How to use SOSTAC to write a digital marketing plan
A sound digital marketing plan requires detailed understanding of a brand’s own situation and demographic, the best way to engage and delight them, and a clear framework measuring success.
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The SOSTAC model referenced in this article remains the registered trade mark of PR Smith.
Without a solid strategic plan for your digital marketing, you really are flying blind. A sound plan requires clear outline of objectives, the right tactics for targeting your audience, and with an irresistible value proposition.
Apart from that, you need to know how you’re going to monitor your campaign well before hitting tweet, post, or send. You need to be able to accurately report ROI to management, and appeal for further funds.
Here’s a digital strategy that will give you:
- Greater direction for your digital marketing,
- knowledge of your online market share, and
- greater accountability and justification for marketing resources.
The ‘SOSTAC’ digital marketing plan
A good place to start is the SOSTAC model, which provides a framework for digital marketing strategy and planning. It was originally devised by PR Smith in the 1990s, and has subsequently been enhanced for digital marketing.
There’s an entire book on the SOSTAC plan as each stage can involve a substantial amount of research, analysis and reflection. As an introduction, however, we’ll take a look at some of the essential questions to consider at each stage.
This first stage is all about looking at your current situation. In other words: Where are you now?
Some questions to consider include:
- Who are your digital customers right now?
- Which digital channels are they using?
- Who are your competitors and what are their key differentiators?
Your plan might have different objectives for different stages of the online customer lifecycle. So, for example, you could have objectives relating to brand awareness, lead generation, acquisition, conversion, engagement and retention.
However, for your objectives to be successful, they need to be ‘SMART:’ specific, measurable, actionable, relevant and time-bound.
An example of a SMART objective is ‘to increase the number of website visitors who request more information by 3% over the next six months.’
Strategy involves analysing the information you gathered during ‘situation analysis’ in order to determine how you’ll meet the ‘objectives’. Questions to consider include:
- Which segments are you going to target?
- What activities are your competitors engaged in that relate to your objectives?
- What is your online value proposition? In other words, how are you going to differentiate yourself online? This applies whether a sale is online, offline, or you don’t makes sales at all – if you’re a charity, for example.
This stage goes into the ‘nitty-gritty’ of which digital tools are right for your target audience and how you are going to use them.
However, without the foundation of the earlier stages, you stand a very good chance of wasting time and money here. And this is where a lot of folks go wrong. By jumping straight into tactics, the selection tends to be based on ‘gut feel’ rather than tangible research and strategy.
Some questions include:
- How will your choice of tools allow you to target the intended audience?
- How will you convey your online value proposition?
- What content do you need to develop (emails, posts, ads, landing pages, etc.)
The ‘action’ stage involves drawing up a schedule to implement the ‘tactics’. In other words, what needs to be done, who will do it, and when will they do it? Also, does anything need to be outsourced, or do you have the skills in-house?
The last stage is to plan how you are going to monitor and measure whether you’re meeting your strategy’s ‘objectives’. What are the KPI’s and which monitoring and reporting tools will you use?
More than just tactical tools
There’s a lot more to digital marketing than just the tactical tools. You need the strategic groundwork in place to ensure you are using the right tactics and messages to target your audience, through the right channels, at the right time.
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