Category Archives: Step 2: Tactics

Set Execution Tactics

Strategy needs tactics for execution. In practical terms, this is your marketing plan, your product or service plan, and other tactical plans. Aim for strategic alignment: match your tactics to your strategy. You should be able to think of your business as a pyramid, with strategy at the top, execution tactics in the middle, and concrete specifics at the base, as in the illustration here.

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory, and tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” – Sun Tsu

– Sun Tsu

Although a book is sequential, your thinking and planning isn’t. This chapter is about the middle area of the pyramid, the tactics, mainly marketing and product or service plans. The previous chapter was about the strategy at the top, and the next chapter is about the bottom on the pyramid, the concrete specifics. Don’t think of these as separate or sequential. Develop them together. They are sequential here because of format and logistics only.

These tactical plans in your lean plan are as simple as possible, ideally just bullet point references. Don’t worry about writing descriptions and explanations, or compiling background information, until you have a real business need to explain them to outsiders. Do worry about thinking all of your marketing and product plans through and planning them well. Even without the big text, you do want to plan and manage your important tactics.

If you’re not absolutely sure about execution, do your best and remember you’re going to review and revise every month from now on.

Marketing Execution

Marketing, in its essence, is getting your customers to know, like, and trust you. To do that, you must understand your customers: know how and where to find them, how to help them find you, and how to present your business to best match your strategy and business offering. You have to make choices for pricing, messaging, distribution channels, social media, sales activities, and so forth. For your lean plan, these are mainly bullet points. They are defining the tactical decisions that you make. In the lean plan they are for internal use only.

I do recommend, however, that every business leader take a fresh look at the market at least once a year. Markets change, new markets develop, and you don’t want to get lost thinking that what was true in the past is still true and will be true in the future.

Product Execution (or service, or both)

These are about the business offering. Product or service tactics are the decisions you make about pricing, packaging, service specifications, new products or services, product launches, sourcing, manufacturing, software development, technology procurement, trade secrets, bundling, and so forth. Your lean plan contains the decisions you make on these items as bullet points. You know your tactics by heart, so you just list them, briefly, in your lean business plan.

Not sure? Do your best. Only you can decide whether you need to do more testing, research, or prototyping, or launch and develop improvements as you go. That’s up to every business owner. There is no certainty ever, so do your best. And remember, you’re going to track results, review your metrics, and revise every month. Nothing is written in stone.

Other Execution

Tactics often include financial tactics, or team building, hiring, recruitment tactics, or logistic tactics related to, say, taking on new office or manufacturing space. I group these in the third part of the pyramid shown in the illustration above.

This chapter also includes:

Strategic Alignment for Effective Strategy

I like the pyramid metaphor. It highlights strategic alignment from strategy at the top to tactics to concrete specific activities. Strategy at the top, tactics in the middle, and concrete specifics as the base. The tactics and specifics are both execution, so there is still the difference between strategy and execution.

Strategic alignment is like silk. It’s hard to describe in the abstract, but you know it when you see it. And you know the lack of it when you see that, too.

Strategic Alignment Examples

For example: a local computer systems retailer. The strategy is providing a high level of service to local businesses, offering peace of mind in exchange for prices higher than the box stores, generates strategic alignment by beefing up its service capability with training and additional staff, buying some white vans with messaging about installation and delivery, and dedicating space in the store for a long service counter staffed by technicians in white coats. That same business is out of strategic alignment if it does nothing to improve service, doesn’t deliver or install, and hounds customers who are leaving bills unpaid because their equipment wasn’t installed correctly and isn’t working.

And another example: a restaurant whose strategy is great healthy gourmet meals for special occasions is in alignment when the food, the locale, and the service are excellent; the food sourcing is organic, the cooking is new cuisine, naturally light; and the meals are expensive. A restaurant with that strategy is out of alignment if the food is mediocre, or too heavy on sauces and butter; maybe the service is poor, or annoying. Strategic alignment is lacking if it offers drive-through value meals; or it caters to kids under 10.

Strategic Alignment Optimizes Execution

You see from the examples that alignment is about choosing tactics to execute strategy, and specific milestones (tasks, dates, deadlines, responsibilities, metrics, etc.) to execute those tactics. The strategic has to inform tactics and the specific details, or you are out of alignment.

Business Tactics Checklist

You can use this checklist to set tactics to execute strategy. Tactics are easier to recognize than define. Focus on content, what’s supposed to happen. Think of tactics as absorbing the traditional marketing plan, product plan, and financing plan. Your next step will be to set these tactics into a plan with concrete milestones, performance metrics, lists of assumptions, and so on.

This business tactics checklist should give you an idea of the tactical decisions you make as you execute strategy. In a lean plan, you still want to cover what you need to plan and run your business, but simply jot it down in an organized way, usually bullet points, so you can refer back to it as you flesh out the details. But you don’t bother with descriptions.

Marketing Tactics Checklist

  • Tactics to locate target market, media that work for target market.
  • Pricing
  • Messaging (tag line, descriptions, etc.)
  • Benefits list
  • Features lists
  • Web presences including web, mobile, social media
  • Content marketing
  • Advertising
  • Packaging
  • Channels of distribution
  • Margins through channels
  • Channel gatekeepers
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Social media, platforms, metrics, paid posts, etc.
  • Events
  • Affiliate marketing
  • PR (media strategies, interviews, blog posts)

Product Tactics Checklist

  • Product descriptions and product lists
  • Technology, patents, trade secrets, protection
  • Price lists, menus, etc.
  • Features and benefits lists
  • Versions, configurations, new versions, new configurations
  • New product (or service)
  • Product (or service) updates
  • Bundling
  • Sources and costs, vendors, suppliers
  • Packaging
  • Liability problems
  • Registration for legal requirements
  • Registration in lists of providers

Other Business Tactics

  • Funding needs, raising investment
  • Use of funds
  • Borrowing, loans, credit lines
  • Management team recruitment, compensation
  • Benefits

Sample Tactics in a Lean Plan

These are sample business plan tactics for the lean business plan of, the social media service whose strategy was a model for the lean plan strategy section. Notice that the tactics are simple, reminders for management, things to track later with specific dates and deadlines and tracking results. This is from the tactics section of the lean plan.

Marketing and Sales Tactics

  • Our location is in the background, the small office location in a residential neighborhood in Eugene, OR. We don’t hide the smallness — we show a picture of it on the contact page — but it stays in the background. We could be anywhere, not just Eugene.
  • The website is critical location for us, as if it were the store for a retailer. It’s our operation center. It takes continual content, SEO, and updates.
  • We use outside experts for SEO and other online marketing. We don’t have time for it.
  • Pricing: Social media service pricing is all over the map. The current $995 target price is low. That prices can gradually increase.
  • We should be using chamber of commerce membership for additional marketing/sales in the local area.
  • Of course we explore email marketing.

Product Tactics

  • Manage pricing of social media services.
  • Introduce online courses as soon as possible, with connection to WaPow, SchoolKeep, and Udemy
  • Complete and market the ebook.
  • Develop social media workshop for small business, to be marketed live.

Financial/Admin Tactics

  • Use occasional founder inputs to maintain cash flow.
  • Invest in SEO, content, additional products, at a few hundred per month.
  • No loans, no investment required beyond occasional founder input.
  • Stick with the current office.

Tactics in a Lean Plan is a Collection of Simple Lists

You see in these sample business plan tactics that listing tactics in a lean business plan is a long way from the “elaborate business plan” for outsiders. Don’t worry about text, editing, and descriptions. Just use bullet points to remind you and your team what the plan is.