What’s the difference between a marketing plan and a business plan?

business plan, marketing plan -

What’s the difference between a marketing plan and a business plan?

So many terms get thrown around these days that sometimes we tend to mix them up.

 For entrepreneurs, it is very important to understand and distinguish between these two concepts - A business plan and a marketing plan.

I always remember the distinction by looking at the marketing plan as a subset of the business plan. A marketing plan fits neatly inside of an organisation’s business plan. This means that ALL business plans will contain an aspect of planning marketing activities.

The business plan cannot stand on its own without a marketing plan and marketing strategists usually create 3-5 year plans.

 The following are the major distinctions between these two concepts:

  1. Marketing plans form an integral part of a business plan. The Marketing Plan CAN stand alone but the business plan CANNOT. Within all written business plans it must contain a section that covers marketing activities, especially defining the marketing strategies of the organization and showing the correlation on how this feeds into the overall objectives of the company. The marketing plan is usually created by the departmental head and other functional areas such as HR and Finance also pay a role in the achievement of company objectives. The marketing plan acts as a blueprint that defines the company's marketing mix strategies and the tactics involved to achieve those strategies. The marketing plan answers questions such as:
  • What are the pricing strategies for its products?
  • What types of promotion/advertising the company will use and why?
  • What are the distribution strategies?

The marketing plan lets the stakeholders of the organization know exactly how the company plans on achieving its business goals.

  1. Marketing plans can be carried out separately and may actually hold more details than what is placed in the business plan. Marketing plans for some firms are meant to be more dynamic where changes can be made easily. Some companies create a separate document covering marketing strategies and tactics that usually include a more in-depth analysis of their marketing goals and objectives. Such marketing plans include a breakdown of the size of the market segment or segments, customer profiles and potential growth rate of the total market. It identifies the strengths and weaknesses of competitors and demonstrates how the company intends to set itself apart from competitors.


  1. Business plans identify the major goals of the business, the mission and vision, while the marketing plan explains how the business will achieve those goals. Makes sense right? The business plan is much broader in nature but the marketing plan discusses the strategies, the tactics and the impact of the environment on the success of these goals. Marketing plans provides company operational instructions for daily activities. Simply put, think of the business plan as a compass and the marketing plan as the directions or instructions on how to get from one place to the other.

Ideally, after creating business and marketing plans for clients, I think this is one of the best tools to check the progress of your company. Many firms find this a tedious activity but it provides an objective view of what you've been doing with your business over the years giving you ideas on ways in which it can be improved.


Debbie-Ann Jollie is a Marketing Strategist and the principal Director of HashSpace Limited. She is a certified trainer with over 15 years’ experience in marketing management both in public and private organizations as well as through consulting.







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