Marketing Plan vs Marketing Strategy:
Is there really a distinction between a marketing strategy and a marketing plan?
While the terms are frequently used interchangeably, they are actually two very different concepts in the real world. It may appear to be splitting semantic hairs, but understanding the difference between marketing strategy and marketing plan is critical to the success of your campaigns and your progress toward overarching business goals.
Let’s compare and contrast the concepts in greater depth so you’re ready to implement a marketing strategy and plan.
Marketing Plan vs Marketing Strategy
Is it necessary for marketing teams to have a strategy? I recently gave an emphatic Yes to this question. Strategy enables daring marketers to use their imagination to propel a company’s growth. Nonetheless, far too many marketing teams operate without a strategy. Some do not even have a solid marketing strategy.
To do meaningful work, you must know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. In other words, you will require a marketing strategy as well as a marketing plan.
The marketing strategy is your approach to gaining a competitive advantage, while the marketing plan details the activities that will get you there.
The strategy is the why of the work, and the plan is the when and what of the work. While this is a fairly straightforward definition, the distinction between strategy and planning is frequently misunderstood. This is especially true if you work on a team that lacks strategic leadership. You may be wondering if marketing teams really require both. What are the distinctions?
What exactly is a marketing strategy?
A digital marketing strategy serves as the “why” of your marketing. Your central strategy will inform every piece of marketing collateral or content you create.
Essentially, marketing strategy is a reflection of your company’s short- and long-term business strategies. Your marketing strategy should also reflect your brand’s values, voice, mission, and messaging. For example, if your company wants to grow quickly, the strategic marketing vision you create will help you achieve that goal, perhaps by focusing on consumer acquisition or increasing your online presence.
A good marketing strategy will include your unique selling proposition, all of your company’s goals, and its brand identity.
“[S]trategy is a singular thing; there is one strategy for a given business — not a set of strategies,” according to a Harvard Business Review article. It is a unified set of options: what is our winning goal; where will we play; and how will we win?”
What exactly is a marketing plan?
Your marketing strategy is the “how” to your strategy’s “why.” A marketing plan should ideally be just that – a plan of action for how you will carry out your strategy to achieve marketing goals and, by extension, business goals.
The process of developing a marketing plan focuses on the practical steps you will take to create, promote, track, and measure your marketing campaigns, programs, and assets. The workflows, tactics, and procedures you create will serve as a road map for making your strategy a reality.
WHAT IS THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN A MARKETING PLAN AND A MARKETING STRATEGY?
Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, they actually mean two different things. I’ve discovered that the simplest way to explain the distinction is:
Marketing Strategy: Influenced by your business strategy, your marketing strategy should explain the issue and how you plan to solve it. It is the offering you will provide, how you will deliver it, and why your marketing efforts will assist you in achieving your company’s mission and strategic goals. Only after you’ve developed your strategy will you be able to create an effective marketing plan.
Marketing Plan: Your marketing plan is the execution of your marketing strategy. It is the marketing effort roadmap that will assist you in achieving your marketing objectives. Your plan should include detailed campaigns outlining what you intend to do, where you intend to do it, how much it will cost, how and when you intend to implement it, and how you intend to measure success.
If you have a marketing strategy, are your plans working to achieve your objectives? If not, this could be the reason you’re not getting the results you want.
The distinction between marketing strategy and marketing plan is based on purpose and application.
Your marketing strategy is influenced by your business strategy: What do you desire? Where will you be playing? How will you triumph? A marketing plan consists of goal-oriented activities and tactics that will assist you in achieving the strategy.
What is the relationship between strategy and plan?
To use a simple metaphor, the ship that is your business requires not only a course to follow (i.e., a strategy), but also sails to propel it (i.e., a plan).
Marketing strategy and plan are inseparable, with the latter taking cues from the former. Everything in your strategy should be addressed with a plan that defines the processes for achieving marketing goals.
However, the lines can become a little hazy. Strategic planning is a commonly used phrase that can be perplexing. In reality, strategic planning is simply high-quality planning informed by a comprehensive marketing strategy. It’s similar to the distinction between branding and marketing. Branding is the effective execution of strategy through the development of a brand tone, style, image, and reputation that strategy requires.
