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Entrepreneurs know that planning and strategizing is part of owning a business. In fact, it may often seem like that’s all you do. Yet with all of the plans and strategies that are developed on a daily basis, it appears that there is still a bit of confusion between a marketing strategy and a marketing plan. Understanding the difference between the two can help you achieve better marketing results.

Which Came First, The Marketing Strategy or The Plan?

Fortunately, this riddle is easy to solve. Your marketing strategy must come first. There can be no plan without it. A marketing strategy is a document that outlines the following information:

  • Your Brand Message – What message or image do you want to consistently convey to your audience across all marketing channels?
  • Your Goals – Your marketing goals are the foundation for your marketing plan. They should be aligned with your business goals, vision, and mission. Within the body of your marketing strategy you’ll outline both your short term goals and objectives, as well as your long term goals and objectives.

Your marketing strategy must therefore come before your marketing plan. Your strategy answers the question, “What do we want to achieve?” However, as you may well know, the “What” doesn’t really matter much if there isn’t a “How” close behind it. That’s what your marketing plan answers.

How Will You Achieve Your Marketing Goals?

Your marketing plan takes the goals you’ve set forth in your marketing strategy and creates a road map to achieve them. For example, perhaps you’ve decided that you want to drive more traffic to your opt-in form. Your marketing plan could then outline a step-by-step process to increase that traffic. You might use content marketing, social media, and even a PPC campaign to reach your traffic goals.

In addition to the “how” a marketing plan often outlines the deadlines and the implementation approach, and it also generally contains information about your:

  • Target Audience –Who is your market, what is their problem, and how do you solve it? What are the demographics and psychographics of your target audience? Where do they hang out? What problems do they face? Why do they need your help?
  • USP – Your marketing strategy also outlines your unique selling proposition. What makes your business different from your competition? What do you have to offer your prospects and customers that others do not?
  • Market Position – Who is your competition and why are they your competition? This section may outline your niche.

Lastly, your marketing plan may also include a SWOT Analysis; Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Understanding and documenting this information will help you effectively plan tactics to achieve the goals outlined in your marketing strategy.

These two documents are important to your success. Even if you’re a solopreneur who is only accountable to yourself, it’s important to create documents that are clearly laid out. You can then refer to them as you plan each tactic and carry out your marketing plan.