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The Difference Between Tactics and Strategy

Why is it that some businesses seem to grow overnight, and others take years to get traction? What causes startups to go from a founder working solo, trying to make a profit to a thriving team that is constantly breaking records of growth? The answer is simple. What makes or breaks a business and its ability to succeed is knowing the difference between tactics and Strategy. You must know where each of these practices fit, how and when to use them.

What are Tactics?

In every startup, the core team includes the Visionary (which is also the founder) and Implementors, which are your staff that executes the mission. Your staff (the Implementors) rely on you (the Visionary) to describe where we, as an organization, must go.

You, as the Visionary, rely on your staff (the implementors) to figure out (in their own way) how to move the organization closer to the vision. That is a tactic. Performing and executing activities that make little advancements towards achieving the vision.

In other words, we come up with the ideas, and delegate everything to our team to figure out how to do it.

This is fine in the beginning; however, organizations that rely on tactics will hit the ceiling on their ability to grow towards their vision. Engagement begins to decline, and the turnover rate of your staff begins to increase. Your operating budget can often get scaled back. Your products and services fail to grow, and gross revenue starts to plateau, or worse, decline.

Why does this happen? Because each person within the organization is making tactical, short-term decisions that aren't in alignment.

Without strategy, your tactics will fail.

Without a strategy, organizations will put too much energy into generating short-term results that are not sustainable and often plateau. Strategy informs the tactics your staff execute.

For example, if you run an online clothing boutique, and you see that your monthly sales are lower than expected, a tactic would be to put everything on sale, and offer deep discounts. This tactic may drive a short spike in sales activity but will fail to continue to drive customers to your online boutique long-term.

A strategy, on the other hand, will help you plan and anticipate the needs and desires of your customers so that you can position your inventory to the right customer at the right time of the year.

Rather than incentivizing customers to buy with a big sale, you instead know what your customers are naturally looking for – and can position your inventory in a way that will drive them to buy. Having a strategic plan makes a steady stream of business possible because you’re able to cater to your customer’s individual needs well in advance.

The Miraculous Fix (The Silver Bullet).

As a consultant, I'm often brought into organizations to help them identify and resolve areas of friction in the experience of their products or services. The first thing I do is analyze what is working well, what needs to be improved, and then I provide a set of recommendations. But sadly, many companies fail to implement those recommendations successfully.

When this happens, it can mislead teams to believe that the recommendations I gave didn't work. The lack of strategy is what causes external recommendations not to work.

Without a strategy, many business leaders lean on consultants to show them a secret hack, or the miraculous fix that will solve all of their problems. The cycle repeats the pursuit for the next silver bullet that will “finally” turn the organization around and give traction.

What is Strategy?

Every organization big or small has a Vision, A Mission, and Values. There is a step that lives between the vision and mission that many growing organizations often miss – and that is "Strategy."

The vision describes the outcome in the world you want to see (the change you want to make).

The strategy is how to align and organize the team to carry out the mission.

The mission describes the activities we as an organization do to make the change.

The values describe the beliefs and standards we will uphold while carrying out our mission.

The tactics are the activities your staff does through the lens of our values to carry out our mission.

A strategy is your business's way of understanding how to position the products and services in a way that solves a problem for your customers. Strategy is the tool that describes how the activities you do in day-to-day business will lead to the vision you had for your business.

If you want to break the ceiling of growth on your business, and create sustainable customer engagement, you will need to implement a strategy. Here are four things you can do to kickstart a strategy within your business.

  1. Ask yourself, what does your customer really want? You can do this by conducting customer research and creating user personas.

  2. Evaluate how you deliver the value (what they want) to your customer. You can do this by creating journey maps of your customer’s experience.

  3. Uncover areas within your business where there might be friction standing in the way of the customer having a good experience. Using your journey maps, focus on the steps within the process that might be unnecessarily complex for your customer.

  4. Reduce the friction. You can do this by making adjustments to your product or service, business process, and policies that improve the customer experience.

If you do these four things, you will have the beginnings of a great strategy. It doesn’t matter if you’re a realtor, an online retailer, or a consultant. Every role in your company, every product or service needs to work together like a machine helping drive the results you’re aiming to achieve with your business. A strategy is a plan that makes everything work together.

To learn more about how to implement a strategy for your business, The Strategy Masterclass goes over this in detail. You can learn more here:

About the Author:

Mike Gonzalez is a Growth Strategist & Customer Experience Advisor with more than 15 years of experience. He believes that organizations that embrace the best practices of continuous improvement will outlast their competitors. Mike helps empower senior executives to more effectively carry out their mission. He also works in collaboration with product leaders to help them figure out the right products and services to build and improve that their customers will love. More on Mike at

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