You could be wrong!
Everyone has their own interpretation of what strategy is. It doesn’t matter what you’ve heard, or how anyone tries to spin it, here’s what strategy really looks like.
Remember the Rube Goldberg-inspired game, Mouse Trap?
During the game, players take turns rolling a dice, and each player begins constructing the “mouse trap” (a Rube Goldberg machine) as instructed by the game board. Once the machine is built, players then take turns attempting to trap their opponents (mice) on the cheese wheel.
Players get this opportunity when they land on a “turn crank” space. If you recall, when the trap has been built and functions according to the desired plan, the player will turn a crank that sets the machine in motion.
The crank rotates a gear, connected to a second gear. As the second gear turns, it pushes an elastic-loaded lever that hits a swinging boot. The boot kicks over a bucket, which sends a marble down a zig-zagging incline, which feeds into a chute. The marble shoots out, hitting a pole with an open hand holding a ball. The movement knocks the ball free, where it lands in a bathtub and escapes through a hole in the tub, and falls on the end of a seesaw. A diver piece is launched into the other end of the tub, causing the tub to shake, which is attached to the barbed pole that supports the mouse case. The tub movement shakes the cage free and it lowers down, falling on and trapping the mouse.
Now, this doesn’t always work out all hunky-dory.
There are several different factors that can prevent the machine from functioning precisely so – thus malfunctioning. It’s possible the game board isn’t on a level playing surface. The marble could fall off the incline if kicked by the boot too hard, never feeding into the chute. The tub movement doesn’t always dislodge the cage, and even so, the cage doesn’t always make it all the way down the pole. It can get stuck on its ridges.
The game requires patience. The technology (in this case the plastic components that make up the machine) to function properly, and even some sheer luck.
This is a lot like digital strategy.
Like the game, you have a “winning” goal in mind: to conquer your opponents. In business, this could still be the same goal. Or your goal could be revenue, or growth related.
The way you get there is by building a machine, a lot like the mouse trap. The machine is the strategy (and in business is based on a hypothesis) of how to get there. Like each plastic component of the mouse trap, strategy employs tactics – like Facebook, Google Adwords, Blogs, SEO, Content – that, when executed optimally, all function together and bring the end goal to life.
But just like the game, the tactics don’t always work the way we want or expect them to. And the tactics that work for one business, might not work for another. However, when tested and measured in action, the results indicate where the tactics are failing, where they could be stronger, where they could be enhanced or improved, and so on.
This is where the Rube Goldberg machine and real-life strategy greatly differ.
Strategy is better, more reliable, and even predictable.
When the proper adjustments are made, certain tactics can be taken away, and others added, further strengthening the machine’s performance until it is running optimally and reaching your desired goal over and over again.
The reality is most people think what they’re doing is strategic, when in fact it’s most often a one-off tactic. If you find that you haven’t been evaluating your digital efforts, and creating a machine to evaluate, optimize, and reach your goals, you likely need to rethink your strategy altogether.