Fail to plan, plan to fail: Creating an effective Digital Marketing Plan

What is a marketing? 

It is the process by which companies create value for customers and build strong customer relationships in order to capture value from customers in return.

(Kotler & Armstrong, 2010)

What is a marketing plan? 

“It serves to document how the organisations strategic objectives will be achieved through specific marketing strategies and tactics, with the consumer as the starting point.”

(Kotler & Armstrong, 2010)

Having a marketing plan is important, and can seem quite a daunting task to do in a busy organisation and can sometimes be such big a task that we sidestep it altogether saying with best intentions “I’ll come back to that later”. Only later never happens and we end up flying by the seat of our pants.

Having a plan also gives you some guidance over your time frame (6/12/18 months) giving you something to refer back to and to track your success (or failure) showing what needs improvement for next time. In our “always one” technology driven world we need a marketing plan to keep us focused. In the past, we may have been able to get by without a plan or only refer to it sporadically. But now we need the structure to know what is or isn’t working.

From the man who placed the first half-page newspaper ad in 1874 & the first full page ad in 1879:

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” – John Wanamaker
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With so many places to now spend your marketing budget we need to be very diligent in our approach and know our target market, and this only comes from market research. Once we know our target audience it becomes easier to know where to find them e.g their interests & what websites they visit and therefore market to them effectively.

Market research is:

The systematic design, collection, analysis and reporting of data relevant to a specific marketing situation facing an organisation. 

(Armstrong et al, 2010)

There are many frameworks out there but the one I have found the most useful and one that has stood the test of time is PR Smith’s SOSTAC® Plan This 6 step framework will help give you the structure & strategy you need to create your marketing plan(this is also my interpretation of SOSTAC ®).

PR Smith’s SOSTAC ® Plan



Reproduced with kind permission from PR Smith’s SOSTAC® Plan.

STEP 1 | Situation analysis | Where are we now?
This step is all about assessing where you are right now and essentially doing an audit using:

  • Goal performance
  • Customer insight
  • E-marketplace SWOT
  • Brand perception
  • Internal capabilities & resources

STEP 2 | Objectives | Where do we want to get to?
This can be neatly grouped in the 5S objectives:

  • Sell: customer acquisition & retention targets
  • Serve: customer satisfaction targets
  • Sizzle: site stickiness, visit duration
  • Speak: number of engaged customers
  • Save: quantified efficiency gains

STEP 3 | Strategy | How do we get there?
Strategy is so important and if we get this wrong we could end up wasting resources.

“All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War
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  • Segmentation, targeting and positioning
  • OVP (online value proposition)
  • Sequence (credibility before visibility)
  • Integration (consistent OVP & database)
  • Tools (web functionality, e-mail etc.)

STEP 4| Tactics | Details of the strategy
Tactics are the tools to implement the strategy with:

  • E-marketing mix, including: the communications mix, social networking, what happens when?
  • Details of contact strategy
  • E-campaign initiative schedule

STEP 5 | Actions | Details of the tactics (e.g systems, processes, guidelines/checklists & who does what when)

  • Responsibilities and structures
  • Internal resources & skills
  • External agencies

STEP 6 | Control | Measurement & metrics (if we are on target or not)

  • 5S + web analytics – KPIs
  • Usability testing(A/B)/mystery shopper
  • Customer satisfaction surveys
  • Site visitor profiling
  • Frequency of reporting
  • Process of reporting and actions

Thanks for reading let me know if this helps you with your planning or if you have any favorite planning models!

Please note: SOSTAC ® is a registered trade mark of PR Smith.
More information from:

Reference books:

Principles of Marketing

SOSTAC(r) Guide To Your Perfect Digital Marketing Plan: save time save money with a crystal clear plan (Volume 2)

Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice