How Tactics Support your Business Strategy

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Once you’ve set the strategy for your business, the next step is to define the tactics that you’ll use to turn your strategy into a reality.

Defining your tactics is the next step in our lean business planning process. If you’re building a lean business plan, download our free template or signup for LivePlan and then follow along to create a simple, one-page strategic plan that will grow your business.

What are Business Tactics?

Tactics are the specific things you do to achieve your strategic business goals.

Strategy vs Tactics – What’s the Difference?

Strategy defines your overall goals. It’s the overall plan for your business that defines what you want your business to be. Your strategy defines the problem that your business solves and who your customers are. Your strategy defines what you want to do at a high level.

Tactics are the concrete things you’re going to do to achieve the goals you set out in your strategy. They’re the specific plans and resources that you will use to achieve your goals. Your tactics include your marketing and sales plan, the team who will execute your plans, and any other partners and resources you may need along the way.

Your strategy is what you want to do while your tactics are how you’re going to get it done.

Strategy and Tactics Work Together

One of the greatest military strategists recognized that strategy and tactics by themselves are essentially useless; but, when paired together correctly, they work hand-in-hand, supporting each other:

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

— Sun Tzu, “The Art of War”

No matter how great your overarching business strategy is, it’s nothing without tactics. Tactics are the things that you actually do to make your business work. They make up the implementation plan that will turn your strategy into reality. 

Your tactics are your roadmap. More specifically, they’re your marketing and sales plan, your product plan, the people you choose to be on your team, and the partners you choose to work with. Tactics are all the specific choices you make and the tasks you do to implement your strategy.

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Alignment is critical

The most important thing is that your tactics support your strategy. Because your tactics are how you’re going to execute your strategy, the two have to be in alignment.

For example, a high-end restaurant’s strategy is to create a high quality, intimate experience. Its tactics support this strategy by investing in a great guest experience, from what the host station looks like, to the quality of the flowers on the tables. This restaurant will differentiate itself with great food and a fantastic experience in exchange for asking customers to pay a higher price. If it does this, its strategy and tactics will be in alignment.

A company that sells handcrafted leather wallets, handbags, and other fashion accessories to customers that care about things that are handmade has its strategy aligned with its tactics when the marketing campaigns communicate the origin of the leather and the story of the craftsmanship.

“Good tactics can save even the worst strategy. Bad tactics will destroy even the best strategy.”

— George S. Patton

When tactics don’t align with your strategy, you’ll send a mixed message to your customers and confuse them. You might even attract the wrong customers—ones who will never buy from you—instead of connecting directly to your ideal target market.

What to include in your business tactics:

Sales channels: How are you selling your products and services? Are you selling directly to your customers online? Are you opening a physical storefront? Or, maybe you’re building a product that will get sold in other companies’ stores. In that case, you might be working with distributors. Outline how you plan on selling in this section.

Marketing activities: How are prospective customers going to learn about your company and your products? Are you going to use traditional advertising? Perhaps you plan on investing in a content marketing strategy. Or, maybe you need to attend a lot of trade shows to get in front of potential customers in your industry.

Team: When you’re planning your business, you have to not only think about what you’re going to do, but who’s going to do it. Even if you don’t have a full team yet, think about the positions that you’re going to need as you get up and running. Create a list of the key roles that you’re going to need to hire for as you grow. Don’t forget to think about your own strengths and weaknesses when you think about building a team. You’ll want to hire people that can fill in the gaps in your own skillset.

Partners and resources: Some businesses need to work with other businesses in order to be successful. If your business has critical partners, list them here. This is also a great place to list key resources your business needs, such as a license for intellectual property.

Here’s an example of a tactical plan for a Lean Plan. This one was created in LivePlan, but you can also download our free template and get started.LivePlan Pitch Page

How to Figure Out your Business Tactics

If you’re a startup, one of the first things you’ll do as you start your business is talking to potential customers to validate your strategy. As you talk to those potential customers, you’ll figure out the right tactics to support your strategy. 

Interviewing potential customers, building a basic version of your product, or even doing a Kickstarter campaign are all great ways to figure out if your idea is going to work. And, as you talk face-to-face with potential customers, you’ll figure out the best ways to market and sell your product. This knowledge will be the foundation you’ll need to figure out the tactics to support your strategy.

Tactics as part of a Lean Business Plan

You developed your strategy as the first step in building a Lean Business Plan. You figured out what problem you are solving and who you’re solving it for. You also thought about how to differentiate yourself from the competition.

As you add tactics to that strategy, start simple and focus on your sales, marketing, team, and key resources that you’re going to need to make your business work.

With a Lean Business Plan, you want to keep your list of tactics short and simple, especially in the early days of building your company. It’s easy to get bogged down thinking of every last thing that you need or want to do to get your business off the ground.

Instead, focus on the main things that you need to do. With Lean Planning, you’re going to be constantly talking to your prospective customers to refine your strategy, and you’ll refine your tactics at the same time as you learn more about your customers and determine what tactics will work.

Just keep things simple

The goal with Lean Planning is to minimize the amount of time that you spend planning and maximize your chances of success. So, move quickly through building your strategy and documenting your tactics so you can get out into the real world and figure out if your ideas are going to work.

This article is part of our series on building a lean business plan. For a comprehensive overview, check out An Introduction to Lean Planning

Read the rest of our Lean Planning series:

Noah Parsons
Noah Parsons
Noah is currently the COO at Palo Alto Software, makers of Outpost and the online business plan app LivePlan, and content curator and creator of the Emergent Newsletter. You can follow Noah on Twitter.
Posted in Business Plan Writing