The Mystery of the Cart Before the Horse

“Tactics and strategy Watson,” began The Effective Detective.

“Sir?” I responded, utterly baffled as to how to respond.

“Tactics and strategy. Do you know what is wrong with that simple statement?” he asked.

“I can’t imagine,” I replied, getting more and more confused.

“Elementary Watson, the answer is obvious. The terms are in the wrong order.” The Detective shot back with a trace of annoyance in his voice. Still not seeing the point, I took what I thought to be the most prudent course in this discussion: I shut my mouth and waited.

“It is a frustrating situation that presents itself all too often. Strategy you see, is an overall view of a problem and the general plan of attack on said problem,” The Detective continued, slightly less annoyed as he began getting warmed up for a full-blown explanation.  “Tactics are what you actually throw at the problem. They are the muscle, the elbow grease so to speak, that you apply to solve the problem. When you reverse them, you can quite easily find yourself in a situation where you are working to solve the wrong problem, or worse yet – and probably more often, working to solve no problem at all,” The Detective paused for a moment as the point sunk in with me. Unfortunately I realized belatedly that he had expected some reaction other than silent contemplation.

“Oh Watson, don’t be dense. Think of it as putting the cart before the horse.”

In desperation I decided to chance asking for clarification. “Can you give me an example sir?”

“Of course Watson,” the Detective answered with a slight smile, “I was beginning to wonder if you were paying any attention at all.

“Imagine that  before having even determined a target market, you  begin planning a direct mail campaign and deciding what aspects of social media you are going to use, like a Facebook page.”

“Sounds a bit backward,” I replied.

“Exactly Watson, you have it! How can you write copy for a direct mail campaign without knowing who the audience is and how to best address their pain? How can you even go about obtaining a list, unless you do something silly like picking zip codes or company names out of a hat? How do you know your audience is on Facebook? And please, don’t give me that line about how everybody is on Facebook!” He exclaimed.

“Perish the thought sir. But I must ask, if once you examine such a plan of action, you could easily discern the folly, why do so many do exactly that?” I asked.

“Unfortunately Watson, because it is easy. Certainly easier than the hard work of determining a specific target market and trying to ascertain relevant demographic  information about them versus just saying your target is small business. It is also much more fun to lay out a web or Facebook page than look up statistics or trudge down to the library to review reference materials. Plus, we are so often misled by ‘gurus’ who are more intent on selling their latest ‘system’ than providing honest guidance and advice,” The Detective finished with a scowl on his face.

“But, there is always those who will point out the folly, and those who will listen sir. Brandy?” I offered.

“I hope so Watson, and yes, thank you.”

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