There are times when I feel I could almost write a book on the number of misconceptions that exist in marketing. Even the word itself seems to have more variations in meaning than just about anything else.
One of the more common misconceptions I’ve come across over the years is the belief that a marketing plan and a marketing strategy are the same thing.
I’ve often heard the two terms get used interchangeably without a second thought.
However, their meanings and their purposes are actually quite different, and there’s good reason for this.
A marketing strategy sits at the higher end. It includes an explanation of the goals a business needs to achieve with its marketing efforts. A company’s business goals shape its strategy.
Marketing strategies are long-term, forward-looking approaches to planning. Their fundamental goal is to achieve a competitive advantage.
That is why a carefully thought out and appropriate strategy should be created for each individual business goal. The two should always go hand-in-hand.
A marketing plan describes in more detail how a business is going to achieve its marketing goals.
It is the application of the marketing strategy, a roadmap that guides the marketing efforts from a conceptual to a delivery phase.
In other words, the marketing strategy describes the ‘what’ while the marketing plan describes the ‘how’.
Unfortunately, many businesses try to achieve the ‘how’ without first determining what the ‘what’ is, with the result being that they end up with a plan and no strategy.
To avoid this, it is vitally important to first determine and clearly document exactly ‘what’ you want to achieve, and then work out ‘how’ you will do it. That is why a marketing strategy must always come before a marketing plan.
It is a relatively simple two-step process that all too often gets overlooked, yet when done properly can make an enormous difference to the long-term success of just about any business.
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