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Understanding Strategy vs. Tactics

Like many Americans, I watched the first Presidential debate on Friday night. (Don't worry this will not be a political post). During the debate, Senator McCain asserted that Senator Obama did not know the difference between a strategy and a tactic.

Routinely I encounter the same questioning from my clients. They fall into the trap of focusing on tactical executions rather than focusing on the strategy for achieving success in the first place. Strategies and tactics are often used interchangeably and this is clearly a mistake.

It's like the old adage of two men attempting to cut down a tree. One is using an axe and the other is using a hammer. Both may work very diligently at achieving the goal, however only one will likely achieve the desired results.

A strategy focuses on the 'big picture'. It focuses on the overall plan, and considers how your given campaign will achieve it's goals and objectives. Strategic planning involves positioning your company or organization to be viewed by it’s desired audience.

Think of strategies as the "why" we are doing what we are doing.

Tactics on the other hand are solely created in order to carry out a specific strategy.

Think of tactics as the "how" we are going to execute a given strategy.

Let me give you an example:

Objective: An online retailer is looking to become the #1 provider of a particular product line.

Strategy: Increase visibility online, making the online retailer top-of-mind. Educate consumers about the online retailer.

Tactic: Focus on search engine optimization within key traffic areas of website. Next, secure top placement (organic and paid) within key search terms, both branded and unbranded. Offer affiliates better commissions for referring product lines or placing banner advertisements. Utilize email marketing to increase brand loyalty and overall awareness. Utilize social media channels to gain awareness based on location, socio-economic, and key interest types. Once you have these tactics in place, analyze the results. Tweak and prune where necessary.

As marketers, it is our job to understand a client's objectives, and then devise a clear strategy. Only once this is accomplished can we then develop a series of tactics that will help us achieve our objectives.

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9/29/2008 06:00:00 AM Subscribe to RSS FeedSubscribe to RSS Feed

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