Strategies versus Tactics: Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts

Our guest this week is Marcus Miller, a Partner with Sticky Branding Inc., a business development consultancy specialized in firms selling professional services such as accounting, legal and wealth management. They help their clients sell more, faster by developing marketing and business development strategies for the post-Google era.

The “Trojan Horse” is a tale of how the Greeks took the city of Troy, which had been under siege for ten years. The Greeks tried and tried for a decade to take the city, but could not break through the walls. But the Trojan horse changed their fate.

Here are the quick facts. The Greeks constructed the huge wooden horse, and hid a select force of men inside it. The remaining Greek army made a great display of breaking down their camps, and pretending to sail away. They left the horse at the gates of the city of Troy as a “gift”. In celebration the Trojans pulled the horse into their city as a victory trophy. They believed they had won the war by standing their ground, defending their walls and holding the Greeks at bay for ten years. However that night the Greek contingent hidden inside the horse crept out of the structure and opened the city’s gates. The rest of the Greek army – the ones who pretended to sail away – were waiting, and the city of Troy was destroyed.

The Greeks’ strategy is one of deception. They deployed the wooden horse as a gift, and appeared to sail away in defeat. The strategy worked exceedingly well. Their goal was to open the city’s gates, and attack their unsuspecting foe. The wooden horse was an important part of the strategy, but it was simply a tactic.

The strategy is the most important aspect to winning a war. Marching into battle without a well thought out strategy does not deliver success. The Greeks demonstrated that for ten years. The Trojans were able to sustain the Greeks’ attacks, because their strategies were based on their conventional tactics of war. The Trojans understood the Greek history, and built defenses that nullified the traditional attacks. The Trojan Horse was a change of strategy.

Growing a business fits very well into the metaphor of waging war. When you focus on tactics you can get mired in a stalemate, and never achieve your goals.

The key to growth is strategy. You first have to come up with a clear strategy, and then execute it with effective tactics. The problem is tactics are a lot easier to grasp than strategy. Tactics are tangible like a wooden horse. In modern terms we talk about hiring sales people, implementing software systems, creating new websites and executing campaigns. And companies love to buy tactics. They see how tactic works, and can get moving on it right away.

Some companies even believe strategy is baked into the tactics. For example they may employ a marketing agency of some ilk (design, advertising, web, digital, whatever), and expect the tactical service they are buying to deliver a growth strategy. It doesn’t work that way. It’s like they’re assuming marching drills and frontal assaults will win the war without considering the big picture and how the enemy will counter. Adopting others’ winning tactics is not a clear strategy to succeeding.

Do you have a well thought out business strategy for winning your battles, or do you adopt tactics first and try to make the strategy fit? Trojan horses are not strategies, they’re tactics. They only turn into strategy when combined with other tactics to accomplish a desired outcome.

You can reach Marcus at 416.479.4403, ext. 21 or Marcus.Miller@StickyBranding.com.

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Tags: business, execute, goals, Jim Stewart, Marcus Miller, ProfitPATH, Sticky Branding, strategy, succeed, tactics

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