The Difference Between Strategy And Tactics And Why You Need To Know

Imagine your business mission and vision as a mountain in the distance.
Your strategy is the route map—the path you choose that’s going to take you to that mountain.
Tactics are the steps you take on the journey to advance your way along that chosen path towards the mountain—thus realising your vision.

MISSION AND VISION—Where you’re going and why.
STRATEGY—How you’re going to get there.
TACTICS—What you do along the way.

Let’s say your mission and vision is to create a cafe that builds a sense of community, one that becomes ‘a third place’ between work and home, inspiring and nurturing the human spirit.

The strategy is to open beautifully designed cafes that support this vision—serving great coffee in strategic neighbourhood locations. (You may not know in the beginning that this will eventually become 15,000 stores in 50 countries).

The tactics are many and varied. You need to source the best coffee beans, install comfortable seating and provide world-class training programs for your staff, in order to deliver the best customer experience.

When it comes to business we spend a lot of our time working on the tactics.
We agonise for weeks over perfect taglines, choosing logo designs and installing fixtures, often without fully understanding if and how those tactics (the things we spend most of our time doing), are helping us to get where we want to go.

You can’t start buying the ergonomic chairs until you know why you need them.

Image by David Nutter.

What Are Your Competitors Failing To Do?

Like many new mothers Jessica Alba wanted to buy non-toxic baby products, they were incredibly difficult to find information about and source, this inspired her to found The Honest Company.

Dave Gilboa lost a $700 pair of glasses and couldn’t afford to replace them, his experience was the seed of an idea that became Warby Parker.

Sarah’s partner wanted to send her flowers more often, but they were too expensive, they decided that he wasn’t the only one and started the fastest growing online florist in Australia.

Nick Woodman longed to take great action photos while he was surfing. There was no camera that allowed him to do it, so he invented one.

What if your biggest opportunity isn’t to be better than the competition, but instead to fill the void the competition hasn’t yet noticed or doesn’t care to fill? What are they missing?

Image by David Marcu.

What Marketing Is Not: 5 Common Misconceptions

When we think and talk about, teach and practice marketing we are often working on the assumption that marketing is one or all of the following:

1. How we make people want things.
2. Tactics, communications or activities designed to get people do what we want them to do.
3. The way we sell something.
4. What we tell people about our products.
5. A way to find customers.

The essence of marketing is understanding the problem to solve, so that we can create something people want, in order to earn the privilege to serve them. Rinse and repeat.

Image by Jeff Sheldon.

The Marketing Disconnect

Potential customers have unlimited choices and are in no rush to make a decision. You on the other hand, need customers to choose your product or service, and to do it in the quickest time frame possible.

It would be easy to believe that because you need more people to choose your product today, you should broaden your appeal by diluting your marketing messages to attract the most people. And yet time and again we see the businesses that succeed, do exactly the opposite. They take time, narrow their focus, value relevance over quick wins and work hardest of all to understand the problem they solve and for whom.

Sustainable businesses are not built in a hurry around quick fixes.
Marketing cannot be an emergency measure.
You’ve got to allow yourself the time and space to do it right.

Image from Unsplash.

Five Brand Storytelling Lessons From Jamie Oliver

Who could forget how Jamie Oliver burst onto our screens in the UK almost twenty years ago? While most celebrity chefs of the day adopted the posture of the hero, showing us how to follow their rules to the letter, Jamie made aspirational cooks around the world the hero of the story by making cooking accessible.

And he’s still doing it today.…

“Comfort food has the power to make you feel safe, secure, fulfilled, excited, loved and even a bit giddy! True comfort food can wrap its arms around you and give you a great big hug, or can tickle you pink and make you laugh. It can be about the seasons, your childhood memories, your school food, the trips your grandparents took you on, your first takeaway, your first date—it’s all about what a particular dish means to you.“
—From Jamie’s Comfort Food

5 brand storytelling lessons from Jamie Oliver

1. Make the customer the hero.
2. Be authentic.
3. Help people to do things they want to do (address rational needs).
4. Help people to feel things they want to feel (fulfil emotional wants).
5. Trust is your greatest asset.

We win by obsessing about how to make our customers win.
Giving a damn is still seriously underrated.

Image by Scandic Hotels.

Social Media: Just Because You Can, Does It Mean You Should?

To anyone who has ever paid for advertising social media seems like a marketers dream.

As entrepreneurs and business leaders who want to attract more customers, it’s tempting to buy into the hype that social media is the answer to our lead generation problems. Now that we can access an audience in digital captivity, why not simply employ some marketing tactics and see what happens? No more waiting for potential customers to open the door or pick up the phone. Most of the doors are left unlocked in digital land and the lines of communication are open 24/7.

A tweet is as good as a flyer, only cheaper. A Facebook post can reach thousands in a fraction of the time it takes to make a single call. It costs far less to play, so why wouldn’t you?

