Strategies vs Objectives vs Tactics: Why do you need to know the difference?

Strategies vs Objectives vs Tactics – knowing the difference can and will help change the equation.

A common question that crops up all the time is “what the difference is between strategy, objectives  and tactics”. Understanding both the difference, and how these factors dovetail, is vital given that the answer will likely determine how marketing will positively impact your company. 

Strategy determines your direction and establishes your long-term vision, Objectives add qualitative and/or quantitative goals necessary to achieve your overall strategic direction, Tactics are the actual means to achieve your objectives.

So let’s begin by explaining these three important factors.

1. Strategy determines your direction and establishes your long-term vision.

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” That’s where strategic vision comes in, or what your business hopes to become tomorrow. Delineating your strategic vision (destination) is paramount to determining the subsequent objectives and tactics that will help you attain your vision.

Examples of strategic vision from well-known companies:

  • Tesla: To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.
  • Nike: Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world.
  • MVMT: Style shouldn’t break the bank.
  • Warby Parker: To offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading the way for socially conscious businesses.
  • IKEA. Our vision is to create a better everyday life for many people.
  • Nike. Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.
  • McDonald’s. To be the best quick service restaurant experience.

Strategic Goals

Let’s review the business factors that determine your long-term strategic goals:

  • Revenue
  • Overhead Cost
  • Unit Cost
  • Productivity
  • Efficiency
  • Waste Reduction
  • Business Capabilities
  • Return On Investment
  • Risk Reduction
  • Process Improvement
  • Competitive Advantage
  • Market Penetration
  • Diversification
  • Sales Volumes
  • Customer Acquisition Cost
  • Customer Lifetime Value
  • Customer Satisfaction
  • Organizational Culture
  • Throughput
  • Service Quality
  • Service Performance
  • Service Quality
  • Product Quality
  • Work Quality
  • Time To Market
  • Innovation
  • Brand Recognition
  • Brand Image
  • Employee Satisfaction
  • Employee Retention
  • Recruiting
  • Compliance
  • Sustainability

Knowing your destination will enable you and your team to buy in to objectives like these:

  • Primary: Focus on expanding our presence within our present customer base vs acquire new customers
  • Secondary: Expand our customer base
  • Achieve certain revenue goals
  • Develop one or more vertical (niche) marketing channels
  • Determine the right products and segments that fit the vertical channel/s
  • Identify the demographics of our primary target audience by vertical channel

2. Objectives add qualitative and/or quantitative goals necessary to achieve your overall strategic direction

A quantitative objective is measurable. Some objectives, like test objectives, need to be measurable so that we can tell if they have been met.

Examples of quantitative business objectives would include the attainment of specific, measurable goals, i.e.:

  • Generate revenue of $12.5 million dollars annually, a 10% increase versus prior year.
  • Ensure gross profitability continues to be measured at 46.5% average.

The more quantitative you can make your goals, the better. This will enable you to measure your progress during the coming year, and adjust your plans based on attainment (or non-attainment) of your quantitative objectives. 

A qualitative objective is subjective and non-measurable, i.e.:

  • Increasing brand awareness in the next fiscal year.
  • Ensure brand integrity is maintained in the current product line.

Qualitative marketing objectives focus on intangible elements that influence the relationship between consumers and products, brands or businesses. While more difficult to assess, qualitative marketing goals often play a key role in capturing and retaining market share. The problem with qualitative objectives is that they can be overly simplistic, and tend to lack the depth and meaning of objectives which are quantitative.

3. Tactics are the actual means to achieve your objectives.

While strategy and tactics originated as military terminology, their use has spread to planning in many areas of life. Strategy is an overarching plan or set of goals. Tactics are the specific actions or steps you undertake to accomplish your strategy.

In marketing, tactics are the specific programs we implement to achieve your objectives and support your strategy. Marketing tactics would include using the familiar:

  • Email marketing to existing and potential customers.
  • Posting on Social media platforms.
  • Building a Website to communicate service offerings.
  • Conducting search engine marketing to rank your site higher in engines or conduct display advertising campaigns to influence website visitation.
  • Creating video to market in a personal way to targeted constituents.
  • Creating content marketing to bolster website search and use in collateral materials.
  • Buying paid media to reach a targeted audience in a targeted publication, online or off.
  • Conducting online commerce to encourage product purchases through a website.

And so on, and while vitally important in their own right, tactics are not a strategy but implementing them can achieve your objectives.

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Julian Aston