Hammer, screwdriver, social media – different tools for different objectives

The tactical implementation of promotional tools is definitely the fun part of a marketing plan! It’s no wonder that sometimes the zeal to use those tools elevates the tool above strategies and into the objective slot.

I don’t recommend that social media, or any tactical tool of promotion, appear as an objective in a marketing plan.

Your objectives should measure outcomes, not outputs.


Social media is a tool the same way a hammer is a tool

Did you ever watch the TV show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”? The network would choose a deserving family that was overcoming some challenges and their house was part of their problem. A crew of professionals and a whole lot of volunteers would re-create their modest home into a spectacular dream home designed for their needs and interests. The finale of the show was the big reveal. A drumroll led to large trucks moving out of the way to allow the family to see their new and improved home for the first time.

How boring would the show have been if at the end, they revealed the output and not the outcome? Imagine if instead of seeing a drastically transformed residence, host Ty Pennington pulled out a tally sheet and revealed the number of hammer swings, number of rotations each screwdriver made, and how many times the cordless drill’s battery had to be charged. “Show me the house!” You’d scream at the TV and never watch it again.

The outcomes are how happy the family is, how much easier it is for the wheelchair-using child to move throughout the now one-story ranch home, how the mom who prepares meals for a local charity now has a gourmet kitchen, and how security guard dad can now sleep at night having been relieved of the upside down mortgage payment. These were the objectives that were met. They reflect the intended destination.

The outputs (the use of the tools) were supremely important in making those things happen, but they are tactics not objectives.

Objectives Measure Outcomes - McCormick L.A.


Objectives Match the Mission

Here’s an example of an objective I would avoid:

Attract 1,000 Facebook Likes each month of 2020.

There are some obvious red flags here. Your Facebook campaign might garner you 1,000 new Likes per month (if it does, congratulations!) but that is an output. How does that output help you? More sales, volunteers, subscribers to your enews—why and how is your organization better because of that growing fan base? When you answer that, you will be developing an objective that likely more of your tactics also feed—press release, advertising, presentation at a conference, etc.

The second red flag is that the objective should be aligned with, and therefore reveal, your mission. Businesses and nonprofits alike need to have clear missions and your goals and objectives clearly relate to that mission.

Measuring this sample objective against our SMART formula (specific, measurable, active, realistic, and timed), I admit, it all works. You have to ask why.

You might argue that this helps you “increase awareness.” I have written two blog posts on increasing awareness. It’s a nebulous objectives that can be refined when you ask “Why?”

You can read those here:

Let’s be Objective When We Increase Awareness

Capitalizing on an Anniversary to Increase Awareness

For you fund developers who are also in charge of marketing, beware.

Nonprofit grantors have a strange way of focusing on outputs and not outcomes. Of course, evaluate the outputs that the grant requires and that you committed to doing, but don’t confuse the two when it comes to promotion. A grantor wants to know that you did reach out to the community even if the outcomes of the organization were not impacted. They want to see their money is being used as intended. 


Tip in a Nutshell

As you create your own marketing plan, you want to align your objectives with your mission, use your tools intentionally, and hammer away!

Leslie A.M. Smith founded McCormick L.A. in 1994 offering public relations and marketing consulting to nonprofits and businesses of all shapes and sizes. Sign-up on her website today to receive helpful insights like this one in your inbox.  See how easy your efforts can be here


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