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Tactics Before Strategy = Putting The Cart Before The Horse

As business owners, we often succumb to “shiny object syndrome” when confronted with a new tactic or tool for our businesses. This is especially true in marketing, where it seems like they produce a new tool that will get amazing results every other day.

We’re going to explore how having a strategy can keep you from spending money on tools and tactics that don’t align with your business goals.

What Does “Put the Cart Before the Horse” Mean? 

Today, we’re talking about putting tactics before strategy, which equals putting the cart before the horse. And since I’ve got readers from all around the world, I want to make sure that we talk about what it means to put the cart before the horse.

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Before I was in marketing, I was a translator. I translated Farsi, which was part of my military experience. One of the things we used to have fun with were idioms like “Put the cart before the horse”. 

This is called horse cart racing. Imagine what would happen if the cart was in front of the horse. How fast do you think they’d be going? Not fast at all. That’s the meaning of “Put the cart before the horse”. 

Put Your Strategy Before Your Tactics

As we’re going through talking about putting tactics before strategy, I want you to keep visualizing these horse cart races. I specifically picked horse cart racing because that’s how we want to move in our businesses. We want to be really fast, powerful, and strong. And when we make the choice to put tactics before strategy, we do the exact opposite. We are going nowhere. 

Example: Fancy Funnel Automation

A tactic example is building funnels. Are funnels bad? No, I don’t think funnels are bad. But a lot of business owners in the coaching, consulting, and service provider space think, “Oh if I just had a funnel I could totally transform my business and sell all these digital products.”

But looking at it from the cart before the horse scenario, if you have no plan for growing your audience and you build that fantastic funnel, who are you going to market to?

If you do not create a plan to market or grow an audience, then your funnel is just a tactic. There’s no strategy behind it. Now, you just have this expensive, fancy funnel that’s going nowhere. 

Example: Social Media Scheduling Software

Another tool is your social media scheduler. There’s a whole bunch of them out there. A social media scheduler is an essential marketing tool.

However, if you’re not already posting on social media consistently and you decide to subscribe for a social media scheduler thinking it will somehow make you more consistent – with no strategy behind that – you have probably just wasted money.

You will use the social media scheduler for a while, and then you’ll stop. 

The Consequences of Putting Tactics Before Your Strategy

You’re Pulled in Too Many Directions

 First of all, you feel pulled in a million directions. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do these things, but you have to do them in a targeted fashion. 

If you’re a small business, your marketing strategy has to be viciously effective, which is why I say marketing authority can be the tip of your marketing spear. So if you commit to all of these different tactics and tools, you will be pulled in a million directions. 

You’ve decided that on top of regular blogging, you’re also going to launch a podcast. And you’re like, “It’s going to be a weekly podcast and have all these great guests on it. It’s going to be so good! And then in like 6 months, I’m going to monetize it and my business is going to explode! It’s going to generate so many leads.” 

You run off and you make your podcasts, and now you have to commit to it. But you forgot to check your production schedule and see if you had time to find guests, edit the audio, and look for sponsors.

So you’ve attached your name to this other thing that you will probably let fail because you’ve run out of time. You also did not give that thing a “why” to keep you motivated. 

You May Lose Money

Tool subscriptions are like gym memberships; you pay to join a gym, but if you don’t go, that doesn’t hurt the gym. A ton of people sign up to a gym, but not a lot of people go.

That’s a gym whose equipment breaks less often, whose staff has to collect trash and wash towels less often, and who can probably afford to have a lower number of employees on the floor at any given time. So that gym’s costs of operations could actually go down. 

Tool subscriptions are just like this. If you subscribe to a tool and then you don’t use it, how does that hurt them?

Now, I’ve done this before too. Most recently, I wasted money on this interactive video tool. It seemed like such a good idea, and I had so many plans for it. Guess what I didn’t have? Time. I would have been better off investing in someone else who already had the tool and have them do it. 

What To Do When Confronted With a New Tool/Tactic

You need to put your strategy ahead of the tactics. You need to put your horse before the cart, so we can be fast, strong, and relentless.

So what should you do when you are confronted with a new tool or tactic? The first thing you do is to stop and think. I do not want you putting money down before thinking it through.

After that, compare. If you meet somebody at an event, before you commit even to the coffee, chat with them. If you’re considering a new tool for your business, start by comparing that tool to your strategy. How does it fit into your strategy?

Does The New Tool or Tactic Align With Business Goals?

If you don’t have a documented marketing strategy, that sounds like something we should talk about. The best-performing companies of any size have a documented marketing strategy that has their brand values, vision, and mission built-in. You should always compare anything new to that strategy. 

If that new tactic or tool aligns with your business goals, that could be a good move for you. If not now, maybe later.

What Would The Production Plan Look Like and/or Cost?

Then, I want you to map out the potential production. What are you going to have to do to make it a success? Let’s go back to the podcasting example. I think people are like, “Ruthie would definitely recommend podcasts.” And the answer to that is no, I wouldn’t.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t do a podcast – I’m just saying it’s not something you should enter into lightly. 

The Defiant Business Podcast is a bit more high-tempo than some of the other podcasts. When we take on a guest, I interview them right after I send them the form. After the interview, it’s got to be sent over to our podcast editor who goes through and edits everything. It’s divided into 4 or 5 episodes, and then it’s run through transcription software.

The transcripts are cleaned up by another teammate, and Sílvia goes and makes all the social media stuff for it. We also take the transcripts and put them on the blog (just like this one).

We take the audio from our video interviews and put them on the podcast. We take the videos and put them on YouTube for a later release date. 

Learn more about Content Repurposing here.

Do you see how intense that production schedule is? It sounds fine, but I want you to imagine doing it consistently. Think about doing that on a regular basis.

Do you have the time?

If the answer is no, do you have the money to outsource it?

If the answer is also no, then even if it aligns with your marketing strategy, you can’t do it.

You don’t have 2 of the most important resources that you need to execute it.