Goals, Strategy and Tactics

by Phil Buckley on December 20, 2010

in Social Media

People love to talk about tactics. Tactics are fun. Tactics are exciting. Tactics are usually what gets talked about in long articles in business magazines. But what about the forefathers of tactics? Why no love for goals or strategy?

Social media is especially vulnerable to jumping straight to the tactics. Sometimes we hear things like “Let’s get 100,000 followers on Twitter” and “Can we drive more traffic to our Facebook page?” from clients in the very early stages of talking through their goals. It’s not surprising, fans and followers are often reported as a goal all by themselves.

The best way of thinking about it was summed up by Michael Gray on Twitter:

@graywolf:ok for all those people out there who want more followers on twitter what will you do with them, for them or to them when they follow you

@graywolf's brilliant question

Asking that question is really asking people to think about your goal rather than just a strategy of increasing your follower count.

Let’s walk through a real life example.

Perhaps you own a business that provides chiropractic services and you come to Raleigh’s best interactive advertising agency for some help in generating more business. So right there we have the first form of the goal we’ll need to be aiming at – generating more business.

Now you may think, “duh, that’s everyone’s goal!” That’s true, so let’s give the goal a little more specificity:

GOAL 1: Increase the number of new clients coming into the office.

GOAL 2: Increase the raw number of inquiries about chiropractic services.

The next step is thinking through a strategy. Your strategy is really just a collection of ideas about how the goal can be achieved. That’s why it’s impossible to work on a strategy document until you have clear goals. Goals should be written down and agreed upon by everyone involved in the process. If there is any ambiguity at the goal stage everyone should stop and re-clarify.

Strategy: This is where a bunch of us will sit down and start working through ideas that we can whittle down to present to the client. In this example, we’ll use three simple ones.

  • Encourage people at other chiropractic offices to switch
  • Find people who may need your services who have never used a chiropractor before.
  • Encourage existing patients to come in more often
outdoor advertisement for a chiropractor

Not an actual client

Tactics is next. Choosing tactics will depend on different factors for every business. The two biggest factors we usually have to work with are client resources and budget. Sometimes the best tactics will bubble up at a brainstorming session.

  • Billboards
  • Set up at the mall and give away information and some minor adjustments
  • Television, Radio & Newspaper ads
  • Target users looking for chiropractic services on the web using paid advertising (Google AdWords)
  • Banner advertising
  • Email campaigns
  • Search optimization
  • Content marketing
  • Standing on the side of the road flipping a sign?
  • Buy a competitor
  • Social media outreach

For the business in our example, let’s throw out buying a competitor because it’s not in their budget and setting up at the mall because they don’t have the resources. A big branding effort that takes advantage of traditional media like television, newspapers and outdoor advertising may work, but will be dependent on budget.

If this imaginary client decided to go with paid search (which is a no-brainer suggestion in this case)  with a monthly budget of even as little as $1,000 we would want to drive segmented traffic to one of a few highly specialized landing pages designed to make people 1. call the office 2. sign up for a newsletter 3. switch from their current chiropractor.

Measuring and optimizing each of those campaigns over the weeks and months will eventually lead to perfecting those campaigns to the point where we can start experimenting with something new. Can we target people looking up acupuncture? How about migraines?

Another place we would recommend would be social media. One of the big reasons is that people love complaining on social media.

back pain tweet

can you feel her pain?

A tweet like the one above needs to be replied to without a hard sell. Nobody wants to be pitched while they are complaining, but maybe a suggestion of something she could try until she can see someone. The tactic is a soft sell that also connects with her at a personal level and maybe a follow up 24 hours later to check in.

A great strategy does not depend on brilliant tactics for success. If the idea is strong enough, you can get by with mediocre tactical execution. However, even the best tactics can’t compensate for a lousy strategy.

A lot of people confuse marketing strategy with marketing goals.  They are not interchangeable. Here are a few examples I found on the Web while writing this article:

“Create brand awareness”

“Overcome objections to new pricing structure”

These aren’t strategies, they’re goals. It’s not really a strategy unless you can point to an idea behind it.

When was the last time you skipped the goals and strategies and just started talking tactics?

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Christine Seib December 20, 2010 at 10:20 pm

Stop reading my mind!

I often get people who ask me to help implement something without even a goal in mind, skipping the rest. I do enjoy walking them through the process, and I do because getting the most for your marketing dollar is impossible without knowing what you want to get out of it.

Thanks again for a great post.


Phil Buckley December 20, 2010 at 10:40 pm

@Christine – sometimes people have a goal in their head but never bother sharing it. That can be just problematic because you try to move forward with what you think is their goal… dangerous.


Mike Brown Mike Brown December 22, 2010 at 8:12 am

This is a great post!


Les James Les James December 22, 2010 at 11:04 am

Great article Phil. I absolutely love that tweet from Michael Gray. Everyday I see people follow me on Twitter and then unfollow a day later because I didn’t return the favor. It’s a pretty crappy tactic for generating a following but these people just see Twitter as a numbers game. That’s where Michael’s tweet really resonates with me. One way or another you’ve built a following, now what are you going to do with it? I don’t want to go on a rant here, but people gaming for stats on Twitter just don’t get it. Thousands of followers may sound impressive but if none of them care about what you say then it’s worth absolutely nothing. Building an authentic following takes time and energy to engage with your audience. An engaged audience will help you achieve your goals much better than an audience of marketing gurus and Twitter bots.

We all want a bigger audience, but are we willing to accept the responsibilities of what it takes to maintain an authentic following?


Mike Brown Mike Brown December 22, 2010 at 3:49 pm

Love the basketball hoop in the article image as well… get it goal? nice work Phil


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