What Is the Difference Between Reactive & Proactive Marketing?

by Neil Kokemuller; Updated September 26, 2017
Businesswoman holding a meeting

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 don't .

Marketing Plan

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 difficult building a brand.

Customer Insights

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 don't want in a solution. Developing and promoting a solution that matches target market preferences and needs often optimizes revenue and profit performance.

Tactics Used

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 promotion tactics that have less impact, according to a January 2014 article by Dearborn Media Group. Reactive tactics include fads, discount gimmicks and unsolicited referrals.

Cost Structure

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 don't have a prescribed budget. Expenses are only incurred at the time when marketing opportunities are realized through resource allocation or buying advertising.

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.

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