Strategy is a word frequently thrown around in business. To keep things simple, I’ll use the Wikipedia definition: A general plan to achieve one or more long-term or overall goals under conditions of uncertainty.
A tactic is defined by Wikipedia as a conceptual action or short series of actions with the aim of achieving of a short-term goal. In other words, “tactics” are all the things you do to achieve your strategy…which helps you reach your “overall goals.”
In our world of marketing, we frequently hear people say things like “We need to be posting on Facebook” or “We need SEO.” Or my personal favorite, “We need to hire a marketing person.” There is no plan, just an action. They want tactics without strategy.
Let’s put this in terms that might be easier to understand:
Road Trip to Mardi Gras!
If we want to drive from Nashville to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, there are two ways to do it.
Example One: Create a Strategy and Execute Tactics
The goal is clear: Have an amazing time at Mardi Gras. But some strategy is necessary to get all the moving parts working in concert with one another so we can reach that goal. First, we need transportation. Second, we need to arrive in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Third, we need resources to survive the trip: food, a place to sleep, and anything else needed to maximize our Mardi Gras experience.
By taking the time to develop a strategy, we greatly increase our odds of getting to Mardi Gras (at the right time, in the right place, with the right resources) and reaching our goal. In marketing world, we’re big fans of writing the strategy down so all parties involved can see, read, and agree on a plan.
And once your plan is in place, it’s time to execute the plan with tactics. We secure transportation, we set a time and place for our departure that puts us on a specific route that ends in Mardi Gras…presumably with a place to sleep at night. We pack a suitcase filled with the clothing and other accoutrements we know we’ll need to have an excellent time.
By taking the time to develop a strategy, we greatly increase our odds of getting to Mardi Gras and reaching our goal.
Example Two: All Tactics
Jump in a car and just start driving southwest-ish. Maybe bring some clothes. Surely we’ll be able to find a place to sleep once we get there.
Tactics without Strategy
In the first example, there is a clearly defined strategy and the tactics naturally flow from the strategy. If we know we need to be in New Orleans the weekend before Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”) in February of 2021, we plan accordingly and execute the tactics (like driving and booking a hotel room) that put us there on time.
The second example might work. It certainly won’t work in August unless you plan to drive for a really, really long time.
All of this is also true with your marketing. Randomly posting stuff on your website and on social media with no strategy is a complete waste of time. Hiring an agency and telling them to do it for you is a waste of money. Sure, you might get some notice from time to time, a little interaction here and there.
Maybe you’ll be ok with it, maybe you won’t…because you didn’t actually document any goals, did you? As Lewis Carroll wrote in Alice in Wonderland, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”
How Is This Supposed to Work Then?
Done right, a marketing strategy is a document which outlines goals and plans. It tells anyone who reads it what needs to be achieved and how that achievement will happen.
Want more customers? What kind do you want? How many? Where will you find those customers? What will you do with them when they show interest? What products and services will you offer and what will be the terms? How will you convert prospect to customers? When will all these things happen? Who will do them?
Before you spend a dime on marketing tactics, you should have a strategic plan which enables you to successfully employ the right tactics at the right time to make your strategy a reality. Otherwise, you’re just getting in a car and driving, hoping to see a parade in New Orleans.