In another Foundation episode, Dom talks about Vision, Strategy and Tactics. He gives clear definitions for these popular (but often misunderstood) terms, explains how they fit into your business, and talks about the possible pitfalls of each one.
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Vision, Strategy and Tactics
Dom Goucher: Hi, and welcome to this week’s episode of PreneurCast with me, Dom Goucher. This is going to be another Foundation episode. Now, there’s been a few of these lately, and I’d like to just point out one of the reasons why that is. Pete and I have been working with our Platinum group this month to reflect with them on what we’re doing in our business.
And what we’re doing in our business is planning for 2014. It’s November 2013, and we’re already planning for 2014. That’s because it’s going to take some thinking through. You’ve got to do this with giving yourself enough time to put things in place and be ready to go.
January is not a good time to be starting to plan the next year, the year ahead. You want to be ready in January to go. Pete and I also like to take it easy in December. It’s one of the things that we afford ourselves that luxury, because of the way that we set things up.
November is an ideal time to discuss in a relaxed manner what we’re going to do. So I’m trying to encourage you to do that too, by giving you these Foundation episodes, the big thinking, making you stand back and think about what it is you do and who it is you do it for.
The last two Foundations I did recently were exactly that, were What Do You Do? and Who Are Your Customers?. Now this is another episode in that vein. This week, I’m going to warn you, this is a pretty big thinking episode. I’m not going to do any big thinking, but hopefully it’s going to make you think a bit bigger.
The last two episodes are just what I feel were things that you needed to think about and be aware of, just in the way that you deal with your day to day stuff. But this one is a planning and forward-looking episode, so there’s some big thinking involved.
The title of the episode, the thing that I want to talk about is vision, strategy and tactics. Now vision, strategy and tactics are words you might hear. You may have heard them depending on where you work, who you work for, the kind of people you hang around.
You might hear these words a lot, or you might not hear them at all. If you do hear them, you might have your own interpretation. Certainly when people start talking about corporate vision, you start thinking that it’s going to be a bit boring and silly, and all the rest of that. Strategy and tactics, those words do get mixed up or messed about.
I just want to put forward our view of vision, strategy, tactics — what they mean, why you should use them, why you should think about them, and why they are different/distinct, and some really important distinctions about how you should deal with them, treat them, handle them, manage them.
So let’s start, first of all, with a dictionary definition of those three words — vision, strategy, tactics. Vision, a dictionary definition — there are lots of them. But a dictionary definition is, “The ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom.” Okay, that’s a dictionary definition of vision.
So it’s thinking big. It’s having a plan. It has to do with the future. It’s seeing where you’re going. Now if you’ve done any kind of planning, any kind of goal setting, you know that having a goal, having something you can visualize, having an idea of where you want to be, say in 12 months’ time, gives you so much info.
If you don’t have that however, and a lot of people really don’t have a clear idea of where they want to be in 12 months, then well you’re probably not going to get there. It’s that simple. It sounds really simple. And in fact, I could stop here. I could stop here and say, “Everybody, go and work out where you want to be in 12 months.”
Write it down somewhere and make sure you can see it and look at it every day. Pete and I say this regularly. Is whatever it is that you’re doing right now going to get you there? Is it heading in that direction? If not, don’t do it. There you go. Okay folks, there you go.
Go home. Knock off, stop listening, because that is probably the most valuable thing you can do. And I’ll come back to each of these words and we’ll talk about how you can use them. But vision is that thing, the idea of what it is you want to achieve.
And I’ll put this thing in a specific context because a lot of people don’t do that either. A lot of people don’t put these things in specific context. So I will come back to these words and give you some specific concrete examples to get you moving with these.
Next dictionary definition, strategy. Strategy can be defined as, “A plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim.” So the strategy is your plan to get to your vision. Straightforward, hey? There you go. Now strategy and tactics very often get mixed up, because the dictionary definition for tactic is, “An action or strategy carefully planned to achieve a specific end.”
Now that doesn’t clearly differentiate itself from a strategy, except for strategy says, “long-term or overall,” and tactic says, “specific”. What you need to think about these — the strategy is the big picture plan of the big steps that you’re going to take.
Tactic is the actual message you’re going to use to get along that path — each step, each major milestone, each little goal along the path, along the strategy, and to the vision. Again, could’ve just said any words there, wouldn’t mean anything. You’ve probably heard this a hundred times and you go, “That’s nice.”
Yes, I need a vision. Yes, I need a strategy. Yes, I need to pick my tactics. Oh look, somebody just messaged me on Facebook, never mind. So I’m going to give you some concrete examples, something you can actually do in your business. Come up with these for you, picture them in your mind.
Be clear and be clear of the pitfalls as well, because you will hear Pete and I talk about the pitfalls of focusing on tactics. But I want to step back and give you a solid understanding of vision, strategy and tactics so you can internalize that problem of focusing on tactics. So let’s get back to this with concrete examples.
