Your advertising strategy precedes your advertising plan. Large corporations that are governed by the planning process use advertising strategies to harmonize the functional elements of advertising with other elements of the marketing mix. The marketing plan describes the specific action steps that are planned to meet a company's revenue-focused business goals. Similarly, the advertising plan describes the action steps to execute your advertising strategy.

The Advertising Strategy

Your advertising strategy evolves out of a comprehensive understanding of the current and future trends in your target market: the market opportunities and threats, and competitive activity that may be encroaching on your brand franchise. You need to understand the perceived product or service user benefit, and user and non-user attitudes about your product or service. Finally, you need to know the current positioning in the minds of users and the desired future positioning of your product service. You can proceed to develop your advertising strategy after completing this analysis. The advertising strategy is a concise description of precisely what you want the advertising to accomplish based on your analysis.

The Advertising Plan

Your advertising strategy is a statement of "what" you want the advertising to do. Your advertising plan is a discussion of "how" the advertising elements will do it. Most advertising plan templates start with a summary restatement of key facts uncovered from developing your advertising strategy, including your target audience definition, competitive analysis, customer motivation analysis and your advertising goal and strategies. The core of your plan focuses on your copy or message and media strategies.

The Copy Strategy

The main elements of your copy strategy include: your target audience as discussed, the focus of sale -- what you want consumers to remember from your advertising message, the user benefit, the unique selling proposition -- claim of brand superiority, proof for the USP claim and the brand's personality you want to impress on the target. The creative strategy pivots off of the copy strategy. Leave the creative strategy for the creative team that creates your advertising. They will use your copy strategy to guide the creative development.

The Media Strategy

With target markets defined by demographic and psychographic profiling and the proliferation of niche-market online media vehicles in recent years, your media options to reach your target are vast. Many media buying services cater to small businesses. They can help you select media and do the buying. You can also do it yourself. The latter may appear intimidating, but it's not difficult. There are numerous self-service online advertising platforms that allow you to plug into their networks, including Google AdWords, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and a host of others. If you plan to use traditional media, build your list of media candidates. Get media kits from all and study them. Cultivate relationships with advertising sales reps. Negotiate rates and ask for freebies. Before committing your entire media budget, test your media selections.