Strategic Plan, Marketing Plan, Communications Plan: What’s the difference?
A plan is vital for an organization to evolve from an entity made up of individuals completing tasks to an organization that works together to achieve common goals and objectives. There are three types of plans typically created by organizations: a strategic plan, a marketing plan, and a communications plan. But, what’s the difference, and what plan is best for your organization?
A strategic plan describes an organization’s overall vision and goals; strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats; and provides direction for the organization’s executives and administration to move the organization forward. A strategic plan is regularly revisited by leadership and evaluated. A strategic plan defines the organization, sets organization-wide goals, and serves as a foundation for marketing and communications plans.
A marketing plan further defines an organization by identifying key differentiating factors and describes research-based approaches to meeting the needs of customers and stakeholders. A marketing plan builds on the strategic plan by detailing the organization’s audience or ideal customer. The description of the organization’s target audience in a marketing plan is based on market research, focus groups, surveys, and other detailed analysis of the organization’s customer such as their needs and desires related to the organization’s product or service. It also describes where the customer is most likely found and what organizational messages will most likely garner appeal. Most importantly, market research reveals gaps in products or services that could serve as opportunities for an organization to gain a competitive edge. As a result, organizations often develop new products, services, and programs identified in market research. In a university setting, marketing plans can inform the development of new academic programs for students or identify research areas that may differentiate the university from other competing universities.
A communications plan describes how organizations plan to get their message out to the world. A communications plan typically comes after a marketing plan and integrates all forms of communications into one plan.