Gathering information: this stage is based on the concept of marketing audit. After performing the audit of the macro_environment by analyzing the STEP factors (social, technologic, economic and politic), we should turn the focus upon the immediate extern environment (the micro_environment) and analyze the competitive environment, the costs and the market. Finally, we will conclude with the SWOT analysis, by this way we will have a general view upon the internal environment compared to the external one. The SWOT analysis combine the two perspectives, from the inside and from the outside, because the Strengths and the Weaknesses are internal issues of an organization, while the Opportunities and Threads come from the outside.
Strategy _ similar to business strategy, marketing plan will capture strategies required to support your business strategy. For example if your business goal is to achieve 20% increase in sales, your marketing strategy would be to 1) introduce new product, 2) increase price for premium offerings, 3) recruit more distributors and offer commission scheme and so on. Strategy is king. When you can see your business in totality, I can assure you that you will find it easier to manoeuvre. Marketing plan is the place to address all these issues.