This study target company CEOs, directors, presidents, managing directors and managers, especially business owners and business graduates as well.
It’s the start of 2021, now the question is doing we completed the marketing planning process for our company this year or not? Doesn’t matter that we are a one-man company, either we have 2-10 employees or above 100, we need a fully functional marketing plan.
Now the question is what ingredients are used to make a fully structured marketing plan? Have you completed the marketing planning process or not, if not then plan quickly otherwise you’re going to fail? And if you have already made up your marketing plan then read this article and compare this marketing plan with your marketing planning processes and examine if you have missed something.
Introduction to SOSTAC Framework
SOSTAC is a framework used for marketing and business plans, also known as a marketing planning process. This is the most verified and tested model for developing and implementing marketing plans.
In 1990’s PR Smith presented this model, since then it is considered as the most useful and valuable model which is implemented in SME’s and studied in universities. Below is the detailed overview of six phases SOSTAC model with examples.
- Situation analysis (Where your business stands now?)
- Objectives (What are your business goals?)
- Strategy (How you plan to achieve your business objectives?)
- Tactics (which tools are you planning to use to accomplish those goals?)
- Action (where, when and how you will implement those strategic tactics?)
- Control (what are your strategies to monitor and control these actions?)
Situation analysis (Where we are now?)
It simply represents the current situation/condition of our business. First, we must evaluate to find out where we (our business) stands now. Ask yourself ‘if I am going to start a new business or to run existing one in upcoming year, then I have to check and analyze trends, customer/market expectations and challenges I might face in that business year.
Now a days, traditional marketplace has been transferred into digital market space.
Never say or think about the age of your experience etcetera’s, because each year comes with new trends, and market expectations, do not be fooled with your brand values, confidence, business age or expertise you had before.
First, you must perform a market research to analyze current market situation. It can be done through following ways;
- Market situation analysis
- Competitor analysis
- Customer insight analysis
- SWOT analysis
- PEST analysis
- Channels & resources analysis
- Brand goals
Market Situation Analysis
If you have money to invest, please don’t just go rationale, analyze the market before investing in any industry. Communicate with marketing personal in that specific industry you want to invest, ask for their opinions, their good or bad experiences, what and how they gain or lose in their industry.
Find out market value of that business, ask them if you want to start similar kind of business what could be the troubles and challenges I might face in this market, how much time will it take to earn or reach break-even in this business.
SWOT and PEST analysis are the two widely used methods of analyzing business situations. Here in SOSTAC planning framework, PR Smith recommends implementing SWOT analysis to examine your business structure, system, and internal as well as external environmental factors (external; political, competitive, industry barriers etc.).
SWOT model is composed of four basic stages, these include;
Check internal strengths and weak nesses of your business (like how much budget you have, how many months/years will it take to reach break-even point). Also go through strengths and weaknesses of your competitors as well. Examine external opportunities and market gap in locality of your business, you may go for a neutral expert opinion.
Do a complete threats and risks analysis, check out how many threats you might face in your business field, develop a threats measurement matrix, resolve high level threats before entering in market and keep an eye on low level threats which might occur while implementing your SOSTAC e-marketing plan.
Below example will help you to understand the way of ding competitive analysis for your marketing plan. For example, you are going to start a new medical hospital in a certain locality of around 20000 thousand houses in it. Now first check all these key points;
- How many medical hospitals are there in your targeted area?
- How much radius they cover?
- What kind of competition they have with each other?
- What types of services they offer (services comparison)?
- Compare their pricing strategy (Package deals)
- Also analyze their departmental specialties, customer’s trust, hospitals’ reputation, USPs etc.
- Find out the market leader of your industry (market position analysis)
- Examine how much market share each of your competitor has and where you will stand if you enter in that industry.
- Check industry key insights (what is the percentage of profit share in this specific industry)
- Likewise evaluate customer insights as well
- Identify market gaps if there are any, then set your USPs and check what’s new and unique you can offer.
- Finally, research on your capabilities (skill capabilities, staffing, talented personnel, resources etc.), and see if you can survive in that specific market or not. Use Mckinsey 7S model to analyze your organizational capabilities.
Channels and Resources Analysis
For an e-commerce business customer relationship management plays a vital role in achieving business goals. Managing customer relationships, keeping them engaged with your brand on social media and other sites is so important but very difficult these days. Because these digital media relationship and engagement strategies drive customer’s purchasing behavior.
