Most business owners think marketing and immediately think email, copy, Facebook and promotions – you know, tactics. Heck, most marketers do the same thing.

strategy before tactics

photo credit: Ed Yourdon via photopin cc

I’ve been working with business owners for over twenty five years now and I’m here today to once again affirm that none of the tactics matter until you are crystal clear about a handful of things. If you’ve heard me talk at a conference in the last ten years then you’ve heard me say repeatedly – strategy before tactics is the simple road to success.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all about systematically and consistently rolling out tactics, but only those that support a strategy that you can commit to. Once you nail the strategy part you can confidently go to work on strategy with tactics, but you can’t have one before the other.

I will go as far as to say, however, a simple, maybe even common set of tactics in support of a powerful strategy beats a brilliant set of tactics with no real strategy at all most every time.

So, how do you make strategy simple? Answer these three questions and get everyone on your team aligned around the answers.

1) Why do we do what we do?

This is the age old mission question. Until you can get very clear about the one, overarching purpose for your business, things will always seem a bit muddy. When you can grab onto your “why” you have the basis for every decision you make and a thread that can define your brand and a magnet for building a vibrant community around your business.

Ponder this question for a moment as it might help bring some clarity: What is joyful to you about the result your business brings a client? There are many variations on this one, but it might help your get started.

Perhaps the greatest challenge with purpose and mission is that it can’t be faked. You can’t copy it, it simply is what you stand for – so dig deep on this one!

2) Who do we do it for?

The tricky part about this one is that the answer should be as narrow as possible. If you nailed the first answer above, know that some percentage of the world out there won’t be attracted to your why – and that’s okay. Now your job is to go even narrower and start really understanding who you can help, who gets the most value from your unique approach.

Here’s a tip: Look to your most profitable customers that already refer business to you. Find the commonality in this group and you should be able to develop a very narrow ideal customer profile that entails both physical description and ideal behavior.

A secondary element of this answer applies to your staff. Who fits your why, your culture? Who can come to your business with the mindset to serve the mission you’ve so eloquently laid out above?

3) What do we do that’s both unique and remarkable?

The last piece of the puzzle is about what you do. But, it’s not simply about defining what business you are in. That’s important to understand, but more important is to find and communicate how your business is unique in a way that your ideal client finds remarkable. In a way that allows you to stand apart from everyone else that says they are in the same business as you.

This isn’t as simple as it might sound. Most business owners don’t fully understand what their customers truly value. It’s not good service, fair pricing and broad selection. Those fall under the category of expectation and everyone can and usually does claim them. The difference is in the details, the little things you do, the way you do it, how you treat people, how you make your customers feel. It’s in the surprises, the things that exceed their expectations.

Of course, this assumes you provide something that actually is unique and remarkably done, but I’m guessing you do, you just don’t know how magnificent it is and how you should make it the message you lead with.

Here’s my advice: Go talk to your customers, they know what you do that’s unique. Listen carefully and don’t be afraid to embrace the little things you do, that’s where you are different in a way that matters.

Spend time with the process of answering these three questions, get your entire team involved and make it a game. This is the essence of strategy. It doesn’t have to be an academic process, but it is perhaps the most important thing you can do for your business and certainly something you should do before you even consider your next great idea for how to use Pinterest.

Now, say it with me, Strategy Before Tactics!

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John Jantsch

John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and author of Duct Tape Marketing, Duct Tape Selling, The Commitment Engine and The Referral Engine and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.
  • My favorite, which exists between the lines of 2 and 3 is “Why should anyone care?”

    A lot of people are quick to tout the facts and stats about a product while overlooking the reason the potential customer would actually care – benefit to them. It’s not toothpaste, it’s white teeth. It’s not a hybrid car, it’s fewer trips to the gas station. It’s not social media marketing, it’s relating to your customers at scale.

    • I agree Bradley – I’ve actually asked business owners an even more dramatic variation – who would care if your business shut down?

      • That’s my measuring stick for content creation “If your business shut down tomorrow, could/would people still visit your blog and get value out of it?”

  • Mark Dolfini

    I completely agree with this approach. I’ve added a third component to this which incorporates the goal you’re trying to reach. In this line of thinking, it would follow Goal, Strategy, Tactic. Simply, the Goal is where you’re trying to go, the Strategy is the path you take to get there, the Tactic is the vehicle you use on the path you decided upon.

  • Stephen Hauer

    We Never let go of Our Customer.

    We start by Contacting / Talking with every New Customer and
    telling them Thank You for the opportunity to assist them in their Dog’s Itchy
    Allergy Fight.

    From there, the FloodGates Open.

    We hear their Story, offer our Medical / Scientific Point of View to the Solution, Point them to fellow Pet Parents Story ala our Testimonial Page and set up a date to call them 4 weeks into our Protocol to Compare Progress Notes and offer whatever assist they need to move forward.

    Often, by then, Doggy GOO has begun to show progress with
    their Animal’s Itchy Allergy Condition, they are Elated and they are on their
    way to become a GOO Ambassador and Future Testimonial.

    With every Customer Interaction, GOO ( the Company &
    Product ) speaks for Itself… thru the Animal’s Improved Health.. to the Pet
    Parent and the Pet Parent becomes Bonded to GOO as the only product that has Helped Turn Around their Animal’s Itchy Enviro Allergy. …

    And when the Pet Parent’s Animal is Healthy and Happy ..

    The Pet Parent is Happy .

    Now, they can “Be Happy Together” once again.. Thanks to Doggy GOO.

    Be GOO Happy

  • Get a blueprint so you can plan for the best outcome and make the best marketing decisions, instead of shooting from the hip. Like your summary to Mark!