The Difference Between a Marketing Plan and Marketing Campaign

Nov 28, 2022 | Digital Marketing, Marketing Strategy

Do you know the difference between a marketing plan and a marketing campaign? I think it’s safe to say that most businesses and non-profit organizations want to expand the reach of their organization. Whether it’s increasing your brand awareness, generating new leads, or attracting new employees, it’s important to let the market know you exist. You can read more about how to expand the reach of your organization in this article. Read Now


Having worked with lots of businesses and organizations over the years, it’s always surprising to me how many organizations do not have a formal marketing plan.  That’s to say, they do not have a written plan that defines who their customers are, how they intend to reach those customers, and how they’re going to measure marketing success.  What most organizations have is some form of advertising, which is a type of marketing campaign channel.


It goes something like this…


1. An organization determines it needs more customers and they either reach out to an advertising outlet -or- a salesperson from the advertising outlet will reach out to them. 


2. The organization gets pitched an advertising plan that includes cost, reach, and estimated results.


3. The organization signs up for the advertising, which may or may not work.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with advertising.  We advertise ourselves.  In fact, we advise our clients to advertise.  To be effective, the advertising must have context and be part of a broader plan.  That broader plan is a marketing plan.

A marketing plan is a document that provides the overall strategy for managing the marketing efforts of an organization over a time period, usually a year.  It should include the:

  1. Target market (who)
  2. Campaigns (what)
  3. Channels (where)
  4. Tactics (how)
  5. Timeline (when)
  6.  Metrics (why)
  7. Other information – SWOT analysis, competitors, budget, etc. I’ve seen (and written) marketing plans that are long documents.  I’ve also seen highly effective one-page marketing plans.  The length of the document is less important than what’s in it.


A marketing campaign is a focused  initiative that communicates a specific message to your target audience.

An example is an advertising campaign that promotes a holiday sale.  Another example is a non-profit year-end fundraising campaign to encourage year-end donations for tax write-off purposes.

Campaigns are great and it’s where the “rubber meets the road” when it comes to marketing activity.  What happens when the campaign is over?  What’s next? How do you know if the campaign was successful?  All of these questions can be answered with a proper marketing plan.

In short, a marketing plan provides the big picture.  A marketing campaign provides the details about one activity.  A good marketing plan is made up of several marketing campaigns.  Honestly, you should have one without the other.

Need help writing a marketing plan or reviewing one you already have?  Give us a shout, we’re here to help!