So, gathering CRM information and customers’ digital footprints is vital for e-commerce retailers and e-marketing plans.
CRM System Key Information Points
Following the mandatory CRM information factors which must be extracted before developing SOSTAC e-marketing plan.
- Gender split test (percentage of male and female users)
- Age range of your targeted customers
- Frequency of website visits or purchase
- Location details of your target market (targeting via IP addresses)
- Users engagement and purchase history (how often he/she purchase your products)
- What are the payment patterns most of your customers use (COD or debit/credit cards)?
- Traffic source (analyze if most of your customer coming from organic, social or referrals etc.)
SOSTAC Objectives (Where we want to go?)
Importance of Objectives
Well this is a sensitive stage because if you mistakenly set a wrong objective then at the end you won’t get expected results. In SOSTAC objectives part is very critical just like the value of heart in human body. First, see the vision of your company. Vision includes financial, operational, excellence related, or vision about quality of services.
Now set your objectives accordance with the visions of your marketing plan not business visions. Because here we are discussing only about marketing objectives which is just a small portion of business plan.
- Marketing objectives
- Sales objectives (don’t mix your sales objectives with marketing objectives)
- Financial objectives (cost, price, revenue, profit objectives)
- Communication objectives (define the purpose of your communication, spread brand awareness)
- SMART objectives
- Define dashboard
Before you go through the 5 S’s marketing goals, first set SMART objectives then implement the 5s model to clarify your marketing plans.
The SMART objectives technique described as follows;
Specific and Concise
Think clearly of your objectives, are they focused to real market problems, specific enough to confront current market/business challenges and following latest trends or nor?
Now if you really identified the specific problems then think about their performance measurement strategy, find out ways to measure if the business problems/challenges are clearly recognized and targeted or not.
Examine that if they specified objectives are achieved then what will be the possible outcomes, will they serve your business objectives or not, will it improve your business performance or not, if yes then how?
Yes, the most important aspect is relevancy, before you set objectives or invest any times/money or any other resources, think if this issues you are intended to resolve is relevant to your business field and expertise or not, else later on it may create other industrial barriers for your business.
Remember in this era timing is everything, you can find alternates for everything but not time. So set a time limit for each milestone of your objectives in your marketing plan, so to offer the right product/service in the market at right time. Else all your marketing efforts will be useless.
Now think about the actual purpose of your business, obviously everyone will say its money/profit. I understand that but business is not that much simple. I agree that the primary objective of every business is to earn money, but you must define your core as well as supplementary objectives in writing as well else it’s very risky for your business.
This is the holistic set of principles which must be considered before initiating your traditional or digital marketing plan.
5’S Digital Marketing Goals
Sell (sell objectives mostly are your primary business goals)
Sell objective types includes;
- Getting best conversion rate on new digital initiatives
- Increase in your content downloads
- Raise in daily subscribers’ rate or
- It could be an email feedback from your customers
- Or it could be variety of other things which gives you revenue
Now speak is especially modified for digital business, it could be;
- Social media customer engagements
- Discussions on a blog (blog comments)
- Digital forum communications
But the main trick is where to find your customers, where speak objectives will be fulfilled.
Look at ways of creating a memorable experience for your new customers or to bring your existing customers back. So, with new website or mobile application initiative, it helps in rearranging the navigation. It provides ease ability for your site/app visitors to access content you serve there.
Any new digital initiative is going to cost you well if you do not set save objectives. So, you could start with a small technological initiative or CRM system. It will save you administrative costs in short run or may be for a little longer.
Sizzle is the wild factor here, creating and providing high quality content is important. If you provide the high-quality content, then you are the market leader which will automatically fulfill sizzle objective of your business.
SOSTAC Strategy (How to reach there?)
Once you are done with the objectives part, count them and build a separate strategy for each of your objectives. Remember you are not developing the business or marketing strategy; you are building strategy to accomplish each of your objectives. So, narrow down your strategies and be specific it. Always make two to three strategies for every objective (like strategy A, B and C). So, if strategy A doesn’t work you can shift to strategy B. Develop strategies for each part of your business 4’Ps or 7’Ps separately.
