Tactics vs. Strategies – Which Marketing Approach Do YOU Focus On?

The marketing field is filled with jargon, as it seems all would-be sales gurus make up their own set of terms and acronyms to differentiate themselves from the pack. Yet the world of marketing language offers nothing more confusing than those pairs of apparently identical words that actually represent radically different concepts.

Perhaps the two most commonly misunderstood marketing terms are “tactic” and “strategy.” At first glance this pair of words appears to refer to the exact same concept. Yet tactical and strategic marketing approaches are radically different from each other, and if you want to create the greatest success for your organization you need to learn which option produces disproportionately greater results.

The Short Term Focus of Tactical Individuals

Tactical marketingTactics are momentary actions defined by momentary goals.

Most people think tactically, act tactically, and evaluate success according to nothing more than their ability to clear the next hurdle placed in front of them.

A tactical person focuses on the minute-by-minute actions they need to take to achieve a relatively small, short-term goal. A tactical individual is more focused on making a sale than acquiring a lasting client, hitting a quarterly goal instead of working towards fulfilling a 10 year plan for growth, and being incredibly focused on the task at hand, regardless of that task’s perceived importance.

For better and for worse, approximately 90% of all people exhibit tactical natures. Looking on the positive side, tactical people often find themselves well grounded in the day-to-day needs of their organization, and tactical people are often extremely efficient at the work they perform.

Unfortunately, tactical people tend to lack perspective. They have an easy time focusing on getting tasks done, but they rarely stop to ask whether those tasks are really worth completing in the first place. They are great at achieving short-term goals, but they aren’t great at determining whether their achievements support or detract from the long-term goals of their organization. In fact, left to their own devices, tactical people rarely even set long terms goals, as fixated they are on the here-and-now.

Taking the Long View with the Strategic Approach

strategic marketingStrategies employ a more expansive perspective on an organization’s goals.

About 9% of all people exhibit a strategic nature. Strategically oriented people concern themselves with developing brands, building relationships with their clients, and abiding by the deeper principles of their organization, no matter the momentary consequence. A strategic individual feels more concerned with developing loyalty within a client than maximizing an individual sale. A strategic individual care more about where their organization will be in 10 years than how their organization is poised to perform this month. A strategically oriented employee or boss knows it’s better to perform a meaningful action sloppily than an inconsequential action perfectly.

By taking the long view, strategically oriented people produce bigger, more lasting success than tactically oriented people.

Of course, that doesn’t mean strategic individuals lack faults. Strategists often perform the details of their work far sloppier than tactically oriented people, they are more likely to deal impatiently with small concerns, and they aren’t always able to determine what small, specific actions will lead to their organization’s greater purpose.

Developing Two Sets of Eyes

If you find yourself forced to take either a strategic perspective or a tactical outlook, you will serve yourself and your organization better by valuing long-term considerations over the short-term concerns. But who ever said you needed to choose between being either tactical or strategic?

Only 1% of people combine a strategic view of their work with a tactical understanding of how to best reach their lofty goal. This 1% of the workforce represents those individuals who create the sort of success we all dream about achieving ourselves.

Very, very, very few people are able to naturally hold strategic and tactical philosophies in their head at the same time. The average individual can utilize both approaches, but they will need to learn how to alternate between them.

It’s best to start with a strategic mindset, to chart the course of where you want to go and what you want to accomplish, to create your grand vision of your work, your organization, and even yourself, without entertaining an ounce of consideration related to how exactly you’re going to build this castle-in-the-sky. To successfully engage a strategic mindset, you need to begin by dreaming as large as possible.

Once you’ve discovered a vision worth building, a long term goal that lights a fire under you and will inspire those around you, that vision needs a grounded, tactically based foundation to rest on.

Begin by re-defining your grand vision in measurable terms. This is easier than it sounds. For example, if your vision is to create the world’s top-selling e-book, then concretizing this goal requires nothing more than doing a little research to discover what the current top-selling e-book is, and how many units they sell annually. If the current king of e-books sells 1 million copies a year, then you now you need to sell 1 million and 1 copies a year to achieve your larger goal. You now have a strategic vision that is grounded in the real world, and as such ripe for tactical deconstruction.

