Are you one of the many small business owners grappling with the daily grind? Do you dream of stepping back and working on the bigger picture?
But how do you get from tactical to strategic?
In this article, I’ll demystify it so you can better think and act strategically.
Ready for a revolution in how you think about your business? Let’s dive in.
Tactics Are Good When Connected To Strategy.
Consider this: front-line execution is mostly tactical.
Doing tactical work isn’t bad. But it’s got to happen in the context of something bigger.
Here’s an example:
Writing this article was tactical work for me. I’ve written 45 of them now, and each of them, by itself, represents tactical effort.
I have a repeatable, tactical process for coming up with topics, writing drafts, revising and editing, etc. I have some tools. I’ve got a distribution mechanism. All tactical.
Strategy, by contrast, deals with the big picture.
My 45 articles, all of which share things that have made Client Focus successful, are part of a bigger picture: build confidence, trust, and familiarity with the agent community. It’s a low-attribution, high-brand-equity play in our Go To Market strategy.
But that’s not all. Ultimately, strategy stems from the overarching vision.
Our vision is to be a respected, trusted, well-known partner in the insurance agency industry so that when agents need help setting appointments, they naturally call Client Focus.
Imagine if I wrote 45 articles without a vision or a strategy in mind. I’d just be entertaining myself and have no north star for driving improvement.
So strategy and tactics work together. Tactical planning and execution look like this:
- clearly defined “how” (specific steps or actions)
- pertain to individuals or specific teams
while strategic planning and execution look like this:
- clearly defined “where” (directions and outcomes)
- pertain to entire organizations
How To Think Strategically
Let’s get this right up front: most execution is tactical.
That’s partly why getting stuck in the weeds is so easy. The problem is not that we do tactical stuff—it’s when our tactical stuff isn’t aligned with the big picture. We’re working as if there’s no vision.
(Sometimes that’s because there isn’t one, or because it’s just words on paper.)
Imagine painting a vivid picture of your business’s future – it’s no easy task, right? It’s harder than, “We want to grow” or “We want to make more money.”
Here’s an example of a visionary statement for an insurance agency:
“Our 3-year vision is to discover and realign the business around our ideal customer profile. We’ll channel all of our energy and resources into differentiating ourselves in that sub-market. This will optimize the growth of both profitability and market share.”
Given that vision, you would not consider this a strategy:
- buy leads
- prospect them
- close lots of business
- provide good service.
Those generic, tactical ingredients could apply to any business with any vision.
The ingredients of a well-devised strategic plan might look more like this:
- Do a deep analysis of our book by segmenting it into customers based on annual premium and average years of retention.
- Determine which customer segment provides the highest return on investment over time, using metrics such as:
- Customer Lifetime Value
- Annually Recurring Revenue
- Ease of maintenance
- Total new customer referrals
- Establish this customer segment as our Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) and reimagine our business around it.
- Revamp our prospecting approach to focus on acquiring customers who fit that customer profile.
- Spend abundant customer-facing time with them.
Then we could align our tactics with our strategy. And if we executed well (allowing for occasional course corrections), we’d be on track to achieve the vision.
So being strategic isn’t an activity you engage in once in a while. It’s setting direction and continuously helping everyone understand the purpose behind their tactical efforts.
Well, that’s harder than just doing what you’ve always done, for sure.
It’s hard to think abstractly about your “where” and come up with a definition of the future that’s worth orienting everyone to.
And, frankly, that’s why people don’t do it. And they use “too busy” as an excuse. Everyone is busy. The question is, “Can we be busy doing smarter things?”
How to Execute Strategically
So let’s suppose you’ve come up with a reasonable definition of your vision and strategy. How do you put them in motion, given how busy you and your team are?
First, make time for it.
You make time for all sorts of things. It’s not hard. You just put them on your calendar, and you show up when it’s time.
Your most important time will be when you work on honing your strategy and aligning everyone with it.
In other words, put it on your calendar and show up. Being strategic is a choice.
Second, communicate your strategy to everyone.
Let’s be honest, some CEOs are terrible at this. It takes them twenty slides to explain their vision and strategy, and nobody can figure out what they’re talking about.
So keep it simple.
Also, you’ll need to repeat yourself often and in context. That way, people can start to understand and reorient themselves. It could easily take months or a year to beat the drum continuously.
And use the same language every time. You’ll confuse people if you keep changing the way you explain it.
Third, stay focused.
Now that you’ve got strategy on your mind, it’s time to put it into action. If you don’t stay focused on the long-term, nobody else will, either.
Don’t let your daily tasks distract you from your long-term vision. Remember, it’s ok to do tactical work but don’t let it become all you do. Make the choice to focus on what drives tactics.
And if a conversation with your study group will help, I’m available. Smash the reply button and let me know.