Ruth hired a marketing consultant who drafted dazzling website copy. However, the consultant's hard-sell approach did not work for Ruth's target market. Ruth could not promise her readers would "make money fast" or "get a job next week."
Ivan hired a web designer for his new service business. Although the website could have won awards for design and the copy was clear and well-written, Ivan soon realized he was viewed as offering a me-too product to a crowded market.
Both Ruth and Ivan made the same mistake. They focused on tactics before they had a strategy.
Strategy is about developing a long-term sustainable competitive advantage. Tactics are actions to implement the strategy. Strategy is about what to do. Tactics are about how to do it right. Success means knowing the difference.
When you draw up your marketing plan, your strategy might be, "Create a market position as a trusted, reliable resource for working mothers."
Tactics include designing a website that communicates trustworthiness, branding, choosing targeted articles for an ezine, and placing selected classified ads.
Creative business owners develop their own strategy, often by instinct. Successful entrepreneurs can sense an unmet need in a definable target segment and they are highly motivated to fill that need.
"That segment is hungry! Nobody is bringing them food! I can do it now!"
A business-oriented coach can serve as a sounding board as you plan your strategy. You may seek support to evaluate the market before you stake a claim.
When you buy a franchise, you buy someone else's strategy -- and you have to find your own enthusiasm to make it work. A consultant may suggest a strategy for you but you must catch fire from the idea and make it your own.
Many marketing coaches and consultants offer tactical support, such as creating advertising copy and helping you design your ezine. Others help you stay motivated through the lonely, frustrating, mundane steps of setting up your business.
Once you have a strategy, you can make very good use of tactics and tactical consulting. Otherwise you end up with dazzling copy for a product nobody wants or a brand that leaves buyers cold.
You can use tactics to test your gut feeling that "Those folks in Newcastle really want coal" or, "I bet I could sell ice to the Eskimos." Setting up a temporary, low-cost website can yield valuable information about your target market and how they buy.
Entering a crowded market? Your can explore your ability to stand out in the crowd.
Newly solo in business? Test your motivation.
Bottom line: Tactics serve your strategy, and strategy serves your vision. Focusing on tactics is like driving carefully without a road map. You need a destination and a strong motive to get there. Then, and only then, you can decide which highway to take and whether you have time to schedule a detour.
Cathy Goodwin, PhD, is an author, career consultant and speaker, who combines solid expertise with humor, commonsense and intuition. Visit her at http://www.makewritingpay.com or for more info, e-mail Cathy at firstname.lastname@example.org.