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When to create a tactical plan

Growing your business with tactical plans


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Tactical Planning

When faced with a challenge, business owners can approach the situation in various ways. Making a quick decision is sometimes necessary. However, if you have the time, creating a tactical plan and carefully thinking through your next steps is often a better approach.

Tactical Planning

A tactical plan is a written outline of the specific actions you’re going to take to address a problem or achieve a goal. It could list the tasks that you’ll do yourself, and the tasks you’ll assign to employees. Ideally, you can set a goal, identify strategies for how you could achieve the goal and then create a tactical plan to implement those strategies.

Generally, business owners will create and use a tactical plan to address a short-term goal that they want to reach within a year or less. However, completing the tactical plan should also help the business achieve its medium- or long-term goals.

For example, you may have a long-term goal of opening a second business location within the next five years.

There are multiple steps involved with reaching your five-year goal, such as increasing your profits, building your savings and finding the best location for the second store. You can create SMART goals and tactical plans for each of these steps.

Start with the first step, increasing business profits, which is too broad to be a SMART goal. Instead, you could set a goal of doubling your business’s profit within one year. It’s specific, you can measure how much money you make, it may be attainable, it’s relevant to saving up money for the second location and you have a one-year time frame.

You can then identify different ways your business could make more money and create a tactical plan to turn those options into actions.

SWOT analysis — a helpful planning tool

Tactical plans are all about action, but how do you know what actions to take? A SWOT analysis could help you identify different strategies, which you can then compare to figure out what to do next.

The strengths and weaknesses are internal factors that are directly related to your business. You affect your strengths or weaknesses by taking action.

The opportunities and threats tend to be external factors. Even though you still have to plan for them and deal with their effects, they could be more difficult to influence.

You can use a table like the one below to list each of these elements. Sometimes, asking questions such as the ones listed in the table can help you identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

If you’re looking for more prompts, there’s a checklist from SCORE, a nonprofit, small business mentoring organization, with 48 questions that you could ask yourself. You could also do a SWOT analysis as a team, asking each of your business partners or employees to fill in the matrix and then compare their results.

The SWOT analysis can help you learn more about your business, your competitors and the environment, but it won’t tell you exactly how to reach your goal. Next, use your SWOT analysis to identify a few strategies based on your analysis.

You could also use a table to organize and write down your answers:

Step-by-step: using a SWOT analysis to create a tactical plan

Some business owners make a practice of doing a SWOT analysis of their entire business every few years. If you compare the results, you may notice trends or find new ways to grow your business.

You can also use a SWOT analysis to address a specific problem or goal, which is how it relates to a tactical plan.

Let’s conduct a SWOT analysis using a SMART goal example: doubling a business’s profits within one year.

Imagine the business is a small restaurant in a medium-sized city. It’s primarily a lunch destination for the many office workers in the area, although the restaurant also serves dinner. It’s already been open for a year and has some regular customers, but the owner isn’t sure what to do to increase profits.

Here are the results of her SWOT analysis:

Next, she reviews the results to come up with several strategies:

Strengths and Opportunities (SO): We could create an after-work deal menu that’s different than the lunch menu to help get our regular customers to return later in the day. We should make sure the staff is trained to remind lunch customers about the deals.

We could also offer catering directly to the nearby companies, which will increase our lunch sales and introduce our food to more office workers in the area. The catering could be a second source of income. Then, if we can bottle and sell the hot sauce, which is already popular, that could be a third way to make money.

Additionally, building a website and social media presence could help us advertise our deals, catering and hot sauce.

Strengths and Threats (ST): We could start a rewards program that allows customers to get a free meal after 10 purchases. The program could help us keep our regular customers even if a competitor opens a restaurant nearby.

Since we’re selling out of a few items every day, we should try to figure out how many more ingredients we should order — a recordkeeping system could help. Maybe we can use our larger order to negotiate lower prices with our suppliers.

Weaknesses and Opportunities (WO): The after-work specials opportunity could increase our sales and allow us to hire additional staff, which could help address the negative reviews about slow service. However, we also need to focus on the staff’s initial training to address the complaints about rude service.

