While "plan" is a synonym of "strategy," a marketing strategy and a marketing plan are different. Each is an essential part of any marketing foundation. Used together, a marketing strategy and plan help you get the most out of your marketing efforts.
Here, we’ll explain the basics of a marketing strategy and a marketing plan. We go over how they’re different (and similar) and how using them together leads to better results.
What is a marketing strategy?
Your marketing strategy is the first piece of your foundation. It's the tool from which everything else (including your marketing plan) flows.
Your marketing strategy should establish your marketing goals. And these goals should be specific. You may set out to increase brand awareness. Or, your goal might be to generate high-quality leads. Regardless of which goal you set, you should always base them on your business goals.
A marketing strategy requires you to establish your target audience and your competitors. Both should influence any marketing you do going forward. An effective strategy is one in which you know who you're speaking to and what you're competing against.
Messaging and positioning, among other elements, will influence your marketing strategy. Be sure you've fleshed them out. You should build your marketing strategy to last long-term. It's a tool you can revisit and revise over time.
What is a marketing plan?
A marketing plan sets the roadmap for your marketing activities. It establishes and schedules the specific steps you’ll take to achieve your goals and strategy.
Marketing plans can be expansive and long-term, identifying a list of tactics over a period as long as a year. They can also be more narrow and campaign-specific, focusing on a few months of work at most.
A marketing plan can define your budget and include more focused strategies (such as content or digital strategy). It can identify the platforms, channels, and tactics a campaign will use.
How is a marketing strategy different from a marketing plan?
In simple terms, a marketing strategy establishes what you’re trying to achieve, and a marketing plan identifies how you’ll achieve it.
Your marketing strategy is the big picture. It identifies your goals, audience, and competitors.
Your marketing plan is detail-oriented, identifying the tactics and methods you’ll use to achieve your goals.
How do marketing strategies and plans work together for the best possible results?
A marketing strategy aligns your marketing to your business goals and establishes why you need marketing. It illustrates the positive impact marketing will make on your organization. Your marketing plan dictates how you’ll make that positive impact a reality.
Without a strategy: your marketing efforts may ineffective. Individual tactics might produce positive results, but they may not translate to business success. Without a strategy, you haven’t established what you’re trying to achieve. And you haven't established the environment you’re trying to achieve it in. You’re more likely to fall victim to wasted efforts and missed opportunities.
Without a marketing plan: you may fail to gain traction toward your marketing goals (and thus, your business goals). You might have defined those goals, but how are you achieving them? Your efforts may be few and far between and use ineffective tactics or channels. Without a marketing plan, it's easy to spend too little time or resources to have an impact. Or, you may waste resources and time pursuing the wrong tactics for the goal you’re trying to achieve.
With both a marketing strategy and a marketing plan, you can align your marketing to your business goals. You can align your resources with your budget. And you can identify the tactics that will have the biggest impact on your marketing goals.
Each tool is valuable alone. But, using them together is the only way to maximize their value and get the most out of your marketing efforts.