Marketing Plan Versus Marketing Strategy


  • The marketing strategy defines the vision, destination or top marketing goal and then identifies the optimal route or shortest path to get there. The marketing plan calculates, schedules and manages the investments, resources and actions needed to navigate that path.
  • Marketing strategies focus on doing the right things. Marketing plans focus on doing those things right. Doing the right things drives effectiveness. Doing them right creates efficiency. Being efficient without being effective is a losing proposition which is why marketing plans without supporting marketing strategies don't work well. Or as Peter Drucker wisely said, "Doing the right thing is more important than doing the thing right."
Johnny Grow Revenue Growth Consulting

Marketing Plan versus Marketing Strategy

Many marketers are unclear on the differences between a marketing strategy and a marketing plan. The two are synergistic but designed to achieve different benefits. Here is how they are different and how they come together to drive improved performance.

Marketing Strategy

Strategy leads with research and analysis. It identifies and compares customer and market growth opportunities and selects those that will achieve marketing's top goal in the shortest time or least cost.

Sometimes marketing strategies are designed for incremental growth and include things like changing the product mix or expanding a customer target market.

Other times they are more transformational and include things like growing the brand, disrupting an industry or shifting from a product-centric to a customer-centric culture. Marketers apply discovery and analysis to do things like identify new revenue streams, launch new products, introduce new distribution channels, grow into new territories, drive a Customer Experience program, lead a digital transformation, create new alliances or platform ecosystems, acquire more leads for the salesforce, or increase the amount revenue sourced by marketing.

Some people bypass strategies because they take a lot of up-front time. That may be somewhat true but short sighted. The thing about strategies is that they deliver order of magnitude time savings.

The hours invested to plan the optimal route to the most important business objectives will save weeks or months in execution time. When I'm building a marketing strategy, I'm reminded of Abe Lincoln's quote, "If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend the first four hours sharpening the axe."

When strategy identifies the best path to the goal, it also removes distractions. Strategy is equally valuable in showing what not to do.

Business focus

Reaching any new destination is best done with a map. You need to understand where you are starting from, where you want to go, and invest in some planning to plot the shortest route to get there. Your marketing strategy is the roadmap that identifies that route.

Marketing Plan

Once the strategy identifies the most direct path to the top goal, the Marketing Plan shows how to navigate that path with sequenced, measurable and time-bound actions.

The Marketing Plan is the assembly of resources, methods, processes and best practices to achieve the strategic goals.

It includes things like budget and resource allocation and technology enablement for process automation. It must also include real-time information reporting to manage progress and intervene with course corrections when progress falls short.

Research shows that a best-in-class marketing plan is created on a 3-tier architecture.

Marketing Go To Market Plan

In the absence of a plan, marketing efforts are without prioritization, work lacks purpose and execution is random. It's still possible to reach the goal, but at best, it will take longer and cost more.

The Marketing Plan versus Marketing Strategy Point is This

Good strategies show what's vital to achieve targeted outcomes. It's more important to do the right things than do things right. The marketing strategy identifies the right things.

Without a strategy it's easy to confuse activity with progress and difficult to separate the urgent from the important. Without a strategy, marketers attempt to navigate without a map and execution becomes aimless. When marketers then incur investments or effort that do not directly drive the strategy, they are off course and delaying or degrading the most important objectives.

Only with a solid strategy will execution advance from random acts to precision marketing.

The Marketing Plan makes sure you are doing things right. It's all about orchestrated and efficient execution.

Without a plan, programs and activities are uncoordinated or haphazard. They are performed piecemeal. They fail to build on each other and achieve synergistic effects. They deliver low and sometimes embarrassing ROI. To avoid embarrassment, marketers without plans are usually also without measurement so they are blissfully ignorant. They are also blissfully at risk.