Using a recordkeeping system could help us track exactly how many ingredients we’re ordering and what food and drinks we’re selling. Knowing this information could help us plan future orders from suppliers, making sure we always have enough ingredients — particularly for the most popular items on the menu — and keeping excess ingredients from going bad. This could help us save money, which we can then put into savings.

Weaknesses and Threats (WT): Improving our overall reviews will limit the threat from competitors because we’ll grow our regular customer base.

Building our recordkeeping system and savings could also help us negotiate with suppliers, helping us compare suppliers and ask for better deals. If we can save enough money, we may be able to buy our store, which will help us avoid the threat of the landlord increasing the rent.

The business owner now has a list of strategies and actions she could take to improve her business and sales. They’re all based on the business’s current strengths and weaknesses, and the surrounding opportunities and threats.

A tactical plan will turn the strategies into actions. The plan could list the different projects based on how much they will help you reach your goal, and assign responsibilities for each project.

The restaurant owner may take on some of the work herself and start reaching out to local businesses to ask if they’re interested in catering. She could also assign some of the work, perhaps by asking one of her tech-savvy employees to start researching recordkeeping options, and asking one of the most well-liked servers to prepare a training presentation for the other servers.

Setting SMART goals and identifying strategies or opportunities can be important parts of growing a business. However, you need to turn your ideas into actions if you want to achieve your goals.

A tactical plan builds on your knowledge and research to let you make educated decisions about your business. With a tactical plan to review, you’ll know which tasks you can assign to your employees and what you need to do to reach your goals.

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Strategic vs. Tactical Planning: The What, When, & Why

Meredith Hart

Published: March 01, 2022

Whether you've set personal or business goals, you likely created a plan to achieve them. Without clearly defined steps, it can be difficult or even discouraging to tackle the goal you've set.

Strategic vs. Tactical Planning

One example of a situation where planning and strategy come in handy is during a job search . Let's say you've spent weeks or months scouring the internet for a new sales job, but none of the job postings seem to match your skill set or career interests.

Have you taken a step back and thought about a specific type of sales job you want? And did you consider the most important qualities you're looking for in an employer or career?

Your online job search will become less tedious and disheartening if you have a clear set of objectives to follow. While you might get more search results for "sales manager", you'll find jobs that are a better fit for you if you clarify by searching for "senior sales manager - medical devices."

Download Now: Free Growth Strategy Template

With your new search strategy, you've identified a seniority level and the industry you'd like to work in. The next steps you set for yourself are to periodically repeat this search and only apply to the roles that seem like the best fit for you and your career aspirations.

Thinking strategically helps you narrow down your search and use your time more effectively. Plus, you'll increase the likelihood of landing a job that's a great fit for you.

Once you aced your interviews and landed the perfect sales job, you'll find that these types of planning, strategic and tactical, are used by many businesses and sales teams to set themselves up for success.

Strategic vs. Tactical Planning

Strategic planning lays out the long-term, broad goals that a business or individual wants to achieve. And tactical planning outlines the short-term steps and actions that should be taken to achieve the goals described in the strategic plan.

Your strategic plan provides the general idea of how to reach a goal, and the tactical plan is where you lay out the steps to achieve that goal.

Since the objectives set in the strategic plan are more general and are evaluated over a longer period of time, strategic planning typically occurs at the beginning of a year, quarter, or month. These plans should be reviewed every quarter.

Tactical planning occurs after the strategic plan is outlined, and the tactical plan can be reexamined on a more frequent basis — if need be.

Details how the purpose, duration, and output differs between Strategic and Tactical Planning in black and light grey

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Here are some high-level examples that touch on the difference between the two types of planning.

Strategy vs. Tactics

Let's consider the perspective of a hypothetical company analyzing different strategies to improve different aspects of its sales operations.

1. Sales Recruitment

2. Smarketing

3. Technological Infrastructure

Taken together, the strategies and tactics a sales organization employs — like the ones listed above — comprise what are known as sales plans.

