Tactical vs Strategic Measurement: What’s the Difference & Why You Should Care

by Jim Cain

Let’s just start with a quick definition.

Strategy = Plan

Tactics = Actions

This is a bit of a facepalm definition, and it feels obvious.  That said, I often struggle with customer engagements where the lines between tactics and strategy are murky and ill-defined.  

Here’s an example.

“I’m data driven, and we need to measure everything.”

Statements like this are often listed as the strategic measurement objectives for an organization, while in actuality they are a bucketing of similar tactics with no clear objective.  It’s for this reason that so many organizations get bogged down in effort and cost in their data practices and are able to show clear results when asked.

The easiest way to show that a perceived strategy is actually a bunch of tactics is to respond with a one word question: “Because?”  The inability to clearly answer this question is indicative of a lack of real strategy, and therefore a lack of alignment to key value drivers for the organization.

With that in mind, here’s another example.

“Our entire business revolves around creating long lasting relationships with our clients and increasing the number of transactions and dollars they contribute on a yearly basis.  Our goal for measurement is to collect any and all data that helps us understand and improve customer lifetime value (LTV).”

Now we’ve got a strategy.  

A clearly defined business objective with a focus on the types of tactics that it will take to accomplish it.  While this strategy is currently based on data collection and reporting, it can easily evolve over time into a marketing and analytics strategy.  Data being captured and connected for reporting creates the required foundations for successful data driven marketing initiatives.

Let’s update that strategic example to incorporate marketing.

“Our entire business revolves around creating long lasting relationships with our clients and increasing the number of transactions and dollars they contribute on a yearly basis. We want to capture and understand all required data to understand LTV by customer segment, and then use that data to run messaging and personalization campaigns to grow LTV by 20%”

This is the kind of data driven strategy that an entire organization can get behind, align on, and win with in 2023.

A big part of the reason why organizations conflate tactics and strategy when it comes to data is a lack of executive sponsorship.  It takes senior leadership to pick a point on the horizon and move the company in that direction, and often those leaders forget that data needs to be a key component of their planning.  Most times when I see a ‘bundle of tactics’ plan it comes from a member of the client org who isn’t senior enough to define true strategy but has been tasked with owning data.

While a purely tactical approach to data still has the ability to generate wins for your business, they will be happenstance rather than deliberate.  Organizations that have a data strategy, especially one that is designed to evolve into a marketing and data strategy are positioned to survive and thrive in the next few years.



Curious about data strategy and tactics in your business?  Want some advice on how to both approach and implement a marketing and data strategy?  Napkyn’s team is here to help.

Jim Cain

Chief Innovation Officer & Founder, Napkyn Analytics

Founding CEO of Napkyn Inc., it was Jim’s curiosity about how data can be leveraged by marketers that led to him establishing the company in 2009. He ideated, delivered and iterated all of the early services delivered by Napkyn to enterprise clients. Jim has a unique ability to connect the dots for where the industry and individual brands will and can go with their data-driven initiatives.

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