Developed more than 25 years ago, the SOSTAC framework can help marketers better understand their business, their customers, and the actions it takes to increase sales and profits.
Digital advertising is seemingly easy. Anyone with a payment card and a few minutes can set up a campaign on Google or Facebook. This campaign can generate sales.
Some direct-to-consumer brands were almost certainly launched and succeeded because the company’s founder was an expert on Facebook advertising.
But a company that grows in complexity and scalability often becomes more difficult to market. A founder who has an intuitive understanding of the company’s customers and products must train their growing marketing team to drive success.
A 6 step process
Marketing and business consultant Paul R. Smith developed a detailed planning process to help his clients in the 1990s. He later codified this process in a number of books beginning with Marketing Communications: An Integrated Approach in 1998.
Smith’s first book is a few years older than Google Ads (then AdWords), which was published in 2000, and about nine years before Facebook Ads in 2007.
The planning framework is a six-stage cycle. The name of each step is made up of the acronym SOSTAC, which Smith has registered as a trademark.
- Situation analysis. What is the current situation or the state of the company?
- Goals. What is the desired situation or state of the company?
- Strategy. Overall, how will the company achieve its goals?
- Tactics. What will the specific marketing campaigns be?
- Action. How are these tactics carried out?
- Steering. How is success measured?
The process should be iterative, with the measurements carried out and analyzed in the control step allowing the situation analysis to flow.
Smith describes SOCTAC in a short video that his company posted on YouTube in 2020.
Strong on situation, strategy
Smiths Framework focuses on situation and strategy. It’s the opposite of starting a Google or Facebook campaign quickly.
Smart Insights, an educational platform, suggested that when planning marketing, SOSTAC practitioners should spend 20% of their time analyzing the situation and 45% focusing on strategy.
Goals should be quick and take up about 5% of the planning process – the situation analysis makes it easier to set goals – and developing tactics can take up 30% of the planning time.
This makes sense because situational analysis and strategy focus on understanding the business, its competition, and its customers. In a way, it underlines the idea that you should know yourself, your market, and your customers.
Other models, tools
At every step in the SOSTAC process, marketers are encouraged to use one or more additional tools or models.
For example, during the situation analysis, a planner can use the 5 Cs – company, employee, customer, competitor and context.
While identifying the company’s customers – why they buy and how they shop – the planner could segment customer groups and possibly plot them in the Boston Consulting Group’s growth-share matrix, or analyze the company’s customer acquisition costs and customer lifetime value ratios.
The context could be described in the form of a PESTEL analysis in which the planner looks at the business in the light of political, economic, social, technological, ecological and legal conditions.
The results of the situation analysis can be shared in a SWOT grid (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) or the TOWS version (Threats, Opportunities, Weaknesses, Strengths) of this grid.
The objective step includes key performance indicators and sales funnels.
A marketer can integrate ideas from the books “Good to Great” (by Jim Collins), “Blue Ocean Strategy” (W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne), “Jobs to be Done” (Anthony W. Ulwick) throughout the framework. , or “Traction: Get Your Business Under Control” (Gino Wickman).
So SOSTAC is adaptable. It enables a planner to work through each step using the tools that are appropriate for the company while uncovering areas of insufficient information.
Use of SOSTAC
There are perhaps three ways to use SOSTAC: as a guide, as a piece-by-piece resource, or as a whole.
Manual. A busy retail company might benefit from pausing to see marketing as a multi-step process with a lot of analysis and strategy. Thus, the framework can serve as a guide for improving the established planning procedures.
Use parts. Some companies may choose parts of the framework to add to their current process. For example, during the action step in SOSTAC, marketers are encouraged to create complementary internal communications that describe the strategy, goals and tactics. This can help with execution and support across the company.
To adopt. A company can take over the entire SOSTAC process. Its thoroughness makes it a great choice for data and results driven businesses.