One way of thinking about the vision for your business is what is the fundamental part of your business? What are the fundamentals of your business? What do you do? Hang on a minute, I’ve already done an episode on What Do You Do?, that’s the fundamental Foundation episode. Maybe you should go listen to that.
We have talked about this stuff. But an even better way to think about it, because it is, what do you do, and who do you do it for? So the two previous Foundation episodes are What Do You Do? and Who Are Your Customers?. But your vision can be expressed in the terms of what do you do and who do you do it for?
In fact, if you remember, a while ago I mentioned a book Built to Sell by John Warrillow. And in that book he gives you a pattern for an elevator pitch, which is roughly speaking, ‘I do this for these people.’ That can be your vision. There’s nothing wrong with that. I am going to do this for these people.
Alright, just the broad strokes of what you’ll do, what you’re going to do, what is your business. I am a heating engineer that services domestic clients. I specialize in repairing boilers. There you go, that is your vision. That’s what you’re going to focus on for the next year. You could be, I am a small-business consultant.
I help people get their businesses online and market their businesses online. There you go. I am a specialist trainer in this particular kind of software, and I train people through the use of video tutorials online. That’s another example. That’s your vision.
‘I’m going to do this,’ is a true vision. It’s your long-term goal. But basically, think of that. That’s your vision. That’s the overall business. That’s the description of the business. When somebody comes to you, please don’t upset Pete and say I’m in internet marketing. That’s not a vision. That’s hopeless. That’s not a business.
It’s not anything. Be as specific as you can be. You may market a product or service using the internet. You may market your business using the internet, whatever. But what is a business. Maybe you do market affiliate products using online. You sell products for affiliate payment online, whatever it is, but be specific.
And it’s important because your vision will inform your strategy — how you do it. That’s your vision. You can see your vision as kind of your elevator pitch, maybe if you’re looking to improve your business or change your business, and your vision is your elevator pitch of where you want to be.
And you could even think of it as if you’re going to a consultant — if you’re going to bring a mentor on board or a consultant on board. And you know Pete and I recommend this and we’ve talked about this in a previous episode as well. If you’re going to do that, the first thing the mentor or consultant is going to say to you is, how can I help?
Unless you bring on like a business analyst, and somebody spends time asking you questions and investigating and looking for opportunities of growth, the easiest way to get a result in your business is be able to say to somebody, this is what I want to do. I want to do this.
But, initially you need that vision. And I’ll come back to why when I talk about strategy and tactics, but it all starts with the vision. Either what your business does or what you want it to do, where you want it to be. So sort that out. That’s your broad strokes — your elevator pitch.
The next step in this model is the strategy. And the strategy is the broad strokes of how you think you’re going to run the business. And you can include in that what you believe to be your major lead generation method, or your major lead generation platform. Let me put it that way, major lead generation platform.
So are you going to be marketing the service online? Are you going to be using offline marketing? When we talk about 7 Levers [of Business], we talk about the fact that different traffic sources can be different funnels. So you may need to define those more or less.
But in general, most people will say I might primarily market online, or I’ll primarily market offline, or whatever. And how you handle customers could be part of your vision as well, the overall idea for the business. So as we say again in 7 Levers, what is your opt-in, what is your conversion?
You can put all this, all this is worth making a note of, but it’s not the initial thing you say to people — hey, I do this in this way. But in your own head, sit down and think it through. Maybe use 7 Levers to get this information down. This is what I use, this is my conversion strategy. Maybe I take phone calls, or I send out quotations.
I turn up and do on-site surveys. I have an initial consultancy with my clients for free — whatever it is. And then what the actual product is, what you’re going to give them — boiler servicing, new heating system installment, business consultant, business improvement consultancy, online marketing consultancy, or delivering from physical product delivery.
Those are all part of what your strategy is. Now notice with this, I have been very careful. I have not mentioned anything specific. I have not mentioned a specific way of doing something, because specifics are not strategy. Strategy is the overall path, again, still at the broad strokes level of how you’re going to achieve your vision.
So I’m going to grow my business this year by investing in a new traffic source of online traffic. Or, I’m going to grow my business this year by investing in a new traffic source of offline traffic. That’s about as specific as a strategy needs to be. Anything more detailed than a strategy is a tactic, and I’m coming to tactics in a minute.
So again, it’s breaking down — the broad strokes of strategy are things like the major areas of your business, at least looking at the top level of the 7 Levers. You can look at the top level of 7 Levers as, where you’re going to get the leads or the traffic from, how are you going to convert those people, and what are you going to give them? What value are you going to deliver to them?
You can think about your strategy in that way. And again, just like what we tell you in the 7 Levers to break things down, it helps you to be able to focus to start with on one channel, one funnel. If you are going to invest in online marketing, then you’re going to possibly convert them, or you’re definitely going to, in some way, get them to opt in.