Needless to say, a strategy without planning is analogous to a winning idea without a means to realize it, and planning without strategy will result in a rudderless ship.
What’s included in your marketing strategy?
The broad strokes of your marketing strategy.
The background section describes your company’s goals, marketing objectives, and challenges.
Your market analysis describes the opportunity, market sizing, market segments, and potential impacts on your market (trends, economic, seasons).
The specifics of your market segments and their characteristics (from their demographics to psychographics, goals, pains, buying patterns, and positioning of benefits and unique selling proposition). In this section, you should also include examples of segments that you are not targeting and how your offering is superior to competitors.
Analysis of Competitors
The various types of competitors and their characteristics, such as threats, market share comparison, differentiation, entry barriers, and so on.
This includes what you deliver or offer to the market, what the need is, what features and benefits you intend to provide to each segment, and how you intend to deliver those features or benefits.
Discover what your target audience knows or believes about your company right now. Determine the most important message for all segments and provide evidence to back it up. This is an excellent opportunity to provide feedback from satisfied customers – what do they say that supports your message? Why are they content?
Make a list of the channels you sell through and who is involved in selling at each stage of the sales process. This is a good place to note whether the purchase was made on the spur of the moment or on purpose. Furthermore, describe the steps they take through each stage of the purchasing process and understand their purchasing criteria; this informs the content you can create and use in your marketing materials.
Each customer has distinct requirements. In some cases, price may not be an important factor in the decision-making process. Is this true for your industry? What is your pricing strategy? Is it multi-tiered? Are there any special offers? Include competitive pricing, the perceived value of your product or service in relation to price, services included in the price, and how consumer trends may drive the price up or down.
Promotion and communication – What is the pattern of communication with customers? Can we incorporate any marketing activities into that? What other materials might be useful to them? What other way could they learn about us and our services? What are the most important and relevant channels? Which channels are the most effective?
If you have a marketing strategy, are you putting it into action to achieve your objectives? If not, this could be the reason you aren’t seeing results. A new call to action has been issued.
Let’s take a look at a marketing strategy now. Unlike your marketing strategy, you’ll refer to your marketing plan more frequently as you implement your plan and track your results. In this blog, you can learn more about reviewing your findings: 5 Steps to a Successful Marketing Plan Review
What’s included in your marketing plan?
Give a high-level overview of the marketing strategy.
Give an overview of your target market, including their pain points, goals, purchasing patterns, and messaging.
Indicators of Key Performance (KPIs)
Your key performance indicators (KPIs) assess the success of your marketing campaign. Here are some examples of key performance indicators (KPIs) for your marketing campaign:
Inbound Marketing ROI Website Traffic-to-Lead Ratio Lead-to-Client Ratio Landing Page Conversion Rates Sales Revenue Cost Per Lead Client Value
Analyze the Organic Traffic Situation
Describe your objectives, strengths, weaknesses, environmental factors, and market analysis in order to clearly articulate your future challenges and impacts on your business.
What you’re offering in the marketplace and how it differs from competitors.
Price – What distinguishes your pricing model? What is the monetary value and structure? Why will customers prefer your product or service to others?
Place – The digital environment of today necessitates a shift toward online sales. Is the first place your buyers will see your product is online? What other channels will you use to sell your product?
Promotion – How will you publicize your product? Using online advertising? What is email marketing? Blogging? Make certain that each path you choose will have a genuine impact on your revenue.
Your marketing plan is a critical component to achieving your business objectives and producing results for your company, from your website to social media, content, and the channels you will engage on with potential clients. When it comes to developing a successful marketing plan, there are numerous best practices to consider, but they should all include the following:
Website Design and Branding
Is your website’s messaging consistent with your personas? Is it designed to generate leads for your company? Even if a potential buyer isn’t ready to buy your service or product right now, that doesn’t mean they won’t be in the future. Establish yourself as a thought leader by providing useful content on your website to attract leads until they are ready to purchase from you.
Strategy and Planning for Content
What content is already available? Is it appropriate for your marketing campaign? Is it necessary to revise your messaging so that it captivates and engages your audience? (If you need a refresher on content marketing fundamentals, check out this blog.)
