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Marketing Plan VS Marketing Strategy – Exposing the difference once and for all!

Marketing Plan and Marketing Strategy – In the marketing world, you will often see these two terms being used interchangeably. And I have been explaining this to a lot of people.

I don’t hold anything against the people who do it because a majority of even the decision makers don’t differentiate the two, entry-level marketers think it’s almost the same thing, and sometimes, marketing managers don’t have a clue about it. So, let me clarify the difference between the two. And trust me, it’s NOT a fine line.

What is a Marketing Strategy?

A ‘marketing strategy’ is the overarching approach that a business takes to achieve its marketing goals while focusing on target audiences, value propositions, and competitive advantages. It takes into account micro and macro elements like the vision of the business, and the current trend in the market, and then finalizes which marketing campaign or multiple campaigns should be launched.

Strategy is all about the result, which is at times, revenue, or it can be more brand awareness, or some other goal.

What is a Marketing Plan and how is it different?

A ‘marketing plan’, on the other hand, is the roadmap of specific actions, timelines, and resources required to execute the strategy.

In simple words, when it comes to roles, both these terms separate the strategists and task-masters.

And there is a reason why these 2 are generally used interchangeably because small teams, generally, do not have a structured approach. And the ‘do fast – fail fast’ approach is their goal, initially which is not wrong.

But when you grow, it becomes very important for a business to structure itself and set marketing systems in place. This helps it to prioritize the activities it should focus on. Whether it needs to add more team members for a task, tools to increase productivity, or leverage different marketing channels – all of this depends on the MarkOps you’ve set.

At that time, the key to success lies in meticulously translating a strategy into a detailed marketing plan. By that, I mean the plan needs to have clearly defined operational objectives like KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), and KRAs (Key Responsibility Areas) for each team member. So, what needs to be done, by whom and when?

In this blog, I will show you how as a marketing strategy consultant, I help my clients and how you can do this as well. We will be using the example of an early-stage e-commerce fashion store with a very lean marketing team. In this case, I will just include only 1 digital-cum-content marketer and then a decision-maker like the CEO or founder.

Marketing Strategy Example with Case Study

Let’s say your eCommerce fashion store e-commerce store has an inventory of women’s apparel and accessories. Your USP is the fusion of the latest women’s fashion trends with eco-friendly materials and ethical manufacturing practices.

The business goal is to increase millennial purchases on the e-commerce store by 15% within 6 months.

Your brand positioning is to leverage the fact that more than 70% of millennials are willing to pay more if the product positions itself as environmentally friendly.

Now, each generation – GenZ, millennials, GenX, boomers – all have different spending patterns for online shopping, and their purchasing powers vary. And statistically, almost 1/3 of overall purchases made by millennials are influenced by social media.

You have your own website, and you have listed your product on third-party e-commerce stores. If it’s in the US, let’s say Amazon, Walmart, Target, or if it’s in India, it could be on Flipkart, Meesho, and Amazon India.

So, what would the Marketing Plan for it look like?

Marketing Plan Example with Case Study

  1. Data-Driven Selection and USP Placement: Once you have finalized your pricing strategy, you can utilize your website analytics to identify how millennials interact on your website and the search intent for the types of apparel categories that they visit, and then focus on how to place your USP.
  2. Use CTAs on the listing page and check-out page that emphasize your USP, making the purchase more rewarding and satisfactory for the target audience. Now you need to plan where and how you will place these messages, and what would it look like in terms of design, copies, and number of times a user will see them.
  3. What you can get started with right away would be content creation and distribution: You can create a series of short, engaging videos showcasing the brand’s commitment to environment friendliness and how are you ensuring it, featuring behind-the-scenes looks at the making of these products. You can distribute these stories on your listing pages, and across social platforms where millennials spend their time, like Instagram or even TikTok if you are in the US. You can collaborate with some of the fashion influencers on these platforms to promote or try out your product and share their reviews.
  4. Next would be customer experience: No matter how good your pitch, positioning, and partnerships are, at the end of the day, if your ratings are below 4, there’s a high chance, you are losing more customers! So, make sure that prioritizing activities that get you positive reviews is part of your marketing plan.

Especially, in retail or e-commerce segments, seamless shopping experience and after-sales across all channels — online, in-store, and on third-party platforms, is quintessential (I can’t find a better word to stress more on it!).

