Understanding the difference between strategy and tactics is paramount to making clear marketing decisions that will guide your organization. Without a strategic vision and the attendant tactical decisions that will implement that strategy, an organization is floating along without a clear direction and no real way to meet business goals, which are the first step in setting strategies and tactics.
Planning Organizational Goals as a First Step
Much is written about how to select goals for an organization. The common acronym SMART suggests that organizational leaders create goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-framed. Setting a goal for a company is the first step in creating strategy and vision for the business. Example goals may be to increase sales by 20 percent over a year or to develop a client pool with 100 new prospective clients. Many, if not most, people in business understand goals. To make these distinctions clearer, consider the process of creating a new building. The goal would belong to the owner: open a new office park.
Understanding How Strategy and Tactics Work Together
Strategy and tactics follow goals. To be more specific, strategy follows goals, and then tactics spring from that strategy. Bearing in mind the new office park, then, the difference between strategy and tactics is the difference between an architect and the construction crew on a building project. The architect is the person who creates the design of the building. She sets out the framework of the building, including aesthetic and structural design. Strategy in a business is the overall basis for a business’ direction in the way that the architect creates the direction for a building’s construction. Returning to the goal of increasing sales by 20 percent, a strategy that may follow that goal is to target new niche markets through digital advertising campaigns. That strategy is what the organization is trying to do.
An organization’s tactics, then, are analogous to the members of the construction crew who will be erecting the building based on the architect’s design. The foreman assigns tasks to each person on his crew so that the foundation is laid, the rafters go up, and each room is built out. The electrician puts in the wiring based on the architect’s determination of where outlets and switches will go. The plumber installs piping in the appropriate places. These workers carry out the jobs required to create the building.
Viewing Tactics as Steps for Organizational Success
In business, tactics are the how of the strategy. Tactics should be small, actionable steps that will lead the company to meet the goals based on the overall strategy the organization’s leaders have defined. A strategy of reaching niche markets digitally would lead to tactics such as increasing Twitter followers and reaching out to popular bloggers to review the company’s products. In short, the tactics are the day-to-day tasks that the people in the organization complete, but the strategy should be kept in mind throughout these tasks. Strategy should guide the planning of tactics.
While setting an organization’s goals, strategy, and tactics can be time-consuming, and even a bit frustrating and confusing, failure to do so can lead to a loss of both time and money as the business will carry on without an idea of its direction or how to get there. Without goals, there is no strategy, and without a strategy, there are no tactics. Taking the time to consider these issues will lead to more fruitful business decisions.