Master Your Marketing Strategy With these 5 Simple Questions

Confused Small Business Marketing

Confused by a marketing strategy?

Are you a small business owner struggling to understand what is a marketing strategy or what is a marketing plan?  Don’t worry, you are not the only small business owner confused by the two terms.  And, you are not alone wondering if you even need one…or both!

I have explained the differences to many marketing professionals over the years.  Marketing people tend to interchange the two definitions – no wonder YOU are feeling confused!

I want to clear up that confusion and I’ll tell you why you definitely need a marketing strategy AND you definitely need a marketing plan.

First, I want to talk to you about What is a Marketing Strategy and how that DIFFERS to a Marketing Plan?

What is a marketing strategy?

A marketing strategy is a big picture, or a game plan for your business to achieve your business goals.  A Marketing strategy answers key, critical questions about your business, your products, or your services.  These are the five simple questions that every good marketing strategy should answer.

  1. The What?
  2. The Why?
  3. The How?
  4. The Who?
  5. The When?

I’ll explain these five key marketing questions in more detail, shortly.  But first, What is a Marketing Plan?

A marketing strategy five questions: The what? The why? The How? The Who? The When?

What is a marketing plan?

A marketing plan shows the tactical, individual campaigns that you must do to achieve your marketing strategy and your business goals.  A marketing plan forms PART of the marketing strategy.  It is question 5 of the Marketing Strategy: The When?

A marketing plan is the detail.  The detail can vary, but typically you can include these seven key areas into your marketing plan:

  1. The type of marketing to be used.  Also called the Marketing Media or Communication Channel
  2. The Target Audience
  3. The goals or aim of the campaign/s
  4. The Key Message to be communicated
  5. Budget
  6. Measurement – Key Performance Indicators and results
  7. Timing – When the campaigns will be carried out

What Would you find in a marketing strategy?

1. The What?

“The What?” section contains most of the work.  This is where you need to do a bit of thinking and research about your small business.  I have broken this down into four sub-sections:

1.1 Your business vision and mission statement – if you don’t have a business vision, think about why you started your business and what you want to see your business achieve.  These help guide your business internally and gives you and your staff direction. Business Queensland has some great help on this. 

1.2 Your Business Goals – These are generally the big stuff!  e.g. next year to achieve 10 new clients, or 5% growth in revenue.

1.3 The Analysis of your Business.  There are a few ways of analysing your business.  Consider the following:

  • A SWOT Analysis:
    What are the business STRENGTHS? – you want to consolidate the strengths and grow these strengths in the business.
    What are the business WEAKNESSES? – you want to minimise or eliminate from the business.
    What are the business OPPORTUNITIES? – you want to grow and develop for your business.
    What are the business THREATS? – if they happen, you want to have a plan in place to mitigate.
  • Research – Include other business or industry research you have. For example: looking at Australian Bureau of Statistics data for your industry and your local area.
  • A Competitor Analysis – what is it that they do good, not so good, and…are there any gaps or opportunities in the marketplace.

1.4 The Assessment  

After your marketing analysis comes the marketing assessment.  Your small business marketing strategy must assess the ideas and opportunities that you just identified from all the analysis work that you have done.

Use the SMART Principles technique – it’s an easy way to quickly assess some of those opportunities you found:

  • S – Are the opportunities specific and clearly defined?
  • M – Are the opportunities measurable against your targets and business goals?
  • A – Are they achievable and likely to succeed? What are the likely costs?
  • R – Are they relevant to the business goals?
  • T – How much time will it take to implement some of these opportunities?


After doing all the hard analysis and assessment work, it’s important to make sure you know what is unique about your business products or services that will make people want to buy them.

Somewhere in that analysis work you should have been able to identify what is different about your business to others: What need or want does your product or service fulfill? Why will I buy from you rather than your competitors?  What is different about your business that will be hard for a competitor to copy?  This is called your UNIQUE SELLING PROPOSITION (your USP) and it is key to your business success. 


You should now have your What and your WHY sorted.  Well done!  Now you’ll want to prioritise and focus some of the opportunities you have found for your small business.  Choose one-to-three of the top opportunities.

To do this, consider the business impacts: What will it cost (return on investment); Will I need more resource; How will it impact operations and customer service?

You may have identified a very large opportunity, however this is where you need to get REAL because to achieve that opportunity you need to also consider all the impacts and consequences.

Map out how the customer journey and the customer experience will look for each of these opportunities.  Consider how the business will create customer loyalty and value?                    


Who are my target customers for my products or services?  You might think EVERYONE is my target customer….EVERYONE is not the correct answer!  Everyone needs food and water (and we can even break that down).

Let’s say you sell bricks. Not everyone wants to buy bricks…but if I’m a young couple looking to build my first home, I might be interested in bricks.  One of your target customers may be young couples. 

You may sell larger block bricks – suitable for building retaining walls.  One of your target customers may be landscapers.  Get the picture?

You may have seen other small business create an avatar or persona of their customers.  This is a more detailed description of your customers.  You may name them or base your avatar on someone you know.  You would include key demographics about your avatar, their likes, dislikes, motivations etc. 


This is where that Marketing Plan comes in.  It’s also called a Communication Plan because it’s all about: WHEN should I communicate to my customers?

It details the timeline of when your awesome strategy will be delivered.  It goes into the next level of detail.

Marketing plans can be very detailed, though I find this really depends on how much time you have.  Typically, the larger the marketing team the more detailed your plan.  Consider adding: the target customer group, the key message to these customers, how your product will solve their problem, what specific marketing channel or media will be used and when during the customer journey.

I would strongly recommend you measure your results for each campaign.  This way you know what worked…or didn’t work well and you can always adjust your communication plan as you need

Sample Marketing Communication Plan
A Communication Plan Contains the Detail

do i really need a marketing strategy and a marketing plan?

Think of a Marketing strategy a bit like a game of football. 

  1. The What?
    The Coach creates the strategy through analysis and assessment. The coach will consider the competition, the players: their strengths and weaknesses, and other external factors – like mental and physical health.
  2. The Why?
    The coach will focus on the key differences that his team can create.  The Team’s Unique Selling Proposition or X factor.
  3. The How?
    The Coach will prioritise key areas of opportunities focusing on strengths or weaknesses, prioritising the defence or attack.
  4. The Who?
    The coach will determine the best players and substitutes throughout the game to achieve the goal: creating the best key players to be on the field in each half of play
  5. The When?
    (This is the Marketing Plan section) The Coach creates a plan of tactical play with the key players.  The players implement the plan using their key skills, specialist talents and techniques.  Their goal is delivering the strategy and the business objective – this would probably be…WIN the game!

A football coach tweaks the team throughout the game.  However rarely do you see a football coach change the strategy during play.

If you are a small business, I’d recommend reviewing your marketing plan every month and checking back against your marketing strategy at least every six months.  If you are a larger business you should be reviewing more frequently.

Successful coaches use strategies. 

If you want to be a successful small business owner, you need a marketing strategy and a marketing plan.  Importantly, don’t get too hung up on the terms.  If your business follows the above simple steps you will be half of the way to further business growth.

Football strategy is like a marketing strategy



About Leanne Di Fazio

About Leanne Di Fazio

Leanne has over 20 years marketing experience in large corporates and small business in Australia and the United Kingdom.  She is passionate about helping small business grow and thrive. Leanne is the founder of Look Deeper Marketing: who specialise in marketing, strategy and planning for small business. Look Deeper Marketing bring affordable marketing consultancy to small business in Macarthur, Sydney and surrounding areas, with packaged options so you know exactly what to expect. Look Deeper Marketing: take a deeper look at your marketing. 


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