The Showdown: Marketing Strategy vs Marketing Plan


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17 min read

We’re calling it a showdown because it can feel like one at times – we’re, of course, referencing the constant back and forth that is a marketing strategy vs marketing plan.

In the blue corner you have marketing strategies, those that underpin your entire output more or less.

And in the red corner, you have the marketing plan, as in what you hope to do in order to achieve those overarching strategies.

This whole ‘strategy vs plan’ might seem confusing as the terms are often used in an interchangeable way – you’ve probably been tricked into thinking that there is no difference, when we know for a fact there is.

Continue reading down below as we document the great marketing strategy vs marketing plan bout in all its glory, covering everything you need to know and what you might want to include in both.

You’ll more than likely find that you need both in order to balance current goals with future goals, but yes, let’s ring the bell and get started.

One more thing… Oh, and we’ll also be looking at the differences between a marketing strategy plan and the company wide business strategies.

Consider this the bonus round.

Marketing on a plain white background

Marketing 101: Strategy Vs Plan

To begin, we need to get a good look at that tale of the tape – we need to look at each in good measure to identify what does what before you go off on your own to formulate your own plans and strategies.

That’s what we’re doing in this section, in round one.

Disclaimer: There’s a place for both a marketing plan and marketing strategy, with both working in tandem to deliver on the wider goals of the business/brand, generally.

What is a Marketing Plan?

A marketing plan outlines the various steps needed in order to achieve the goals and objectives that are set out in an overarching marketing strategy.

Think of a marketing plan as the individual tasks or tactics that help you move the needle for your overarching strategies or campaigns.

Outside of including the methods taken to generate leads or reach a target audience, the content strategy, duration, and budget should all be taken into account. In fact, everything we’ve just mentioned should be mapped out ahead of time.

For reference, here’s everything you should include within your marketing plan:

  • Content Strategy
  • Budget
  • Branding
  • Channels
  • Responsibilities

You’ll also need to work out how you’ll measure the success of your campaigns. The key performance indicators (KPIs) you choose matter, and you should always choose one (or multiple in the case of certain campaigns) that are relevant and will aid you in future marketing.

A thorough marketing audit is only thorough when your KPIs are adjusted accordingly. Website traffic is an example of a KPI, as is cost per click and engagements on social media.

Which is relevant to you will depend on the main goals of the marketing, or even the business in some cases. Measuring your goals in line with your results (those gathered thanks to your KPIs) encourages growth and learning.

Content Strategy

Content strategy is an important one, as it often details how often you’ll release content, how you’ll engage your audience with said content, and more.

Scheduling is a big part of content strategy. Marketers should create a weekly to monthly plan that clearly states when certain content is posted, either on the website or on social media.

Some might include incentives at regular intervals to keep the target audience hooked. This is something you’d put within your content strategy.

person using iPhone calculator


Budget, as in, how much money will you be spending on your marketing.

Budgets will obviously vary from marketing department to marketing department. It’s the budget that actually determines the content strategies you can implement, with some being a lot more expensive to run than others.

Most marketers will look at budgets on a campaign by campaign basis, separating spend based on the content channels of choice.


How will you brand the campaign or company? Within your marketing plan you should be outlining everything from brand voice, to fonts, to colours.

These elements should be consistent throughout (for obvious reasons).

Marketers with an eye for consistency should ensure that there is synergy between websites, physical media, social media channels, emails and general advertising.


Marketing requires channels of communication for it to reach out to your intended audience – channels that all vary in terms of how you engage your target audience.

Here’s a quick rundown of the various channels you have available in the current day:

  • Blogging
  • Social Media
  • Emailing
  • Podcasting

Our advice: structure your marketing plan around the channels you’re using, doing so will help you manage your budget better amongst other benefits.


A marketing team tends to consist of multiple team members last time we checked. So, you should probably decide on who’s doing what.

Deciding on who will create the content, who will monitor the KPIs, and who will share content on social ahead of time within your marketing plan will ensure that your roll out runs as smoothly as possible.

What is a Marketing Strategy?

A marketing strategy is linked to the business strategy as a whole. It looks at how the company connects with its intended audience and meets objectives.

The marketing strategies you employ are a lot larger and a lot more significant to the business as a whole – although, with that said, a business strategy is also a lot different to a marketing orientated one (more on that later).

It’s your marketing strategy that looks at how you’re engaging your target audience, outlining goals and highlighting any potential competitors.

Your marketing strategy should cover all of the following if it’s to cover all bases:

  • Target Audience
  • Goals
  • Competitors
  • Messaging
  • Unique Value Proposition

As you can see, a marketing strategy is a lot grander in scale than a marketing plan – which happens to be one of, if not the largest difference between the two.

Empty seats in hall

Target Audience

The strategies implemented should always have a target audience in mind.

Try to think about what motivates them, or what frustrates them, other than simply saying who you’re looking to market towards and what age bracket they fall under.

Identify who you’re looking to market towards and other parts of your strategy will fall into place a lot easier.

For example, outlining your target audience will help highlight how your competitors are appealing to them.


Easily the most important part of your marketing strategy are the goals you set at the beginning.

