People want tactics but what they really need are strategies

I’ve made two observations lately and noticed a common thread between these two experiences and other similar observations from my own life and with my clients:

Observation #1
: Recently I was at a conference and the speaker was talking about the importance of building a list. The speaker highlighted some of the high level strategies that one should take when building a list – what the purpose was, how to build a rapport and relationship with your list, and how to make offers to the list. As the session wrapped up and the speaker answered questions, the questions that came in were very tactical and hands-on: “Should I use Aweber or should I use Constant Contact?” “What’s the first thing I should say to my list?” “Do you put 2 links or 3 links in the body of each email?”

The speaker presented strategies but the audience as hungry for tactics.

Observation #2: I was doing some research on niche marketing and watched a video by a guy who was really killing it in one specific niche. He gave a bunch of great information and then at the end he talked about how the information he shared works for many niches, not just the one niche he was in. He went on to say that people would contact him regularly about how challenging it is to work in that niche and what they should do in that niche to do a better job. This footnote of the video turned into a bit of a rant because, rightly so, he wanted to give people help in any niche but everyone was focusing on the one niche he was in and was using his model as a niche-specific tactic rather than a niche-agnostic strategy.

Again, the host of the video presented strategies and then addressed all the listeners who were drawing tactics from his video instead.

This, along with other similar observations, make it apparent to me that people want tactics. They want step-by-step hand-holding as they build their business, and they want guidance that they feel is specific for their unique business.

You hear the same frustration in any of Dan Kennedy’s writing: If you pay attention to Dan Kennedy for very long, you’ll hear him rant about people saying “but my business is different!”. He gives strategies that work for all businesses but his audience mistakes these for tactics that won’t work in their business. Dan rightly makes the assertion that no, it’s not different. Every business is fundamentally the same and the same strategies work across the board. But people feel that their business is so different, so unique, so unlike any other business out there, that only very specific, granular tactics will work.

At conferences, in sales letters, in books, in webinars: I consistently see strategies are presented but tactics preferred. Feedback ranges from “I’ve tried this stuff and it doesn’t work” to “I need more hands-on steps.”

There is value in learning tactics because, theoretically, you apply those tactics and get the same results as the person you’re learning from. This seems easier and more straightforward. Compare this with strategies, which are a little higher level and may require some interpretation for a specific market or industry. In spite of that extra step of work, strategies are better. They are more broadly applicable; they have more “variance”.

Perhaps also at play here is the reality that people don’t want to be told how to do something, they want to be told exactly what to do. They’re looking for step-by-step GPS guidance rather than a map to find their own way.

People want tactics but what they really need are strategies – timeless principles that may or may not be applicable to the one business they’re in (but are probably useful regardless of the business).

So, if you share strategies and/or tactics in your business, what does this mean for your business? It could mean any of the following:

  • Create strategies and stick with them. Educate people on why strategies are the better option.
  • Share strategies and demonstrate how some tactics can be derived from these strategies. Be prepared for people to assume that the tactics you share are the ONLY derivation of the strategies.
  • Share tactics only but make sure that you have a well-defined niche who will benefit from your tactics.
  • Create strategies but make them seem like tactics. (A lot of online educators and gurus do this). It’s very powerful.
  • Giveaway your strategies for free but sell your tactics. (A lot of consultants and coaches do this).

Strategies give us the high level principles that govern how to do something. Tactics are the specific step-by-step instructions that tell us exactly what to do in a very specific situation. Smart business owners understand strategies but deploy tactics.

But when you look at your audience of prospective buyers, chances are: they want tactics but need strategies.

Aaron Hoos

Aaron Hoos is a writer, strategist, and investor who builds and optimizes profitable sales funnels. He is the author of The Sales Funnel Bible and he's a real estate investor and a copywriter for real estate investors.