As a small business owner, you need to know how to create, organize, and execute a plan to maximize your success. But there’s more than one type of planning. In fact, understanding the differences between strategic vs. tactical planning is key to achieving your business goals. Let’s break down strategic and tactical planning in detail.
We’ve got your comprehensive guide.
What is strategic planning?
Put simply, strategic planning involves deciding what your business should achieve by looking at the big picture and/or long-term goals. Strategic planning is focused more on what specifically your business will do, make, or reach, such as profit benchmarks, opening a certain number of new stores in the next year, and so on.
Strategic planning is different from tactical planning due to its scope, timespan, and thought processes behind it.
What is tactical planning?
Tactical planning is the short-term counterpart to strategic planning. It involves defining and/or describing how your business will accomplish the goals set out by strategic planning.
Specifically, tactical planning means determining the steps, tasks, projects, or specific actions that you need to take in order to achieve your long-term, broad goals. Because of this, tactical planning often emphasizes short-term actions or strategies that contribute to long-term strategies.
Tactical planning is differentiated from strategic planning by its smaller scope, shorter time spans, and more specific thought processes.
Differences between tactical vs. strategic planning
There are many important differences between tactical vs. strategic planning.
For starters, tactical and strategic planning have different scopes and time frames. Strategic planning focuses on broad-scope objectives and goals, such as how you will expand your business over the next several years. Tactical planning, in contrast, focuses on short-term or smaller-scope objectives and goals. Like how you will sell a certain number of units in the next week, how you will hire a certain number of employees by the end of the next quarter, and so on.
Because of those differences, both strategic and tactical planning are also different in terms of the resources they consume. Most strategic plans don’t consume a lot of resources initially. But may require large expenditures of resources such as money, personnel, or equipment as they are fulfilled. Tactical plans consume more resources initially, so accounting for their costs accurately is oftentimes easier.
Furthermore, strategic planning is focused on generalized, long-term goals and objectives. It doesn’t focus on day-to-day tasks or how things will get done. Because of this, strategic planning usually has more milestones, which serve as markers for a team to determine how close they are to ultimate project completion. Tactical planning doesn’t use milestones so much as it uses deadlines.
Since tactical planning is shorter term, it emphasizes execution. In other words, with tactical planning, how things get done is just as important as them getting done at all. Thus, tactical planners or project managers may frequently focus more on getting the right people into positions to accomplish a specific job or task.
Strategic planning tips
There are lots of ways in which you can execute strategic plans wisely.
For starters, good strategies usually involve a lot of data. Data-informed decisions are key components of all top strategies, especially those that focus on achieving long-term objectives. If you want to build a strong long-term vision that is both achievable and desirable for your organization, you need to look at a lot of data.
Furthermore, good strategic plans have clearly defined goals, even if they may be somewhat broad in scope. For example, if you want to improve your customer survey responses in general, you still need to know what improved survey responses look like so your team can take the appropriate steps to achieve that goal. Or if you want to boost your marketing strategy, you need to know what results you’re chasing.
Above all else, make sure that your brand strategic plans are aligned with long-term company goals. For example, every creator wants to make more money in the current year than they did in the last year. However, you might acquire that extra income in a variety of different ways, such as by cutting down costs, increasing sales, improving your product offerings, or something else entirely.
Your strategic plans should help to drive the growth of your business, and your tactical plans will help you execute those strategic plans step-by-step.
Strategic planning examples
You can better understand strategic planning by looking at a few key examples.
For instance, strategic plans are usually broad and can be applied to your entire business or even an entire industry. Some examples of strategic plans include:
- Get 50% more clients by the end of the year compared to the end of the last year
- Improve your website rankings by 30% by the end of the quarter
- Bolster your marketing strategy
- Add a new income stream
- Expand your customer service
- Make a new content strategic plan for long-term success
- Improve customer responses and online reviews in general or by a specific metric
- Open 5 new stores by the end of the year
As you can see, some strategic plans have concrete goals, while other strategic goals are more generalized or broad (such as “expand your customer service team” by some amount/measure.)
Tactical planning tips
There are also tips and strategies you can use to execute tactical plans smartly and successfully.
Firstly, tactical plans are always relatively short-term compared to long-term plans. If you are having difficulty visualizing this, take one of your strategic goals, then break it up into achievable steps that you can complete in a matter of weeks or months. Each of those steps is a tactical plan you can execute.
Additionally, remember that tactical plans must be actionable and time-bound. Because of this, they should be subject to strict deadlines and have more specific steps or guidance for team members or employees who are responsible for fulfilling tactical plan objectives.
All in all, tactical plans need to be deliverable to specific teams or individuals. Those teams and individuals should then be able to carry out the tactical plans without constantly consulting with upper management or executives.
Tactical planning examples
Here are some examples of tactical plans that an organization might implement:
- Make 50 more sales by the end of the month
- Acquire 20 more leads over the next week
- Reduce expenses by 30% – use business bank accounts that come with critical features such as expense tracking and more
- Make 10 pieces of content for your content strategy
- Hire 10 more employees by the end of the quarter
- Build a new email list with 50 new emails
- Complete one new project by the end of the week
Tactical plans are almost always specific and achievable with set deadlines.
Implementing your planning
Ultimately, both strategic and tactical planning are important elements of business leadership and management. To take your business as a creator to the next level, you’ll need to master both types of planning and understand how to leverage both in different scenarios. Remember to start with strategic planning to outline your broader organizational goals, then use tactical planning to achieve the goals outlined during your strategic planning sessions.
What comes first, tactics or strategy?
Strategy needs to come first before any tactics. That’s because you define or develop tactics in order to carry out broader, long-term strategies.
What are the 5 Ps of strategy?
The five Ps of strategy are: Plan, Ploy, Pattern, Position, and Perspective. They were developed by the management guru Henry Mintzberg, who came up with them to help leaders come up with multilayered and effective strategies.