The short answer is yes, there is a difference between a marketing strategy and plan. To be honest the whole approach is often made far more complicated than it needs to be, whether this is down to the language used or the complexity of the approach. Having both is definitely important but they will be different depending on the type, size, and aim of a business.
I think that people often mistake a large and overly detailed plan as the aim. Having a concise and clearly written strategy and marketing plan is the winner. But only then if the 3rd often forgotten [until afterward] element of successful strategy and plan writing, has been brought along for the ride. More about that later.
What is a marketing strategy and a plan? (No jargon!)
The straightforward way of deciphering between the two is that strategy is an approach to achieving success. A plan gives the activities required to get you there. Or to put it another way, strategy is why the work is happening, and the plan is what you are doing to get there!
If we understand the difference between a marketing strategy and a plan then the strategy comes first, before activity starts. Once activity does start the budget will be spent on staff and resources. If the strategy doesn’t come first then somewhere down the line questions will be asked:
- What are we doing this for?
- Who should we be targeting?
- Why is no-one listening?
No one will really know the answer!
1. What will a strategy actually do?
This is the real difference between a marketing strategy and plan.
Your strategy will:
- capture your goals
- who you need to engage with
- include things like your vision, goals, brand, target markets, and competitors.
2. How does a marketing plan fit in?
The ‘doing bit’: the marketing plan, comes next and is all about what needs to happen to achieve the strategy. The steps that need to be taken and over what time period. It will include campaign focuses linking all aspects of marketing activity with timelines, milestones, and budget requirements.
3. Drafting your marketing strategy and plan
Whilst there might be a ‘marketing person’ in your business or organisation, remember that the drafting of these two documents represents a process of thinking, consideration and decision making that will/should include different members of your wider team, and of course must be endorsed by the owner/CEO/Board. After all, they will be directing the focus of budget and resource in the year(s) ahead.
4. And the bit people often forget
That all seems pretty straightforward when set out simply. But earlier I mentioned a 3rd often forgotten element, and that is the people; the team. I never understand why they are often forgotten when they are the ones with the greatest knowledge. The people in your business will put the marketing strategy and plan into action. Even those who have nothing directly to do with marketing can bring important insight.
5. Your people are your knowledge base
There are 2 factors that underline the need to keep your people at the centre of your marketing strategy and plan development and delivery.
Your team could be 2 people or 200 people. They are the ones who know the business inside out. They know the product or the service, they speak to the customers, take their inquiries, feedback, and complaints. Why wouldn’t you want them involved in the development of the business?
Roles and goals
If people are involved from boardroom/business owner right through the staffing structure, they have a sense of engagement of being on board. Across the business people will know what the business is aiming to achieve, and why the team is being asked to do specific things. Most importantly, knowing their role in achieving those goals – such an approach will always create a greater sense of responsibility resulting in greater productivity of staff.
Tip for success
So we have established that there is a difference between a strategy and a plan and the importance of both. I leave you with my main tip for the success of both and that is not to present either to your team, but develop it with them.