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The Important Differences Between a Marketing Plan and a Marketing Strategy

To most, marketing strategy and marketing plan may seem like two fully interchangeable terms. However, this isn’t actually the case. There are some key distinctions between a marketing strategy and a marketing plan – and understanding those distinctions is an important part of reaching your B2B marketing goals. In this article, we’ll take a look at what a marketing strategy entails, what a marketing plan entails, how they differ, and why it is essential to have both.

What is a Marketing Strategy?

A marketing strategy is a broad overview of the competitive advantages and unique approaches you leverage to achieve your marketing goals. A marketing strategy may cover the types of marketing you intend to employ and the angles you will take to make those efforts successful. However, it doesn’t necessarily delve into any specifics regarding the exact marketing actions you will take. For example, if your company sells office supplies to other businesses, creating a marketing strategy might entail pinpointing what sets your products apart from the competition and honing the message you want to relay to potential customers.

marketing plan man writing on a whiteboard

Key components of a marketing strategy include: 

  • Your vision and goals for your company
  • Your marketing goals
  • Positioning
  • Brand essence and messaging
  • Initiatives
  • Buyer personas
  • Competitive analysis

What is a Marketing Plan?

Ultimately, a marketing plan is much more specific and detailed-oriented than a marketing strategy. A marketing strategy is a high-level approach that sets goals for your company and includes overall strategies on how to reach them. A marketing plan, meanwhile, is something that details the specific actions you will take in order to reach those goals. Your marketing plan is your marketing strategy in action.

Let’s go back to our previous example of a company selling office supplies. Once this company has determined the goals, methods, and messages for its marketing strategy, it’s now time to create a detailed plan to put strategy into action. Let’s assume this company has decided PPC ads are a valuable avenue to leverage. In this case, their marketing plan should include the type of ads they plan to create, how they plan to create those ads, and when and where they plan to publish them. Finally, it should also include a plan for analyzing the results these ads produce.

This, of course, is just an example of one single aspect a marketing plan might cover. A complete marketing plan is sure to be much more comprehensive and cover all of the details regarding the actions you will take to execute your marketing strategy.

Key components of a marketing plan include: 

  • Campaign goals
  • The specific channels you will use
  • A timeline/schedule that includes key milestones
  • Budget
  • Activities
  • Dependencies

Why B2B Companies Need Both a Marketing Strategy and a Marketing Plan

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In order to reach your marketing objectives, your B2B company needs both a marketing strategy and a marketing plan. Your marketing strategy should always guide your marketing plan. It sets the goals your marketing plan should achieve and determines all your messaging tactics. In other words, it develops the overall strategy your marketing plan will execute. Likewise, a marketing strategy isn’t going to do your company much good without a detailed plan of how you intend to put it into action. Simply put, you need both.

Since your marketing strategy will dictate the specifics of your marketing plan, you’ll want to start by creating a marketing strategy before you create a marketing plan. It’s also worth noting a marketing plan is more dynamic than a marketing strategy and likely to change over time. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to reevaluate your marketing plan regularly to see if there is any room for improvement. Your marketing strategy, on the other hand, isn’t likely to change drastically over time unless the goals or positioning of your company changes.

Creating the Right Strategy and Plan for B2B Marketing Success

Marketing strategy and marketing plan are not two interchangeable terms. Instead, they are both unique components of a B2B company’s approach to marketing, vital to success. By creating an effective marketing strategy, outlining a high-level blueprint your company should follow, a results-driven marketing plan becomes much easier to develop. It’s all about knowing where you are going and how to get there. Taken together, you can set your B2B company up for marketing success. If you are seeking either type of marketing direction, please reach out for assistance. We perform comprehensive marketing strategies and plans for a fraction of the cost of big agencies.