What channels will you use to reach out to your target audience? Where do they spend the most time? Inquire with your personas about which channels they are using.
Plan for Social Media
How do you make use of social media? Are you collaborating with thought leaders? Responding to satisfied customers? How frequently do you post? What key performance indicators (KPIs) do you use to assess success?
Make a plan for your campaign’s timeline. This will assist you in measuring the overall success and effectiveness of your marketing efforts over time.
What budget will you set aside for advertising, digital, website, event marketing, and so on?
Determine who is in charge of each aspect of implementation. Is each design created by a single person? Do you have a content writer in charge of blogging, social media posting, and so on?
Creating your own strategic marketing plans
The following are the key distinctions between a marketing strategy and a marketing plan:
A marketing strategy’s purpose is to capture marketing goals — what needs to happen for your product or service to reach the right customers and perform well in the market. Strategy helps everyone understand who will get the most value from your offerings (the target audience), the value proposition, and how you will reach your ideal customer, which keeps the team aligned around those shared goals.
A marketing plan’s purpose is to describe and visualize for the team when and how you will achieve those goals. Plans define the timeline and themes of your work — your campaigns and programs — and allow you to prioritize the activities within each in accordance with your strategy. This clarifies how each activity relates to both the marketing goals and the overall business goals.
Before you begin any actual work, you should develop a marketing strategy. It serves as the foundation for all of your campaigns and activities. However, you do not have to create a new one for each new campaign. Your marketing strategy should not change dramatically in a short period of time if you want to make a real impact. Instead, reevaluate it quarterly and make adjustments as your market, team, and budget change.
After you’ve established a marketing strategy — a clear understanding of why you’re doing the work — you should create a marketing plan. Over the course of a quarter, you may develop a number of different plans for various campaigns or programs, as well as teams such as product, digital, and content marketing. Each plan should be time-bound, with key dates for when each activity must be completed.
The following are common components of a marketing strategy:
- Vision and objectives of the company
- Marketing objectives
- The essence of the brand
- Personas of buyers
- The competitive environment
The following items are typically included in a marketing plan:
- Campaign objectives
- A timeline with key dates is provided.
- Channels that will be used
A marketing strategy should be developed in collaboration with the leadership team, or at the very least, with their approval. A strategy report is one of the best ways to share your strategy because it shows how your major initiatives map to the objectives. It demonstrates that you are considering how everything is connected.
Your coworkers will need to understand the specifics of your marketing strategy. This is understandable because they need to know how they can assist and what dependencies exist. There are numerous visual ways to convey this information. Create a schedule, such as a Gantt chart or calendar, to demonstrate this. These reports show the timeline for when each activity must be completed as well as who the owner is.
Strategy and plans work in tandem to motivate the team, allowing you to move forward boldly and with purpose.
So, how do you formalize your marketing strategy and marketing plan? Each one has numerous components, making it difficult to keep track of them in a spreadsheet or documents that are not widely shared. You might want to think about using a marketing planning tool that allows you to easily set strategy, create visual plans, work on activities, and report on results.
Regardless of where you log the details, you must make the information available to all team members. This way, you can keep everyone on track and focused on the big picture. Because, yes, marketing teams require strategy as well.
What metrics and statistics will we use to determine success or failure?
Before you start writing your marketing strategy, ask yourself (or your team) how you will know if your marketing efforts were successful.
Make sure you have a system in place to collect and report on data.
For instance, if you define success as the number of conversions (new customers) from an email marketing campaign, you’ll need a CRM to track which new customers came from your email blast.
Invest in quality measurement tools to ensure that your marketing strategies are implemented effectively.
What should the size of my marketing budget be?
This is a frequently asked question. Marketers and business owners place far too much emphasis on the perfect number and end up spending nothing.
Worse, they spend based on an arbitrary figure with no system in place to have any meaningful impact.
The amount you should spend on marketing is simply what makes sense for your company.
How did you come to that conclusion?
Experts agree that planning and measurement tools should account for 10-15% of your overall budget.
Include the costs of using your company’s internal resources (such as staff) for things like content marketing, list segmentation, and responding to customer feedback in your budget.
Simply calculate how much of your company’s profits you can put back into the business to help it grow in the future. Don’t go out of business because you can’t afford to fund your marketing efforts.
