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Goals vs Objectives: The Simple Breakdown

Whether you’re working on a team project or defining goals for an entire company, it’s critical your employees are on the same page when it comes to terminology.

“Goals” and “Objectives” often seem like two interchangeable phrases. “We have ambitious goals for 2019,” you might tell your marketing team, following up with, “Our objectives are aggressive, but entirely possible.”

When used in a marketing context, it’s easy to misconstrue goals and objectives. To ensure efficiency and unity, then, it’s vital your employees are up-to-date on the two terms you likely use when outlining your quarterly and yearly strategy.

Here, we’ll explain the difference between goals and objectives to make sure there is no ambiguity when it comes to your long-term and short-term marketing plans.
Download your free marketing goal-setting template here. 

Goals are undoubtedly critical to your business’s success. Ultimately, your company’s goals need to align with your vision and purpose, and propel each employee’s individual actions and decisions.

For instance, let’s say this year your leadership team has outlined three broad goals for your company:

1. Create a more inclusive workplace culture

2. Grow international brand awareness

3. Increase customer retention by 40%

Great … now what?

Here’s where objectives come into play — objectives are essentially the measurable actions you can take to achieve your overall goals. Typically, you’d use the S.M.A.R.T. criteria to define and measure specific objectives.

“Create a more inclusive workplace culture” is an admirable and important goal to have, but it’s vague and too broad to measure — does “more inclusive” mean one diversity and inclusion panel discussion, or does it mean a 10% increase in women in leadership positions?

Ultimately, your objectives will help your employees understand exactly what you expect from them.

For instance, let’s say you inform your marketing department that your overall goal is to “grow international brand awareness”.

Now, when your social media marketing manager is crafting her quarterly video campaign, she’ll think to herself — Hmm. How can I increase international brand awareness?

She can cater her objectives to fit company goals, as well as her own personal vision. Perhaps she decides, “To demonstrate my success at increasing international brand awareness, my objectives for my video marketing campaign will be a) 10% of all form submissions come from outside the U.S., and b) an increase in engagement from Spanish-speaking Facebook fans by 5%.”

Your social media marketing manager can then use her unique objectives to measure whether or not she’s contributing to the larger company goal of increasing international brand awareness.

As you can see, objectives can be uniquely tailored to fit each departments’ needs, and allow for a large amount of autonomy. By instilling clear and firm company goals, you can feel confident that your employees are all working in the same direction, but taking largely different steps (e.g. objectives) to end up at the same finish line.

There’s one more term differentiation you need to know — objectives versus strategy.

Referencing our example above, let’s say your social media marketing manager decides one of her objectives will be “an increase in engagement from Spanish-speaking Facebook fans by 5%”.

This is aligned with your company’s goal to increase international brand awareness.

A strategy, then, tells your employee or team how she can accomplish her objectives. For instance, your social media marketing manager might decide to focus her paid efforts on Spanish-speaking countries, using Facebook’s location targeting features. Alternatively, maybe she decides to cultivate partnerships with international companies, and posts videos in Spanish on Facebook specifically highlighting the work of those international organizations.

Both of these options are examples of strategies.

Her strategy might change over time. She might decide her paid efforts aren’t working, and try something else. Ultimately, however, her objective (increase engagement from Spanish-speaking Facebook fans by 5%) should remain the same.

free marketing goal setting template

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