The difference between Strategy, Tactics and Magic Bullets

By Rina Mc Kellar for SA Hairdressers Journal
The mighty Holy Grail – for centuries people have searched and yearned and even killed for it. Legend claims it to be the chalice used at the last supper, but we all know this is far more than just a mere golden goblet. Its contents are believed to be magical, mythical … even super natural and the very elixir of life is said to be contained within.

Today’s Holy Grail seems to have morphed into many shapes and forms. Each person has their own interpretation and their own secret desires – some for potions, concoctions and magical methods. Some for eternal youth, fame, fortune and deep abundant happiness. Whatever. Everybody is looking. Everybody is searching for something (some even for Sugarman).

And business is no different. Every CEO, every director and owner is wishing for that winning formula or magic bullet that will take their business to the promised land of success. We can all relate. We’ve all been sold or told something that was going to deliver unbeatable unbelievable results and yet more often than not there was nothing more than disappointment and disillusionment. We have all been suckers for someone else’s promises at one point. More often than not however, we’ve just been suckers of our own high hopes and unrealistic expectations. Don’t get me wrong please, I strongly believe in the mythical and the magical. I also just believe in a little bit of planning, preparation and structure. After all, that magical mythical grail was still just a beautiful cup of gold that someone had to design and mould and form. Someone planned and someone spent hours making and casting it. Until it ended up at the infamous table, it was however just a chalice. But put that chalice on the right table with the right people with the right wine and voila …. MAGIC happened.

Strategy really is no different. For many this is a daunting word. “oh it is too complicated” they cry. And, defining a marketing strategy is a rarity for many a small business. But strategy is no more than planning and designing what your “vessel” is to become and allowing the opportunity for the magic to occur. It is you designing your cup. What would you like your cup to look like? Will it be a chalice, a shot glass or a chunky mug? There is no right or wrong. It’s about defining who you are and what you’d like to do and be in the world.

If strategy is the vessel design, then think of tactics as the many things that can be held in that cup – tea, soda, vodka or even bleach, it can contain any one of the million forms of liquids out there. For marketing this translates into things like an ad in a magazine or a newsletter or a brochure or a website or the million other promotional-type options out there. And here is often where it gets confusing. What liquid belongs in my cup and when and why!

A campaign strategy is no more than marrying the right vessel to the right liquid at the right time. We like tea in cups and brandy in snifters. Yes, we can mix and match when desperate, but nothing comes close to that magical moment of sipping ice-cold Veuve Clicquot from a tall crystal stemmed flute. It’s just not the same in a polystyrene cup! Find your vessel and fill it with the right liquid and the magic will unfold.

There are endless definitions of marketing and a quick google search will spit out impressive sounding phrases like “the science and art of exploring, creating and delivering value….” blah blah. And yet, my favourite and most basic version is simply this: Marketing is getting more people to buy/use more stuff. BAM. DONE.

In essence there really are only two streams to increase your business and they both relate to the above. 1) get more feet through your door or 2) get the same feet to come in more often. All campaign strategies will boil down to one of the above or a combination thereof. It is important however to separate them because each will require a different set of tactics. They are different looking cups. Sometimes you can kill two birds with one stone, but it is important that you have a clear map in your head of how it all relates. So, decide which you’d like to focus on. There is an endless amount of expensive very enticing tactics out there and an army of agents ready to sell you the magic of their service. But until your tactic has a cup or a vessel to fall into you’ll just be pouring it on the ground and breeding more room for disappointment. Before you embark on any marketing tactic it is critical you get the right container in place.

Try thinking about what you’d like to achieve? And how does your tactic help you achieve that? Get specific by setting a business target. Choose one of the categories above as a starter. Perhaps you want to embark on a drive to attract new business. So set something specific like “I want to get 25 new clients per month over the next 3 months”. It is important you give yourself something that you can do a check list against to see if you have achieved your goal. Perhaps you’d like to set a revenue target or a retail target. It doesn’t really matter what you set but make sure that it is done with the SMART approach.

S – specific. M – measurable. A – attainable. R – realistic. T – time based.

After you’ve decided your goal, think about what tactics you need to do to make this work. So let’s flesh out the new clients’ objective. There are endless marketing tactics you could explore to achieve this. You could draw on anything ranging from a referral campaign to a discounted introductory offer to flyer drops in your neighbourhood to an emailer and countless other ideas. It could be all of the above and more. The idea however would be to evaluate each from a cost and relevancy point of view and see what potential they could deliver. You may have valuable resources at your disposal that cost little to extract extra value from e.g. a strong loyal client base you could tap into by offering a referral incentive or you could have access to a designer who could help you with banners for your store entrance or develop a simple classy flyer to distribute in the mall. You may even try something daring and creative like show casing your work just outside your salon. In isolation or as one offs there is a greater risk of it not working. It’s too much of a shot in the dark. Occasionally you get lucky, but it’s more like logs on a fire -together as a targeted and timed approach, the momentum builds and the magic begins to burn. It is important to keep records of what works and what didn’t. Don’t be hasty. Practise a bit of patience. Find out from new clients why they came to you. Don’t just look at it as a one off, look at the timing of it all. You’ll soon start to see where your silver bullets are hidden. And don’t forget to enjoy the journey – magical carpet rides, enchanted cups and all.