Tips & Advice

Strategic Planning: Objectives vs. Strategies vs. Tactics

Ryan Feyer

One of the most common problems I’ve found with strategic planning is not a shortage of ideas of what the future could look like, it’s around the lack of clarity around the language we use to write our plans. Oftentimes, words like “objective,” “strategy,” “goals,” and “tactics” are used interchangeably, as if they mean the same thing. This intermingling of vocabulary ends up causing confusion and misalignment within our plans.

So let’s talk about the language we use in our plans by defining the words we use to describe our plans.


Objectives are the highest level initiatives of your strategic plan. You will usually only have 3-5 objectives (the people who chase many rabbits, catch none). They will be overarching enough to cover many strategies. That’s right, all of your many strategies will roll up into one or more objectives.


  • Increase consumer awareness
  • Increase profitability
  • Increase repeat business with current customers


Strategies are the next layer of initiatives that support your objectives. They are the “how” of your objectives. If your objective is to increase consumer awareness, what programs are you going to put in place to achieve that? Are you going to create a digital advertising strategy? Are you going to implement a search engine optimization strategy? 

Strategies are still fairly high-level. You’ll need to go one layer deeper in order to actually lay out the tasks at hand to see the strategy become a reality and support your objective.


  • Implement digital advertising strategy
  • Initiate gross margin initiatives
  • Create search engine optimization plan


Tactics are the gritty little tasks that need to be done in order to fulfill a strategy, which works together with other strategies to make an objective true. 

Tactics are a lot like tasks, but they likely are a grouping of tasks, like hiring a digital advertising agency. The tactic may be to hire an agency, but you’ll likely have a dozen or so tasks you need to complete in order to full execute that tactic, such as finding digital agencies, interviewing, vetting, quoting, contracting, and more.


  • Hire digital marketing agency
  • Approve advertising budget
  • Establish gross margin team

How they all work together.

Objectives, strategies and tactics are hierarchical. Think of an outline, with several layers. Objectives are the highest level items. Strategies nest under objectives. Tactics nest under strategies.

An effective strategic plan will have few objectives, more strategies, and even more tactics.

  1. Objective #1
    1. Strategy #1
      1. Tactic #1
      2. Tactic #2
      3. Tactic #3
    2. Strategy #2
      1. Tactic #1
      2. Tactic #2
      3. Tactic #3
  2. Objective #2
    1. Strategy #1
      1. Tactic #1
      2. Tactic #2
      3. Tactic #3
    2. Strategy #2
      1. Tactic #1
      2. Tactic #2
      3. Tactic #3

A Marketing Strategy Example

Here’s an example of a marketing strategy using objectives, strategies, and tactics.

  1. Increase consumer awareness (objective)
    1. Implement digital advertising strategy (strategy)
      1. Hire digital agency (tactic)
      2. Determine mediums, creative, and budgets (tactic)
      3. Create and approve advertising budget (tactic)
      4. Establish KPIs (tactic)
      5. Begin advertising (tactic)
      6. Report monthly (tactic)
    2. Create search engine optimization plan (strategy)
      1. Select SEO tool (tactic)
      2. Conduct keyword research (tactic)
      3. Assess and implement technical site improvements (tactic)
      4. Create blog and content schedule (tactic)
      5. Write blog posts weekly (tactic)
      6. Report monthly (tactic)
  2. Increase repeat business with current customers (objective)
    1. Implement customer satisfaction program
      1. Implement customer surveys
      2. Implement customer review program
      3. Implement word-of-mouth marketing plan
    2. Create cross-sell/upsell program
      1. Implement e-mail automation system
      2. Implement remarketing advertising
      3. Upgrade e-commerce system to support cross-sell capabilities
Last updated December 8, 2020.