Regardless of how many years you’ve spent in corporate marketing, you no doubt remember your rookie days when people used terms like “marketing goals and objectives” and “strategy and tactics.” Because you didn’t want to call attention to your newbie-ness by asking what they meant, you nodded your head and promised yourself you would look up these terms later. You wanted to make sure that going forward you knew what you were talking about. Maybe you kept that promise, maybe not. One thing remains true: there will always be someone in the room for whom the definitions are fuzzy—or someone who doesn’t understand the subtleties and simply uses the terms interchangeably.
Here’s some help:
STRATEGY: What do you want to win?
The word “strategy” started showing up in a marketing context during the last quarter of the 20th century when required reading included books on military strategy such as The Art of War by Sun Tzu. The metaphor wasn’t misplaced. Developing a strategy, or being first on the field of battle, meant companies assumed an aggressive, competitive position, finding ways, in today’s parlance, to become “industry leaders.”
For whatever reason, the warfare connotation has become lost in the 21st century, and developing a marketing strategy now primarily involves an analysis of the environment—economic, technological, political, and the like– as well as the competitive assessment of the particular industry. “Strategy” includes ways to achieve market dominance, customer preference, brand loyalty, or other similar end points. Once the strategy has been articulated, it is time to develop…
GOALS: Where would you like to go?
Goals give you the big picture, something to which you aspire, your fondest wish, so to speak. “I want our company to be the most remembered company at XYZ trade show” is a goal. There is no measurement attached, no plan about how to get to number one, no definition of “number one”—just an overall goal. Goals function to get everyone thinking along the same lines, working with a common understanding of the company or project mission, and consolidating efforts.
TACTICS: How are you going to get there?
What initiatives are you going to use to implement the strategy and reach your goals? What marketing initiatives are at your disposal? There are a number of digital options, live events, sponsorships, speaking opportunities, web activity, public relations—the list is limited only by your imagination. If we were to go back to the military metaphor, we would find that tactics are a very workable concept—think weapons and battle plans.
OBJECTIVES: How do you know that you’ve arrived?
Objectives give you a way to measure your progress. The acronym SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time-based) is often used as a way to tell whether your objectives will “work” for a simple reason: it works! You are no longer allowed to be amorphous; objectives force you to pin down how you can tell whether you have achieved your goals and whether the tactic you have chosen has been fully implemented.
Let’s go back to the goals we mentioned earlier, a goal which implies the choice of a tactic: trade shows. What will it take for your company to be the most remembered exhibitor at XYZ trade show?
What elements constitute memorability—and how can you set objectives to achieve that goal? Here are some sample objectives that might be applicable:
- Build and design an exhibit for $350,000 that includes casual meeting areas and catering stands as well as product demo areas in our 30’ x 30’ space
- Engage 750 visitors with our virtual reality demonstration
- Collect 300 leads over three days of the show
- Identify 150 viable prospects from those leads
- Generate 25 press mentions as a result of our trade show participation
- Conduct 100 exit interviews with attendees
- Distribute 1,500 branded teddy bears
- Get at least one person from our engineering team on the speakers’ roster
- Close $X,XXX,XXX.XX in sales in six months that are a direct result of the trade show
The language of marketing may be confusing but marketing itself is not. Marketing relies on insight, experience, and a constant reality check. The progression from strategy to objectives makes sense; no one needs to stay out of the conversation.