In the past, what marketing strategies and plans did you employ?
Before you look ahead, take a moment to look behind you.
Examine what you’ve already done to see what has and hasn’t worked in the past.
If you have access to performance data, now is the time to use it.
Learn from your mistakes and try as hard as you can to replicate your successes.
The more data you can analyze before making new decisions, the better informed you will be (and the smarter your decisions will be).
What is the state of your competitive landscape?
When developing a new marketing strategy, it is critical to understand not only what works and does not work for your company. Take the time to research your competitors as well.
Determine your competition on a local and national level (depending on your industry). It is critical to understand how those who provide similar products or services present themselves.
Not only that, but you’re probably competing against businesses—as well as other factors—that you might not be aware of unless you do some research.
To put it another way, you’re competing against more than just your competitors.
You are also competing with businesses that may not offer the same product as you, but whose offerings may have an impact on yours.
When you factor in the digital marketplace, you’re now competing with other businesses that may have the same name as yours.
So, now that you know who your competitors are, you must audit their marketing in the same way that you audited your own.
Examine what they’re doing and contrast it with what you’ve done.
If you can, look at their company’s website metrics using a paid SEO tool like Ahrefs or Semrush to get a leg up on them.
You can now see what is and isn’t working for them, just as you did for your own efforts.
What messages will be effective for your target audience, and how will you position them?
Before you start churning out content, you need to figure out who you’re going to talk to and how you’re going to talk to them.
Don’t take a chance and don’t make assumptions. Do the research to identify your target audience and determine which messages and positioning will be most effective for them.
You can easily do this by examining data from your website that you should already be collecting through analytics tools like Google Search Console (Webmaster Tools) and Google Analytics.
If your company does not yet have a website, consider our pay-per-month website program to save money on website development.
Who is looking for you?
Who is going to your website?
What they are doing on your website
Create customer personas based on this information and any additional market research you have access to or have conducted yourself.
Now that you have that information, you should be able to determine what your message should be and to whom it should be delivered.
Remember that it is critical that your content
corresponds to your branding strategy
corresponds to the voice and persona of your organization
Is true to who your brand is?
Who can help with implementation?
Make a list of all the people both inside and outside your organization who can help you carry out your plan.
Allow these individuals to direct your strategic marketing plan.
A strategy is useless if you lack the financial or human capital to put it into action.
Consider bringing in the expertise of industry leaders, key partners, influencers, vendors, clients, and interns in addition to company staff.
How can you put all of these individual contributions to use in order to achieve common goals?
42 percent of businesses have a content strategist on staff. Consider hiring one for your company.
The primary reason that great ideas and strategies go unimplemented is that no one took the time to figure out who would do the work.
Who will be in command?
In marketing, momentum is important, but so is consistent execution.
Without a clear decision-making process in place prior to content creation, your ideas and work may become mired in inaction or differing opinions.
Assign one trustworthy individual the responsibility of reviewing all content.
The more complex your process, the less likely you are to have a strategic marketing effort.
Too many chefs taint the broth.
- In fact, organized marketers are more likely to report success, and goal-setting marketers are 376% more likely to report success (monday.com)
- Suppose your business strategy is to grow your business revenue by 40%.
- If your business hasn’t defined what you’re trying to sell, and to whom than your marketing strategy has a 0.00% chance of being successful.
- Increase profit margin of 19% Sell 300k units of a new product 2.
- Experts agree that 10-15% of your overall budget should be spent on planning and measurement tools.
- 42 percent of companies have a designated content strategist. (blaksheepcreative.com)
- Business Goals: Grow revenue by 25% this year.
- Example: Bob’s Insurance Agency Business Goals: Grow P&C clients by 30% Marketing Strategy: (blog.simplestrat.com)
- If your business needs to increase revenue by 25%, then your marketing strategy would explain how marketing will help achieve those goals from a high-level point of view.
- Enter impactful stat marketers who document strategy are 538% more likely to report success than those who don’t. (elementthree.com)
- 2021 Marketing Statistics, Trends & Data — The Ultimate List of Digital Marketing Stats
- Marketing Software for Small to Enterprise Businesses | HubSpot