Strategy Vs. Tactics

Strategy Vs. Tactics: What is The Difference and Why It Matters?(With Examples)

Strategy is essentially planning out what you want to achieve in order to get something done right. Each step has its place within your overall plan. Tactics focus more on how you do something rather than what you should do.

Adamou Boubacar Amadou

Table of Contents

The Insight 💡

A strategy is a long-term plan for achieving an aim. A tactic is a method used to achieve an end. Tactics are different from strategies in that they are not always considered when making plans, whereas, with strategy, you have to make sure your tactical options will work.

Strategy Vs. Tactics

Mutually Exclusive but Collectively Exhaustive

Definition of Strategy: “A plan, usually long-term, for achieving a major or overall aim” (Merriam-Webster).

Tactics: “Plans or method in achieving an end, especially when adhered to.” (Merriam-Webster)

Strategy vs. Tactics: What is the Difference?

Strategy and tactics are two terms used in a wide range of contexts. Be it marketing, sports, or military.

Although these terms are used interchangeably, for the most part, they’re not particularly the same.

In this article, I’ll walk you through a brief comparison between strategy and tactics and how to differentiate them.

Let’s dive right in!

What Are Strategies?

Business Strategy

The definitions of a strategy vary from one perspective to another. However, they all follow the same idea: Develop a plan for the desired outcome?

Strategy is the blueprint of interconnecting decisions to reach a specific goal.

This goal can be anything such as a specific destination or a particular achievement.

In other definitions, a strategy would be described as an all-embracing, comprehensive approach toward a target. It is a framework to achieve an intended objective.

Ideally, a strategy is set for the long haul, because the outcome might simply not be obvious in the short term.

For example in a business context, strategic planning is the art of creating a guideline of a high-level approach to achieve the mission or vision of a company.

What Are Tactics?

Tactics

Tactics are all the specific and concrete steps or actions that are outlined within a plan in order to achieve a goal. whether these goals are long or short term.

When a strategy is laid out, it’s usually a rough plan that has an end result or a target to achieve. To reach that objective, however, some steps need to be specified, and these specific steps represent the tactics.

Despite a strategy’s significance and impact on the long-term goals,it may not be as clear to the general public and competitors as tactics.

For example, in “The Art of War” book, Sun Tzu mentioned that while others are able to see the tactics that he uses to conquer, nobody was able to see the grand strategy which led him to victory.

In short, tactics are actions within an action plan and not the outcomes or the measure of the plan’s success.

How to Differentiate a Strategy from a Tactic ?

The first and most noticeable difference between a tactic and a strategy is a tactic is mostly based on a strategy.

You can still have a tactic without a strategy, however, having a strategy without a tactic is an incomplete plan that is likely to fail.

The simplest way to describe how each one works is that a strategy will tell you where you are heading, while a tactic will determine how you want to reach that destination.

In a business plan, for instance, a strategy will outline your vision, core values, focus areas, and the objectives you need to complete to reach your goal.

However, a strategy won’t show you the actual steps you need to take in order to achieve your ends.

For that, you need to incorporate your tactics as well as the measures of your success, which are the key performance indicators, commonly known as KPIs.

Tactics are usually much more specific and address defined approaches and goals than the strategy, which makes them more evident and more flexible than a strategy.

What Are the Most Common Examples of Strategy and Tactics in Business?

A strategy will remarkably vary according to its purpose, whether in the military, life, or business.

To make the concept of strategy easier to digest, let’s have a quick look at strategy across some fields of business and society.

Example of Strategies

Product Differentiation

It is about being different. Here the aim is to create a unique product that is above the competition in terms of features, style, or performance.

The goal is to differentiate yourself from the competition by providing value not yet present in the market.

This type of strategy is one of the most common in business-to-customer (B2C) models.

Customer Retention

Customer retention is the ability to turn your customers into repeat buyer and reduce churn.

To effectively achieve this you need a retention marketing strategy.

You can use different channels such as social media, sms, or video content to communicate  with your customer base.

Cost Leadership

The strategy of cost leadership is to offer your products at prices that are lower than the prices the majority the market charges.

It does not mean offering lower quality product, but rather providing a good value for money, while being cheap.

Example of Tactics

As you’ve noticed, in all the previous examples, the strategy only specified the end result or the target of your business model but not the means to reach it.

Creating tactics is usually based on the type of strategy you opt for. Let's illustrate with the previous examples

For example, if you want to adopt the cost leadership strategy, you’ll need to scout the market looking for the cheapest suppliers that meet the level of quality for your product.

There are many ways to look for this kind of information depending on the industry you operate in. For instance, if you operate a bakery, you could leverage the suppliers' data available online and compare suppliers based on ingredient prices, delivery time, and shipment cost.

Furthermore, if you want your business strategy to be more about product differentiation, you’ll need to innovate and market new features in your product that nobody else has.

For instance, if you are a software company, you might need to look at what your competitors are doing (or not doing). You could check online what their customers are complaining about on the review site or contact the customers directly, double down on that pain point and remove that friction for the users.

If your focus is on customer retention, your tactics here could be to look at the channels that best speak to your customers and use them to broadcast your message.

It might be that you are communicating with the wrong channel or worse the wrong message with your customers. You need to find the reason why your customers are churning first. To achieve this, you should investigate the root causes of the problem.

If for instance you found out that your customers are more active on Twitter weekdays than weekends as you have initially assumed, then you need to shift your tactics and start broadcasting your campaign during weekdays.

After you pick your ideal strategy and plan your best tactic to achieve it, you’ll need to measure the success of these tactics using KPIs, which are success metrics that you track to assess the progress of your plan.

Real Life Examples

One example of tactics is the way in which you play games, here more specifically war games. You have guns and equipment but depending on their strength you have to use certain ones at certain times.

This would be considered tactics because it’s how you actually play the game, it is situational, rather than what guns or equipment you buy throughout the different levels of the game.

Another example of tactics is when football teams choose how they’re going to attack the other team. They might chose tactics like passing the ball downfield, rushing down the field, and directly kicking the ball into the goal.

Notice here that these are tactics they are going to use to  reach the overall strategy of winning the game, rather than say what players the team will use to do so.

Example Of Business A Strategic Plan

This is the example of a strategic plan for a fictional corporation.

You can find the PDF version below 👇

Example Of Strategic Plan

Wrap Up

There you have it! A quick guide that walks you through the difference between strategy vs. tactics and how to differentiate between them.

As you can see, tactics can be a subset of a strategy, and both are essential to achieving your plans.

Strategy is the grand plan that sets where you want to be, while tactics are the means and methods to take you towards your destination.

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Adamou Boubacar Amadou Twitter

I write content at the intersection of business and technology to help you learn while I do the same. I currently work in marketing in the media industry. Great Content + SEO = 🚀