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The difference between a marketing strategy & plan

Marketing Consultant • Jun 30, 2020 6:41:10 PM • Written by: Courtney

What is the difference between a marketing strategy and a marketing plan?

Plus, why you need both!

The terms marketing strategy and a marketing plan are often used to describe the same thing, however the strategy and the plan are two separate documents you need for your business.

A marketing strategy is the why. It should reflect your business goals, what your business stands for, who you are serving, what the competitive landscape is and why you are different at a high level.

On the other hand, a marketing plan is the how. How are you going to articulate your strategy? A marketing plan should have a timeline and outline specific activities to action your marketing strategy.

Marketing Strategy

You should create a marketing strategy before you get started on any marketing activity. Usually, a business should do this when it launches and then re-visit the strategy document each year to make sure it is reflective of the business goals for the upcoming year.

Marketing Plan

A marketing plan articulates the actions that need to be taken and the channels that need to be used to roll out your strategy.

What is included in what?

Marketing strategy

A marketing strategy document usually includes some of the following:

  • marketing goal

  • target audience breakdown and persona

  • competitor analysis

  • brand positioning and identify

  • product offering

  • unique selling proposition

  • key marketing messages

Marketing plan

A broken-down marketing plan should be no longer than around 90 days. You might have a 90-day marketing plan and then smaller, campaign plans within that. A marketing plan should have elements for each stage of the customer journey and may include a combination of:

  • target audience

  • marketing plan objectives

  • marketing initiatives and campaigns

  • marketing tactics and channel recommendations

  • content

  • social media (specific platforms)

  • advertising (what publishers?)

  • digital

  • print

  • radio

  • metrics to measure

  • campaign timing

  • required resources

  •  budget
  • people

Why you need both

It is vital to have your marketing strategy and plan outlined to ensure your marketing is reaching your business goals.

If you are doing social media posts and sending emails but have no plan and no strategy, it is definitely time to sit down and make a plan for success.

Is your business one that already has a plan but no defined strategy? If you don't know the key messages that are consistent across your touchpoints, or what audience you are focusing on, then your marketing might look good - but still might not achieve what you need!

Finally, you might be in the category that has a bit of a marketing strategy because you have just started up and you did spend time building out a SWOT analysis and outlining the direct and indirect competitors. If this is you, it might be worth working with a marketing professional to take that to the next step and open the door to building out a plan of action!

If you don't know where to start with your marketing strategy and plan, or you know what you need to focus your marketing efforts on to make sure they are working towards the same goal, get in touch to organise a time to chat! I can work as a consultant on a project basis or in an ongoing manner as your outsourced marketing manager.

Is It Time For a Marketing Strategy and Plan?


Courtney is a degree-qualified and experienced marketer. Based on the Sunshine Coast, Courtney is passionate about helping SEQ Business Owners and CEOs with their marketing efforts.