What’s the Difference Between Strategies and Tactics?


What’s the Difference Between Strategies and Tactics?

You need a map and a plan to move your business forward.

People often go about running their businesses without ever giving much thought to the future — other than they want to continue to be operating and be successful. Having a plan of attack is vital to the success of any business, no matter how big or small and understanding the differences between strategies and tactics can help you achieve all of your goals. So let’s get to it.

What is a strategy?

Strategies are often confused with tactics, and while the two terms are related, they are very different concepts. We’ll start with strategies. Strategies are meant to help you identify what you want to accomplish. When you first start a business, you have to have a strategy for launching, a strategy for advertising, a strategy for growing the business. In other words, you have to know what you are going to launch, what you are going to advertise, and what you want your business to look like today, in five years, and even ten years.

What is a tactic?

Tactics, on the other hand, help you spell out how you are going to implement those strategies. The tactics of launching your business are very different than running your business. You need to figure out how you are going to go from idea to launch, how you are going to get the word out about your launch, and how you are going to continue to grow your business beyond the launch.

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Multiple moving parts

Within one functioning business, there are often multiple strategies and tactics being called into question and implemented at any given time. For example, your marketing department might have several strategies for the new quarter, and they will implement several new tactics to help achieve their marketing goals. To illustrate, a strategy for a marketing department might be to increase their social media engagement by 25% before the end of the next quarter. Audience participation is an important strategy because it feeds into the overall success of the company: making more people aware of the products and services can increase purchases, overall.

A tactic they could use to capitalize on their efforts would be to hold a contest on social media whereby they offer a prize to their audience for using a certain hashtag or sharing pictures of customers in their shirts, for example. The possibilities related to tactics are endless, but that’s why it’s important to know how you are going to achieve goals and move strategies forward so that the business can be successful.

Another example of a tactic supporting a strategy could be this: launching a new senior living community means finding residents to live in your community. There are some ways to find residents, but the overall strategy is simply “find residents,” while the tactics will outline exactly how you will do that. A tactic could be holding an open house, sending out flyers to the local area or having a grand opening party and inviting community leaders to help spread the word about your new community. Tactics are the “how” and strategies are the “what.”

Build your organization

Just like processes and procedures help you run your organization, strategies and tactics help you build your organization. And similar to how you need to know what your operation will look like, how it will function, and who will do what, where, and why, having clear strategies and tactics to achieve those strategies can make all the difference in the long-term success of your business.

People often lump strategies and goal setting together. This combination is an excellent way to look at it. Your strategies help you understand how you will achieve those overarching goals. They help you look at your business from a 30,000-foot level and determine how you get from point A to point B. For example, if your goal is to increase your occupancy in your senior living community in the next few months, your strategy would be to improve marketing efforts, and your tactics would include providing advanced training to your marketing team and creating milestones to track the targets over the next six months.

Every move you make and every decision you determine should move your business further towards the goals you have set. Without some type of map to guide you, your choices might make sense for today, but won’t help you succeed in the long run. Having goals, strategies, and tactics can help you answer the question, “why am I doing this?” so that you can determine how a particular action can move your business forward for the better. If a decision is not going to advance your business forward into the future, then it’s probably not important.


However, you decide to determine strategies and implement tactics for ensuring you act on those strategies, just remember that you are not alone in trying to figure out how all the moving pieces work together. It can take time to find a balance of setting goals, laying out strategies and implementing tactics, but the more you practice, the better off you’ll be.