If someone asks you to write a marketing plan, find out if what they want is really a promotional plan. If it is, tell them they need a marketing plan first. They are not the same thing.
Since then, there have been many occasions when I heard someone say that their company needs more “marketing”. To non-practitioners, marketing is often synonymous with promotion. And while promotion is indeed necessary, it’s entirely likely that a promotional campaign will fail if it’s not rooted in a solid, well considered marketing strategy.
What’s the difference between a marketing plan and a promotional plan?
The Marketing Plan
A marketing plan is a strategic document. It explains the environment you are operating in and clearly defines the choices you have made about how to bring your products or services to market. It is not a tactical document that provides every detail about an advertising campaign.
A good marketing plan will include:
This section provides a situation analysis and explains the nature and size of the market opportunity. It also typically includes a discussion about competitor capabilities, SWOT analysis, and discussion about substitutions and alternatives currently available.
The product section deals with considerations such as key differentiators, brand equity and image, life cycle management, and financial contribution. This section should clearly define what makes your product or service unique in the marketplace.
Perhaps the most important section, this section defines the segment of the market you wish to pursue and how you believe your product is or should be perceived in this segment. Are you the high price/high quality alternative for instance? Does your strategy reflect your desired market position?
The pricing discussion is where you define your pricing strategy. It may include pricing models by market or segment. It should also clearly state your pricing approach which should be in line with your market positioning (i.e. if you want to be perceived as a luxury brand, then you will probably set a premium price as opposed to a value price intended to penetrate a wider segment of the market).
This is still not your promotional plan! Here is where you define the goals of your promotion (i.e. brand awareness, lead generation). You’ll state the promotional mix such as advertising, sales promotion and other levers. This section may also expand on your sales process and training or other requirements needed to fuel your sales engine.
This section expands on your process for delivery such as shipping, partner strategies, etc.
The action plan ties everything together. It includes specific objectives, revenue targets & key performance indicators. It will also include your marketing budget and a high level schedule of events.
The Promotional Plan
A promotional plan by contrast is much more tactical in nature. It it is often shorter term in scope and it enumerates very specific deliverables needed to activate a campaign. A good promotional plan will synchronize with the marketing plan by providing the detail necessary to execute on the stated promotional mix and strategy.
Typical elements of a promotional plan include:
- Target market segment for a campaign
- Campaign objectives
- Tactical approaches including a schedule and budget for each
Having a well conceived marketing plan answers all of the essential questions needed to develop a promotional plan. When someone tries to write a promotional plan without constructing a marketing plan first, they usually end up attempting to answer the questions that a marketing plan otherwise would have dealt with, except less methodically and often in a hurry.
One final thought – when a company says they need “more marketing”, promotion may not be the problem. When going through the steps of developing a marketing plan, it may become obvious that some other element of the marketing mix is off which will cause all of the other pieces not to fit.
Take the time to develop a marketing plan and you’ll find it was well worth the investment.