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Do Your Tactics get in the Way of your Online Marketing Strategy?

Posted by Timothy Lorang on Wed, Apr 18, 2012 @ 04:00 AM

RISK Online Marketing StrategyYesterday I gave a workshop 25 Ways to Drive Traffic to Your Website at a Center for Nonprofit Success workshop here in Seattle. It was a pleasure to co-present with Jen Travis, the VP of Online Brand Experience at Parker LePla. In Monday’s blog, The Trouble With Online Marketing Tips I complained a bit about how these lists can be a bit misleading. For example, is Search Engine Optimization more important or just as important at your Twitter Icon? Part of the problem comes from confusing “strategies” with “tactics.” Many people talk about strategies they use when they mean tactics and the tactics they employ when they are talking about strategies.


Long before Sun Tzu’s The Art of War became popular in business schools it was not uncommon for people to use the language of warfare to describe their business plans and goals. The 19th Century German military strategist Carl von Clausewitz, defined military strategy as "the employment of battles to gain the end of war." While British military historian B. H. Liddell Hart said it was "the art of distributing and applying military means to fulfill the ends of policy." Strategy is the overall plan to achieve your goals. For example during WWII the goal was to defeat the Nazis. The strategy was for the Russians to attack along a broad front in Eastern Europe and for the English and Americans to invade France and attack from the west. To achieve your goal of increasing website traffic your online marketing strategy may be to optimize your website for search engines, provide high quality content and promote the content through social media.


Tactics on the other hand are the science and art of organizing a military force to achieve the strategic goals. Invading Normandy during WWII was part of the overall Allied strategy. Bombing the Nazi defenses on the French beaches; dropping paratroopers behind enemy lines to capture bridges; landing troops on the beaches in amphibious landing craft; giving the soldiers climbing gear so they could scale the cliffs at Normandy are all tactics. To support your online marketing strategy of increasing traffic to your website you could use tactics such as putting keywords is the title of your blog post; sending out 15 tweets about your last blog; design an eye catching image for your Facebook Page; publish an eBook; or add a call-to-action and landing page to your website.

Sun Tzu said, “All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.” (from Brainyqote.com) A “tactical” decision is related to immediate, specific actions that support the overall strategy. “Strategic” decisions support the overall, long term goals of your business. Deciding to set up a Twitter account is “strategic” while picking the twitter icon is “tactical.” Strategy is the overall plan and tactics are the details.

The challenge for online marketing is deciding how the tactics support the strategy and the goals. It is very easy to loose site of the strategy and get consumed by the tactics, I do it every day. Equally it is easy to be overwhelmed by the many tactical options and do nothing. Lists help but it is important to understand how everything fits together. 

Photo Credit: Bien Stephenson  

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Topics: Online Marketing