TOP TIPS FOR CHANGEMAKERS #15
OBJECTIVES, STRATEGY AND TACTICS
Can you define strategy?
Well don’t worry, you’re not alone. Based on my very scientific poll and some extremely rigorous research*, I estimate that approximately 90% of entrepreneurs can’t define strategy. In this blog I am going to clear up the confusion and hopefully give you a useful framework to think about strategy for your business and your communications.
A common mistake is to use the words ‘objectives’ ‘strategy’ and ‘tactics’ interchangeably.
I am a words geek – so using the right word, in the right context, is important to me. Even more important though – if you’re developing your tactics without a clear strategy, you are likely to be ENTIRELY WASTING YOUR TIME.
Let me give you an example.
You’re an accountant.
You know that you want to grow your business – that’s your objective.
You start drafting press releases and sending them out to journalists. You get a couple of articles in, let’s say, Accountancy Age.
Six months later, your business still isn’t growing.
You’re deeply irritated and decide that PR is a complete waste of time.
Is PR a waste of time?
But if you jump straight to tactics then you haven’t done the work to establish if a PR focussed strategy is the right approach for your business. You probably also don’t know what media you should be targeting (clue: not Accountancy Age unless your clients are accountants) or what kinds of stories to be developing.
The fact that you’ve not achieved your objective is not because PR doesn’t work. It’s because you don’t have an actual strategy to grow your business.
OK. So we’re all agreed strategy is important right? So let’s get on with defining it.
We’ll start with objectives.
Your objectives should reflect your PRIORITIES within your business. These are objectives:
- Expand the business into the US market.
- Increasing your turnover by 35%
- Increasing brand awareness
- Improving customer retention
- Increasing average customer spend
Let’s be clear: getting on the front page of The Guardian is NOT an objective. It’s a tactic. Well, if we’re going to be pedantic about it, it’s actually an outcome but for the purposes of today it’s just important to understand that it’s not an objective.
Objectives are the WHY. As in: ‘Why are you putting together a communications strategy?’ – ‘Because I want to expand the business into the US market.’
Once you’ve established your objectives, then you develop your strategy. How? Well, there are several things you need to get clear on and this will take some work – which is probably why so many people don’t do it. The most important is PEOPLE. You need to get really clear on your ideal customers – and who influences them – so you know who you need to reach and importantly, how to reach them.
That article in Accountancy Age is no use to you if your clients are all reading Plumbers Weekly.
Next, you need to understand your own and your organisation’s strengths and weaknesses. For example, if you loathe public speaking and are no good at it – that is going to inform the choices you make about your strategy.
You’ll also need to take a look at your marketplace. Where are the opportunities and where are the threats in your sector?
Ultimately, strategy is the HOW. It’s how you are going to leverage your strengths and opportunities to overcome your weaknesses and threats in order to achieve your objectives. For example, based on your research and analysis, you might decide that the best way to pursue your objective of American expansion is by leveraging your unique intellectual property (eg: the process you’ve developed or system you’ve created) and developing a thought leadership strategy.
NOW you get to play. Now you get to decide what specific tactics and actions you’ll be taking to deliver that strategy and achieve your objectives. Writing press releases; approaching event organisers to offer yourself up as a speaker; reaching out to speak on podcasts…these are all tactics. These are the WHAT.
There we go. Objectives. Strategy. Tactics. Why. How. What.
Let me give you one more analogy. This was shared with me by a guy in a bar. We’d just been to a training course on PR strategy and on the way to the bar had been talking about how we would explain the difference between objectives, strategy and tactics.
Halfway through the evening, this guy – by now a little the ‘worse for wear’ – comes bumbling over to me and says:
‘I’ve GOT IT! The best way to explain objectives, strategy and tactics…are you ready?’
My breath was truly baited at this point! He went on…
‘My objective is to sleep with you. My strategy is to get you drunk. My tactics are to buy you doubles all evening and initiate drinking games.’
Well, dear Reader, he left the bar that night alone. And very, very drunk. Having learnt two more valuable lessons.
1. Always make sure your strategy is based on sound research.
2. Never play drinking games with a former publican’s daughter.
Let’s ACTUALLY make a difference.
*Survey and research conducted between 23 June and 25 June 2020…by me asking my mates!
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