Sales Plans

A sales plan encompasses both strategic and tactical planning and contributes to an organization's overarching sales strategy . It outlines the broad goals your sales team and reps should strive for, and it creates an action plan to reach them.

The strategic plan sheds light on the mission, objectives, and future goals of the organization or individual. Managers, VPs, and executives typically create strategic plans for an organization, but this type of plan can also be used by individuals to achieve personal or professional goals.

These are the key components to include in a strategic plan:

Strategic planning and tactical planning provide guidelines for businesses, teams, and individuals to follow. And the tactical plan outlines exactly how they'll achieve the final result.

Strategic Goals vs. Tactical Goals

A major part of planning, whether it’s strategic or tactical, is setting goals. You should actually set goals for both your strategic planning and your tactical planning. Having those objectives clearly laid out helps push your plans into direct action. Your strategic goals should be broader while your tactical ones should be more specific.

For example, a strategic goal may be to develop a company culture that encourages growth and retention. A tactical goal may be to survey all existing employees to gain information on why they weren’t retained. If your tactical planning and your strategic planning are related, then the goals for each should also have a connection between them.

Strategic Planning

A strategy is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a careful plan or method for achieving a particular goal usually over a long period of time.” So, strategic planning is meant to achieve something for the bigger picture.

Tactical planning includes the immediate actions that feed into the larger purpose outlined by a strategy. These plans are carried out in the long term and incorporate big, impactful changes. There are nine strategic planning models your business can use as a starting point.

South Dakota Mines strategic plan with vision and mission statements in blue and white.

Strategic Planning Examples

IT company's strategic business initiatives in blue, orange, and white

Since tactical planning is more direct, it’s often more specific to your team or business. Strategic plans, however, are often broad enough to be applied to a whole niche or industry. For instance, strategic planning for sales could involve some similar goals across different companies, but their tactical plans may be unique. Here are a few examples of strategic plans that could apply to different businesses.

Tactical Planning

Tactical planning occurs after a business, team, or individual has created a strategic plan that outlines general goals and objectives. A tactical plan describes the steps and actions that must be taken to achieve the goals from the strategic plan.

Once you've created your strategic plan, it's time to determine the tactics you'll use to reach your goals. This is where the tactical plan comes into play.

It's used to outline the steps a business or individual will need to take to accomplish the priorities that have been set. Here are a few things to consider when developing your tactical plan:

Your tactical plan will provide the answers to these questions to help you meet the objectives of the strategic plan.

So, what do strategic and tactical planning look like in practice?

Tactical Planning Examples

While strategic and tactical plans can vary by company or industry, there are some that can apply to many sales organizations and teams.

Here are a few examples that are common for sales teams and reps. The strategic plans are numbered, and the tactical plans are outlined below.

1. Fill my pipeline with more leads over the next two weeks.

2. Close more enterprise deals each month.

3. Hire 20 more entry-level sales representatives by the end of Q1.

Your Business Needs Both Strategic and Tactical Planning

There is a purpose to both strategic and tactical planning. Each moves your business’ progress closer to larger goals and objectives. With a solid strategic plan and a detailed tactical plan, you'll be well-equipped to grow your business.

Editor's note: This post was originally published on February 28, 2019, and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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Strategic vs. Tactical Planning: The What, When, & Why

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Tactical Planning, Types, Examples, and Advantages

Table of Contents

Every company and organization plans for their business to provide action strategy to the team and achieve desired results. Tactical planning is a kind of short-term planning and is associated with actions that demand immediate results. It is employed by middle-level departments to assign tasks to their teams. 

What is tactical planning?

Tactical planning is a breakdown of long-term goals, short term as compared to strategic planning which is long term. It is distinct in the way that it is used to achieve targets in a short term. It is Flexible and can be enhanced according to the need. Unlike strategic planning which is of a crucial kind and a company cannot deviate from it. The flexibility of tactical planning makes it less risky in the character in a way that if it goes wrong no harm is done to the company. Tactical planning is employed by middle departments which break down tasks for their particular teams to achieve long-term goals. 

