Creative Opportunity #39: The difference between a strategy and a tactic.

“Isn’t there a simple way to explain the difference to my team?”

I recently wrote about the difference between goals and objectives. Why that difference is important, and why well-defined SMART objectives are so important to marketers. This time it’s the other two words that sometimes stop otherwise intelligent people in productive meetings: strategies and tactics.

I wonder if it’s possible that knowing the difference between them is really simple. At least in communications. Let me explain:

Strategies are plans designed to achieve a particular objective/set of objectives. Strategies are the approach you take; they explain how the objectives will be achieved. They are a how, not a what.

Tactics are the actions, sequences of actions, and programs you use to fulfill your strategy. They are a what, not a how.

Here’s an example.

Let’s say I have this objective: I need to go to Milwaukee next Thursday morning at the best rate.

Here’s a strategy: To meet that objective, I’m going to review alternative sources of flights/fares.

Here are some tactics: To fulfill that strategy, I will
o Call a travel agent
o Use the website of a specific airline
o Use a website that compares the rates of different airlines

Plan vs specific actions. Here are some more examples:

Using social media is a strategy. Running a promotion on Facebook is a tactic.

Learning how individuals choose products in my category is a strategy. Holding a series of focus groups is a tactic.

Educating and building distributor salesperson awareness is a strategy. Conducting in-person training is a tactic.

You can see, with a tactic, something specific happened. In every case I can think of, I could take a picture of that tactic or the tactic happening. If I took a picture of the strategy, it would just be words on paper. Is it that simple? If I can take a picture of it, and it’s more than words on paper, it’s a communications tactic.

Ok, all you marketing communications mavens. Help me, could it be this simple?

Create opportunities for better creative. Go to Get Better Creative and learn about the workshop where, in one day, your team will become marketing communications rock stars. Talk with Dave Hamel, Principal of Get Better Creative and lead of the American Marketing Association’s “Successfully Managing the Creative Process” about getting better creative: 312.623.5567