Marketing goals should be specific, and should be measurable in some way or another so that you can work out whether or not your efforts have been successful or not.

The size of your goals will vary too, some campaigns might be far more ambitious than others. A social media marketing campaign that looks to increase the brand’s click-through-rate is small fry compared to a rework and relaunch of your overall messaging.

Not to say that a social media marketing campaign like that isn’t important, we’re just saying the two goals vary.


Yet another important inclusion, is your competitors – those who are toughing it out with you on a daily basis. You can learn a lot about them via a competitor analysis.

There’s a lot to learn from your competitors, information that should aid you when putting together your own marketing strategies.

For example, the results will let you know what they’re doing better than you and where there’s gaps. Gaps work wonders as it gives your business an ‘in,’ which for small to medium businesses, is the equivalent of winning championship gold.

Man holding a phone


Another area for consideration is how you’ll share and develop your messaging internally, amongst employees/stakeholders, and externally amongst customers.

What types of emotions will you roll out? And how do you want your customers to feel when they engage with your marketing?

This is what we mean when we say ‘messaging.’

Unique Value Proposition

The unique value proposition is somewhat similar to a unique selling point in definition.

Your UVP should make you question what makes your brand so different from the competition. Once you’ve found that sense of originality, it’s time to implement it within your marketing strategy plan.

Understand that while the product/service you sell might not be 100% original, your approach to selling it could be. The same applies to your brand values, or general approach to business.

A marketing strategy is something we’ve covered extensively in the past. We actually have a full guide on strategic planning for marketing if you’d like to learn more about the various strategies that exist out there?

The Differences: Marketing Strategy Vs Marketing Plan

Using the terms marketing strategy, and marketing plan in an interchangeable fashion seems crazy to us, like when Douglas beat Tyson in 1990, or when Joshua was bested by Ruiz in 2019 (if we’re to use a more up-to-date reference).

If you’ve been following closely up until this point, then you should know that the two need each other, and can’t function effectively without the other.

Marketers will almost always need a marketing strategy first, as this covers everything you hope to achieve from a department-wide standpoint – taking into account competitors, goals and audiences.

Knowing these things is essential. It makes sure that your marketing plan is rooted in strategy, and isn’t heading in the wrong direction without some level of guidance.

Marketing Focus: Strategy Vs Plan

One of the better ways of separating the two is to take your marketing plan/strategy and think about what they focus on.

That’s right, in the great marketing strategy vs marketing plan debate, the two actually have varying motivations – motivations that coincide with the other, but different enough for us to pinpoint and look at.

A marketing plan should look to achieve the goals that are shared by the marketing strategy at large.

In the blue corner (marketing strategies) the focus is on the target audience, goals/objectives and competitors, whereas in the red corner (marketing plans), the focus shifts to the specifics – on how you’re going to achieve these goals.

Another way to think about your plan/strategy is this: Your strategies should be looking at the big picture, with your plans helping piece together this puzzle from the ground level.

Why You Need A Marketing Strategy Plan

You first need to learn how to walk before you can run, and with marketing, knowing the ‘what’ is typically needed before you get to the ‘how.’ In other words, work out what it is you hope to achieve before you decide on how to reach your goals.

Doing things on feeling, or just in the moment, is likely to cost you money and time in the long run. By all means take advantage of trends, but do your best to prepare for that within your marketing strategy.

Foresight is but one of the reasons you need a plan/strategy – the ability to set out your business goals (including your ideal customers) ensures that your work is streamlined, and generates the right kind of business/interest.

Having a marketing strategy/plan is beneficial for many reasons.

Here, we’ll show you.

person writing the word plan on white notepad

Keeps Marketing Relevant/Consistent

By outlining your messaging and branding ahead of time, you ensure that everything you do is done with your target audience at the forefront.

Because you’ve done your research, you know exactly what platforms are relevant to them, and you know what type of tone to strike in order to get them interested in the content you share with them.

There’s no greater example to give than blogging, or, more specifically, SEO-orientated blogging.

With the right keyword research, you can identify relevant topics that you then flesh out within your posts. And then, by keeping up a level of consistency in terms of how often you post, you actively work at keeping your audience coming back to your site.

We know this works in generating results because we help a variety of clients through the blogs we create for them! All are fully researched and mapped out beforehand, leaving enough room for feedback before we begin writing.

That’s right, Canny is on hand if you need us to handle certain parts of your marketing strategy/plan. Also, by reaching out to us, you free up more time to focus on other parts of your marketing – and who wouldn’t want that?

Strategy vs plan, ensuring that both are relevant to your audience, and consistent enough to make a difference will begin to net you results, guaranteed.

Speak with Canny, we can explain more if you need the info – or just want to know what we can do for you.

A Reference Point to Return to

Members of the marketing department will often use a plan/strategy as a guide, a way to ensure that they are always on the right track – especially newer employees who might lack a greater understanding of what you’re hoping to achieve just yet.

And it’s not just new starters that are checking these strategies/plans either. You often see marketing managers going over what was originally agreed during the campaign as a refresher of sorts.