And for that, you need to use consistent branding and personalized marketing messages. The same level of commitment is required when someone purchases a product and in case they have any issues with it post-purchase.

And it’s not that hard to have a WhatsApp Business account or you can just email or call your initial customers to check if they are happy with their purchase. And to let them know that they can reach out to you if they face any issues instead of writing a bad review on a public platform.

In marketing, transparency is key. To do that, you can simply have your TnCs, return policies, and warranties mentioned in the product description and not hidden inside a toggle. Many brands have tried doing it, and we know this leads to a Twitter trend, a Reddit thread, or lots of YouTube videos, and not the good ones!

Be it B2B or B2C, unless you have a USP, you will try to do hundreds of things. To structure your MarkOps, you need to WRITE DOWN YOUR PLAN and if you need help, you can always hire a marketing consultant who can do it for you! I have seen a lot of companies just trying out hundreds of things at once, and then just giving them up halfway because they are not getting quick wins.

And that is a really bad idea, especially if you have a small team and you are not prioritizing where their efforts need to be concentrated.

If you want all the above-listed activities to be done without a timeline, you will only get frustrated because none of them will work individually for you to achieve your strategic objective.

What you need to do as a part of your marketing plan if you have just 1 Digital Marketing Specialist – is that his/her KRA should be very specific and most importantly, concise.

Just for explanation purposes, let’s say you decide to go ahead with influencer marketing on Instagram.

Influencer Marketing Strategy + Plan

So, on average, I categorize influencers into 4 types and their fee will be different for Instagram posts, videos and stories.

Type of content / Influencer TierNano (500-5k followers)Micro (5k-30k followers)Power (30k-500k)Celebrity (500k+ followers)
Instagram Story$50$100$200$750
Instagram Post$100$150$500$2,000
Instagram Video$150$300$700$3,000

Let’s say, for your brand, you plan to reach out to all 4 categories of influencers for all 3 types of content per influencer. So, 1 post, 1 story, and 1 video from Nano, Micro, Power, and Celebrity. In this case, you are looking at around $8,000 budget or 6.5 Lakhs rupees.

I know this sounds a lot. And, based on your budget, the target segment, the influencers you choose, the number of influencers, and your negotiation skills, this number will differ.

Statistically, influencer marketing gets you around 5x ROI, but the minimum I have seen has been around 50% ROI. Which means you are making 1.5 bucks for every 1 buck you invested. You will have to do this math for your brand, and with influencer marketing, you can easily launch a profitable campaign, as long as it’s a good product.

Now when it comes to your internal team, as I said before, while you will be investing in influencer marketing, you still need to do a lot of other stuff. The most important one will be prepping up your listings before you launch the campaign. So, if you have 1 digital marketer or a content person as I mentioned, their weekly KRAs need to be mentioned in the marketing plan.

Weekly Marketing Activities

Day 1 – write 4 product descriptions for 4 products and using AI tools like GPT-4 or Gemini, replicate it for third-party platforms according to the text required.

Day 2 – click and edit high-definition photos that will go with your product.

Day 3 – upload or revise your product listings, and that day will also be good for incorporating feedback from you and other team members.

The rest 2 days, or 1 day (if you are a 4-day working company), they work on creating Instagram reels or TikTok videos. And if you go ahead with influencer marketing, reach out to influencers so they can start working on the content.

Now you can do the final activity even 1 month before your product pages are ready, and dedicate this time to adding more product descriptions!

If you follow this marketing plan, within 1 month, you will have 16 great product listings and at least 4 in-house videos. Continue this for 1 quarter, that is 3 months, you will have around 48 or 50 high-quality product listings and 12 videos on your social handles. And then on the 1st week of 4th month, you can ask influencers to publish their content and your campaign starts, all at once for maximum results. With this preparation, when viewers land on your social handles or product listing pages, they will see the same quality that was promised by the influencers and that will set the grounds for you to get your ROI.

For a small team, it is really important for you as a leader to have the right balance of weightage in analyzing the performance of your team. How much should it be revenue-oriented and what portion should be activity-oriented.

The maths of efficiency of strategy and campaign needs to be pre-planned. If you are doing it for the very first time, you can take industry standards like I did when I said:

Now this number could be based on your current visitors or the existing footfall and the influencers you are partnering up with.

