by Ron Stein
Updated 3 yearss ago
Certain things just go together. Like tacos and cold beer. And which goes first doesn’t really make much of a difference.
Still there are times when the order does matter. Occasionally what comes first may not be very straightforward and cause great debate. The chicken and egg dilemma comes to mind.
How about strategies and tactics? To me, there’s no argument and the answer is obvious -- strategy before tactics.
Don’t get me wrong; the right tactic at the right time will pay big dividends. I get that and have my favorite methods, tools, and techniques that consistently boost revenues. But the reality is that tactics will not do much good unless they support a strategy.
I know, I know -- you can’t have one without the other. Yet, strategy and tactics are not interchangeable. Far from it.
Many businesses give lip service to their strategy. Instead company leadership tends to look for a few techniques and shiny new apps that are hyped as must-do “strategies.” Except, they are tactics -- you know, email marketing, a video blog, Tweets, brochures, a spiffed up website, or maybe online ads.
This is completely backwards! Because there’s no context. A random collection of tactics will not help much until you are crystal clear about a handful of things.
Look at it this way -- a strategy describes the destination and the path you’ll take to get there, while tactics call out the specific actions needed along the way.
Smart companies take the time to layout their goals and objectives followed by a blueprint with a clear statement of “here’s why we’re doing it this way.” Together, this is your strategy. Only then will execution make sense, and that’s where tactics finally come in.
Having a strategy before deciding on which tactics to use will save your business time and money, and probably some embarrassment too.
Your business strategy. This is the big bopper, the guiding light of everything you do. A business strategy is much more than a mission statement and needs some meat on the bones. Let’s say your goal is to launch a new service and add 25% to your revenue stream within twelve months. Your objectives might be to drive awareness into the specific market segments you’ve targeted as having a need for this service and grow a contact list with 3000 qualified leads by launch day. Your approach is to engage the target audience at key touch points, places they likely hang out online and offline. This is a business strategy. And it gives you the path toward achieving your organization’s mission.
Your marketing strategy. When the team understands the company’s strategy, all oars are pointed in the same direction. So, now it’s just a matter of choosing a few handy dandy tactics and we’re off to the races. Not quite. Your inner marketing voice should ask, “What else can we do for our buyers that our service doesn’t obviously offer?” This is a downstream strategy -- yes, another strategy. It’s not about having the better product or service and trying to explain that to buyers with annoying tactics. Instead focus on your customers’ needs and your positioning relative to why and how they purchase. You’ll have a say in how the market perceives your offering.
Back to our example; using the company’s strategy as guidance, you decide to offer an ethical bribe -- something of value in return for their contact information. The value is based on the “What else can we do for our buyers” question and can be in the form of guidebooks, tip sheets, and a video series, all containing actionable information that helps buyers in some big way. That satisfies why they buy. For the how they buy part, you can drive web traffic to a purpose-built landing page, plus live mini-workshops to engage “offline.” At this point it’ll be easier to identify the tactics to make all of this happen.
Your selling strategy. There’s one final downstream strategy you’ll need revolving around how and when prospects turn into paying customers. This primarily has to do with touch points and follow-up. You know how your customers like to buy and define the best touch points -- online ecommerce, tiered distribution, affiliate sales representation, direct point of sale, strategic partners, or a combination of two or more of these. Decide what the realistic goals for each are and map out the flow along with upsides and downsides within the context of your company’s business strategy. Rank them. Then comes the part everyone seems to hate; follow-up. Once you know the typical journey your buyer takes to make a purchase decision you’ll know how to reach out and how often. Aside from keeping your eye on the business strategy, context once again comes into play, this time from your marketing strategy.
Back to our example; decide what happens next with people who downloaded your guidebook -- do you call then after 5 minutes or 5 days, send them a tip sheet two weeks later, or place them on your new informational monthly newsletter list and call them in 5 weeks? The same thought must go into the follow-up of the people that attended the live mini-workshops. Have a sequence everyone agrees to and that’s realistic to keep up with and track. Make sure it’s all true to your business ad marketing strategies. Now it’s okay find the needed tactics to turn this into a reality.
Your strategy answers the question, "where are we going?" Your tactics answers the question, "how do we plan to get there."
After all, you can paddle as hard as you want, but if you don't know where you're going, then all the paddling in the world won't make a difference. Period.
With a strategy in mind, all tactics have a context and are focused on reaching the destination. The difficult part of strategy execution is ensuring that all the day-to-day activities of your business is dedicated to reaching the destination. So, pick your tactics wisely!
Ron Stein is founder of More Customers Academy, helping business leaders build strategic messaging and positioning that cuts through the competitive noise to grow revenue. Ron has developed his own highly successful 5-step Stand Out & Sell More approach to winning new customers as a result of his twenty-five years of business development, marketing, and selling experiences. He works with a range of businesses, from startups to large corporations across industries including technology and healthcare, manufacturing, and financial services and banking. Ron conducts workshops, leads company meetings, offers keynote talks, and consults. He can be reached at 727-398-1855 or by email.