Elements of Tactical Planning 

There are various elements involved in tactical planning. For example: further breaking down organization goals which are more than two or three years long, having a goal-oriented timeline with short term targets, like, target for next three months or six months. 

Other elements of a tactical plan are resources of the company, key performance indicators (KPIs), objectives, actions, goals of the company, flexibility and timeline determine the success or failure of tactical planning. 

When Is Tactical Planning Employed? 

Some factors determine when to use tactical planning in an organization. 

Three types of planning (Importance of tactical planning):

Every company plans for each stage of its action. There are long-term plans, short-term goals, daily tasks or days to be planned and a lot more goes behind the stage. 

Different types of planning are discussed below and when they should be used. 

Strategic planning:

“Strategy is not the consequence of planning, but the opposite; it’s the starting point.” ~ Henry Mintzberg

Strategic planning is the long-term planning for the achievement and survival of the organization. It is a mission and answers the  why  of the organization. It can even be as long as 10-year long planning. It comes from the highest level of the company and represents the vision of the organization. 

For example, a strategic plan is if a company wants to take over another organization. And the way they would achieve this mission would be by using different tactics. 

Tactical Planning:

“Strategy without tactical planning is the slowest route to victory.”

Tactical planning helps you understand and break down your strategy in chunks to achieve it sooner. Tactics are short-term flexible and less risky actions which a company takes to move forward in a short time. This type of planning is more associated with mid-level departments and is action-oriented. 

For example, if a company wants to make a bid, it will have to use promotions, lower prices, and customized offers as tactics to achieve its goal. It would be a single-time plan and doesn’t harm the company if the company fails to secure the bid. 

Operational Planning:

It involves day to day planning of any organization. Operational planning helps you to drive the workforce and to overcome the challenges faced by the workers on daily business. 

Operational planning is the guidelines and involves what, when and who, outlines policies, rules, and regulations, management of staff and their training, etc. It is used to implement strategic planning in short and doable steps. It helps you to identify and mitigate the risks and dangers a company faces frequently.  

Difference between Different Kinds Of Planning

There are differences among the various kinds of planning. There are some plans which are specific to the target for example growth planning or contingency planning in which organizations prepare themselves for the unknown risks and consequences for example inflation, natural disaster, or accidents. Whereas, strategic planning, operational planning, etc. are examples of ongoing planning and define the vision and mission of the organization. 

Below we will look into several differences among plannings and their requirements to understand their implication. 

Strategic planning and Tactical planning

Both are intermittently related and have a huge impact on the company. If strategic planning is the vision of the company then tactical planning is responsible to realize it in a time frame. 

There is no compromise on strategic planning. It defines the organization’s stake in the market and is highly crucial for it. Whereas, tactical planning is no risk planning and can be enhanced or changed from time to time. 

The highest level of an organization is involved in Strategic planning, whereas, tactical planning is done by mid-level. 

Tactical vs Operational planning

Tactical plans are used to implement security and operational plans whereas operational plans define the tasks which will implement a security policy. Operational planning is continuous or ongoing planning and requires the presence of mind to deliver the results. 

Tactical vs. Growth planning

Tactical planning is defined as your actions to attain any goal or target. You can design tactics to ward off any danger to the organization, or the tactics to achieve a milestone. whereas growth planning is specifically meant for the growth of an individual or a company. You need to define your targets, timeline, and your resources to grow your business. For example marketing plan, diversity, product development, market penetration all come under growing yourself stronger. 

Tactical vs. Competitive planning

Competitive planning helps you identify the strengths and weaknesses of your competitor. You can have both direct and indirect competitors. It includes the business strategy you can design to achieve a competitive edge over them, etc. It is mainly an analysis of you and your competitor. Competitive planning has different factors such as; highly skilled labor, easy access to raw material, or having more and stable resources as compared to your competitor. 

Whereas, tactical planning includes and is not limited to the competitors only. Tactics are used to grow and sustain your business and avoid or address the fluctuations in the business as well as the organization. 

