Business tactics is not the same as business strategy.

If you’re already muttering to yourself that there’s no difference in business tactics and strategy, step back and take a deep breath.  I’m going to lay it all out in simple terms, show you how the two things are not the same but instead, work in tandem to achieve the results you are looking for from your efforts.

It’s important to recognize that our goals, campaigns, and planning are not limited to a single plane – it’s more like a spreadsheet than a to-do list.  Understanding the hierarchy and how to plan accordingly is the first step in figuring out what you want to achieve and then planning your path to success.

[LISTEN: Why Mobile Advertising Works, Part 2 – POCAST EPISODE]

Before we jump in to the heart of things, let’s first go through some quick definitions:

  • Business strategy – Strategy is an overarching, big picture type of view – we’d call it macro if it were economics and perhaps Satellite view if it were maps.  Everything starts here – the goals, the division of labor, the timeline for advancing.
  • Business tactics – Tactics is the micro in the economics, the Street View in the maps…  it’s the small screen, what are we doing right this moment, how are we adapting and adjusting to the actual situation at hand sort of logic.
  • Campaign – Plan for implementing both business strategy and tactics into a cohesive set of actions to achieve goals for your business.  This may be single channel, multi-channel or omnichannel. 
  • Deployment – Putting your campaign’s moving parts into action – this could be as simple as boosting a post on Facebook, running an Adwords campaign, crafting a series of posts around a single thought, or more extensive combinations of marketing collateral


See how I listed my definitions in order of importance to the overall plan?

In case you didn’t realize it when you were reading the list, I’ve put the definitions in the order of importance and the priority that they hold, establishing a hierarchy from the beginning.  If you’ve ever had formal sales training, one of the early points that is drilled into your head is to start closing the deal before you’ve even introduced the deal.

[DOWNLOAD: 3 Steps to a Successful Mobile Strategy – FREE WORKSHEET]

Without going into long winded detail, the premise here is that if you start by stating your goals to your prospect, you can discern whether or not the prospect is inclined to agree with you initially, in which case your strategy and tactics is simply to close the deal and get on over to lunch.  Rarely happens, but hey, you never know when you’ll get lucky but you should always be prepared in case you do.

[Tweet “…you never know when you’ll get lucky but you should always be prepared in case you do…”]

Keeping in mind that you’re working a top down strategy from the bottom up, both business strategy and tactics require you to actually have a plan that you can articulate to others on your team.  This is often a stumbling block for people – they know where they want to go, and they have an idea of how they want to get there, but are unable to form the words to explain the ideas and the plan to everyone else.

This leaves the rest of your team in a quandary, since they’re not really sure they are following you, or just wandering around in the jungle with the idea of climbing a mountain.

Develop your strategy first, and then determine your best business tactics to execute the plan.

I’ll relate this to sailboat racing (yes, again, really) and how we set up for a regatta.  In the initial planning stages, our thoughts are about winning overall.  We can liken a regatta to a series in other sports – that’s exactly what it is, just like the Cavs playing seven games against the Pacers to advance in the playoffs, except winning the first four races doesn’t end the regatta – it just keeps going until the stated number of races have been run; business is more like a regatta than the playoffs.

The first thing we usually decide is that we want to win the regatta.  Duh.  However, if we only needed to come third place in the regatta in order to win our season championship and it was not a major regatta, then maybe we decide that we’re going to race for second place – hard enough to win overall, but we won’t be pushing so hard that we break stuff and can’t finish the regatta, thereby taking us out of contention for the overall.

See, it’s not always that simple, is it?

Your overall strategy might be to get more customers, but your business tactics in this case might be to use social media to do this.  Rather than employing SEO, influencer marketing, getting a trade show booth if you are B2B, this campaign will be narrowed solely to social to build your base.  Hey, this works for some companies, and they just keep on with the lather, rinse, repeat cycle.  Don’t knock it.

Back to the regatta situation in our example.  We’ve decided that we want to win the regatta, and we know there are 25 teams who have entered and will be racing.  Unless we are so incredibly dominant that no one can touch us – and again, this does happen, not just in the NBA – and we are just going to keep doing the same thing we’ve done previously that makes us dominant (another day, another article), then we need to figure out what is mission critical to winning and what isn’t so important.

[WHOA!Are you just here for the pimento cheese recipe? CLICK HERE TO GET IT]

This is how we develop our strategy.  Let’s say, for brevity’s sake, that we determine that we’ll need to place 5th or higher in nearly every race, and that with the depth of entries, that should be enough to get us close to the win.  Our example regatta takes place over three days and has 11 races in total.  We know there are two or three teams that are also in a position to dominate the results and we need to pay special attention to these teams, while not disregarding the rest of the field.

We need to focus our tactics on implementing our business strategy.

How will we get these top five place finishes?  This is where tactics comes into the picture.  We have 11 opportunities to do well, although one of these results, the worst one, will be a “toss out” if we complete five races over the course of the regatta.  In the grand scheme of things, we’re hoping that our racing is good enough that we aren’t depending on a throw out to move us up the ladder, and we’re going to focus on what it takes to get into the top five at the end for every race.

Tactically speaking, we’ll look at each race individually, and then adjust our planning based on the conditions and the competition.  If this were a business instead of a racing sailboat, then we would use tactics to determine our target audience for this social media only campaign we’re going to run to get new customers.  (Jump back and re-read if you forgot already, lol)

Once our collateral is built, and our ads are approved, now we’re ready to start running the ads.  We’ve set our budget, and we’ll be analyzing, throughout the course of the first day of the campaign, how things are going.  If it’s looking alright and we are meeting our goals – just like getting a good start is critical to having a good finish in a race – then we’re going to leave things alone and keep watching to see how they shake out.

What if it’s not going well?  Do we change our business strategy or do we change our tactics?

Our strategy isn’t going to change – we know that we have to place in the top five in order to win, on average.  If we are not getting the job done, then we are going to adjust our tactics and see if that will help us perform better.  If we know that we are not getting a good start, we’ll need to change our starting strategy, and be ready to adjust our tactics for executing the new plan.

Let’s say that our social media campaign simply isn’t getting click throughs.  Don’t wait around and hope things will get better – pause the campaign, change up the collateral, do some A/B testing and see where you are missing the mark with your ideas.

Many times we forget that we need to actually tell the customer to take an action, and therefore we don’t tell them to take an action, they just kind of hang out, milling about virtually, and that’s not helpful to our end game.

Changing our tactics might look something like this –

If you don’t already have a solid mobile marketing strategy that is working well for you, then you are going to need my free worksheet – 3 Steps to a Successful Mobile Strategy – which you can get by clicking here

Do you see how I did that?  Earlier in this post I have included a lovely link that you could have used to get the worksheet, but you didn’t do that yet.  Now I’m changing my call to action to tell you to get the damned worksheet and save yourself a step or two in your journey to success.

If my end goal is to get you to download my worksheet – which you should, it’s very helpful in getting you where you need to be in mobile marketing – and my business strategy for getting you to download it is to provide a download link, then my tactical variations are where, how, and how stridently I tell you to get the worksheet.  I adjust those as needed to work towards achieving my end goal, while giving you important information in the process that makes you realize that I either really like sailing or I’m correct about how sailing equates to business.


Or maybe my overall goal is to make you understand that sailing and business are a lot alike, and that it’s equally difficult to do either of them well without solid planning and good execution.