +


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