Tactical planning process

Tactical planning is not a vague idea. It is very targeted, distinct, and goal-oriented. For tactical planning, the company must do a SWOT and SMART analysis. The SWOT analysis identifies Strengths Weaknesses Opportunity Threats for any organization. 

While SMART helps you to maintain a goal criteria where SMART stands for 

Tactical planning steps

Company objectives and resources play a major role in tactical planning. Following steps can be taken to plan tactics for a company: 

Keep Vision in Sight

Having your company’s vision insight is very important when planning for tactics as the actions should be in orientation with the goals. Vague planning wastes valuable time and resources of the organization. 

Define Goals and Objectives

Be specific with the objectives so that the plans are doable for the teams. The supervisors must keep in mind the productivity and workload of the team members when planning so that there is no room for unrealistic expectations. 

Assign Actions

Everyone on the team should know their part in the realization of the specified goal. It helps to use maximum resources, avoid confusion and distraction. 

Combine Actions With Objectives

When actions are attached to objectives it helps team members to achieve them readily as the award, i.e. sense of accomplishment is within sight. 

Determining the KPIs

Key Performance Indicators guide you along your path to your goal. They help you evaluate your progress and point you in the right direction. Having clear KPIs and vision can aid workers to act accordingly. Choosing goal-oriented KPIs to keep you on the path, for example, profit, sales targets, quality assurance , etc. 


The best thing about tactical planning is its flexibility. It assures the team because anxiety and extreme pressure to deliver only hampers the performance as a whole. Every company has a unique status and things take a turn or slow down when working long term. Flexibility in the plan helps you to be open to options. 

Having a Plan B is extremely crucial because things never go as planned. Plan B helps you to avoid risks, confusion, and demoralization among the members. Plus it keeps the company on track and minimizes the consequences. Contingency plans should be in place in any organization or individual’s life so that they can cushion the loss. 

Who and what are involved in tactical planning

When planning tactics it is highly recommended to directly involve the concerned individuals. It not only helps you to identify the SWOT analysis but also design the tactic according to the requirement of the department. 

Delegate the tasks to the persons who are most qualified to perform them. It helps to achieve optimized results with minimum efforts and resources. 

Having access to the right tools and resources, training, and production platforms are also very helpful and produce desired results with great revenues for the organization. 

When discussing a tactical plan, take notes of all the required items and deliver them immediately to the team so that they can perform at their best. 

Tactical planning examples

Tactical planning is essential in any field or individual’s life. It is a line of action to achieve the goals. Many examples illustrate tactical planning quite well. Some are discussed below. 

Advantages of tactical planning

Without tactical planning, you cannot strategize your move. It works on all levels and helps you to sustain the system in the organization . 

The advantages and benefits of tactical planning are: 

Disadvantages of tactical planning

Every planning has its downside as well. Tactical planning, however highly praised, can become a disadvantage if not implemented wisely. Some of the disadvantages of tactical planning are: 

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Learn more about Tactical Planning

Tactical Planning refers to a strategy that helps in creating short-term and distinct plans that help fulfil the long-term plans of a business, organization, or individual. Strategic planning helps companies to determine and lay out a long-term plan according to the business objectives. Tactical planning helps break down this long-term plan further into smaller, short-term goals with clearly defined goals that enable companies to achieve them. 

Also Read – Smart goals

These short-term tasks are feasible to achieve, which means that completing these will eventually fulfill the company’s strategic or long-term goal. 

Tactical planning also helps to improve the current situation of a business as short-term activities are planned depending upon the current business model and growth. So it helps set the pace for long-term goals by setting realistic expectations based on the current scenario. Most businesses rely on tactical planning to accomplish the short-term goals of businesses and set into motion the progress of long-term goals.

Do you wish to be an entrepreneur but have trouble implementing ideas? Often people have a clear vision of the future or strategic plans in place, but they lack translating them into reality. Whether you are pursuing a business idea, searching for a job, or simply aspiring to personal goals, planning is the most important aspect of creating a successful career path. Without planning and curated steps, it will be arduous to realize your vision, let alone progress towards career goals.

