There is a tug-of-war that takes place while locked in a room of business experts trying to educate people on doing business. Is it the business plan or the marketing plan that is more critical? There are varied and almost silly schools of thought, ranging from "it can only be one way" to "it doesn't really matter."
Bankers will tug on one side of the aisle, while an investor might pull to the other. At the end of the day, both documents have their place. One creates the plan to make money, while the other speculates.
The business plan is usually written by the company owner or top-tier employee. It is vital and used in the company's initial phase as a form of walking through the business idea.
Business plans can take a couple of dozen pages, providing a written tour of the business concept, describing the company's mission, vision and values, what it offers, the leadership team and an overview of the industry as a whole and potential competitors. Toward the back will be the financial statements - actual if a company has been in business for a while, or projections for a company just getting started.
Some say that if an owner can't live through writing a business plan, he or she probably shouldn't be in the business. This practice corners an owner into vetting the idea, although nearly all business owners push this document aside. This plan, once written, can be reviewed once a year. Taking months to write a business plan used to be common, but with the evolution of the Internet and area workshops, this has been scaled back to a few weeks in some cases.
The marketing plan is usually written by the business owner in the beginning. Later, staff or marketing teams can contribute.
It's known as a working document, a liquid policy of ideas, strategies and tactics. It can take a few dozen pages and will include a summary of the business plan along with a heavy dose of marketing details.
The marketing plan includes details of the product, the purpose it will serve, who will buy it, how it will be different from the competition, promotion methods of choice and why those methods were chosen. It also will include what changes might be necessary if a barrier comes along, and even who the industry allies might be. It will skim over various marketing campaigns that can be used and will outline the costs vs. net revenue streams, and various analyses of each.
This document is what drives the product to market and ultimately delivers the revenue.
A business owner needs both plans, but it can be broken down in the following way.
The business plan is ideally for the executive team, while the marketing plan is the everyday manual. Take the marketing plan into the office meeting to maintain energy, focus and implementation. The business plan goes to the banker for loans and lines of credit.