Probably with a website. But you might not. You might market online, promote online, but the goal is to get them to call a phone number. And so you’re converting people by speaking to them, or getting your call center to speak to them, or your reception staff, or whatever it might be.
Similarly, the thing you deliver that is of value is a big chunk of stuff and it could be physical product, it could be digital product, it could be service, it could be manual labor service or a consulting service, professional services. Those things. But again, this model is not specific to any kind of business.
It applies to every kind of business, and everybody can write something under each of these headings. The last thing that we’re looking at is tactics. And it’s tactics that usually will stuff you up. It’s tactics that cause the most problems, in our opinion. And that’s because people get bogged down in tactics.
They also get distracted by tactics. They panic because they can’t implement tactics. But with a strong vision and strong strategy, really, tactics are just transient things. Things to try, and if they don’t work for you or you can’t do it, well, don’t do it.
But tactics are what most people will try and sell you. Tactics are things like, from a strategy point of view, you need leads. You need to generate traffic. So the tactics for those might be using Google AdWords, using Facebook ads, using the Yellow Pages.
They’re all traffic or lead-generation tactics. Direct mail is a tactic. A more specific tactic is sending out full-color printed customized postcards, that’s a tactic. Now the problem with tactics is that they can be very, very industry-specific, customer base-specific, demographic-specific, niche-specific. They can be so everything specific.
Unless the person telling you that it works is in your business, in your industry, talking to your customers, with your product base, etc., then you’re never going to know if it’s going to work, which is where a lot of the problem with tactics come from. You try and implement a tactic, because somebody says it’s working. This works, this works. And people do it all the time. You’ll hear it.
This works, I got this amazing conversion. I did this great thing and it’s easy. The trouble starts there. Going back to what do you do and who are your customers, ‘what do you do,’ looking at it internally, will inform the vision and the strategy. But ‘who are your customers’ will inform a lot of your tactics.
And it’s, again, one of those things that we talked again about frameworks in an earlier episode. Frameworks are important for evaluating tactics. Is this tactic going to get me the result I want against my strategy for my customers? And we talked about different frameworks for evaluating the tactics.
Examples of tactics — I’ve already given you some for leads or traffic generation. You might choose AdWords, Facebook ads, Yellow Pages. They’re all leads. You could run radio adverts. You could run print adverts. They are all lead-generation tactics, which may or may not work in your industry.
But just, again I will remind you because you will hear this time and time again: “This is working like gangbusters. I get thousands of visitors.” It doesn’t really matter unless you evaluate it in the right context. That’s why we say tactics are dangerous, and tactics are distracting.
Tactics are the shiny, shiny. Tactics are the silver bullet, of which there is not a silver bullet. No one silver bullet exists. There might be a silver bullet in your industry, if you’re client-based. I’m going to just stop on that point. More examples, more real-world stuff that you can apply.
In conversion, tactics for conversion — in the online world, everybody has been saying for the last two years at an increasing pace, video converts. Okay, video converts in a particular context. And yes it does. If you are in the right business, doing the right kind of thing, it converts. And in fact, you know what?
It’s quite a broad range of businesses, and niches, and markets, and customer bases that video will convert for. But I can tell you that there are also a lot of markets and customer bases where video is a waste of time. It doesn’t work. And there are also certain kinds of video that are more effective than others.
And again, that is not an across-the-board thing. Similarly, what we call a long-form sales letter on a website, which you may have seen if you’ve ever tried to buy anything from anybody. Before video became popular, you tended to have to go to these websites with one page which is really, really long.
And then after the really, really long bit, right down the bottom, possibly after reading some more testimonials and some other stuff, maybe there’s a button that says you can buy something. And if you’re lucky, it even tells you the price before you click the button.
Now, depending on who you are, your perspective on the world and other things, they are either annoying or they’re okay. And you don’t know for your customer base until you try it. It’s a tactic, and historically by the way, they worked. So many people had them because they worked.
That’s what you will find in the world is, if a lot of people are doing it in business, it probably works. And the bigger the company and the more money they are spending on doing it, the more it’s quite probable that it works for them. But be aware it’s in a context, in a perspective with the certain group of clients.
Know your client so that you know which one is going to work. But going to not an online service, or not an online business, maybe you need to talk to people, maybe people need to talk to you. It’s a consultative sale. So maybe you take telephone calls and that’s the tactic.
Some people will read a list of bullet points on a website, click one and hand money over. Don’t need to talk to anybody. But I’m sure that somebody who’s trying to tell you that consulting calls work, will tell you that consulting calls convert better than long-form sales letters, short order forms, video and all the rest of that.
