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What Is the Difference Between a Business Plan and a Marketing Plan

written by: W. A. Swan•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 12/5/2010

Anyone considering a new venture must have proper planning to ensure success. Two important parts of planning include the business plan and the marketing plan. What is the difference between the two? Why are they important? Which comes first? Here's how to formulate a good plan using both.

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    When a new entrepreneur is looking to start a business, a host of terms and applications of those terms can be thrown around. This rush of information can overwhelm the beginning businessperson. Two of the more important resources that any entrepreneur has to help ensure success are the business plan and the marketing plan. These are both important in the overall business strategy; the question is which is more important and why?

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    What’s a Business Plan

    Pulling the Business Plan Together A business plan encompasses the overall business strategy of your business. Included in this plan are descriptions of the products or services you are offering, the method of providing the product or service and how it will be offered to the public. Other parts of the plan include the leadership and management of the business owners or executives and how they intend to generate positive cash flow. Supporting documents will include cash flow statements, financial projections and charts and graphs related to sales and expenditures.

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    What’s a Marketing Plan

    Marketing Plans Are Important Marketing plans are summary reports of the marketing strategies, objectives and methods used in creating a profitable company. Included in a marketing plan is the advertising and promotional methods to be used and a study of the proposed effectiveness of the methods. This is where overall marketing objectives, goals and resources are listed as well.

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    Which Comes First

    What Comes First An overall business strategy is outlined in the business plan. Since the marketing plan and marketing strategies are a part of the overall plan, they are included in the business plan. Financiers and lenders can use the marketing plan as a pullout from the business plan. When entrepreneurs are seeking financing, the overall business strategy is used to determine if the business model is sound; the marketing strategy is used to determine if the methods of creating financial gain will be effective.

    Image Credit (FreeDigitalPhotos)

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    The Target Audience

    Target Market Another difference between the business plan and the marketing plan is the target audience. While both are geared toward generating revenue, they are also geared toward different groups. An overall business strategy considers the decision-makers that will provide financial and material resources to the business. A marketing strategy is geared toward the customer or clientèle the business will serve; while not seen by the audience the marketing plan tells what message will be given and why the customer would care.

    Image Credit (FreeDigitalPhotos)

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    The Importance of Both

    Even though the marketing plan is part of the business plan, both the marketing strategy and the overall business strategy are equally important. Without a proper marketing effort, the business model will fail; conversely without a well thought out business plan, no amount of marketing will help the business. Either fact occurs from poor planning, lack of experience or knowledge, not enough research or a rush to market before being ready.

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    If you have an effective business plan you can build an effective marketing plan into it. Comprehensive research and planning helps the new entrepreneur spot potential problems and concerns that will need to be addressed.