Surviving in times of crisis - Business strategy, tactics always go together

2 December 2012 06:30 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat” - Sun Tzu
Last week, we dealt about the implementation of business strategy. Same day, a reader who was a marketing executive asked me a question which led me to believe he didn’t know the difference between strategy and tactics.

Let us do a little clarification. In simple terms, here’s how it breaks down: First goal, second strategy and third tactics. For example, if we talk about war, the goal is to win the war. Strategy is (maybe) ‘divide and conquer’. And tactics could be gathering intelligence, Navy knocking out enemy communications, paratroopers securing the airports. Armoured divisions racing in and dividing the opposing army’s forces, drone attacks take out the enemy leadership, etc.
As you can now see, a strategy is an idea, a conceptualization of how the goal could be achieved. A tactic is an action you take to execute the strategy.
Let us take a true-to-life experience. The Directors of Karthelis and Company noticed that sales of their popular Kurtha brand baking soda were slipping. The loyal moms and grandmas who had been buying the same baking soda all their lives weren’t baking as much as they used to. The directors sat down, talked things over and settled down for a plan consisting a goal, strategy and tactics to execute a business turnaround operation.
Business goal:  Turn the tide and increase baking soda sales.

Strategy: Devise new reasons for their current customers to pick up that yellow box with Kurtha emblem at the supermarket and use more baking soda. Specifically, sell baking soda as a deodorizer for the fridge. (That’s a big, strategic idea that will lead the Kurtha brand in a completely different direction). Plan marketing a whole line of environmentally-friendly cleaning products under Kurtha brand. (Every Kurtha product (e.g. toothpaste to cat litter), originating with that strategy of finding new ways to use baking soda).
Tactics: TV advertising, magazine advertisements, infomercials and retail promotions, website dedicated to all the various uses of Kurtha brand baking soda. 

In addition, all the traditional marketing tactics were employed.
01. Thorough understanding of the brand’s status and story. Kurtha has a strong heritage that dates back to the 1950s. That yellow box with the red Kurtha logo is instantly recognizable and stands for much more than just generic sodium bicarbonate.
02. A realistic assessment of the product’s strengths and weaknesses. Market research proved that people don’t bake as much as they used to. But it also showed that people use their baking soda for all kinds of things besides baking.
03. A clear picture of the competition. Kurtha has always been the undisputed market leader in the category. However, when they decided to introduce toothpaste and laundry detergent, the competition became fierce. Kurtha’s long-standing leadership position in one vertical market gave them a fighting chance against other brands.
04. Intimate knowledge of the consumer and the market. The shift away from the traditional homemaker directly affected baking soda sales. Kurtha kept up with the trends and even led the charge on environmental issues.

So, the picture is clear. A great strategy does not depend on brilliant tactics for success. If the idea is strong enough, you can get by with mediocre tactical execution. However, even the best tactics can’t compensate for a lousy strategy.
Sometimes you can build a great strategy around a simple, tactical idea- like Dominoes did with their 30-minute delivery guarantee. Someone said, “Hey, what if we guaranteed 30-minute delivery?” and a strategy was born.  They couldn’t compete on product quality, but they could compete on speedy delivery. After that, their entire operation revolved around the promise of 30-minute delivery.
Here are a few examples of tactics that have proven highly effective for any business.
  • Focus on your best prospects
Take some time to analyse your current customers to determine what key traits they share and why those traits make them ideal customers for you. Then revise your sales message to appeal specifically to them.
  • Pile on the benefits
Customers usually buy something to save time or to save money. Structure your sales message to stress both the time saving and money saving benefits of your product or service. Then include a discount price offer if they buy before a certain deadline (more money saved). Finally, figure out how you can deliver all or some of what they are buying immediately (more time saved).
  • Follow up - again and again
Selling is not a one step process. Most people do not buy something the first time they see or hear about it. You can salvage many of these potential customers with an effective follow up system. Your follow up can be as simple as contacting these prospects periodically with a new offer. Or, better yet, follow up periodically with some useful information and don’t charge them for it.

Setting up
Remember, your tactics should focus your marketing on the five market factors that address the needs and wants of your customers: Product, price, promotion, place and people. Good marketing tactics will address all five of these factors in a campaign. Some experts recommend that you also consider other factors, including the packaging of your product, the efficiency of your processes and the quality of presentation of your service or product (i.e. the cleanliness and friendliness of your shop-front).

Write an action plan
Your action plan contains any actions you need to perform to implement your marketing strategy. List the specific steps involved in delivering each tactic. Be as detailed as you can, supporting your steps with clear timeframes, supplier details and other issues or requirements.
For example:
  • Try to match your staff’s roles with their interests and abilities and look for opportunities to develop their skills. Take care to ensure your budget can support your tactics. Marketing costs can escalate rapidly. Get quotes on all elements of the work you propose and identify a detailed budget to support your marketing activities.
  • Book advertorial in industry trade magazine based on website copy.
  • Create a daily roster for Facebook updates on product profiles. Updates required twice weekly.
  • Commission a copywriter for the product brochures, displays and new website. Use five key messages defined in the product profile. Commission design and production of three pull-up displays, brochures, fliers. Needs to be consistent with corporate identity, select new provider.
  • Action    timeframe and responsible team member and issues to note.
  • Update website product profile pages and home pages. Need to restructure site-navigation to link profiles directly from home page.
  • Book three advertisements in the newspaper. Four-colour ads will also be used for industry magazines next month.
  • List resources and monitor your budget. Identify the resources you will need to implement your marketing tactics. Your staff is vital to your marketing success. Involve them in your action planning and use your discussions about your marketing tactics to motivate your staff.
  • Outline how you will evaluate your tactics. Set goals and benchmarks so you will be able to easily identify how well your marketing tactics had worked and what needs to change. Reviewing your product sales against your sales targets and forecasts is a good place to start. Consider what you will measure (e.g. customer responses to a brochure mail-out, the number of leads you generate from an event) and describe how you’ll evaluate your marketing activities (e.g. you need to reach a target increase in premium product sales of 10% through your marketing activities). That is it! If you are the Marketing Manager of Karthelis and Company, you can be happy that you have done a good piece of work.

(The writer is a corporate director with over 25 years’ senior managerial experience. He can be contacted at

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