“Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.
Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory.” -Sun Tzu
[Please Note: This post is not intended as a strategy vs. tactics treatise, but rather, as a discussion starter to point out the real lack of (and real need for) strategic thinking in today's marketing efforts.]
For some, marketing has always been viewed through a tactical lens. You know the type: the person who mistakes a logo for a brand, or a website for a marketing program. And make no mistake, tactics are critical and necessary to every marketing effort. But because they are tangible, many have confused their necessity with being the ONLY focus of marketing. Sadly, strategy — the thinking that directs a tactic — is increasingly being overlooked, or completely neglected.
Imagine if buildings were built without blueprints — if wars were fought without plans. Lewis Carroll said, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.”
Social media (and the bold, consumer voice that has arisen from its power) have many marketers now convinced that they cannot guide a brand, or their marketing efforts, but instead, must simply monitor the experiences of customers. And to successfully monitor and react to these experiences, these marketers have focused their resources on the tactics that will enable these efforts. Many times, regardless of what carefully planned core missions, or operations models say they can, or should do.
Should a company listen to its customers and steer accordingly? Of course. Should it simply become what a customer desires, with no strategic input regarding what it can, or should be? Of course, not. This one-sided view is as bad (and wrong) as the one-sided ‘company push’ advertising strategies that customers are rebelling against in the first place.
Strategy is (or should be) the thing that links the internal wants and desires of a company (brand) to the wants and needs of external audiences (partners, suppliers and customers). Developed properly, it’s a flexible bridge that anchors a few core principles and then allows that business and people change — sometimes quickly, sometimes over time. Tactics, are the tools developed from this strategic platform and guided by its direction. Important and critical, but tools, nontheless.
If you don’t have this strategy in place, you run the risk of never differentiating, never knowing what to do next, and yes, never truly getting ahead.
(By the way, if your organization is looking for stronger business, brand and marketing strategy, I know a firm that can help.)