How well do you understand the difference between strategy
and tactics? Do you find them fighting each other for bragging rights?
At some companies, these two activities collide all the time.
Managers want to jump in and solve problems when there isn't consensus about what
problem you are trying to solve.
It took me many years to fully understand the difference and
to learn to think strategically. By
not jumping right into the tactics, I have gained a clearer understand of the
problem before figuring out how to solve the problem. The following are 3 ideas
to help you be a more strategic thinker as a marketing professional.
ASK THE QUESTION,
WHAT PROBLEM ARE WE SOLVING? This is such a great question to ask to help
insure that you understand and have an agreement about the real issue at hand.
If your team is trying to decide among creating a video, printing a brochure or
putting up billboards, you have jumped into the world of tactics.
conversation might say: “Our customers see us as not adding real value. How can
we change the mind of our customer?” How
you change their mind, plunges you into tactics of how to solve this problem. A
simple way to think about this is that your strategy defines the goal that
moves you in the direction that you want the company to go. A tactic helps you
leverage the resources and tools at hand to get the job done.
RECOGNIZE THAT STRATEGIES
LAST LONGER THAN TACTICS: A strategy
is usually a longer-term proposition than a tactic. In some companies,
strategies are set for a year or multi-year period. Tactics tend to be much more short-lived and
immediate. So a strategy might be, “we want to influence several key department heads at our customer who influence a purchase”.
A tactic might be an email communication, a mailer or an event tailored
to help you connect with one of those people in Q4.
STRATEGIES ARE GUIDED
BY INTELLECT, TACTICS REQUIRE MUSCLE. A strategy can be based on research, market
insights or competitive analysis. It usually comes from understanding market
structure using SWOT analysis or other similar tools. It may blend gut instinct
with some specific market data.
"Taking the river is a strategy. The boat is a tactic."
A strategic idea might be that our company’s
products are only used by the very high end of the market because we are
perceived as expensive. A tactical approach to solving this problem is to
take what we understand from the research and find ways to dispel this myth.
For example, a tactic might be to put together on our website a dozen testimonials
of modest, small-mid size companies who use our product as they tell their story why they
think our products are reasonably priced.
Breathe and Ask a Question
It is so easy to be part of meetings where you jump into
solving problems with a stream of consciousness of ideas. My recommendation is take
a deep breath and ask everyone to write down what problem you are all trying to
solve. You may find that not everyone is trying to solve the same strategic problem and your team is just throwing ideas at the wind.
Until you get agreement and have a clearly defined problem, you are wasting time on a laundry list of tactics. Learn to think strategically before you start throwing tactical punches.
Cartoon by Rich Goildel
Need help sorting the wheat from the chaff? Contact me through this link on Clarity
where you can learn more about marketing coaching by the moment.
Labels: brands, marketing, Marketing Moments, strategic thinking, strategies, tactic versus strategy, Tactics