A common question is this: What’s the difference between marketing objectives, strategies and tactics?
- Marketing tactics are activities to achieve a short-term aim.
- Marketing strategies are longer-term and unify the tactical activities.
- Marketing objectives are specific and measurable goals.
Marketing strategies and tactics are what give your business a competitive edge. Why? Because most companies have the same marketing objectives or goals. They want to achieve the same things:
- Get customers
- Keep customers
- Get existing customers to buy more
- Offload unprofitable customers
- Create customer advocates (people who refer others and spread positive word-of-mouth for free)
Marketing tactics are activities
Marketing tactics are all the things you do to achieve a particular short-term aim (like a coupon inserted in customer invoices for a free trial for a new product, a ¼-page ad in the local paper every week, attending a particular trade show).
Tactics are short-term and tactical.
Marketing strategies are more considered and longer-term
Marketing strategies are meant to last for a season, a year or several years. They’re meant to differentiate and unify the tactical activities.
Examples of marketing strategies
- Offer a guaranteed delivery time of 30 minutes
- Focus on marketing to moms with children living at home
- Be seen in the business press as the expert about our product category
- Establish a customer loyalty program to reduce switching
- Offer prizes in kids meals
- Easy online giving of $40 a month (for a non-profit)
- Using customer testimonials to answer “why choose us”
- Focus all messages and the customer experience on being the easiest place to find and buy what you need
A marketing strategy “connects the dots” (the tactics) into a more compelling marketing program. Tactics are determined after the marketing strategy and objectives are set.
Marketing objectives are specific and measurable
Most companies have the same marketing objectives. Examples:
- Increase sales by X% this quarter
- Reduce switching this year from X% to X%
- Increase sales to existing customers for product line A by 10%
- Attract 2,400 qualified leads by this date
It’s the marketing strategies and tactics that give a marketing program a competitive edge.
- Try different tactics and combinations of tactics. Track and measure to learn what works and why. Remember, it may be the combination of tactics that works, not just one thing.
- If you want to be respected as a marketing leader, be like sales. Make marketing objectives specific and measurable within a particular time period. Measure and report how the marketing program performed “against quota.” This is how you’ll gain respect from others and learn what works and what doesn’t to improve next time.
An example to help explain strategy, tactics, and objectives
A symphony. When you go to a symphony performance…
The executives of the symphony, along with the conductor, have determined what the theme will be, when the performances will be, how many people need to attend to break even after all costs. They are setting the objectives and goals and success metrics.
The conductor determines what musical score will be used, how it will be interpreted, what musicians will be selected and what their roles will be. The conductor is determining the “winning strategy.”
The musicians read the music and play according to how the conductor directs them. They are the “tactics” (activities).
You need the conductor to “connect the dots” of the individual players and to determine the “winning strategy.” But what the people in the audience respond to is the music – what they hear from all the individual musicians.
It’s similar with marketing. The ads, email newsletter, trade show booth, brochure, website are all like individual musicians. Who is the conductor bringing them all together in a coordinated way?