Marketing Plan vs Marketing Strategy: Shattering Myths and Highlighting Differences

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Introduction

Wondering whether to churn out a marketing plan or a marketing strategy? Or are you just scratching your head thinking about the difference between the two?

Marketing is the most important activity and one of the most expensive investments in any business or organization to bring about sales and profit.

Many businesses and organizations conduct many marketing activities with no effect because they fail to form effective marketing plans and marketing strategies. One of the main reasons why such businesses fail in marketing is that they do not have clearly defined marketing plans and goals.

💡 “Marketing strategy is where we play and how we win in the market. Tactics are how we then deliver on the strategy and execute for success.” — Mark Ritson

Marketing Strategy: Definition And What It Is

First, let’s look into what a marketing strategy is. According to Investopedia, Marketing is a business’s overall game plan for reaching prospective consumers and turning them into customers of their products or services.

A marketing strategy essentially is a document containing all the processes that will allow a business or an organization to make use of its limited resources on the greatest opportunities to increase its sales and gain a competitive advantage that is sustainable.

It contains the value proposition (or the value the company promises to give its customers through its products or services), the key brand message that the business wants to deliver, data and information on the target audience, their demographics, etc. An effective marketing strategy contains information on all “4Ps” which include product, place, price, and promotion.

A marketing strategy gives a layout of all the necessary information and details required to form an effective marketing plan to achieve the marketing goals of the business or organization. According to coschedule.com, marketers who documented their marketing strategy were 414% more likely to be successful in their efforts.

💡 “Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

Sun Tzu

Marketing Plan: Definition And What It Is!

Now that we know what a marketing strategy is, we will look into the details of what a marketing plan is! According to Investopedia, a marketing plan is an operational document that outlines an advertising strategy that an organization will implement to generate leads and reach its target audience. The marketing plan is part of the overall business plan and is formed based on the data collected in the marketing strategy.

The marketing plan consists of a list of actions or steps that a business needs to take to reach its target audience. It could include outreach and PR campaigns, creating marketing messages for the target audience, selecting the platform or media through which the business could deliver the marketing message to its target audience, the metrics it could use to measure the effectiveness of the marketing activities, etc.

According to a survey of 350 small and medium business owners in the United States, 50% of business owners do not have a marketing plan, and 25% are unsure how to plan their business leading to greater uncertainty about the future of the business or organization.

Why Does Your Business Need A Marketing Strategy And Marketing Plan?

💡 “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

A business needs a strategy and plan as a foundation for all its business activities. The marketing strategies and marketing plans of a business act as a guide for the business to perform its marketing activities, measure the effectiveness of the various activities and assign responsibility to the various employees involved.

Without a proper marketing strategy, the business will not have the right data and information to build its marketing plans. Without a proper marketing plan, the business will not have clear steps to conduct marketing activities or know whether they are effective or not.

Marketing Strategy vs Marketing Plan

Marketing strategy and marketing plan are often used as interchangeable terms in business because of the similarity in both the activities, but they are two different things. Now we will look into the differences between the two marketing terms.

Example of Marketing Plan and Marketing Strategy

Now that we know the differences between a marketing strategy and a marketing plan, let’s look at an example for each of them:

Marketing Strategy: Format

The following are the components and the format for a marketing strategy:

Executive Summary

This section provides a brief overview of the marketing strategy.

Target Market

It contains key information on the target audience, their needs, buying patterns, goals, etc.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

It consists of the various metrics that will be used to measure the effectiveness of a marketing plan or strategy.

SWOT Analysis

SWOT analysis stands for Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threats. It helps figure out the four aspects of the business and target market to create an effective strategy that will make use of the strength and opportunities in the business and market to overcome weaknesses and threats and help achieve the marketing goals of the business.

4 Ps Of Marketing

  • Product – It is the product or service that your business is offering.
  • Price – It gives information on the price of the individual products in the business.
  • Place – It is the place or the platform through which you are going to sell your product.
  • Promotion – It includes all the activities that should be done to promote the product or service.

Example Of A Marketing Strategy: Bakery Business

Let’s take the example of John who wants to increase his business revenue by 25%. The following is an example of what his marketing strategy for his business could look like:

Executive Summary

John’s bakery is a pioneer in selling freshly baked artisan bread and cupcakes. He wants to increase the overall revenue of the business by 25% by the end of the year.

Target Audience

The target audience includes people from age 5 to 45 years old since older people are less likely to consume sweet desserts like cupcakes.

KPIs

John is going to promote the sales by posting ads on google and YouTube. He would measure metrics such as website visits and conversion rates to measure the effectiveness of the marketing strategy.

SWOT Analysis

  • Strength – John’s bakery has a prominent Internet presence which helps his business grow faster.
  • Weakness – The bakery only sells two types of products.
  • Opportunities – More people are online now. So John could use websites, food delivery apps, or create an app for business and sell his products to a wider range of audiences.
  • Threats – More bakeries are now present online too and they have to compete with each other to gain potential customers in the bakery.

