What Is the Difference Between Reactive and Proactive Marketing?

Comstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Reactive and proactive marketing are two distinct marketing strategies a company can employ to connect with its target audience. The difference between the two strategies is the type of planning used. With proactive marketing, the company uses its collected data to plan organized marketing campaigns far in advance, whereas with reactive marketing, the company responds to consumer actions and trends as they happen. For many companies, an overall marketing strategy that uses both reactive and proactive marketing is the key to effectively marketing their products and services.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

Proactive marketing involves the implementation of prepared strategies, whereas reactive marketing involves tactics employed when opportunities arise. A major difference is that with proactive marketing you have a marketing plan; with reactive marketing, you do not.

A Marketing Plan Is Proactive Marketing

A marketing plan sets forth the goals, strategies and tactics a company intends to use for the next year or so. An overview of the marketing mix, which includes product, place, price and promotion factors, is a normal part of a marketing plan. With a clear plan, you outline everything you want to accomplish and do in research, development, promotion, sales and service over the year.

Reactive marketing is defined by its lack of a predetermined plan. One advantage of reactive marketing is that you do save the time taken to develop plans. However, you may face more difficulty building a brand.

Customer Insights for Proactive Digital Marketing

Research is a major element of marketing. It includes surveys, focus groups, questionnaires and other tools used to glean insights from target customers. Proactive marketing typically includes research and development plans. Reactive marketing usually means monitoring customer and sales trends and then deciding how to respond.

A key benefit of proactive marketing research is gaining insights from core customers about what they want and do not want in a solution. Developing and promoting a solution that matches target market preferences and needs often optimizes revenue and profit performance.

Tactics Used in Reactive and Proactive Marketing

Companies tend to employ an array of strategies and promotional tactics with proactive marketing. With clear goals and a budget in mind, businesses choose between the best mix of traditional and new media to deliver messages to the target market. In contrast, companies that use reactive marketing tend to use promotional tactics that have less impact. Reactive tactics include fads, discount gimmicks and unsolicited referrals.

Cost Structure for Reactive vs. Proactive Marketing

One of the main reasons a lot of small companies use reactive marketing is because of its lower cost structure. With proactive marketing, costs include the time involved in preparing and managing marketing strategies, as well as the direct costs of buying promotional time and space. You typically need a set budget to carry out strategies.

With reactive marketing, companies often do not have a prescribed budget. Expenses are only incurred at the time when marketing opportunities are realized through resource allocation or buying advertising.

References

About the Author

Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.

Photo Credits

  • Comstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images