Marketing Plan vs. Marketing Strategy: What’s the Difference?

In order to do meaningful work, you need to know where you are going and how you will get there. In other words, you need a marketing strategy AND a marketing plan.

You’re posting on social media, blogging and content marketing, and running a ton of other campaigns, but you may not be seeing the results. Why not?

The problem isn’t what you’re doing, it’s how you’re doing it. If your marketing efforts are not backed up by a marketing strategy then that’s probably why you’re not seeing the expected results.

A marketing strategy is your approach to achieving your “unicorn status.” The marketing plan, on the other hand, contains the activities that will get you there. The strategy is the why behind the work, and the plan is the when and the what that describes the work.

What Is the Difference Between a Marketing Plan and Marketing Strategy?

Sometimes the terms are used interchangeably, but they actually mean two different things. I’ve found that the simplest way to explain the difference:

Marketing Strategy: Shaped by your business strategy, your marketing strategy should explain the problem and how you will overcome it. It’s the offering you deliver, how you will deliver it, and why your marketing efforts will help you achieve your company’s mission and strategic goals. Once you have your strategy, only then will you be able to develop an effective marketing plan.

Marketing Plan: Driven by your marketing strategy, your marketing plan is the execution. It’s the roadmap of marketing efforts that help you achieve your marketing goals. Your plan should include detailed campaigns of what you will do, where you will do it, what they will cost, how and when you will implement them, and how you will track success.

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If you have your marketing strategy, are your plans working to meet those goals? If not, this may be the reason why you’re not seeing your desired results.

The difference between marketing strategy and marketing plan comes down to purpose and application.

Marketing strategy is driven by your business strategy: What do you want? Where you will play? How you will win? A marketing plan includes goal-driven activities and tactics to help you achieve the strategy.

But let’s break it down a bit further.

How to Use Your Marketing Strategy and Marketing Plan

In our experience, marketing plans means something different to everyone. Same with marketing strategy.

Which one do you need? The answer is both. You need a marketing strategy, and then a marketing plan.

A Marketing Strategy is the why and the what:

  • The “why” behind your company.
  • The “what” that defines what you deliver, how you deliver it, and the messaging and brand positioning that you will use to define your products or services.

A Marketing Plan is the how and the do:

  • How you are going to achieve your marketing objectives defined in the strategy.
  • The mapping of how you will execute your marketing campaigns, events, and other marketing tactics.

The issue is most people want to jump into the “how” or the plan, without first defining the “why” and the “what.” They can end up wasting valuable time and resources outlining a beautiful plan that is neither realistic nor effective.

Marketing strategy is the the approach. Marketing planning is the doing.

What Goes Into a Marketing Strategy

Keep in mind that when you strategize the direction of your marketing, there are a number of factors to consider. If you fail to look at the whole picture, you may end up unintentionally copying a competitor’s strategy, or worse, missing the mark with your marketing campaigns.

Work on outlining:

  • Goals
  • Analysis of the Marketing P’s: product, place, promotion, price, people, and process.
  • Competitor analysis
  • Brand personality and brand voice
  • Your market position
  • Core differentiators

Strategy Is Stable; Plans Change

Marketing trends change weekly; it’s important to keep up. But your marketing strategy should remain consistent. An effective strategy will guide behaviors for the foreseeable future.

If you’re still scratching your head, not sure of the difference between the two, that’s ok. That’s what we do! Give us a call!