headerIMG

December 13, 2021

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

By Chantel Hall, Marketing Content Specialist

You may have seen the phrases “marketing strategy” and “marketing plan” used interchangeably, but they actually refer to two different essential marketing tools.

Understanding the differences between a marketing plan and a marketing strategy will make your marketing efforts more fruitful and help you learn what marketing activities will help you achieve your organization’s business goals.

As a quick guide, a marketing strategy is the overarching mission that your marketing efforts want to achieve. This strategy reflects business goals and outcomes that will propel your company forward. A marketing plan takes that strategy and translates it into a roadmap of tactical execution. How will you achieve the strategy? That is your marketing plan. 

What is a marketing strategy?

A marketing strategy is an overarching approach to attracting leads and converting them into paying customers. Your strategy should include your value proposition, brand messaging, ideal customer profile, budget, and other high-level information. A well-researched and planned marketing strategy is a critical first step that will guide you in developing and executing your marketing plan. It lays the foundation of “the why” so each task you incorporate into the marketing plan has a reason behind it.

Your marketing strategy should be based not just on your marketing team’s goals but on your company’s growth goals. A strategy is more extensive than just wanting more website traffic or likes on social media; it’s a comprehensive plan for lead generation and nurturing. This makes a marketing strategy especially important for B2B companies, which often have longer sales cycles, a high price point, and a group buying decision. 

What is a marketing plan?

A marketing plan is a comprehensive document that lays out the execution elements of the marketing strategy. Your marketing plan should include concrete steps your marketing and sales teams will take to attract and convert leads.

Your plan should be specific about marketing activities like designing and executing ad campaigns, writing blog content, creating email campaigns, following up with qualified leads, etc. It should also include which metrics you will track to measure the success of your marketing activities. This piece is so important because it creates opportunities for you to learn from what you’re already doing and adjust your plan if you aren’t making progress toward the goals laid out in your marketing strategy.

Flexibility is key to a successful marketing plan; if you aren’t willing to make adjustments based on what you learn while executing your plan, you can quickly stray from your marketing strategy’s guiding light. You should constantly evaluate whether your plan is serving your strategy and how you can keep it moving in the right direction.

Marketing plans vary in length, from a shorter push for a specific campaign to a longer-term plan. You may even have multiple marketing plans at once; for example, you might have one in place for a campaign leading up to an event your company is holding and one in place for more general marketing activities. Even though they have different purposes, both of these plans would still be guided by your overall marketing strategy.

How do marketing strategies and plans work together?

While marketing plans and strategies are different tools, one cannot work effectively without the other. Having both in place will help you make the best use of your time and resources and meet your marketing goals efficiently and effectively.

Without a marketing plan in place, a strategy can’t be executed to its full potential and will likely fall short of its goals. And without a strategy guiding all of the activities in your marketing plan, they will have no direction. They won’t accomplish as much as they would with a unifying strategy pulling them together.

As mentioned, flexibility is crucial with both marketing strategy and plans. Companies that take an agile approach and adapt to buyer changes will find more success than those organizations who create year-long strategies that easily grow stale.

Venngage What is a Marketing Plan and How to Make One? July 2021
Investopedia Marketing Strategy August 2021
The Balance How to Write a Marketing Strategy for Your Business Plan January 2020