Strategy, Goals, Tactics and Marketing Objectives: Four Marketing Terms that Need Some Love


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2016 and has been updated for relevance and accuracy.

Remember your rookie days when people used terms like “marketing objectives and goals” and “strategy and tactics?” You weren’t sure what they were talking about, and now, with a glance in the rearview mirror, you realize many of them didn’t know either. 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 words later. Maybe you kept that promise, maybe not. One thing remains true: there will always be someone in the room who needs clarification, or worse, someone who doesn’t understand the subtleties and uses these four words interchangeably.

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Strategy: “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.” – Henry Russel Sander

No—that’s not from Vince Lombardi, coach of the Green Bay Packers, but Henry Russell Sander, UCLA football coach. See, already there is confusion.

Strategy is about winning, as in battles, chess, or football. “Strategy” started showing up in a marketing context during the last quarter of the 20th century when required reading included books 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, means you assume an aggressive, competitive position, finding ways to become “industry leaders.” In other words, you plan to win!

For whatever reason, the warfare connotation has become lost in the 21st century, and developing a marketing strategy now involves an analysis of the environment—economic, technological, political, and the like– as well as the competitive assessment of an industry.  “Strategy” includes ways to achieve market dominance, customer preference, brand loyalty, or other similar endpoints. Once the strategy has been articulated, it is time to develop…

Goals: “… goals should never be easy, they should force you to work, even if they are uncomfortable at the time.” – Michael Phelps

Goals give you the big picture, something to which you aspire, your fondest wish, the mountain you want to climb. “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 get everyone thinking along the same lines, working with a common understanding of the mission, and coordinating efforts.

Tactics: “The game of football is one of strategy and tactics.” – Woody Hayes

Yes, we’re back to football—Ohio this time. Much like warfare, football is the perfect demonstration of how strategy gives rise to tactics—and how tactics support strategy. How are you going to implement the strategy and reach your goals? What marketing initiatives are at your disposal? You can choose from a list of digital and analog options. The challenge is to know what works for your market—and what best reflects the character of your company. Live events, sponsorships, speaking opportunities, web activity, content marketing, public relations—the list is limited only by your imagination.

Marketing Objectives: “Management by objectives works – if you know the objectives. Ninety percent of the time you don’t.” Peter Drucker

Marketing objectives give you a way to measure your progress. The acronym SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time-based) is a good test for whether or not your objectives will “work.” Objectives force you to pin down how you will be able to 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 the XYZ trade show?

How can you tell how close you came to achieving your goal? Well, you set objectives. Here are some sample marketing 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. It’s about charting your progress from strategy to objectives; it’s a conversation open to everyone.

Ready to start talking strategy and establishing your goals? We’d love to help. Schedule your free strategy session now.
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