Inseparable and indispensable to business success
Odds on you're up to your eyeballs in running your business or community organisation. So, pondering the debate in marketing circles about what works best, a marketing strategy or a marketing plan, probably doesn't keep you awake at night.
And anyway, 'marketing strategy'…. besides being an eye roll-inducing, 'blah blah' biz jargon word - what even is that?
A marketing plan … Most of us 'get' the idea there, even if we haven't actually 'got' one.
The thing is, to make marketing magic, you need both.
A high-resolution, big-picture strategy and a dead good, detailed, and doable plan go together like my 'must-have' breakfast combo: crunchy peanut butter and squishy banana on toast. You may have your 'Yuck' face on just now, but you get my point, so go ahead [insert inseparable items of your choice.]
Now you get the connection, let's crack on with getting to grips with the respective roles your marketing strategy and plan play in attracting oodles of ideal customers and building business buzz.
Making strategic sense
Your marketing strategy is part' grand design,' part roadmap. It lays down the foundations for your brand's sustainable success.
It's tough to find a definition of strategy that doesn't start with the V-word – vision, and that's fair enough. Having a vision for your business is vital. If you have a crystal-clear, heart-driven vision underpinning what you do, you're well on your way to making solid strategic marketing sense.
But if expressing your heartfelt but hard-to-pin-down business vision feels like nailing jelly to a tree, try swapping the V word for two 'W' ones – why and what.
'Why' is your purpose. It's the difference you want to make. It gives your business goals their backbone. It's also the connective tissue that binds your business and your marketing goals. And it's the basis for sorting your 'what.'
'What' is all about matching your signature products or services to your ideal customer's needs and desires.
Top Tip: If you're not clear on your 'why,' or unsure if your 'what' is working as well as it might, ask your customers why they choose you over your competitors. You'll get priceless and often surprising insight into the emotional and pragmatic reasons people buy from you.
Want more on working out your 'why'? This 17-minute TED talk by Simon Sinek is an oldie but a goodie.
Planning for marketing momentum
Your marketing plan gives your strategy the limbs and lungs of a marathoner and the heart and soul of a marketing ace. It's all about the 'how'. It specifies what you'll do, and who does what, and when.
It turns your stellar, purpose-driven vision into a profoundly satisfying and profitable reality. By being:
Doable – it chunks down dazzling big-picture thinking into easy, action-ready, achievable tasks
Measurable – it tells you what success will look like - aka your 'key performance indicators' (KPIs), and how you'll know when you're hitting, missing, or smashing those KPIs. It gives you the tools to track your progress and some additional tuning and tweaking tools to adjust your activities.
Top Tip: Get down and dirty with the details to beat budget blowouts. Besides putting a name and a timeframe to every task, add or estimate the costs in time and money.
A beautifully made marketing strategy that fits your business like a glove and a 'gloves off and get down to it' plan will do symphonic stuff for your business. The strategy sets the melody, and the plan provides the rhythm.
Two ways to know you've got strategy plus planning harmony
Combine these two essentials in a well-crafted marketing blueprint, and your marketing effort will be:
Aligned – your presence on social media and everywhere else will represent your brand values and business goals – genuinely, consistently, and powerfully. Hello, super-efficient and effective marketing.
Adaptable – your strategy sets your overall direction. Your plan is flexible and responsive. Hello, savvy, confident, on-trend marketing that rises to gnarly challenges in changing market conditions and optimises every opportunity.
Top Tip: While your marketing strategy is never a 'set and forget' item, an annual review will keep it fresh and on form. However, review your marketing plan every quarter to keep it in top shape and ensure peak performance.
Need help to harmonise your strategy and plan?
"Luckily, I've got all the time in the world and all the mysterious marketing nous to transform my marketing ideas into achievements, my dreams into reality, and my vision into a thriving brand," said (almost) no small business owner ever.
If you're short on time and marketing talent or bamboozled by the entire business of getting strategy plus planning sorted.