This strategy will achieve a 15% increase in online sales from millennial customers within the next 3 quarters or it could be something different!

At the end of the campaign, you have to do the performance analysis of your marketing strategy and see where your strategy or plan needs optimization.

How to optimize your Marketing Plan?

Here are a few examples of how you need to select the optimization points:

  1. Lack of impressions of your pages would mean you need to audit your influencer or the content that the influencers are publishing.
  2. If there are visitors on the listing page and engagement is low, you’ll need to check the content quality.
  3. Despite considerable engagement, if conversions are not happening, then placement of CTA or your pricing strategy could be the issue.

And you can track all of this through third-party dashboards or using website event trackers! Make sure that the right trackers and tools are already set up and properly working so you can analyze the right data.

Now, going beyond influencer marketing, let me give you another example that will help you differentiate the two topics in discussions even better.

Example of a Simple Marketing Strategy & Complex Marketing Plan: Virtual Try-on

So, again, if you have the budget, you can launch a campaign for your e-commerce store like having Virtual Try-Ons on your website or mobile app: Maybe implement an Augmented Reality feature allowing customers to virtually try on clothes or accessories from their homes, bridging the gap between online shopping and in-store experience, and you will save a lot on product returns.

I know I have returned a lot of T-shirts that don’t look good on me after I try them, and frankly, this could have been avoided!

If you do this, then it is going to help the influencers promote your brand and a great experience for the visitors. All of this gives you yet another – value proposition which in the e-commerce fashion space is a major differentiator as I said before.

One of the companies that have perfected it would be So, you can check it out as well for reference!

Now this strategy sounds amazing while reading, however, it’s very complex. So, before you incorporate this strategy, it would be strongly recommended to have a solid marketing plan and a good cash flow.

And I think we all know business is always going to be a chicken-and-egg situation and there are risks but they must be calculated risks!

So, things that you will need to check would be – will doing it for your own website makes sense or whether should you partner up with companies like TryNDBuy.

Because statistically, it works. Myntra, one of the biggest e-commerce companies in India, published a blog in mid-December 2023, where they claimed that on their platform, average considerations by visitors increased by 150% and conversions doubled with the virtual try-on feature of their beauty products after incorporating it.

But again, as I said, it depends on where your business stands right now and what are your priorities.

Marketing Plan for Virtual Try-on Strategy

Once you run campaigns like these, and you expand your team, you can then work on bigger projects like the virtual try-ons. Because it will require more granular KRAs. For instance,

  • If you are outsourcing the entire project, you would like to assign KRAs for the external agency, or if you are doing it internally, then it will need technical product management because it will require things like data privacy checks, 3D modeling like setting up detection zones, animations, and whatnots.
  • If you have a dedicated social media team, you can set KPIs for social media impressions, replies, queries, and leads originating from social sources.
  • Then if you have a dedicated website management or content team, you can set KPIs for different purchase points like the number of product views or impressions, cart adds, and purchases.
  • Then if you have a retention or customer experience team, you can use repeat purchases and reviews on third-party platforms or CX metrics like CSAT and net promoter score (NPS).

Your Business is unique and so should your marketing

To set all the above KPIs, you need data to ensure that you are setting achievable goals.

To get this data, you need to launch a campaign because no matter how much you look at industry trends, at the end of the day, the strategy revolves around some estimations. Now the best option is to have your own datasets to work on and build KPIs, or you can choose industry standards that are based on the surveys done on a specific sample. And if you plan to choose that result, just make sure that you are reading the full report and that the sample size is relevant for you.

And goes without saying, but your business is unique in its way. You have your strengths and weaknesses. Successful businesses are the ones that know where they stand, which strategies they need to create more opportunities, and how they can achieve them using a practical marketing plan.

Grayscale Image of Anoop Singh Yersong the marketing consultant.

Anoop Yersong

I have 10+ years of experience in innovating, building & implementing growth and marketing strategies for 100+ clients. Firm believer in working for a vision that gives a sense of fulfilment and motivation to do better every day and inspire people around me to do the same. Love hard rock, grunge & thrash metal music to achieve zen! Passionate conversationalist and avid podcast, interviews & documentary enthusiast

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