The Strategy Lie

Category: Strategy Published on Mar 30 2015

I regularly tell people that a good strategy will propel them and their business forward. And yet, this is a lie.


No, you didn’t misread that last sentence. A strategy, no matter how perfect, is not enough to grow your business into the company of your dreams. A strategy is only effective when it is accompanied by tactics.

Let’s define some terms so that we are all on the same page. A strategy is a plan to move you or your company from point A to point B. If you were planning a vacation, your strategy would involve the:

- Start location

- Planned destination

- Desired mode of transportation

- Length of time you have available

- Amount you have budgeted


In other words, a potential vacation strategy would be to start at my home and travel to Key West, FL. I prefer a direct flight, or to minimize connections if a direct flight is not available. I have 10 days for the trip and would like to keep the entire trip, including all incidentals, around $5,000.


Now this is a great strategy. However, it won’t get me to Key West without adding some tactics. Tactics are the approaches and methods you use to accomplish your strategy.


Returning to my vacation analogy, various tactics I might employ include:

 - Ask my friends and family for recommendations of places to stay and eat

 - Visit a travel website to gather prices for travel, hotels, and possibly a rental car

 - Book travel and accommodations once I have discussed them with my husband

 - Schedule the time away in my calendar

 - Pack and depart


As I stated before, a strategy without tactics is inspiring, but it won’t change anything. And it definitely won’t get me to Key West. On the other hand, if I employed tactics without having a plan, I will be very busy, but not necessarily productive.


See without a strategy, I may have begun by Googling vacation destinations. I would then have literally millions of web pages to sort through on options from visiting Memphis to going on a cruise. In the end, I may have had so many different opportunities with different travel plans, destinations, and price points that I may have decided that going on vacation was just too much work. So by default, I could end up staying at home and sleeping in. And wouldn’t that missed opportunity be a shame?


This same dynamic could be happening in your business. We attend conferences, seminars, and workshops where the experts tell us about how social media, direct mail, or a new service offering can change our business. We get excited, go back to work and start looking into it. Before we finish, we attend another event, we get excited about another can’t miss opportunity, and …. Well, you know how it goes.


Some ideas may get completed, but the results are disappointing. Many, however, never quite reach fruition and we waste hours of time and untold amounts of money along the journey. And on rare occasions we hit the jackpot and finish with the anticipated results. If you would like to improve the results of applying the tactics you are learning, start with a strategy.


A strategy begins with I am here and this is my internal brand definition. There is where I would like to go. To get there I plan to implement the following changes. And I will schedule this amount of time and budget this sum of money for the journey. Now you are ready for tactics.


To really clarify this, let’s create a mythical company called Azbacon. Currently Azbacon is a retail store located in a trendy Philadelphia neighborhood. Their brand includes the promise of being a reliable source for original and unique hand-made gifts. Azbacon would like to increase their net income from their current $75,000 per year to $150,000 per year.  To do this they must increase sales by 150%. They would like to accomplish this in 5 years and have allocated $20,000 to make it happen. This is Azbacon’s strategy.


Now Azbacon is ready for tactics. Depending on preferences and the full brand promise, Azbacon may elect to

 - Increase their square footage by renting the neighboring store

 - Open additional stores in neighboring communities

 - Create and run an on-line store

 - A combination of the above

 - Or perhaps some other tactic that I haven’t thought of.


After deciding on an appropriate approach,  Azbacon’s owner is able to compare meeting and learning opportunities that she encounters with her strategy to see if the knowledge will enhance her efforts. If so, then that tactic may be added to the strategy. If not, then she may elect to not attend so she can focus on attaining her goals, or attend and learn some great information knowing that for now it’s a shiny bauble and should be filed away for future reference.


To summarize, strategies and tactics complement each other. A strategy with no tactics is a waste of time and energy because it will not change a thing. A tactic without a strategy is essentially busy work. It may make you feel like you are accomplishing something of value, but the chances are that the results will be disappointing.


What is your overall strategy? And what tactics do you plan to employ to make your strategy come to life?