Strategy or Tactics? It’s a Trick question!

Strategy and Tactics

You may have heard the question many times:

What is more important, Strategy or Tactics?

It’s a trick question. It assumes you can have without the other when in fact, the answer is that what is more important is the alignment between strategy and tactics:

Strategy should be based in  your tactical ability to execute (which includes your core competency, as the thing you can execute on better than anyone else) and tactics should support the  strategy

What is really important about this point of view is that it is not uncommon to find a disconnect between strategy an tactics in many companies:

  • The strategy is unclear for the teams executing, or
  • While the strategy is clear, how it should impact and guide tactical work for each member executing is unclear
  • Strategies are developed in a vacuum by executives that are not connected to the front lines, or worse, by top-dollar consulting companies that bring junior MBAs to craft a strategy with no real context of the business

Part of the problem is that there are very few people who can span both: who can think strategically but can also guide (and roll up their sleeves) to execute. Employees who can bridge strategy and tactics can add incredible value to an organization, when employed properly.

How do you do that? The first step is to take a dose of reality, we need to be self-aware of how strategic we really are. Most marketers consider themselves strategic, but do we even know what that means? Here are some questions to help you assess your strategic ability:

  • Do you understand the fundamental metrics of your company? Have you read the latest quarterly report and do you understand the fundamentals, and how marketing can influence the key metrics that influence shareholder value?
  • Do you understand how your company generates profits, cash and customers?
  • Do you understand the medium-term strategy for your competition? Have you reviewed their IR presentations?
  • Do you understand your core competency as a company? What are the things your company is really good at and which ones you should avoid?
  • Do you understand your customers, how they are evolving and how their needs and purchase behaviors are evolving over time? What is the gap between you and your customer expectations and what you deliver today?
  • Have you modeled the market and competitive landscape, using tools like Porter’s five forces or a simple SWOT model?  and, if you have done this consistently, have you been able to predict market evolution?
  • Do you know exactly how your marketing tactics and the work you are doing today contribute to the long-term success of your company?

These questions are not perfect or comprehensive, they are a start.

Strategy and Tactics

You may have heard the question many times:

What is more important, Strategy or Tactics?

It’s a trick question. It assumes you can have without the other when in fact, the answer is that what is more important is the alignment between strategy and tactics:

Strategy should be based in  your tactical ability to execute (which includes your core competency, as the thing you can execute on better than anyone else) and tactics should support the  strategy

What is really important about this point of view is that it is not uncommon to find a disconnect between strategy an tactics in many companies:

  • The strategy is unclear for the teams executing, or
  • While the strategy is clear, how it should impact and guide tactical work for each member executing is unclear
  • Strategies are developed in a vacuum by executives that are not connected to the front lines, or worse, by top-dollar consulting companies that bring junior MBAs to craft a strategy with no real context of the business

Part of the problem is that there are very few people who can span both: who can think strategically but can also guide (and roll up their sleeves) to execute. Employees who can bridge strategy and tactics can add incredible value to an organization, when employed properly.

How do you do that? The first step is to take a dose of reality, we need to be self-aware of how strategic we really are. Most marketers consider themselves strategic, but do we even know what that means? Here are some questions to help you assess your strategic ability:

  • Do you understand the fundamental metrics of your company? Have you read the latest quarterly report and do you understand the fundamentals, and how marketing can influence the key metrics that influence shareholder value?
  • Do you understand how your company generates profits, cash and customers?
  • Do you understand the medium-term strategy for your competition? Have you reviewed their IR presentations?
  • Do you understand your core competency as a company? What are the things your company is really good at and which ones you should avoid?
  • Do you understand your customers, how they are evolving and how their needs and purchase behaviors are evolving over time? What is the gap between you and your customer expectations and what you deliver today?
  • Have you modeled the market and competitive landscape, using tools like Porter’s five forces or a simple SWOT model?  and, if you have done this consistently, have you been able to predict market evolution?
  • Do you know exactly how your marketing tactics and the work you are doing today contribute to the long-term success of your company?

These questions are not perfect or comprehensive, they are a start.

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