There are instances where you have to make a quick decision for your career or business. For instance, if you have been hunting for a job for a while and couldn’t come across any relevant option, then it makes sense to step back and think of your aspirations. Think about the specific designations that match your skillset or look for qualities in an employer that aligns with your career goals/interests. 

Planning and strategy work hand in hand to help an individual achieve personal and business goals. The first step is to set a clear objective and then outline the plan to follow up. One such strategy to plan your goals is with the help of Tactical Planning.

Examples of Tactical Planning  

A detailed tactical plan for hiring more marketing staff by the end of Q2 will involve three main steps. First, start by creating a hiring profile with a detailed job description. The next step is to start an outreach campaign on LinkedIn and other relevant sites to find candidates that meet the specific requirement and attract potential talents. Additionally, the hiring recruiters can further improve their hiring efforts by setting up career fairs at universities to hire fresh talent. 

The managers at beverage giant Coca-Cola developed a strategic plan to strengthen its position in the market and establish themselves as leaders. As part of this development plan, Coca-Cola bought various global independent bottlers to form a new alliance called Coca-Cola Enterprise. This new move was initiated as the company identified a critical threat – constant unrest between independent bottlers that packaged Coca-Cola products regarding prevalent environmental concerns over empty bottles.

By buying the bottles, a tactical plan was placed in motion by Coca-Cola’s top managers. This helped in countering the imminent threat by independent bottlers and at the same time gave strong brand recognition to Coca-Cola. Asa form of the tactical plan, the new enterprise by the company translated into more profits, stability in the market, and more control in the company’s hands. This tactical plan helped re-position the company in the market and increased revenue as an achievement of the company’s strategic plan. 

The tactical planning involved in closing more and more deals each month will require some small yet actionable steps. The first step requires enrolling more representatives in mentoring and training sessions for that particular product. Once the reps understand the nitwits of the Enterprise products, the next step is to assign them with individual goals. Set demos for each agent along with realistic and achievable goals according to their skillset and caliber. At the end of the month, analyze their individual performance and create incentives for those who closed maximum deals in a month. 

Creating a tactical plan varies with the type of organization and its unique business goals. However, creating a successful tactical plan requires the following key elements outlined below –

Creating effective goals in a tactical plan means developing a specific and realistic plan whose success can be measured and has a timeline that increases the likelihood of task completion in time.

For instance, The company Walt Disney, in a push for its expansion and swift international growth to generate more revenue from foreign markets, developed a tactical plan to expand their TV channel Disney into more foreign markets. While this does not seem to be a huge undertaking, its tactical plan will help support the overall international growth. 

For instance, let us take the Walt Disney scenario and understand the actionable steps taken to make tactics a success. So, to achieve international growth and continue the expansion process, actionable steps will include making a list of potential markets to expand the cable channel Disney and creating a step-by-step plan on setting the cost for subscription and doing it right as well in a timely manner.

Creating a tactical plan is worth the time to support the execution of business goals in a swift and successful manner. Let us discuss its various benefits for any organization –

In addition to learning more about Tactical planning, you can pursue professional courses designed and delivered by the best industry professionals.

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Example of Tactical Planning in Business

Strategies in a Company

How do you announce a new product to the world, guide to pre production meetings for tv commercials.

Tactical planning takes a company's strategic plan and sets forth specific short-term actions and plans, usually by company department or function. The tactical planning horizon is shorter than the strategic plan horizon. If the strategic plan is for five years, tactical plans might be for a period of one to three years, or even less, depending on what kind of market the business serves and the pace of change.

Characteristics of Tactical Plans

"Tactical Planning Vs. Strategic Planning," an article on the Management Innovations website, outlines several key differences between strategic and tactical planning. First, executives usually are responsible for strategic plans, as they have the best bird's-eye view of the corporation. Lower-level managers have a better understanding of the day-to-day operations, and they are usually the ones responsible for tactical planning.

Second, strategic planning is concerned with the future, and tactical planning with today. Third, since we know far more about today than we do about the future, tactical plans are more detailed than strategic plans.

