Is A Marketing Plan The Same Thing As A Communications Plan?

How does a marketing plan relate to an organization’s communications plan? What are the differences? Is the marketing plan just one aspect of the communications plan? Should one consider combining them into a single document?

A communications plan is a PART of your marketing plan. A communications plan is a focused strategy you use to get the word out about your business, product or service.

You may use a variety of communications tactics such as public relations, advertising and speaking engagements. Yes, it does identify who you are communicating to and what your message is, and where and how you will get that message out, and often has goals or objectives you are trying to achieve.

Here’s the difference between the two

A marketing plan starts by creating a strong, strategic marketing foundation for your communications plan. It addresses the goals and objectives for your business, not just for your communications activities.

It addresses how you package, price and sell your product or service, not just how you talk about it. It takes into consideration your competitors and helps you develop a unique selling proposition to ensure your product or service is uniquely positioned in the minds of your prospects and customers.

And it ensures you have a way to track all of your marketing activities to create the greatest possible success for your business.

You need a marketing plan FIRST

The messaging part of your marketing plan is where your communications plan comes in. Once you have created a strong, strategic marketing foundation (which you will do as part of creating a marketing plan) you can determine a message strategy and tactics – this is your communications plan. And it most definitely can be a part of the same document.

When I write marketing plans for clients, the communications plan is part of the marketing plan. The only time it is not, is when the client has written their own business and marketing plans. But in those cases, I make sure I either get to review their plans or that I completely understand their business goals and strategy so I can develop a marketing communications plan to support them.

The success of your communications plan depends on it

If all you have is a communications plan, you are missing an important part of what it takes to make a business successful. A marketing plan is essential.

(C) 2005 Debbie LaChusa

5 Steps: How to Create a Marketing Plan

The marketing plan is an integral part of the future success of any marketing department. Whether it is a large corporation or a small business just starting out, the marketing plan is a detailed analysis of: the internal components of the business, the external forces exerted on the business to understand the market in which it operates, and set goals that provide direction for future marketing incentives. Marketing plans are usually conceived to offer a specific strategy of how to introduce a new product, enter new markets or to fix a current problem. The following assertion discusses how to draft a five part marketing plan. The five parts include, but are not limited to:

  1. Purpose + Mission
  2. SWOT analysis
  3. Marketing strategy objectives
  4. Strategical marketing objectives
  5. Budget analysis + implementation

Purpose + Mission Statement- The purpose of the marketing plan, while seemingly somewhat self explanatory, should be a concise statement of why this plan was drafted and allude to how the information in the plan could, or should, be used. Mission- If a new business is creating a marketing plan a mission statement may not exist and thus need to be devised. The mission statement needs to be a specific and clearly worded paragraph that embodies a stable and lucent long-term vision of the organization. A good mission statement should be able to answer such questions as: What is the business’s creed, or standard for doing business? What services does it provide? Why is the company in business? It is a strict guideline of what the business stands for, and what the business offers to its customers.

SWOT Analysis- This section of the plan analyzes is great detail the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of, and to, the company. Strength- ex: Current Products (features, benefits, pricing, incentives) Weaknesses- ex: Current financial condition (could potentially be strength) Opportunities- ex: Target markets (mass market? Segmentation, demographics, psychographics, needs of market) Threats- ex: Competitors

Marketing Strategy and Objectives- This section is crucial to the development of the proposed services or products future. This part consists of: identifying the marketing strategy, financial objectives, and overall marketing objectives. This gives a specific direction the product will take and creates accountability in the plan so efforts and results can be measured in relation to these starting objectives.

Strategical Marketing Programs- This is typically the longest part of the plan and is deeply detailed in respect to the strategy to achieve the designated marketing objectives in part three. These programs include descriptions of: Product, Price, Promotion, and Place. Ex: Define current market, and the planned changes. Define how these changes will be accomplished, and explain why these changes must take place (use evidence of research or due to competitors).

Budget Analysis + Implementation- This final section scrutinizes the business’s financial ability to carry out its marketing plan. Defining the extent of the marketing budget will help determine the financial impact and capabilities of the projected plan. As a precursor to the actual implementation of the products or services a performance analysis presents the expected results of the plan. It is an educated estimate of the potential overall success of the plan and helps to prepare for the future. The last step in the marketing plan is to organize an implementation schedule that shows timelines and identifies those responsible for certain tasks. This keeps the marketing team involved and held responsible for timely work and effort.

The Marketing Plan Section Explained For Business Plans

A high-quality business plan ultimately must achieve two objectives. Firstly, it should illustrate the rudiments of your venture. Secondly, it should present financial information for a return in investment. Outside of these two goals, the substance of your business plan is dependent on whether it’s for investors or a personal reference blueprint for yourself. Which brings us to the Marketing Plan; the business plan section most widely referenced and sought after by entrepreneurs.

THE MARKETING PLAN

The Marketing plan is the critical section of the business plan detailing the marketing strategy for a product and/or service. The marketing plan may include and is not limited to product and/or service offering, target demographic market, competitors, budget, promotional mix and advertising.

DEVELOPMENT OF THE MARKETING PLAN

When developing the business plan, the marketing plan section enlightens the reader on how you’re going to attract potential customers to purchase your products or services. The marketing plan includes the following sections:

- Product and/or Service Offering
- Promotions and Advertising and Plan
- Sales & Distribution Plan
- Pricing Point and Strategy

The most effective method to create a marketing plan is to closely be associated with each of the sections below (while referencing the comprehensive market research that was generated prior to this section).

Another business plan tidbit to keep in mind are the Five P’s:

- Product: The product and/or service offering.
- Price: Pricing point and strategies.
- Place: Best described by method of distribution for product and/or service.
- Promotion: In Laymen terms how will you advertise your product and/or service.
- People: This entails everything from customer service to what are the needs and demands by your customers.

FINAL NOTES

Collectively, all the components of your marketing plan should disclose the splendor of your big idea. At the end of the day you want to present to investors or your organization a product and/or service that customers will crave.

Look for more articles from me regarding business plans, market research or funding your venture, current company or start-up. Also be sure to first talk to your small business development center in your community, if you are new to the business plan process.