Tactical vs. strategic planning: Which one is better?

Tactical vs. strategic planning: Which one is better?
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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. The right planning can help you reach short-term and long-term goals, but where do you start?

There are multiple types of planning, including tactical and strategic. As you might guess from the names, strategic plans focus on strategy, a general plan to achieve long-term goals. Whereas, tactical plans focus on tactics, the individual tasks and deliverables you need to implement a strategy or achieve a short-term goal. You’ll use strategic and tactical plans many times in your life and career.

In this article, we’ll compare tactical vs. strategic planning, and show you how to use each to reach your business goals.


What is strategic planning?

Put simply, strategic planning looks at the big picture or long-term goals. For example, you could use a strategic plan to help you:

  • Set and achieve business goals for the quarter or year
  • Communicate the direction you see your company going in the future
  • Outline long-term personal or professional goals

Strategic planning focuses on general ideas about something you hope to achieve in several months to years. Instead of going into every detail or step you need to take, it highlights broad actions.

What is tactical planning?

Tactical planning, on the other hand, focuses on short-term goals, challenges, and specific actions. A tactical plan describes each step you’ll take to accomplish the goals you set in a strategic plan.  

In other words, it outlines the tasks, projects, or actions that can help you achieve your long-term, broad goals. You can use a tactical plan to help you:

  • Create a pitch for a potential client
  • Get 10 qualified leads in the next month
  • Hire a virtual assistant in the next two weeks
  • Plan your social media marketing calendar for the month

Differences between tactical vs. strategic planning

When it comes to the planning process, there are several differences between tactical vs. strategic planning.

For starters, tactical and strategic planning have different scopes and time frames. Strategic planning focuses on general, long-term goals and objectives. On the other hand, tactical planning focuses on short-term, day-to-day tasks.

Because of this, strategic plans usually measure progress with milestones, which are markers that help a team determine how close they are to completing a project. Tactical plans emphasize execution with deadlines and deliverables.

Although strategic and tactical planning processes are different, they can work together.

Strategic Tactical
Long-term goals Short-term goals
Broad, general ideas Specific actions
Big picture thinking Detailed deliverables

Think of strategic plans as your overarching goals and tactical plans as how you’re going to get there. Often, you start with a strategy, then make a list of tactics you’ll do to accomplish it.

specific actions

How to build a strategic plan

Whether you’re starting an online business or simply planning for your future, a strategic plan is the first step to reaching your goals. Here are some tips to help you plan:  

1. Start with data

To build a strong long-term vision that is both achievable and desirable, you need data. Conducting research and analyzing data can help you understand what is most influential to your overall success.

For example, your sales data can reveal which products sell the best and help you identify what your customers love the most about them. Let’s say you analyze your sales data and look at how your business has performed in the last one to two years.

Then, you find that most of your revenue comes from your online courses and bundles. Customers like the convenience of buying multiple products in one package, and you get a higher average order value. Knowing this, you might build a strategy to grow your revenue by offering more bundles or online courses.

Other examples of data that can help you form your strategy include:

  • A SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats)
  • Customer feedback and pain points
  • Historical marketing and sales metrics
  • Company budgets and financial forecasts for the year

2. Set clearly defined goals

A good strategy has clearly defined goals, even if they may be somewhat broad in scope. For example, if you want to improve your marketing strategy, you’ll identify which metrics you’ll use to measure success and how long you’ll work on it. You’ll also make sure that your goals align with your brand strategy.

project manager

You may also have financial goals for your business. Every creator wants to make more money in the current year than they did in the last year. Get specific on what you want and how you’ll make it happen.

Some creators focus on cutting costs, increasing sales, improving product offerings, or a combination of all three. You should choose the strategy that makes sense for you and your brand.

Strategic planning examples

Strategic plans are usually broad so you can apply them to your entire business strategy or industry. Some examples of strategic plans include:

  • By the end of the year, get 50% more clients than last year
  • Improve your website rankings by 30% by the end of the quarter
  • Improve your marketing strategy and double your leads from last year
  • Add a new income stream
  • Expand your customer service team to 20 people
  • Make a new content plan for long-term success
  • Improve customer responses and online reviews
  • Open five new stores by the end of the year

As you can see, some strategic plans have concrete goals. Others are more general or broad.

long term goals

How to build a tactical plan

A strategic plan should help drive business growth, and a tactical plan will help you execute those strategic plans step-by-step. To create and implement tactical plans, here are some tips:

1. Ask what you can accomplish in the short-term

Tactical planning helps you reach short-term goals. Therefore, a tactical plan should focus on something that you can achieve in a few weeks to months. You may also use a tactical plan to contribute to an overarching strategy. An example might look like this:

Strategy: Make digital downloads and products and sell at least $30,000 this year.


  • Build a digital products landing page in two weeks.
  • Create at least three digital products in 60 days.
  • Make one month of social media posts to promote your products.

In the above marketing example, you can tell how the three tactics contribute to your overarching strategy—to sell $30,000 worth of products this year.

2. Write down the individual actions and deliverables you need

Additionally, remember that tactical planning must be actionable and time-bound. Tactical plans should outline deadlines and deliverables. For example, to build a digital products landing page in two weeks, you may need:

  • Copy, design, and other assets to create your digital downloads
  • A website or platform like Teachable to host digital products
  • Copy for your landing page
  • Graphics and photos
  • Product pricing

3. Assign tasks and manage progress

Lastly, you should also include specific steps and guidance for team members or employees who are responsible for fulfilling tactical plan objectives.

When done well, teams and individuals can carry out tactical plans without needing much involvement from you. However, you should track the progress you and your team are making and adjust timelines if necessary.

Tactical planning examples

Here are a few examples of tactical plans that you 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.

man at computer desk

Implementing your planning

Ultimately, both strategic and tactical planning are important elements of business leadership and management. Whether you use tactical vs. strategic planning depends on your goals and other factors.

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, you can use tactical planning to achieve the goals you 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.

Management guru Henry Mintzberg developed them to help leaders come up with multilayered and effective strategies.

Nahla Davies

Nahla Davies, Nahla Davies is a software developer and tech writer. Before devoting her work full time to technical writing, she managed—among other intriguing things—to serve as a lead programmer at an Inc. 5,000 experiential branding organization whose clients include Samsung, Time Warner, Netflix, and Sony.

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