It’s the last quarter of the year, and if you haven’t done your planning for 2010, I’ve got two things to say to you: 1) you’re late (you undoubtedly know that), and 2) you’re not alone.

But whether you’re in the middle of developing your 2010 plans, directing planning input from multiple sources, or reviewing plans for clarity and consistency, this blog’s for you.

Working with many different clients over the years, I have worked with many who have been given responsibility for planning who are not themselves trained strategic planners. This means that many of them have a limited understanding of the basics of strategic planning. Oh, they know their stuff and are often brilliant marketers, but some come from the technical side, some come from sales, some from communications – you get the picture. I will see the words “Objective”, “Goal”, “Strategy”, and “Tactic” used interchangeably. A stated “Mission” will have the hallmarks of “Vision”; a “Threat” is labeled a “Weakness”, etc. This makes me crazy, as these are all very different things, and they have very different meanings and functions.

In response I have prepared a primer of sorts that covers the basics of strategic planning terms and explanations for the many who are not trained strategic planners. I share its essence here, knowing that some of you will find this a tad didactic and below your level of operation. I would suggest that you can view this as a refresher. Overall I have the belief and fervent hope that others will certainly benefit from it.

Goals and Objectives

There are definite similarities between these two, but it’s important to remember that Goals serve as a crucial bridge between the Vision and Objectives:


  • Goals summarize principal program, development, administrative or other major accomplishments that the company or brand hopes to achieve in order to realize its vision and fulfill its mission.
  • Goals descend from and are validated by the vision.
  • They are general, not quantifiable. Think about this.
  • Whether goals are short or long term, they must be reviewed and evaluated annually.


  • Support the goals and answer the "who, what, why, when, how" questions.
  • I have found it useful to use the "SMART" acronym – (I didn’t develop it) :
    • Specific – tasks and programs
    • Measurable – driven by metrics: date, outcomes, responsibility
    • Attainable – doable within time prescribed and with existing restraints
    • Results-oriented – focus on short-term activities to gain longer term goals
    • Time-determined – time frame established for completion

Strategy and Tactics

This is the most common area of confusion, exacerbated by the difference between Left Brain, process types who are laser-focused on “how will this happen?” and Right Brain visionaries who want to know “what will the intended results be?”. 

"Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat."
                                                -Sun Tzu


  • Think of it as the rigorous planning of a campaign
  • It should be a carefully devised plan of action to achieve an established and agreed upon goal or objective
  • Sound strategy is focused on the big picture and the long term
  • It can be defined as a planned program of direction


  • Tactics are limited, short or near term actions
  • Therefore they are focused on limited, immediate or short-term aims
  • They’ve been developed to solve specific problems or accomplish specific goals.
  • Tactics is how we accomplish strategy.
  • They can either be planned or ad hoc activities that respond to demands of the moment

Here’s an example:


Expand presence in targeted markets to block competitive development


Generate increased awareness and brand loyalty through promotional activities and program sponsorship

From this point on, the tactics can get as granular as need be, perhaps being referred to as “Field Activities” or “Specific Actions” .

Vision and Mission

I am well aware that the creation of vision and mission statements is anathema to many of you, and for good reason. All too often they are mandated from above by management that feels that they are necessary but don’t know why. All too often they are created in an orgy of vague, jargonized exercises that primarily have a nightmarish quality of futility, irrelevance and redundancy about them.

Even though I tend to function in a Right Brain, organic fashion, I do have a clear and disciplined process: THE BRAND expresses THE CULTURE which expresses THE MISSION which expresses THE VISION which addresses THE NEEDS of a target audience or THE OPPORTUNITIES of the marketplace.

So we can see that Vision and Mission have a crucial place in the journey from recognizing an opportunity or need in the marketplace and the creation of a successful brand.


  • Vision describes the organization or brand and its potential impact in the future
  • It is guided by dreams, not constraints. “Visionary” – get it?
  • Ask: What do we hope will happen when our dreams are realized?

Vision inspires and serves as an internal touchstone. My theory of Internal Congruence demands that internal branding is in place before communicating to the outside world – the target market. It’s good when everyone who is part of the culture is on the same page, sharing the vision!


The Mission has two elements:

  • It is really the philosophical expression of the values-based needs that the organization or brand meets (why you exist, how your brand changes the lives of those who engage it)
  • It should be expressed as a BRIEF summary of what the organization or brand does to meet that need. “Brief” is the key word here.


When it’s time to engage in a SWOT analysis, I find the simplest rule of thumb is this:

Strengths and Weaknesses refer to INTERNAL dynamics and influences, and Opportunities and Threats refer to EXTERNALdynamics and influences. Often participants are loath to point the finger back at their company, or else are a bit too happy to blame their own culture for negatives that are truly the result of marketplace or economic realities. Keep them separate and clear.


Here’s how an example might roll out. This is pretty broad-brushed, but should provide some idea of what we’ve been discussing:


Increase Sales of Drug Brand K


Generate sales increase of 20% in the first two quarters of the year.

Hit targets and metrics based on management-approved budgetary targets.

Penetrate specialist market through referrals programs.

Brand Strategy:

To emphasize the economic impact of deficiency through raised awareness of the value of early diagnosis and early stage supplementation

Strategic Imperative:

Generate meaningful clinical data

Leverage clinical data to expand advocacy base

Tactical Recommendation:

Develop promotional campaign utilizing alternate channel marketing (webinars, peer-to-peer-education, seminars)

Incentive-based referral program development

Become familiar with these words and the criteria that determines their usage and you will attain a level of consistency and congruence that will serve your planning well. Hopefully this primer will serve as a handy guide to develop or review planning as you move forward!

Jack Cuffari, Jack Cuffari Consulting and Brand Smacks Blog