Build Flexible Planning

Flexibility needs to be built into tactical plans to allow for unanticipated events. For example, if your company manufactures a product, you will need to build flexibility into your plan for machinery breakdowns and maintenance. You cannot assume you will be able to run your machinery at full tilt all the time.

Tactical Marketing Plan Example

Assume for a moment your company sells insurance products in a large metropolitan area. The tactical marketing plan for your insurance company must outline, step by step, each marketing component needed to meet the goals and vision of your company's strategic plan.

For example, if you decide one of the best ways to reach your target consumer is TV advertising, then the tactical plan needs to carefully spell out the specifics of the TV campaign. Steps in developing this plan include, but are not restricted to, deciding on an appropriate message; arranging for the production of the commercial; deciding what channels to air the commercial on and when; and following up with potential customers who respond to the campaign.

Communication Between Functional Areas

Handling customer inquiries resulting from your TV advertising may be the responsibility of your company's sales department. The tactical plan for the sales department needs to be developed in concert with the marketing department. The sales plan should address how the volume of calls will be handled, how many people this will require and how sales leads will be followed. The marketing department will need to provide the sales department with information about the TV campaign so sales can complete its own tactical plan.

Preparing to Change

The point of tactical planning is to reach the goals and objectives of the strategic plan. But markets and the business environment can change quickly. When this happens, it is time to reassess how tactics are performing against stated goals and to change tactics if necessary. Flexibility in the face of change is a necessary component of the ongoing tactical planning process.

Lisa Nielsen is a marketing consultant for small businesses and start-ups. As part of her consultancy, she writes advertising copy, newsletters, speeches, website content and marketing collateral for small and medium-sized businesses. She has been writing for more than 20 years. She is also a business strategist, trainer and executive coach. Nielsen holds a Master of Business Administration from the University of Miami.

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Tactical planning: what, when, and why.

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When facing a business challenge, entrepreneurs can approach the given situation in many ways – and that’s where tactical planning is the most valuable.

Sometimes making a quick decision is necessary. Suppose you run an eCommerce business that provides customized corporate gifts. All of a sudden, your primary supplier of packaging materials closes. 

You can’t deliver customized corporate gifts if you’re out of packaging materials or your stock runs low. Accordingly, your supply manager needs to make a quick business decision — find a new supplier in a matter of days (if not hours), so the business can proceed as usual.

Creating a tactical plan and carefully thinking through your next steps is often a better problem-solving approach. Tactical planning means having a written outline of your actions to achieve a goal or address a problem. 

So, if we go back to the example where you suddenly face a substantial business-related problem, you know what to do the moment the issue occurs – all because you already have a plan in place. 

This could mean your supply manager has several backup suppliers lined up, or you change how you deliver your product.

Whatever the case, the big picture is that you know what to do and how to act when an unexpected situation occurs.

Tactical planning is a crucial element in business, and it differs from strategic and operational planning methods in many ways. The process happens in real-time, pursuing short-term outcomes and solutions.

Having a tactical methodology in place enables your business to make nimble maneuvers and excel within a respective market. 

Below, we explain this advanced thinking technique, how it differs from strategic planning, what tactical plans entail, and everything else you need to know to enhance your business operations.

What is Tactical Planning?

Tactical planning entails systematically determining and scheduling all activities required to achieve strategic planning objectives. Such plans are typically shorter than strategic goals, and independent departments usually execute this type of preparation.

As a rule, tactics are usually flexible. This contrasts with strategic plans, which, when they fail, can do great harm to a company. Tactical plans are changeable and do minor damage to the organization if things go wrong. 

If the strategic plan is for five years, then the tactical plan may be for one year. The exact time depends on the type of business and the required pace of change. Strategic plans are also different from operational plans because tasks are usually carried out by small teams, which then contribute to a company’s overall strategic and tactical objectives.

Again, the main characteristic of tactical plans is flexibility. These plans should adapt to the changing needs – and emergencies or contingencies – faced by a company.

