The Difference Between Strategy and Tactics

"Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat." - Sun Tzu

What are the fundamental differences between strategy and tactics? Even the savviest on-line and off-line entrepreneurs frequently confuse the two.


Tactics are the day-to-day activities that are repeatable in your business and relatively clear-cut. Like blocking and tackling in football, they comprise the basic components of the jobs and the daily activities of any organization - or any business - no matter the size.

The Difference Between Strategy and Tactics

They are such things as SEO Campaigns, writing an article, creating a website, making a sales call, or perhaps joining an on-line community such as StomperNet, or Rich Schefren's Business Growth System. Tactics are specifically created and selected to reach particular and measurable objectives.

Tactics are the actual ways in which the strategies are executed. They may also include such things as newsletters, press releases, teleseminars, blogs, advertising, websites, and any other tool that your target markets are usually exposed to.

Tactics are easy to copy. If one company observes innovations in another company's products, for example, the observing company can easily duplicate what it has seen, or develop something comparable if straight duplication is not possible. As soon as the process or product is copied, the competitive advantage of the innovation recedes or disappears.

If you are not careful, tactics may end up being simply quick fixes that can bring short term gain, but they will not lead to long-term success unless rigorously applied; and they must be part of an overall plan for success. Therefore, it is critical to look at each tactic from the standpoint of what it will do to achieve your overall strategy.

Most businesses today tend to be tactically focused. You work diligently every day in your office, doing task after task, but most often without a strategic focus.
Being mainly tactically focused will result in a lot of ups and downs in your business, and very likely a long, slow (or very fast) decline in the value of your business.

Strategy, on the other hand, is perspective, that is, your Future Picture and direction. Strategy involves the "big picture" - the overall plan, and how those plans will achieve your goals and objectives. It involves deciding who the important stakeholders are, and which of them will be the recipients of your messages (i.e., "target audiences"), or the targets of your activities.
Your strategy is the framework, your compass that you will use to make decisions that will benefit the future outcome of your business. Strategy is the set of directions you make to enhance your situation and position within your overall market.

Without a well thought out strategy, your business is merely like a person wandering around uselessly in the dark. There is neither a planned direction of where to go in the future, nor which methods to use to get there. Tactics and strategy are always relative to one another, and together they bridge the gap between ends and means.

To succeed in your business environment, it is vital to plan a strategy that connects your activities to your overall plans. If you have a solid understanding of where you want to be at some defined point in the future, it becomes a relatively simple exercise to create a set of activities to get you there. If you know where you are going, there will be a way to get there - always.

Recognize that there is a difference between strategy and tactics, and do not confuse the two. The company that clearly understands that difference is the business that will be the most successful, the most durable - and the most profitable.

The Difference Between Strategy and Tactics

Certified Professional Management Consultant Jim McCarthy currently works in Oceanside, CA with his wife, Career Consultant Barbara McCarthy.
For information on a complete Strategic Planning System, please go to Internet Marketing