Strategy vs. Tactics: the difference and why you need both

Strategy and tactics often get confused. In some cases, strategy gets omitted completely from the plan.

So what's the difference between strategy and tactics?

Identifying a tactic is simple. Any type of specific action item that you can do or assign, and add a deadline to it—it's a tactic.

The simplest way to design a plan to achieve a goal is to set up a goal, then start outlining a list of to-dos to get there.

Then why is strategy important?

Because with a tactic-driven approach you can't intelligently change directions. Then when a tactic isn't working, it becomes a tactical roulette in hopes that something else will work.

The strategy is an element of planning that groups tactics under a common path. So that if a tactic doesn't work, is not game over, and your strategy will help you understand which tactic you should do next.

Examples of strategies and tactics

Marketing

Strategy: Engage industry thought-leaders to become advocates for our product.

Tactic: Create a list of top 10 industry thought-leaders and send them a free product sample.

Other options: If the free product samples don't work, what are other tactics we can try to engage them? E.g. Invite them to a product launch party, partner with them for content creation, etc.

Sales

Strategy: Close more deals by targeting our ideal client profile.

Tactic: Build a list of 30 accounts that meet our ideal client profile, and send them a tailored sales email.

Other options: If tailored emails are not working, how else can we engage them? In what other ways can we reach out to get their attention? E.g. Get introduced through mutual connections, send them a printed industry research report via direct mail, etc.

Personal development

Strategy: Take care of my body by achieving a weight within my Body Mass Index (BMI).

Tactic: Exercise 30 minutes per day.

Other options: If exercising 30 minutes per day doesn't work, what else can I do to achieve a weight within my BMI? E.g. Set a calorie goal and track calories burned and consumed, meal prep on the weekends to avoid eating junk food during the week, etc.

Special thanks to Seth Godin and Scott Perry who helped me clarify this topic in the The Marketing Seminar program.