For instance, if a company is a manufacturer of motorcycles and the CEO makes it a top strategy to increase production in the upcoming year, tactical plans are required for each manufacturing plant. These plans should accommodate uncertainties like cuts in supplies, machinery failure, a strike by employees, etc.

Strategic vs. Tactical Planning

Some 2,500 years ago, the famous Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu wrote “The Art of War,” one of the world’s most influential books on military strategy. He states, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” 

In war and business, strategy and tactics are not at odds with one another– they’re on the same team.

When we talk about strategic versus tactical planning, here’s how we define these two nouns in terms of business:

Strategy determines your long-term goals and how you plan to achieve them. Put differently; your strategy gives you the path toward achieving your company’s goals and missions. Some of the principal characteristics of the strategic planning process are: 

Tactics are more concrete than strategy and are often oriented toward smaller steps and shorter time frames. They involve resources, specific plans, best practices, and more.

These plans break up the goals you set in your strategic management objectives into workable tasks. 

Goal, Objective, Strategy, Tactic: What’s The Difference?

While we’re on the topic of differentiation, let’s briefly discuss these four commonly interchanged terms in media and marketing: goals, objectives, strategies, and tactics.

To help make things clear, let’s throw in an example from Forbes :

How to Create a Tactical Plan 

Next, let’s go through the steps of creating an actionable tactical plan that helps your company achieve its business goals. 

Pay Attention to Your Company’s Vision 

Since tactical plans are more or less based on strategic business plans, employees need to understand your company’s overall vision and goals. As soon as they recognize the “big picture,” and how their respective roles contributes to accomplishing this vision, they’re more likely to work harder. Use your plan to encourage your employees to contribute new ideas that can save your company time and money.

Set Goals and Objectives 

The best tactical plans are founded on measurable objectives. Consider your workforce’s current workload and productivity level before prioritizing your goals based on what your organization needs most. Here are a couple of examples: 

Note that these short-term goals may change depending on the results of your team’s efforts and other factors. 

Assign Actions to Objectives 

To help your employees achieve your tactical planning objectives, it’s wise to assign concrete actions to each goal. After all, easy-to-follow actions can eliminate the risk of confusion. 

For instance, if your objective is to decrease your company’s churn rates by 5% in the next six months, you need to take specific steps to make it happen. You may begin by asking ex-clients for feedback so you can gain valuable insight for building your objective.

Establish KPIs 

Establishing key performance indicators (KPIs) helps employees know when they’re making progress with objectives. You can then evaluate them monthly or quarterly to determine the success of their efforts. 

The KPIs you set should depend on your industry and business model. Choose KPIs that support your objectives, or you risk getting irrelevant information. 

Examples of KPIs include profit, cost of goods sold, sales by region, customer satisfaction scores, customer lifetime value , quality assurance, and so on. 

Make Use of Tools and Resources 

For your team to accomplish tactical goals, they must have access to adequate tools and resources. As you develop your tactical planning, note what you need and deliver those tools and resources to your employees as soon as possible. Your team may need access to specific software, platforms, or even training to better understand your plan’s concept.

Assign Work to Specific People 

Specific departments follow through with objectives better when they know who’s responsible for each task. While you create your tactical plans, delegate work to the most qualified people to get the job done. Even if many people are involved with a single task, it’s essential to stay clear about each person’s responsibilities.

Allow and Embrace Flexibility 

You will always run into variables that hinder your team’s progress. For this reason, we recommend building, allowing, and embracing flexibility into your plan. You can think of it as a backup plan that permits changes to your methods or simply gives you more time. 

When developing a tactical plan, do only what works best for your specific business needs. Each company has a unique story with different goals, employees, and resources. At the end of the day, what works for one company may not work for another. 

Final Thoughts 

Setting suitable objectives and identifying strategies or opportunities are vital to growing a business. Nevertheless, you need to turn your ideas into actions if you want to achieve your end goals.

Tactical planning builds on your expertise and research to let you make educated decisions about your business. With a tactical plan in place, you’ll know which assignments you can appoint to your employees and what needs to be done to reach your business goals. 

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