Is That Your Strategy?...Or Your Tactics?

I always find it interesting the number of so-called marketing ‘experts’ who don’t know the difference between a ‘strategy’ and a ‘tactic’.

These words get thrown around daily by folks who have read about them somewhere; or they've heard other self-proclaimed marketing ‘gurus’ use them, so they mimic those lockstep, without questioning; and feel they’re using the ‘correct’ business buzz words.

A lot of buzz, and buzzing around...means nothing, without a flight plan.

In reality, a strategy is a plan of action designed to reach a defined goal. It is the act of determining exactly where you are and what kind of arena you are competing in, for what prize; then setting realistic and attainable goals suitable for that context.

A tactic, on the other hand, is a way to reach that goal. It is a specific action-step, technique, or method whereby you can reach the goals laid out in the overall strategy.

In military terms, you might say that if "pushing the enemy back beyond the village of XYZ so their supply lines are permanently cut off" is one specific strategy in the war, then just how you will do that (push the enemy back), are the tactics to be employed. There may be many different strategies; but they will each be part of the overall strategy: winning the war.

A tactic is not chiseled in stone; but a temporary ‘guesstimate’ of what to do. Many tactics don’t work at first. But if you adjust them enough, like a series of experiments, you can eventually get the right tactics for use at the right time in the right context or arena. Sometimes it’s all about being in the right time at the right place...about timing.

If your strategy is sound, it will withstand the test of time in any marketplace.

Google was around and an excellent search engine, two years before you even knew about it. Thomas Edison “knew” he could come up with the illuminated light, but he had to go through more than 400 different experiments to get there.

Alexander Graham Bell, working in a small lab in Brantford, Ontario, toiled for months and months with the transmission of sound...eventually inventing and perfecting the telephone.

You would think those many failed experiments were the hard part. Wrong. The tactics – most of which fail at first – are the easy part.

The right strategy – and coming up with it – is the most difficult part.

It is the part that really takes some clear headed thinking, some research and question-asking; lots of diligence and “stick-to-it-iveness” other words: patience.

As Seth Godin said in his blog recently, “...the irony of the web is that the tactics work really quickly. But the strategy still takes forever. The strategy is the hard part, not the tactics. The frustrating part is that you see your tactics fail right away. The good news is that over time, you get the satisfaction of watching those tactics succeed right away...”

Now think about this: I can offer you dozens and dozens of ways to market your restaurant. So can others. That is not where the secret lies. Sure it never hurts to have dozens of unique ways to market your restaurant that the big boys won’t or can’t use. Or your smaller competitors don’t even know about. But where the rubber hits the road is with your STRATEGY.

This is where the magic begins. Those with the best strategy win. Those who then intelligently and effectively implement that unique selling proposition-driven strategy best...will be the all time penultimate winners.

Go back. Read that last sentence just one more time. I said the “unique selling proposition-driven strategy” right?

Those of you who follow my FohBoh posts already know what the U.S.P. (the unique selling proposition) concept of strategy formulation is. Check out my previous FohBoh posts (or my blog) dealing exclusively with this important marketing foundation.

Keep in mind, therefore, whenever you see a potential “tactic” or technique here...and elsewhere...view it in perspective, vis-à-vis the strategy you have adopted for your own business or restaurant, using the U.S.P.

And be patient. Tactics come and go; but solid marketing strategies are as good and long-lasting as gold.

What do you think? Why not give me your two cents’ worth? I’d love to see your comments below...

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Tags: Edison, Godin, Google, Seth, Thomas, USP, attainable, buzz, context, flight, More…forever, goals, gurus, long-term, patient, plan, realistic, restaurant, satisfaction, secret, strategy, tactics


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Comment by Roy MacNaughton on August 16, 2008 at 11:51am
Hey Paul!

Thanks so much for that perfect restaurant industry analogy!

'Shoulda thought of that one myself. This is an excellent way to separate the concept of
the overall strategy a restaurant might set for itself...compared to the resultant series of "table-side" tactics that the same restaurant ownership might employ to reach those strategic goals.

Thanks, I needed that....

Comment by Paul Paz on August 16, 2008 at 11:29am
Great post, Roy.
I have often used "battlefiel mentality" to coach service-sales strategies and tableside-tactics!




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