Strategy vs. Tactics

Your business isn’t growing, your department isn’t delivering on its objectives, or you’re falling short of your sales goals. Something has to change… but is it strategy or tactics? 2,500 years ago, Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu wrote, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

Your strategy defines your long-term goals and how you plan to achieve them. Tactics are the initiatives you will undertake to make that strategy happen. Suppose your strategy is to grow by expanding into a new market. Your tactics would be the marketing initiatives that your company deploys to create awareness, generate leads, and sell into that new market. If your company is unable to penetrate the new market, it could be because of a strategic flaw—maybe you chose the wrong market to develop or your offering isn’t competitive in that market. You might also be challenged by a tactical mistake—perhaps you’ve left awareness creation, lead generation, and selling up to an existing sales team that is distracted by the needs of your current customers.

Whether you’re a company leader, entrepreneur, department head, or sales rep, the bottom line is that you need both sound strategy and effective tactics to succeed—but without a strategy there is no context for evaluating the tactics. Without the strategy, the tendency is to change tactics too fast and too often, which confuses you and your customers.

Quote of the Week:

“The company without a strategy is willing to try anything.”

– Michael Porter