Without marketing, you can have the best products/services, but no one will have heard of you, so your sales team will struggle and ultimately, you’ll fall short of your business goals.

Success is reliant on a strong marketing engine to drive your business forward. But for SMEs, who often suffer from restricted budgets and limited resources, marketing can be a key challenge. A survey from the Chartered Institute of Marketing shows that only a quarter of SMEs have staff with a formal marketing qualification, and 30% have no specific marketing experience. It’s the reason you can be forgiven for thinking that marketing and marketing communications are the same thing.

So what is the difference?

Marketing strategy

In a nutshell, your marketing strategy should form the foundation on which your entire business is built as is directly linked to your business plan. It should detail everything about your customers, your competitors, your market opportunities and threats, your strengths and weaknesses, and your brand. No stone should be left unturned, as the more information you unearth here, the stronger your competitive position will be when going to market.

Marketing communications plan

In contrast, your marketing communications plan is concerned with only one aspect of marketing – your communications (obviously!). It should outline key strategic messages, including your strapline, elevator pitch and value proposition, before continuing with more in-depth messaging that’s targeted for each of your audiences. Next, your communications plan will map out campaigns, detailing the key themes and channels for best engaging your audience(s), before finishing with campaign resources, costs and a schedule of activities.

You cannot have one without the other. Successful companies have a clear business plan that is underpinned by a robust marketing strategy – if the business plan is the destination, the marketing strategy contains all the elements to get you there (the car, the petrol, the travel sweets!), and the marketing communications plan is your route.

Start your engine

When it comes to success, don’t let a lack of experience, training and qualifications in marketing mean that you’re driving in the dark with your lights off. Use the valuable information gained through professional effective marketing to get your business where it needs to be.

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Photo by Frida Bredesen on Unsplash

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