Marketing vs. Strategic Plan

Category: Strategy Published on Jan 19 2015

I was at a networking event talking to Bob. Bob went first and told me about all of the marketing services that he offered. He was comprehensive in his efforts and so his services included creating a marketing plan, designing campaigns, and more. Frankly, he mentioned so many services my head was spinning and most of it didn’t stick.


When it was my turn I gave my brief elevator speech and responded to his question for more information by explaining that I do strategic planning among other services. Bob’s response was: “Oh, we do the same thing!”


Mom raised me to be polite, so I just moved on at that time. However, I wanted to scream back at Bob: “NO! We don’t do the same thing at all!”

Here is the difference between what Bob does (creating a strategic marketing plan) and what I do (creating a strategic plan.)


Bob is concentrating on the marketing, and perhaps sales, side of your business. In general his only interest about production and innovation within the organization have to do with what new products or services are coming along and how you plan to market and sell them. Bob will look at the demographics of your target market, compare your offerings to those already in the market, and make recommendations for ways to market and sell your products. These are all important and valuable tasks.


A strategic plan is more encompassing and includes all parts of your business. We will look not only at your marketing efforts (at a high level), but also at things that are going on in the administrative, production, sales, innovation, in fact all areas of your business. Ideally, nothing is left out.


The outcome of strategic planning is business clarity - an understanding of what is most important to achieve now. These are then translated into action plans with specific goals.

 - Some of the goals may be back office related to set the stage for growth.

 - Some goals may focus on adding new products or services or expanding into new markets. 

 - Some goals may involve phasing out certain aspects of your business that are not as profitable as you like.


I could keep writing and list over 100 different areas that may be impacted by your strategic plan. And yet I won’t, as I know your time is valuable.


The point of this is that until you understand where your company is headed, it is not a good idea to go ahead with a marketing plan. For example, let us assume that you discover in the strategic planning process that you will be phasing out product A and replacing it with a new and improved product X. Had you started with the marketing plan, Bob would likely have asked you where do you want to concentrate your marketing efforts? If sales of product A have been slow or profits less than expected it would be reasonable for you to respond, “Let’s concentrate on product A. If I can get the word out sales should improve.”


With the wider perspective offered by strategic planning you could have avoided dumping more money into product A and instead shared with Bob that product A was going away to be replaced with product X in the next couple of months. And then asked: “What can we do that will convert existing product A customers to product X and also reach new customers who will find value in product X?”


The bottom line is, a strategic plan is not the same as a marketing plan or marketing strategic plan. They are named similarly which adds to the confusion. A strategic plan and marketing plan are not interchangeable. And the reality is, you should have both. Just remember, the strategic plan should come first and should be shared with Bob so that he can create a robust marketing plan that complements your company-wide plans for growth.


One final word of caution: If you meet a marketing person who confuses a marketing plan with a strategic plan, think twice before you hire that person.


Have a great day!