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Differences Between Business Plans and Marketing Plans

If you are in the business world, you’ve undoubtedly discovered the need to plan. From business plans and strategic plans to marketing plans, running a business is as much about strategizing your next step as it is reacting to the crisis of the day. However, many aren’t entirely clear on the difference between the many types of plan that business leaders are expected to produce and follow. This article will help explain the difference between two of the most common types of plan, the marketing plan and the business plan. To understand the difference, it’s important to think about what these types of plan are used for and who makes use of them.

Differences Between Business Plans and Marketing Plans

The Business Plan

A business plan is a strategic overview of your entire business. It includes an overview of the business and its place within the industry, a discussion of the products or services that the business offers and an outline of the business’s business model, including a summary of key marketing strategies for communicating key messages to stakeholders. The business plan also identifies the executive leadership and management team with a description of their responsibilities, and it provides a breakdown of the company’s financial obligations and expenditures, cash flow, and financial projections. In other words, the business plan provides a complete overview of all of the major parts of the business, with projections for how the business will develop and grow in the short, medium, and long terms. It contains a section devoted to marketing, but this is typically a summary of strategies with minimal detail.

A business plan is typically used by both the internal audience—the business’s management team—and also external audiences, such as investors and banks, who are stakeholders in need of specific information about the business in order to understand whether providing money to the business will be an effective use of funds.

The Marketing Plan

A marketing plan is a strategic overview of the marketing, advertising, public relations, and other efforts to communicate strategic messages to key stakeholders. The marketing plan outlines in detail the objectives of the business’s marketing strategy, as well as its goals and tactics. The plan provides a description of how the marketing strategy will be implemented and therefore serves as a road map for the business to follow in its implementation of the marketing strategies. The plan will also include specific sales targets that can be used to measure the effectiveness of the marketing strategies. In a larger business with a dedicated marketing department, that department will use the marketing plan to align the business’s products or services to specific marketplace positions. The marketing plan will also lay out specific channels of communication to deliver messages to stakeholders.

A marketing plan is typically kept in-house and is used primarily by the marketing and sales teams to plan strategic messages. Outside stakeholders typically are not provided with this document.

Similarities and Differences

As you can see, a marketing plan is a much more specialized document than a business plan, and one that is narrower in focus but much more detailed in that area of focus. If a business plan is a four-course meal that ends with a slice of cake, a marketing plan is a dessert bar with the whole cake and more besides. But both documents share some similarities. They are, first and foremost, plans used to plot out a strategy for the business in the short, medium, and long terms. They are also intended to systematically review the business’s strategic position in order to help management to make key decisions going forward. The business plan also includes a section on marketing, albeit not in as much depth. The business plan also provides specific information on cash flow, financing, and balance sheets, while the marketing plan does not provide this information.

As you work to develop your business, it’s important to know which plan you need to help your business grow. If you are just starting your business and need to convince investors that you have a sound and viable business, you’ll need a business plan. If you’ already in business and are looking to strategize the best way to move forward for your internal audiences, a custom marketing plan is likely the right choice for you.

These two types of documents contain a great deal of key business information, and there is a significant amount of overlap between them. If you have one document already complete, you can transfer some of the same material to help you develop the other.

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About Lilach Bullock

Hi, I’m Lilach, a serial entrepreneur! I’ve spent the last 2 decades starting, building, running, and selling businesses in a range of niches. I’ve also used all that knowledge to help hundreds of business owners level up and scale their businesses beyond their beliefs and expectations.

I’ve written content for authority publications like Forbes, Huffington Post, Inc, Twitter, Social Media Examiner and 100’s other publications and my proudest achievement, won a Global Women Champions Award for outstanding contributions and leadership in business.

My biggest passion is sharing knowledge and actionable information with other business owners. I created this website to share my favorite tools, resources, events, tips, and tricks with entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, small business owners, and startups. Digital marketing knowledge should be accessible to all, so browse through and feel free to get in touch if you can’t find what you’re looking for!


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