The differences between offensive and defensive marketing are both philosophical and practical. They each have their place in the world of small business and can be used separately or together to meet your goals. Offensive marketing takes the initiative and drives your business forward in primary and new market segments. Defensive marketing protects the segments you have already secured and maintains your brand name.

Attacking the Competition

Offensive marketing is used to put your best offers and promotions out there as a direct challenge to the competition. It is also the way that many competitors go head to head with deals, specials, product improvements and the like to battle for consumer attention. For example, if business X is offering widgets for $10 per piece this week, business Y may launch a counter campaign announcing widgets on sale for $9.50. The sale was unplanned and unannounced, but an offensive marketing initiative makes it real. By taking the offensive, you may lose on the revenue a given sale brings in, but you will win by gaining more customers and sales in the long run.

Marketing to New Segments

Offensive marketing is one way that small businesses break into new markets and expand. If you are established as a player in one market and wish to grow in a new direction, an offensive marketing campaign can deliver your message to the consumer. Your approach may include an attack on existing businesses who cater to the market segment you desire, as well as a more general approach that declares your entrance into a new realm. Both are considered offensive campaigns and both can result in growth by takeover instead of other more organic methods.

Defense Against Attack

Defensive marketing techniques are often used as a response to public criticism, negative studies or legal action against a brand or product line. For example, let's say one of your products has been reported as hazardous in the media. If your company has been in business for many years, your defensive marketing may play up the reliability and permanence of the brand versus the short-term negative attacks going on. A newer company may focus on the cutting-edge nature of the product, its clean safety record and list the steps it has taken to improve it even further. The implementation of defensive marketing is meant to stem the tide and turn public opinion away from the negative and back onto the positive aspects of a product.

Protecting the Primary Market

The primary market is of utmost importance to any small business. The primary market is that which brings in the most revenue for your brand and that which you likely target most when it comes to marketing campaigns. When a new competitor jumps on the scene and attempts to cut into your primary market with similar products or services, your marketing can be an important mode of defense to prevent the loss of your customer base. By re-establishing your dominance through defensive marketing campaigns that announce lower prices, better selection and a long-standing reputation, you can fend off the newcomers and maintain your position in the market.