And in a certain a set of parameters, it does. But know your clients, choose your tactics. But those three, video, long-form sales letter, consulting calls they are all conversion tactics. No one will definitely work, no one will definitely not work. And finally, for an example of value delivery, the kind of thing you can deliver.
It doesn’t matter what business you’re in. You can deliver value in an infinite number of ways. But pick one. In each one of these layers, lead or traffic generation, the conversion engine and the value delivery, Pete and I see so many people go through the same process, which is to just try everything all at once.
So for example, in delivery, you could, from an information point of view, produce an eBook. That’s popular right now. Okay, everybody’s having success producing eBooks and selling eBooks, fine. But also, people are having success with membership sites.
This is still in the online world — people are having success with what we call drop shipping. It’s where you take the order, but another company ships the goods. Takes the money, ships the goods, pays you the difference. That’s working for some people.
In the real-world physical services, as well as just turning up and delivering the service (which is one way of doing it, and a lot of people do it), you also have the option of subcontracting. And subcontracting is popular in certain sectors in the real world, in physical businesses.
Again, the delivery might be a consulting session. It may even be a face-to-face consulting session. It may be a telephone based consulting session. It may even only be e-mail-based. I know some very highly paid consultants and all they do is exchange e-mails with their clients, and never physically speak to them.
It’s totally asynchronous. Every one of those is a delivery tactic. Not just a delivery medium, but a delivery tactic with its plusses and minuses in your world. So that is a real world and some concrete examples of where a vision, a strategy and a tactic are absolutely distinctly different.
And each one of them is important in your business. It’s important to think it through. It’s important to have thought about them and be aware of them. But the one that causes the most problems in our mind is the tactics, because that is the one that offers you so many options.
And so many people are trying to sell you the new option and the shiny option, and there’s so much distraction. As far as your vision is concerned, that’s up to you. You need to sit down, you and the other people in your business or your partner or whoever it might be.
Sit down, beverage of your choice, and work out this time next year where do you want to be. That’s it. That’s vision. Off you go, and how you’re going to express that. And if you say I want to be from here to there. I need help, then be able to express where your issues are. There you go. There’s your vision.
Strategy, either you or with a help of a consultant, a coach, a mentor, you come up with the broad strokes of how you’re going to do that. So if it’s a new business, then probably it’s from the ground up where you’re going to start by doing this for these people in this way.
“We’re going to deliver this product on this mechanism. We’re going to get our traffic from here, or leads.” But when it comes to the tactics, the best advise we can give is pick one. By all means, take advice. Take input from people. Look for people with experience in your field.
But pick one intelligently by knowing who your customers are, where they go, where they look for information in terms of lead generation and things like that. You need to look at that. Older people are more likely to be looking in the Yellow Pages than online.
Certain groups of people are more likely to be on Facebook than on Google, and more likely to trust something they see on Facebook than they are on Google. Don’t use Twitter if nobody in your marketplace is even using Twitter. What is the point?
Whatever anybody tells you is working right now, evaluate it in your own framework, in your own context. And stick with something. Try it. Give it a chance. But don’t duff yourself up because you can’t do it. Don’t bring your business into the ground spending money on a tactic.
And this, I think, is probably the best place to close. Spend your time and your effort working out what your vision is. Spend your time and your effort working out what your strategy will be, and look for help with those two first. But do not run yourself into the ground, cause excessive depression, or bankrupt yourself trying to implement a tactic, because it’s just one option.
Google AdWords is one source of online traffic. Facebook ads is another. One might work for you, one might not. Yellow Pages is still valid as a source of traffic. So is sending out mail shots, advertising in local newspapers and trade magazines. All these, there are so many options that if you can’t do one, or one isn’t working, drop it.
But don’t spend everything you’ve got and all your time and effort trying to implement a tactic. Please don’t do that, okay? That’s really important. Hopefully, that has given you some clarity now on vision, strategy and tactics. We are, as I said, close to the end of the year.
Now is a great time to start thinking at least about your vision, and potentially about your strategy; and if you haven’t got either of these for help, looking for somebody to talk to, whether it’s a mentoring group (as we talked about before) or an actual coach, or consultant, or mentor to work with.
And maybe one to work with over the year to implement your strategy, come up with it, and implement it. Maybe they can advice you on tactics and help you evaluate those tactics. But don’t start 2014 without at least a vision and an idea of your strategy. Because one thing Pete and I don’t want you to do is be here next year.
Where we want you to be is, next year we want you to be where you want to be. We want you to decide where that is, and we want to be there, be here with you. Give you the best advice we can give you, work with you and get you where you want to be. So as soon as you work out where that is, you can start taking the first steps.
Thanks, everybody, for listening. Again, this was a foundation episode. Normal programming will resume soon. Do let us know in the feedback either on iTunes or on PreneurMarketing.com. Give us a comment below the blog post for this episode, or in iTunes as I say.
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