Marketing 7’Ps (Digital Marketing Mix)
- Physical Evidence
To know more about marketing 7’Ps, go through the linked article. Strategy may be developed about segmentation, targeting and positioning of your brand.
- Brand attributes
- Brand identity
- Brand personality
- Brand experience
Strategy explains of ‘how do we get there?’ or ‘How can you achieve your business objectives for a particular year?’. You may hear lot about this word ‘strategy’. Basically, this word belongs to military, where war strategy is created and defined. Then this strategy word gained a lot of value in business administrations, now each business moves strategically, each part of business go throughs with strategic plans. Like there must be a strategic system in human resource department, a strategic management system, and there must be a clear-cut strategic marketing plan as well.
For example, a business plans to sell 50,000 products this year, this primary objective. Now it wants to implement this plan from the beginning of next month, this may be called as small objective. Then, it plans to outsource distribution services through alternate third-party channels, this will be called as strategy to execute plans.
Selecting business tools is an important process. Don’t go rationally or rush into tactical tools. Like you can’t just go for TV ads (every business can’t afford electronic media). So, now you will think of social media ads (Facebook advertisements). If you are not selling anything, they why go Facebook ads.
Check if statics and demographics of FB ads relate to your strategy. Like if your target market is retired personnel of your business radius, they may not available on Facebook. Other tactics are direct marketing, SMS marketing, Direct mailing etc.
The most important of all is choosing the right content (ads message) of your advertisements for right audience. The content of these ads is the representation of your business. So, it would be a wise decision if you consult professionals for content creation. Consistency is important in the message of your advertisements; else it may mislead your customers.
Smart tactics selection process
Smart tactics selection process is mandatory, it involves;
- Target market
- Marketing mix
- Social Media
This explains which tools will help our business to get there, to reach our goals or demonstrates the action plan for your business. It’s a detailed list of actions to implement objectives strategy. For an E-commerce site, there are for most useful e-marketing tactics which are recommended by most of the researchers and digital marketers.
These tactics include;
- SEO (Search engine optimization)
- Email marketing
- Affiliate marketing
SOSTAC Action Plan
Action mean giving shape to your plans, strategies or tools. Action plan include;
Assigning responsibilities (who will do what, when how?)
Assignee should know what his tasks are and when he must perform those day by day activities (giving a deadline). Also having a data base management system is must to keep all the records of assignee working or responsibilities. Yes, its assigner responsibility to measure assignee working with proper measurement formats like (check lists or check sheets).
Drafting Action Plan
The whole action plan must be drafted before implementation process. In that draft you will have timelines to measure on by one, day by day or week by week tasks/activities of your action plan. But remember, check if your staff and colleagues in the same frequency of your action plan or not, and ask for their feedbacks regarding action plan before proceeding with it.
Do not convince the for your plan, present your action plan as a draft and ask for their suggestions. So, let them provide input for your plan, may be offer some useful and valuable input which is beneficial for your business.
A good action plan is always;
- Well connected
- Well defined parameters
- Good execution strategy
- Take care of stakeholder interests
- Suppliers’ connections
- Customer satisfaction insights
Check and balance are vital for everything we do in business. So, be honest in controlling all your marketing and action plans. If possible, control your plans on daily basis, you must have some key measures or tools to identify whether your planning process is going the expected/planned way or not. If its not going accordance with the plan, then figure out what’s happened wrong. Thus, when required you can;
- Refine SOSTAC objectives
- Change the strategy
- Check if your strategy is working fine or not
- Examine your communication campaigns if the problem structed there
- Reassuring budget allocation directions
- Upgrade your marketing mix or
- Implement changes in IMC tools then decide.
This will help you to find where the problem was occurred in your planning process. it would be a smart idea if you developed your own satisfaction parameters for the whole marketing plan. Define your own upper limit and lower limit for the product quality, also analyze and evaluate the frequency of your situations on daily or weekly basis.
- People engagement
- Media planning audit
- Frequency of reports
Control has a direct relation with objectives, strategy and tactics. Well the question is how you will control your SOSTAC marketing plans and actions. Following tools are proved effective when it comes to controlling actions;
Ways to control actions
- Expert opinions
- By yourself (because it your business, your objectives)
- Professional Reports
Take google samples or support for professional companies
- Timely decisions
It’s not important you are taking right decisions or not, the important thing your decisions are on time.