July 21st, 2012 | Comment
One of my favorite moments in Annie Hall is the one where a screenwriter is blowing off some hot air at a drinks party and says, “Right now it’s only a notion, but I think I can get money to make it into a concept … and later turn it into an idea.”
I recalled that scene recently when a client laid out a “new marketing strategy,” and after a bit of slideware it became clear that what we actually had were a bunch of tactics stuffed into strategic-looking clothing.
Which led to me wonder: what are the differences among goals, objectives, strategies, and tactics if everyone is tossing the terms around so freely, especially in an age when being judged a “non-strategic thinker” is tantamount to being called a banker. Or worse, an advertising executive.
A goal is any large-scale purpose that tends to affect an entire company, and tends to require more than just marketing and advertising to be achieved. You might have a goal to:
- Enter a new market
- Change perception of your company from a technology leader to a business leader
- Dominate market share for a certain product or solution
Now that you’ve got a goal in mind, set your Objectives. An objective is a set of specific results – especially ones that suggest quantifiable measures you can use to evaluate success – that spring from your Goals. For example:
- Establish clear awareness of a brand (measure: change in target awareness based on pre- and post- campaign surveys)
- Drive understanding of a value proposition (measure: change in target recall of value proposition messages)
- Motivate a target audience to engage more deeply, on their terms of course (measure: number of qualified leads generated)
Just as every goal has several supporting objectives, every objective has one or two or three Strategies. Strategy is where people often fall down, and yet strategy is no more than a clear plan of action to meet a desired objective. You can have a strategy for an evening out or a strategy to allocate your assets.
The best marketing strategies are driven by Insights about your competitors, your customers, your own company, and the culture at large. You can’t be very strategic if you haven’t bothered to surface fresh intelligence.
A few examples:
- Use mobile and tablet presence to differentiate campaign (insight: marketers talk about the importance of these channels but they remain an under-leveraged outlier in execution)
- Create content that supports the entire decision-making process and mindset (insight: target audience X begins by searching out innovation, then defaults to safety)
- Encourage localized sharing of messages and content (insight: target audience Y is globally distributed, many in rural areas, and doesn’t tune into Headquarters)
Finally, we come to Tactics. You can talk about a goal, explain the objectives needed to achieve your goal, brainstorm strategies based on insights to meet your objectives, but you can’t fake it on tactics. They are by definition tactical. You can hold them in your hand, even if your hand is holding your iPad. I believe tactics often are mislabeled as strategies because the human mind likes to be grounded in the real rather than floating along on an idea that has not yet found its ultimate expression as stuff.
A few tactical examples:
- Banners with engagement experiences inside them
- A series of print ads with an offer to be redeemed at purchase
- A podcast series featuring third-party voices
- A gated content piece for lead generation
Were budgets limitless, we as consumers would barely be able to open our browsers, so jammed they would be with tactics. Thankfully, budgets are finite, we do our best to think strategically, we try to measurably meet our objectives with memorable tactics, and one day, if not now then as budgeting cranks up for the next fiscal year, we may just look up and see the goal right in front of us, provably accomplished.
Which makes for a much more satisfying anecdote at your next drinks party.