Strategies vs. Tactics: The Map and the Backpack

Companies often come to us saying things like:

  • We need a great-looking brochure.
  • Can you create a Facebook page for us? Everyone has one, and we need one too.
  • We want to be featured in the New York Times.

The challenge with each of these requests is that the company is already thinking at a tactical level. We encourage them to zoom out to first examine their overall strategy.

What is it they hope to accomplish? Is the fancy new brochure actually part of a larger effort to reach referral sources? Is a Facebook presence something they can strategically maintain for the long-run? How do they plan to leverage an article in the New York Times?

Each of these actions should be tied to a set of strategies and goals.

It’s sometimes difficult for companies to think at the strategic level, because tactics are easier to understand. They’re tangible, the actual real deliverables that people can see, touch and feel. But they won’t have an impact if they’re not anchored in strategy.

We like to describe it this way: Imagine your company is on a journey. One toward growth, profits and success. There are two things you need for that trek:

  • A map – your strategy, which tells you where you’re going
  • A backpack of gear – the tactics and tools that will help you safely reach your destination

Without knowing the map first, it’s pretty hard to pack the right gear. What if you had ice climbing poles and cold weather clothes, only to find out you’re heading for the tropics? Or, you pack water for a week, and then realize the journey will actually last a month?

The key is to make your map and your gear work together. That’s the synergy of strategy and tactics!


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