A popular marketing model

The SOSTAC ® marketing model, created by PR Smith, is a popular and widely used model for marketing and business planning. Whether you're creating an overall marketing or digital marketing strategy or improving individual channel tactics like SEO or email marketing, this is the tool to use.

SOSTAC ® stands for;

  • Situation – where are we now?
  • Objectives – where do we want to be?
  • Strategy – how do we get there?
  • Tactics – how exactly do we get there?
  • Action – what is our plan?
  • Control – did we get there?

The model offers a logical order for tackling your plan, and you can use it to assess your processes critically. I guess the reason for its popularity is that it is simple and easy to understand and use. I use it a lot, and I think it offers a perfect approach.

It is important to point out that though the SOSTAC model seems short and sweet, once you unpack it you’ll see it requires a lot of time, effort and data to design and execute. So though following this model is certainly rewarding, you must be mentally prepared to put in a considerable amount of work. 

To understand the effort involved, let’s go a little in depth into each of these steps.


This is an important first step for anyone drawing up any kind of a marketing plan – be it digital or overall. 

A situation analysis is an overview of your business. It helps you determine where your business stands at the moment so that you can draft your strategy for the future.

A situation analysis has been defined as: A set of methods used to understand an organisation’s capabilities, customers, potential customers and business environment by analysing internal and external factors that can affect the business.

There are many different tools to help you do this type of analysis. My favourite is the Business Model Canvas from Strategyzer. This tool is free and contains really good questions that you can ask to better understand the situation. 

Below are some other suggestions for the components of your situation analysis:

a. Customer analysis: If you don’t know who your customers are or what they want, you cannot offer them products or services that meet their needs or add value to their lives.

A customer analysis helps you to get a good sense of who your customers are so that you can decide which segment you want to target as part of your marketing plan. Among other things, you need to know what is their demographic, their location, how they found you, how they buy from you, what are the perceptions they have of your brand, how do they interact with your brand, and what are their opinions about your competitors? 

To learn more about tools to understand customers you can have a look at my article about Customer Profiles / Buyer personas

b. Product analysis: Evaluate your product or service in terms of how it delivers value to your customers. What we are looking for is a product-market fit perspective. A tool you can use for this is the Strategyzer Value Proposition Canvas that is also used to draw up a customer profile. 

c. Competitor analysis: Who are your competitors? How do they have a competitive advantage over you in terms of price, reputation, customer service and size? How do you have a competitive advantage over them?

d. Look at the environment you operate in: These include external factors such as economic, political, social, technological and environmental trends and their possible impact on your business.

e. SWOT analysis: You can use the findings from your environmental analysis to then conduct a Swot analysis where you look at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that may affect your business and performance. Here you also look at internal factors such as whether you have the human capabilities and financial resources for your new marketing plans.

OBJECTIVES Where Are We Going

The second step in drawing up a marketing plan is to be very clear about your long-term objectives such as the vision and mission of your marketing strategy as well as short-term objectives such as the 5S goals defined by PR Smith as:

Sell – Grow sales and market share.

Serve – Add value to what you offer the customer.

Sizzle – Stickiness and the wow factor.           

Speak – Two-way communication with customers.

Save – Quantified efficiency gains.

Experts have suggested that each of the 5S goals must be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound – to be effective.

Here’s one SMART example for the first 5S goal: Sell: Increase sales by 10% by the end of next quarter.

STRATEGY – How Do We Get There?

The strategy is the big picture of how you plan to achieve the objectives you have set. It also happens to be one of the more difficult parts of the SOSTAC marketing plan, according to PR Smith.

Here, you need to make clear things like how you plan to divide the market, which segment of customers you should focus on, what message should you use to target each segment, and how your plan compares to that of your competitors.

PR Smith suggests using a popular marketing model called Segmentation, Targeting and Positioning or STP to help with strategy. In this model you first identify on what basis you want to segment your customers (demographics or lifestyle, for instance), you then pick one or more segments that you think may be the most viable and valuable and then start developing marketing material to position your product or service in such a way that you can target each segment separately.

Segmentation is useful because it helps you identify potential customers you may have not thought of before such as those with specific needs. You can then design marketing messages that are targeted specifically at them.

TACTICS – How Exactly Do We Get There.

According to PR Smith, this section outlines details of strategy such as the methods you use to achieve your objectives. In the context of digital marketing, you need to ask questions like: What data on customers do you have, what do you need? What methods are you going to use to reach them? Advertising, emails, content marketing, SEO or social media? What tools and techniques will you use?

The tactics could include details of the marketing and communications mix, digital mix etc, and when each of them must roll out and so on.

ACTION – What Is The Plan?

Here, you talk about the details of tactics. You determine who does what. You need to assess whether you have the human resources internally or whether you need to hire new staff with the required skill sets. You must determine whether you need the help of any external agencies or consultants. You must see if you have the systems and processes that you need in place, and work towards organising them if they aren’t.

According to PR Smith, this step is often an afterthought, but that is a big mistake. There is no point drafting a fantastic strategy and tactics only to slack off on action. You simply won’t achieve your objectives if that happens.

CONTROL – How Do We Monitor Performance?

How do you know you are on track to achieving your targets? Monitoring progress is also an important step. You must put in place systems that help you assess progress periodically – daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly. This will ensure that at the end of the project time period, you don’t suddenly find out that things haven’t gone as planned.

You can use web analytics, KPIs, site visitor profiles, usability testing, customer satisfaction surveys, frequency of reporting, and who reports to whom and what happens to that feedback as part of this monitoring process, says PR Smith.

An infographic applying SOSTAC ® to digital marketing

Smart Insights created the infographic below, and I think it offers a great approach to understand and follow the model quickly and it is large enough to be printed. Just save it to your computer and then print it.

PR Smith's SOSTAC Marketing Model - Top Ranked Planning System

How to use the SOSTAC ® marketing model

If you would rather hear it from the great man himself, in the video below, PR Smith explains how to use the model in just 4 minutes.

Infographic - Key Planning activities

PR Smith has also developed this great infographic that gives a visual view of key planning activities that are needed as part of the process of producing an integrated digital marketing or multichannel marketing plan.

SOSTAC RACE marketing growth wheel smart insights prsmith

A SOSTAC ® Plan example

PR Smith has an example of how they applied SOSTAC ®, and I think it can be a great guide and inspiration as you start to use this model. To see the example, click HERE.

SOSTAC® is a registered trademark of PR Smith. For more information on SOSTAC® Planning & becoming a SOSTAC® Certified Planner visit www.SOSTAC.org