Of course, once you create a series of successful e-book selling tactics, you need to sit back and evaluate each of them, asking whether they serve the greater strategic purpose of your organization. Will the tactics you chose create an initial spike in sales that drops off due to the negative press they create? If so, you will quickly see that these short-sighted sales tactics won’t going help you reach your goal of creating the world’s top-selling e-book. Instead, you will realize that a gradual, customer-satisfaction oriented approach is more likely to help you hit the 1 million and 1 mark, even if such tactic’s temporary achievements are less than stellar.

To maximize your success all you need to do is alternate tactical and strategic approaches, making sure each reflects the values of the other, grounding your dreams in reality and only performing those daily actions that live up to the standards set by your greatest goals.

John Mak

Hello, I am John Mak and I am a web publisher. I like to blog about business and internet marketing and share my personal experiences. I also write reviews and focusing on software that helps people backup their personal data online with services such as mozy and sugarsync free storage.

15 thoughts on “Tactics vs. Strategies – Which Marketing Approach Do YOU Focus On?

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  • It would benefit one to have a long-term strategy for, in most cases, the year for your development, and use tactics to achieve the mini-goals that are there set.

    When I was in elementary school, I was always taught to set my long term goals and then make a list of the smaller goals to reach that big goal. We then can use our tactics-at-hand to achieve each and every one.

    • Hello Joe,

      It’s exactly what you said! If we have a big goal we need to create small steps to reach it. It’s what I always do everyday. I’ve seen people trying hard for two months and then they get overwhelmed, or working more than usual and they can’t produce the same results the next day! It’s persistence and small daily goals.

      Thanks for your insight!


  • Actually, the words tactic and strategy for me mean the same thing. But after reading your post, I think I’m more of a tactical person than a strategical one. I tend to only focus on getting tasks done each time. I guess I have to do better in order to be strategical also. Thanks for sharing this thought-provoking post!

    Oh, there seems to be a problem with your Commentluv, when checking it, it says “Internal Server Error, undefined..

  • Hello Sylvia,

    I’m glad this post could help you define where do you need to focus on. But it’s what we think helps us the most. We all act differently and either way could help someone become better and achieve their goals.

    Thanks for your comment!


    • Hi John,
      I’ve been working on a project lately and I’m trying to put into practice on how to apply both tactical and strategical methods on it. So far, everything is going about smoothly. Again, thanks for this post! It’s been very helpful for me.

  • In my part, If you want to set up a productivity system in an organization, invest the time in not only learning it but making it a habit, and be able to use it for many years to come, and that’s what we call “strategic planning” it’s very important to consider well your strategy the foundations of the system. If you do a knock-up job here, you’ll pay for it when you find you need to start from scratch. An engineer once told me that when you buy a house, it’s important to check the foundations: you can fix most problems, but if the foundation is unstable, you may end up having to start from scratch. In my approach on it every tactic must suit the strategy. If you can’t explain how a tactic helps you achieve the strategic outcome, then it’s probably not the best choice and needs to be rethought. Tactics are the actions that lead to execution of the strategy. The keyword of this is action, but tactics are made up of a few elements. Thanks for adding this one here.

    • You’re welcome Farrel,

      It’s about the foundation, I know that for sure cause I owned a construction company. Knowing you have a great foundation is very important but also important is the whole structure / every detail and the purpose of the structure! Clarity of purpose is what people need to have so they can focus on a particular strategy and create credibility and quality that will benefit their audience.

      Thanks for your insight,

  • Thanks for the good tips provided here! I agree that we have to have an action plan in place before making the offer and we should be sure about it…

    • It’s nice to know that the post was helpful to you Becca! An action plan is always required for great success! Thanks for stopping by,


  • Excellent article….it’s very easy to get caught up in the everyday cut and thrust of tactics as an internet marketer because things change so quickly. If you have been trying to rank your site in the search engines recently this will probably resonate with you. You can get so absorbed in the tactics that your strategic vision can fall by the wayside. That’s why it is hard if you are a one man (or woman) band to succeed. You have to be virtually schizophrenic to do both tasks effectively. I try to have a day for strategic thinking and the rest for tactic thinking and working to compartmentalize the two roles. The e-myth book goes into this in detail.

    • Hello Ade,

      Thank you for your insight! It’s nice to connect with people that get the meaning! E-myth is a great book for those who are searching to become successful! I also recommend it!


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