Marketing Plan

The marketing plan contains details on the different platforms you will use to communicate with your target audience, the messages you will deliver, etc. The following is an example of marketing for John’s bakery:

Website And Branding

Every business has its brand image that is created by a persona for the business. When creating a website one should make sure that the elements on the website match that of the business. For a bakery, the website might contain rustic interior designs to match the theme of the brand.

Creating a user persona will help better with that. A user persona is a custom persona created with all the characteristics of the target audience of your plan or service. This helps marketers design the perfect marketing activity.

For example, John’s bakery has two personas: young kids who love sweet things and are very naughty; and the second one are old people who cannot eat many sweets. For this John can create ads with pictures of cupcakes displayed in games that small kids play, and the bread ads on Facebook or any other social media platform where adults are most likely to interact with you.

Content Strategy And Plan

The content strategy is the type of message that you want to tell your target audience. It helps to figure out if the content is suitable for the target audience. For example, John could use terms such as “sweet, chocolate, yummy” on the cupcake ad for kids and terms such as “gluten-free, sugar-free, organic for adults.

Channels

This is the platform on which your target audience is most active. It could include websites, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, etc. For example, John uses ads on games and Facebook to reach his target audience.

Timeline

A timeline helps to graph the products sold and the time to know the progress of the target goal. For example, John needs one year to increase his sale.

Budget

A budget is fixed for the various marketing activities to be conducted. For example, John could set aside 10,000 USD for the marketing purposes of the business.

Responsibilities

This section contains the list of activities that each person is in charge of. Having the list documented helps reduce confusion later. For example, John could assign a social media manager to manage Instagram and Facebook and hire a digital marketer to take care of the website.

Marketing Strategies And Marketing Plans: Benefits And Opportunities

Businesses need to spend a lot of time, effort, and money to create marketing plans and marketing strategies. Creating a marketing plan and a marketing strategy has a lot of benefits. The following are some of the few benefits that a business can enjoy with an effective marketing strategy and marketing plan:

You’re Better Able To Assess New Opportunities

Marketing plans and strategies help to figure out the strengths and weaknesses of the business or organization through SWOT analysis. It helps give you a realistic image of the current state of the business, how many resources are present in the business, what can be done with the limited resources, etc.

It also helps to analyze details about the competitors such as their position in the market, what kind of products and services they are offering, their target audience, their key strategies, marketing messages, etc. It helps to form key marketing activities that help to effectively reach the marketing goals of the business by finding and creating new opportunities that didn’t seem to exist before.

Progress Is Measurable

The key to finding out the effectiveness of a strategy or a plan is by measuring the results of the marketing activity to know if there is any progress in reaching the goal and if there is, how long would it take to reach that level. The marketing plan provides you with some key marketing measuring tools to help analyze the progress of a marketing goal.

These measurable units are known as KPIs or as Key Performance Indicators. These are key metrics that will help measure the effectiveness or progress of a marketing goal.

Marketing Strategies And Plans Create Cohesiveness

A business is made up of a team. Only when the team works together as one and performs all their individual goals can a business achieve its mission and goals successfully. Marketing strategies and plans help to achieve that effect.

A marketing strategy consists of a list of all the members who are responsible for the specific marketing activities in the strategy. The marketing strategy holds different members accountable for different activities so that there is no confusion about who does what kind of activity.

You Can Gather Important Information

Marketing strategies and plans are a source of great insight into the workings of a business. The marketing strategy contains many details that are subjective to the marketing department of the business such as the following:

  • It helps define the target audience
  • It gives information about the target audience such as their age, income level, education, their lifestyle, hobbies, etc
  • It gives the information on the various geographic locations that your target audience is located at
  • It gives information on the strengths and weaknesses of the business
  • It gives the information on the opportunities and threats in the industry
  • It gives information on the strategies of the competitors
  • It gives valuable market insight based on market research

Marketing Strategies Help Manage Finance Of The Business

As mentioned before, marketing is one of the most expensive decisions to make for a business but a very important one. Fixing an inappropriate marketing budget can lead to huge losses. This is reduced greatly by the marketing strategy.

The marketing strategy helps to find the key opportunities that you can create from the limited resources that your business has at the moment. Forming the right marketing plan to execute the functions of the business while spending money on marketing is the key to growing the business.

Conclusion

Marketing strategies and plans are often confused words in marketing that are very different from each other.

Marketing plans and strategies fill a lot of the same functions, but that doesn’t mean they will always meet your needs equally. Sometimes you need a strategy, sometimes you need a plan. Sometimes the two can overlap, but most times they will require something different and unique to your project or business.

Both strategies and plans are important pieces of content for any business executive and their marketing managers. What’s more, both strategies and plans are valuable to other outside parties, from investors to government organizations.

While you hone your marketing plan and strategy, check out Zocket to launch high-performance ads in seconds that align with your goals.

This post is also available in: English

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