The difference between strategy and tactics

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One of my biggest pet-peeves is when entrepreneurs mix up the words “tactic” and “strategy.”

Here’s how Merriam-Webster defines these terms:

  • Tactic — a device for accomplishing an end.
  • Strategy — the art of devising or employing plans toward a goal

So the other day, I recoiled immediately when I heard someone recommend podcast interviews as the best audience growth tactic.

I guess it gives me PTSD back to my days as a typical Facebook lead. I spent years and tens of thousands of dollars seeking the best tactics and got nothing but a lot of anxiety to show for it.

And for the reasons I’m going to show you today, I don’t really use tactics anymore. Everything rolls up into my strategy.

In my mind, using podcasts to grow your audience isn’t a tactic. It’s a strategy.

But then I had this realization. For the audience of this type of click-bait article on social media… it's probably nothing more than a tactic.

Here’s what I mean:

Using podcast interviews to get more leads. That’s a tactic.

But using podcast interviews to get quality leads to pursue you, build links to your site, vet potential JV partners, and grow your reputation. That’s a strategy.

The difference is in the level of thought and purpose behind it. Or, as Merriam-Webster says, the “goal.”

If all you want to do is receive a set of instructions: go send this pitch message, record an interview, and get leads… well then podcast interviewing is your tactic.

But if you want to include this tactic in a strategy that grows your business, you need to think about how it relates to your goals.

We talked about this yesterday in using truth as a sales tool. Sure, there are plenty of sexy tactics like negative striplines and making the skeleton dance that can make truth-telling more powerful.

But the strategy is to use truth to build trust and credibility, so that, regardless of whether you make the sale today, you can get another chance at it in the future.

Without the guiding strategy, you’re prone to neglecting the relationship, and burning that bridge in the sales process. You might think your process is working because you’re making sales, but if you burn relationships to make sales, you’re going to lose those customers.

Same thing with content creation. There are plenty of storytelling tactics, headline frameworks, and the like. But the strategy has always been to build a relationship through storytelling. Neglecting the relationship with short-term tactics may result in more immediate engagement. But not meaningful interaction.

To be fair, you could have a short-term strategy. Perhaps you’re looking to hit it big and make a lot of money in the next 12 months before you retire. You can pretty much do whatever you want in this case. But again, my strategy is long-term relationships. This dictates how and when the tactics are used.

Strategies include the why. Tactics only include the what. So this is the best distinction between tactics and strategy that I can give you:

You need to know WHY in order to know WHEN and HOW to use the WHAT.

Remember this when you encounter a new tactic. It’s up to you to determine how it fits with your strategy. And that makes all the difference.

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