A long-term plan and a strategy are not the same thing, although the two terms are often interchanged in common business conversation. Both words are used when planning ahead in all aspects of the business, whether it is finances, marketing or employee relations. However, business managers responsible for creating long-term plans for growth and profit must know the meaning of both terms.
A strategy is a predetermined method to complete a task. A strategy can be used to obtain or reach a goal or professional objective. Although a strategy is only a single method, it can be created using several tools or ideas. For example, a strategy can have the goal of spreading awareness about a medical condition through a poster campaign. The posters may communicate a variety of messages about the condition. Although the posters have different content, the strategy has a single goal -- to spread awareness.
Long-term planning is the act of setting goals and finding strategies to reach them. An example of a long-term plan is to increase the overall income for a business over a period of three years. A long-term plan must have a starting point, a goal and a set of methods or strategies that can get the company from the starting point to the goal. A single long-term plan can have various strategies involved to increase the chances of success.
Planning and Strategy
A strategy and a long-term planning can be used in the same professional context. A company can create a long-term plan to increase the annual profit through marketing campaigns. Each individual marketing campaign or event is a strategy in itself. Examples of these strategies include printed posters, online advertising campaigns, community events and interactive activities on the company's website. All these strategies serve to fulfill the single goal of increasing profit.
Although a company's long-term planning goal can remain the same, the individual strategies can change throughout the implementation process. To continue on the previous example, the first printed poster campaign may not have been as effective to draw in more clients. Rather than continuing with other marketing approaches, the company may change the strategy to including more in-demand products in the product line. This changes the strategy, but not the overall goal of attracting more customers.