Strategies and tactics: the Cornerstones of Conventional Planning

Posted by 17 March, 2008
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Marketing and Strategy
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STRATEGIES AND TACTICS: THE CORNERSTONES OF CONVENTIONAL PLANNING

Strategy is conventionally thought of as the overall game plan or blueprint that guides the organization toward achieving its objectives. Tactics are the detailed, individual activities that the organization undertakes to carry out the strategy. They specify how the elements of the marketing mix-the four Ps discussed in Lesson 1-will be allocated, and they allocate manufacturing, capital, people, and other resources as needed.
With the help of a strategic plan, members of the organization can develop tac­tical plans that are much more detailed than the strategic plan. A written plan per­mits others to evaluate the reasoning and assumptions that underlie the firm’s objectives. The plan helps to coordinate the activities that must be implemented to carry out the plan. It also serves as a control device: Actual results can be compared with the intended results outlined in the plan, and adjustments can be made if neces­sary. This formal view of the plan has not been entirely abandoned, but managers today are more likely to see vision or mission as driving the company, above strategy in the strategy-tactics hierarchy. They also may allow more leeway for employees than formal tactics and controls once did.
Marketing plays an important role in the firm’s strategic plan by providing spe­cific information about the firm’s current market position and its opportuniti6s for future market positions. Marketing also participates in the organization’s planning process by developing specific strategies and tactics for products, customers, distri­bution channels, and the like. These will be incorporated in varying degrees into the organization’s formal strategic plan, and will also form a stand-alone marketing plan to be followed by people in sales, product development, and other functions.
The process of strategic planning rests on assumptions held by the planner. As­sumptions concerning expected responses to marketing actions will shape the mar­keting strategy and tactics. Assessment of the outcomes allows the planner to validate those assumptions or create new ones. The importance of sound assumptions cannot be overemphasized.
Feedback provides the basis for evaluating and revising assumptions. Learning by feedback comes through experiencing the plan-execution-feedback process illus­trated in Exhibit 2.1.

See Exhibit 2.1

In the top-down approach, which was once the norm for most companies, the task of charting an overall strategy for an organization rests mainly with top manage­ment. That strategy then guides the decision making of managers at each organiza­tional level. Many firms now employ bottom-up planning, in which plans developed at the lower levels of the organization are blended into a master strategic plan. Such a plan may turn out to be more marketing oriented than a plan formulated by the top-down method, mostly because it is created by those in daily touch with the cus­tomers, the competitors, and the realities of operation. As a Fortune article pointed out, the strategic watchwords for the first half of the 1990s were “focus and flexibility.” Focus means determining what you do best and building on it. It originates at the top. Flexibility means drafting several possible scenarios for the future so the organization can be ready to explore opportunities as they arise without having to shoot from the hip, and it also means giving the bottom enough freedom to be truly flexible.

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