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Aug20
Strategy or Tactic? - Basics Before Bonfires
It is common, if not normal, for early stage companies or inexperienced leaders to confuse strategy with tactics. In short, one fits within the confines of the other, which is why there is often this confusion. A tactic is how something could be achieved. The strategy is why any set of tactics should be considered. Think about the old phrase, "The end justifies the means." The reason to go for the "end" is a part of a company's strategy. The means are the tactics.

It's a great subject to discuss because often there is a semantic misunderstanding that, once worked out, leads to greater clarity and unity. The Random House Dictionary I keep by my desk has several definitions for strategy. The one that seems to apply best in this context is #3 "a detailed plan to achieve or reach a goal or advantage." That last word is VERY important. The result you seek is not always a fixed end but a lead, market-share, or visibility.

In, Seth Godin's blog today he mentioned this issue, tactics as opposed to strategy, and he highlighted a new book (cover to the right) by New York Times Magazine writer Matt Bai. Seth encouraged his readers to consider getting into arguments about strategy, as this should have fruitful results. Discussion is good as long as it is positive and constructive. I have not read this book, and I probably will not but that does not mean you should skip it.

What about that cover? Strategy or Tactic? (Continued...)

The thing that struck me, and I found that John Kremer, who writes the Book Marketing Bestsellers blog was also struck by the same issue: The cover appears on Amazon to be quite bland. It reminded me of the wrapping that you find on generic foods in the grocery store. I thought I was looking at an elementary school alphabet or schoolhouse rock poster.

When I was discussing my book with publishers, several really liked the cover design my son had come up with. Several publishers told me that the cost of having a quality cover could be over $10,000 but that it is vital. One of the issues they had with the original design was that it was not readable from a distance. The second point they recommended paying attention to is that the cover needs to be recognizable from a distance. These twp features help in a book store as well as when helping people recognize when others are reading your book The same features also help on Amazon or other book sites because they use such a small picture.

Matt Bai certainly has access to resources and advisors for creating cover art. He has plenty of experience with hooks and recognition. The book is being published by Harper/Collins who also have access to even greater resources for artwork and cover design. So, after my initial reaction, I am beginning to wonder if the strategy of making a recognizable book that helps increase sales was accomplished by the tactic of focusing on readability and being recognizable over more aesthetic concerns such as attractiveness or art.

There are other possibilities:

  1. This is not the final cover and it is just a placeholder
  2. The cover is intended to cause arguments about the need for graphic artists
  3. This is an effort to start a trend to reduce the use of color in book covers

I am open to arguments about this. Getting into arguments with Seth Godin seems like a dangerous thing to do. His blog reaches a much larger audience. Still, I would like to know what people think about this book cover issue. Particularly since I have a second book in the works.


6 Comments/Trackbacks




Maybe he just wanted something simple.

It would be curious to have the title in underlined blue, the subtitle in black and the author name in green (somewhat representing a google result).

Roger,

Lots of companies I work with and come in contact with launch tactic after tactic, with little concern for strategies and measurable goals. Seems like mostly hope to me. I prefer integrated strategic planning that applies flexibility within the tactical categories.

Using a non-standard, attention grabbing book cover design is a "strategy" rather than a tactic - you have chosen to move outside the norm to garner attention.

Now, cover design is only one part, and really nothing without a strong title that attracts attention, instigates interest and drive your prospective customer to spend money on your book.

What is a title? What does it communicate?

Exactly what Seth talks about - a "big' idea.

Making any sense?

Jeff

@Mario - perhaps it would have been recognizable and perhaps Google would have gone after him for using their style. Still, it is a good idea.

@Lewis - That is why consultants exist. To help them see what they know but do not apply.

@Jeff - I think I disagree. If this was part of a series of books, and it might be, then it is a strategy. It seems to me that this is a tactic but maybe I am missing something. Seth referred to SEO as a tactical function that should be part of a strategy to...... So, having a simple cover is a tactic that is part of the authors strategy to.....

I am happy to continue this as I wonder if I am not often caught in this same trap: tactic vs strategy.

Maybe that would have been extraordinary marketing (if Google got nervous about it), leading to arguments all over the web and beyond.
But well, all search engines, including Yahoo! really use that style which is actually based on standard web visuals.

Strategy vs tactics confuses me, too.
Chess seems a game where the difference and the relationship between the 2 is clear. But it's just a game, of course.

@ Mario - Every once in a while I stop and say to myself, "Remember to play chess not checkers." I think this helps to see the difference. That extra clarity is what is so great about a good analogy.

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