What’s The Difference Between Strategy and Tactics For a Small Business

The best business professionals and marketers I know always understand why something matters. Marketing and business success cannot exist in any organization without understanding the purpose and expectation.

Far too many small business owners and marketing professionals don’t understand the difference between strategy and tactics.

Although the terms are often used interchangeably, here’s why it matters, strategy and tactics refer to two separate and distinct business functions and practices. Essentially, strategy involves planning your company’s next move, and tactics involve physically carrying out the plan.

A Specialist’s Job Is To Skillfully Do What You Ask

Specialists (tacticians) often assume you know what you need. It’s not their job to second guess you, even though you may be:

  • making decisions based on assumptions
  • unclear on requirements and options
  • unsure about the order of operations
  • unfamiliar with how to direct your specialists
  • unable to evaluate their work, or
  • unaware of the long-term costs and implications of your project

A Strategist’s Job, By Contrast, Is To Ask Why

Job one for a strategist is to understand your situation, constraints, needs and success criteria. They challenge assumptions, clarify requirements, help determine the order of operations, direct specialists, evaluate success and work within the context of long-term costs and plans.

The Difference Between Strategy and Tactics

A strategy is a plan of action with a goal.

A tactic is a specific action that is part of implementing the strategy.

For example, a strategy that calls for an increase in sales from a niche target audience might call for a unique message specific to a pain point that involves producing content, ads, emails and offers that are relevant for that specific customer group. Producing content, ads, emails and offers are the tactics of that strategy.

Understanding the difference between strategy and tactics ensures more successful marketing projects.