Entrepreneurs without formal business training often begin their startup at a distinct disadvantage to their competition. With lots of practical business experience, they’ve made a long list of all the things they need to do to make their startup vision become a smashing success. They may indeed have all the ingredients to make for themselves a profitable go of it, but may not be able to tell the difference between business strategy and tactics. The difference is important when setting priorities for an effective entrepreneurial action plan.
The difference between the two can be illustrated through the metaphor of planning a road trip. Your goal is to get from San Francisco, 750 miles east to Salt Lake City. So you pull out a map. You have a choice of three routes: Highway I80, the fastest but most dreary route, US50, the scenic route through Yosemite or I5, the fun but slow route to LA, then I15 through Las Vegas and north to SLC. Choosing the route and drawing it out on the map is the strategy. You ask yourself, “Do I need to get there as fast as possible or do I want to enjoy myself along the way?” Those choices are strategic because they look at the big picture, without concern for the details. Once the route is chosen, you begin considering what is the best way to get yourself to your destination. Travel details, e.g. type of car to take, driving speed, checking tire air pressure, stops along the way, choice of music, snacks, grade of gasoline, driving partner are all tactics to help get you to your destination.
Applying the road trip metaphor to a business, consider the concept of Content Marketing. It’s the act of creating content, like this blog post, or an anecdote in an email to your customer, or a graphic on your web site or a post to your company Facebook Page. The decision to use content marketing in your business to achieve a goal, like generating awareness of your company or to drive trial of your product is a strategic one. Which vehicle you choose to use, e.g. social media, blogging, infomercials, newsletters, etc. are tactics that you use to get you to your goal most effectively.