Marketers are some of the busiest people in an entire organisation, with some looking after a dozen campaigns at any given time, so it’s no wonder they need a quick recap from time to time.

Also, not every marketing strategy/plan will succeed where you want it to, and while it’s disappointing, it also provides you with experience – or a reference point to return to!

Which brings us to our next point.

Save Money In Areas That Matter

Every completed marketing campaign is a reference point, we know. But it’s how you approach the next one that matters, which in turn should affect how you go about strategising/planning.

Think about it, if you run a marketing campaign using a social media platform that isn’t generating enough leads, odds are, you won’t use it again, thus saving you money to use in other areas of your marketing!

“We need to accept that we won’t always make the right decisions, that we’ll screw up royally sometimes — understanding that failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.” — Arianna Huffington, Founder & CEO, Thrive Global

We know, it’s tempting to spend money as an experiment to see what sticks, but if you’re going to do that, you should always learn from the experience regardless of the outcome.

Doing so will save money in areas that matter…

It will certainly help you spend your marketing budget a lot better.

Measure Your ROI Effectively

We couldn’t mention saving money in marketing without touching on measuring your ROI – something that is a lot easier to pull off when your marketing plan should have budget information on there.

Return on investment (ROI) is one of the main tools used by marketers to work out whether or not the choices made were viable, or beneficial, from a financial point of view.

This, again, plays into reference points.

If your ROI isn’t as impressive on one channel but is on the other, then you should have a better idea of where your marketing budget is better spent.

Business meeting to talk strategy

Bonus Round: Marketing Strategy Vs Business Strategy

We said it was coming, and have hinted at it several times already.

But it’s finally time we looked at business strategies and how they differ from marketing strategies. After all, if you think the great marketing strategy vs marketing plan bout was a confusing one based on the interchangeability of the terms, wait until you see this one…

You see, like the marketing-oriented strategy vs plan we’ve just covered, business strategies and marketing strategies are often confused with one another for some reason.

We know what’s included in a marketing strategy already, but what about a business strategy?

Knowing this should help separate the two and give you a better idea of what does what.

What is a Business Strategy?

The business strategy is the long-term plan of where you want your company to go. It typically covers all aspects of the business, including marketing under the same umbrella.

The business strategy typically comes before the marketing strategy, in the same way that the plan would come after the initial marketing strategy.

It should come as no surprise that the business strategy holds a lot more importance to the brand as a whole than the marketing strategy given what it covers exactly. Speaking of which, here’s what you’ll find in most business strategies:

  1. Vision and Mission: An overview of where you want the company to go, complete with your mission statement (includes goals)
  2. Company Structure: Defines every part of your company structure, outlining who does what at each level
  3. Action Plan: An outline of how you hope to achieve your business goals, actions that are definite, measurable and achievable above all else
  4. Accountability: Assign accountability to each action step alongside information on who will support this individual/individuals
  5. KPIs: Important to your business strategy is the key performance indicators used to measure progress

If you’re still having a hard time separating the two, try this: think of your business strategy as you organising your operations to a certain point. A point, at which, you begin to formulate marketing strategies that support the blanket-like business strategy.

And while accountability and responsibility share a few similarities, the former tends to apply to the business on a much grander scale, whereas responsibility in a marketing context is exclusive to one particular department for the most part.

Startups often struggle with which to choose at the beginning, when the reality is you’re more than likely going to need both in equal measure as the brand begins to grow and more employees enter the fold.

Marketer taking notes

The Showdown: Marketing Strategy Vs Marketing Plan

It wasn’t exactly Ali vs Frazier, but still, the great marketing strategy vs marketing plan bout is still a conversation for the ages, and one that continues to this day.

We have no doubt that people will continue typing ‘marketing strategy plan’ into their preferred search engine for many years to come, but at least you now know the fundamental differences between the two.

You know that plans tend to look at the how, when, where and what of your marketing but they will need a strategy in place to work effectively.

If your strategies are the hammer, then your plans are the nail.

You also know that business strategies are so very different from marketing strategies also – outside of having a few subtle similarities (accountability vs responsibility etc).

Understanding the fundamentals in marketing is quite important, allowing you to grow either as an individual (if you run your own business solo) or as a collective under the same brand.

And remember, if you need any help with your marketing/content, Canny is on hand to serve as the perfect sparring partner.

By coming to us, you guarantee success.

We help you hit targets and goals through the marketing plans/strategies that you create – and your business strategies by proxy!

Reach out and we’ll reach back. Contact us today, and together, we’ll put your marketing on the top of the mountain.

Marketing Strategy Vs Marketing Plan FAQs

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

A marketing strategy is the overarching plan put in place by a marketing manager, whereas a marketing plan consists of the various steps needed for the strategies to follow through.

Why do I need a marketing strategy?

Your marketing strategy influences everything you do plan-wise, without it, you’re taking massive risks that may or may not pay off. An effective marketing strategy can propel you and your brand to the next level.

What are the 7 cs of marketing?

The 7 cs of marketing are used in many marketing strategies, they consist of: clients, convenience, competition, communication, consistency, creative content, and credibility.