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Marketing Strategy vs. Marketing Plan

What's the Difference?

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Business people looking at paper in meeting room
Klaus Vedfelt/ Iconica/ Getty Images
It's not uncommon for people to confuse the difference between a marketing strategy and a marketing plan. I've found the easiest way to explain the difference is like this:

Marketing Strategy - Your marketing strategy is an explanation of the goals you need to achieve with your marketing efforts. (What) Your marketing strategy is shaped by your business goals. Your business goals and your marketing strategy should go hand-in-hand.

Marketing Plan - Your marketing plan is how you are going to achieve those marketing goals. (How) it's the application of your strategy a roadmap that will guide you from one point to another.

The issue is that most people try to set out to achieve the "how" without first knowing the "what." This can end up wasting resources for a company, both time and money.

When it comes to marketing, we must always identify the what and then dig into the how. If you remember one sentence from this article, it's this one:

Strategy is the thinking and planning is the doing. Here is an example of how the two work together:

Example:

Objective: To gain broader market adoption.
Marketing Strategy: Introduce into new market segments.
Marketing Plan: Develop marketing campaign that reaches out, identifies with and focuses on that specific segment.

A successful formula that can be used to further explain the importance on marketing strategy and marketing planning looks like this:

Marketing Strategy ---> Marketing Plan ---> Implementation = Success

  • Your marketing strategy consists of:

    The "what" has to be done.

    Inform consumers about the product or service being offered.

    Inform consumers of differentiation factors.

  • Your marketing plan consists of:

    The "how" to do it.

    Construct marketing campaigns and promotions that will achieve the "what" in your strategy.

  • Your implementation consists of:

    Taking action to achieve items identified in marketing strategy and marketing plan.

If you are preparing your marketing strategy and your marketing plan to go into your business plan these are the components that must go into each section:

Components of Your Marketing Strategy

  • External Marketing Message
  • Internal Positioning Goal
  • Short Term Goals and Objectives
  • Long Term Goals and Objectives

Components of Your Marketing Plan

  • Executive Summary - High level summary of your marketing plan.

  • Your Challenge - Brief description of products / services to be marketed and a recap of goals identified in your marketing strategy.

  • Situation Analysis - This section should identify the following:
    • Goals
    • Focus
    • Culture
    • Strengths
    • Weaknesses
    • Market Share
  • Analysis of Your Customer - How many customers would you like to strive for? What type of customers are they? What are the values that drive them? What does their decision process look like? What customers will you focus on for the products or services that you offer?

  • Analysis of Your Competitors - What's your marketing position? What's their market position? What are your strengths when it comes to your competitors? What are your weaknesses? What market share are you going after? What market share has your competitor already tapped?

  • Identification of your 4 P's (Product / Price / Distribution / Place)

  • Summary - Summary of above and how you will use this information to achieve the goals you have identified in your marketing strategy. Be specific - the more specific actions you have the easier it will to follow through on the last step which is implementation.

    As you can see your marketing strategy goes hand-in-hand in with your marketing plan. Without both you will find that you not only waste resources, but that you could also end up stuck without an idea of where to go.

    Another key point is don't forget to measure any marketing campaigns that you launch in order to see what works and what doesn't. You can use this information to guide you in the future.

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