Strategy, Tactics, Romance, and Square Hamburgers

During my high school glory days, The Krystal was the late night spot to be.  For those of you in less fortunate areas of the country, Krystal prepares a small, square southern delicacy unmatched by other purveyors of fast food – the Krystal hamburger.  But this isn’t a story about hamburgers. It’s actually a marketing lesson that we’ll get to the long way around – through food, romance, and adventure.

Krystal RestaurantBack to the Krystal. On any given Friday or Saturday night in Macon, GA, the Krystal was the place to see and be seen ’round midnight. This given Friday, I was there with my friend Jay enjoying the square delicacies mentioned above. Across the dining area, seated in a booth with bright orange benches, was the current girl of my dreams, Valerie. Beautiful, intelligent, and on a date with Billy, who shared neither of those attributes.

Believe it or not, this is episode four in a series intended to help you formulate a strategic marketing plan for your business. In the last episode of the DP Marketing SMB blog , we talked about objectives and priorities. In previous blog posts, we’ve covered the reasons why the plan is important, the proper way to look at marketing expense, and a good method to identify and prioritize marketing objectives for your company. In this post, we’ll look at two related aspects of the marketing plan: strategy and tactics.

First, it’s good to understand the difference between strategy and tactics.  We could talk in military terms, but I prefer to go back to my glory days and the Krystal. At that moment in time, I was deeply in love with Valerie and I wanted nothing more than to sneak away with her that Saturday night.  69Camaro1Kidnapping Valerie was my objective (referring back to last week’s post).  As I assessed the situation (SWOT), I identified Billy as an obstacle, and potentially a threat. He outweighed me by 60 pounds, was muscular, and I suppose rather good looking in a neolithic fashion.  Against this, I had two advantages. First, Billy was not a quick thinker. Second, the object of Billy’s devotion was not Valerie. His first love was his automobile, a dark blue Chevy Camaro.


If I could distract Billy for a few minutes to visit with Valerie, then I’d have a chance of sneaking her out of the Krystal behind Billy’s back.  So, the strategy was simple – distract Billy.


But how to accomplish the plan?  My friend Jay was a natural born troublemaker. If anyone could create a distraction, he could. Billy’s car was parked on the opposite side of the restaurant from mine and out of his direct line of sight at the table where he sat with Valerie. All Jay had to do was slip outside, then come back in and tell Billy that someone was messing with his car. Billy would abandon my dream girl for his own romantic attachment, the Chevrolet.  The tactics were straightforward and I was so convinced of their success that I neglected to come up with a backup plan. Mistake number one.

Do you get a feel for the relationship between objectives, strategy, and tactics? As you formulate your strategic marketing plan, the objectives or goals are what you intend to accomplish, the strategy is how you intend to accomplish the goals, and the tactics are the who, what, where, and when specifics of undertaking the task.  Strategy is the big picture plan to accomplish the objective. Tactics are the details that are implemented to make the strategy work.  All Jay had to do was follow instructions and implement the tactics. I assumed he would do so. Mistake number two.

Back to Marketing

Yes, it’s possible to relate this tale of romantic adventure to your strategic marketing plan. For each objective in your plan, you should map out  strategy and tactics. The strategy is general, the tactics are detailed.  The strategy takes into account opportunities and threats.  The tactics neutralize the threats and exploit the opportunities.  At the Krystal that night, the tactics were designed to remove Billy (the threat) from the table, enabling me to take advantage of the opportunity to sit with Valerie.


The Scottish poet Robert Burns said it very well:

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men
Gang aft agley,
An’lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Unfortunately, even when the strategy is sound, the tactics may fail.  At the Krystal that Friday night, I underestimated my friend Jay’s ability to follow instructions. Jay, who had consumed a beer or six, decided that another diversion would be more suitable.  Instead of leaving the restaurant as planned, Jay chose a more direct alternative.  He decided to insult Billy, Billy’s intelligence, and worst of all, the Camaro, to Billy’s face – at nose length distance.  Out the door they went into the parking lot, where Jay counted on his speed to avoid Billy’s brawn.

napkinsmallMy tactics had not worked and I was faced with a choice.  I could try to intercept Valerie, now on her way to the parking lot to see what was happening. This option would leave Jay to suffer an inevitable pulverization when Billy finally caught him. Alternately, I could get between the two of them and calm the situation down. Abandoning my strategic plan, I went after Jay and Billy.

A few minutes later, Billy was calm, Jay was uninjured, and all were heading back inside to finish their square hamburgers. Disaster had been averted, but I’d made no progress towards the objective – Valerie still sat in the booth with Billy.  When I glanced her way, she looked up and smiled.

It’s always good to have a backup plan.  As we left the Krystal, I casually dropped a napkin scrap on Valerie’s tray.  On it, I had written the words, “Call you tomorrow?” I looked back at her through the window as we walked to the parking lot.  She smiled again with a slight nod and just a glimmer of a wink.

The Lesson

In business and in romance, sometimes it’s necessary to modify strategies and to try different tactics.  This is a good lesson to remember as you begin to flesh out your strategic marketing plan.  Strategies should take strengths and weaknesses into account. They should be flexible, and it’s usually beneficial to plan to implement multiple reinforcing tactics.  Finally, it’s also good to have a backup plan, a way to adapt if the first tactics fail.

At the Krystal that Friday night, my objective was immediately achievable.  The strategy was simple and the tactics direct. Most marketing objectives will be achieved over a much longer period, though.  Strategies should be more complex, and the effectiveness of tactics should be measured.  That’s the topic of the next SMB blog post.  Some tactics will perform much better than others. Obviously, you’ll want to favor tactics that are more effective over those that aren’t.

In the next blog post, we’ll talk about metrics and a couple of key questions:

  • How do you determine when tactics are succeeding or failing?
  • What do you do about it?

What do you think?

You’re beginning to see now that marketing your business involves much more than just “doing stuff to get the name out.” The marketing plan for your business should have specific objectives.  If you’re creating a strategic marketing plan, it’s good to develop strategies to achieve the objectives and to list the tactics that you will implement.  The strategy can succeed or fail, but it’s the tactics that will be measured for effectiveness. I’d welcome your comments about my tale of romantic adventure and about your experiences with strategy and tactics.

  • Do you have a better definition for strategy and tactics?
  • Do you have a story about a backup plan that worked?
  • What do you do when it’s difficult to identify a strategy to meet an objective?

Would you like to talk about your company’s strategic marketing plan?

DP Marketing Services is a new business that provides assistance with marketing planning and implementation for small businesses.  We’re available to help you with organization and with specific projects.  Please take a look through our website and let us know if you’d like to discuss your business or a project you’re considering.  No risk – the first 2 hours are free.  If you’d like to get in touch, call Richard Dannenberg at 478-719-4029, email to, or fill out a contact form here on the website.

Photo attribution: Krystal – By Cculber007 at en.wikipedia. (Photo by Cculber007 Transferred from en.wikipedia) [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons.
Camaro – 2010, Alex Kramer.