I recently spoke to a prospective client who has built a thriving service business one satisfied customer at a time. Now that she is looking to scale, social media seems like the easiest and obvious place to start. She consulted with a company who advised her that they could grow her Twitter following, then channel those people to her website, providing her with instant leads and future clients.

Thinking that this might be the way to grow a sustainable business proves that we’ve taken a wrong turn—believing that social is the new way to do old marketing.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. You must be prepared to invest time to connect meaningfully with your customers (both existing and potential) whatever the channel; to help before asking, listen before selling and understand before pitching.

Just because they can hear you doesn’t mean they’re listening.

Image by Merlijn Hoek.

The First Rule For Making A Better Product

Do you remember a time when you went to dinner at that restaurant everyone was talking about? You probably booked the table days, if not weeks in advance and told friends how excited you were about going. When you arrived the staff were polite, you got a good table and the meal was well cooked. But all in all the experience didn’t blow you away and you left feeling a little disappointed. There was nothing inherently wrong with the product—it just hadn’t lived up to your expectations.

In business, we succeed when the experience of using our product or service matches our customer’s expectation of it. How the customer expects the product to work and how he expects to feel when he uses it, is more important than what the product does or doesn’t do (which is why Apple’s job gets harder and harder with every new product release).

We design better products and services by understanding what customers expect and how they want to experience them.

The first rule for making a better product is to think feelings before features.

Image by Santi MB

The Reasons People Buy From You


“People tell us who they are, but we ignore it because we want them to be who we want them to be.“
—Donald Draper,
‘The Summer Man,’ Mad Men, season 4

Our customer’s motivations have two things in common—they are surprisingly few and they are also universal. What’s driving your customer to buy your product or service?

Does she want to…?

Solve a problem.
Fulfil a need.
Satisfy a desire.
Change how she feels.
Change how someone else feels.
Reinforce her beliefs.
Have a story to tell.

Understanding the story the customer tells herself helps you to tell a true story she can believe in.

Image by MG.Stanton.

No Big Pitch Required

It was nudging 6pm and Kelly was the last customer at the salon on a cold and dark winter evening. As she pulled out her credit card at the point of sale she noticed a discreet, but pretty display of ‘non toxic’ lipsticks and commented on the gorgeous colours. The therapist showed her the colour she herself was wearing and recounted that the lipsticks were safe enough to eat. Kelly immediately chose one and handed it over with her card without asking the price. “I love this and it’s good for me too.” she said. Her total went from $30 to $66 in an instant and she left the salon happy.

It’s tempting to interpret exactly how our products fit into our customer’s story—to try draw them in with a pitch or special offer that appeals to most people. Spelling it out with fluorescent ‘introductory offer’ stickers feels safer than saying nothing at all. But often the best thing to do is to allow the customer to make her own interpretation about how your product aligns with her worldview. Kelly didn’t need to hear a story about value that evening, what she needed was to believe a story about self-care. The discreet display allowed space for that. No big pitch required.

The best sales people in the world know when to stay quiet and allow the customer to fall in love with the product, without giving her a list of reasons why they think she should.

Image by Valentia Mabilia.

Is Brand Storytelling Dead?

When Shaun sent through a link to an article declaring ‘storytelling dead’ and asked me to comment, I wasn’t at all surprised to read what followed. The piece suggested that because attention spans are shrinking your customers don’t have time to pay attention to your story.

Here’s a snippet of the rationale that followed:

”…it’s time to stop pinning our marketing and communications strategies around storytelling. Stories take time, and time is our greatest luxury. If most consumers can’t afford the luxury of diving deep into your brand story, is a long-winded narrative about heritage and craftsmanship the right strategy? Of course not. While it ostensibly makes sense to bulk up credibility with character counts, it doesn’t make your audience’s life easier—and at the end of the day, isn’t that we all want?

One final nail in the coffin for storytelling: It can be downright dangerous for your brand. We live in the era of transparency and access, so it’s easier than ever for consumers to sniff out inauthentic back stories and eyebrow-raising claims.”

The author makes a case for a simpler form of marketing, that leaves room from the customer to figure things out for themselves.…“No text, no tagline, no storytelling required.”

The article makes two assumptions:

1. Brand stories are long-winded narratives—words that are written, read or spoken.

2. Brand stories are fabrications, false claims or half truths designed to embellish the banal or dupe customers.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you already understand that a brand story is more than cleverly crafted copy. A story isn’t something you choose to tell or not to tell. It’s what people believe when they encounter you or your brand, the impressions they form and the assumptions they make at every interaction with you, both in personal and business settings. Customers are making sense of your story even when they aren’t consciously paying attention.

Your brand story, just like Apple’s or Nike’s is communicated, experienced and felt even before you write a single word of copy. Your design choices, products, pricing, packaging, location, user experience, testimonials, the staff you hire and on and on, are all part of that story. Everything you do, every action you take is telling the story. How you articulate your story in words and images is just a tiny part of it.

As long as we humans are in possession of any one of our five senses stories will survive.
We don’t simply tell our brand stories—we live them.
If it’s a story worth telling then you’ve got time.

Image by J-No.

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