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How to Write a Digital Marketing Plan

Digital marketing planning

Without a solid strategic plan for your digital marketing, you really are flying blind. However, even the simplest of plans will give you the confidence of SMART objectives and the 'right' tactics for your target audience, working together to deliver an irresistible online value proposition.

Apart from that, you'll also know how you're going to monitor your campaign well before hitting tweet, post, or send. The answers will be at your fingertips when the boss starts grilling you about ROI and why they should hand over marketing funds.

Here are 6 good reasons for having a digital strategy from all-round guru of digital marketing, Dave Chaffey:

  1. You’ll have greater direction for your digital marketing
  2. You’ll know your online market share (and increase it - and know when it's increased)
  3. You’ll have a powerful online value proposition
  4. You’ll know more about your online customers (the right channels, the right content, the right time)
  5. Your marketing efforts will be integrated
  6. You’ll have greater accountability and justification for marketing resources

PR Smith's SOSTAC® Plan

The SOSTAC® model provides a framework for digital marketing strategy and planning. It was devised by PR Smith way back in the 1990s and has been subsequently enhanced for digital marketing.

sostac marketing framework

SOSTAC® justifies an entire book to itself as each stage can involve a substantial amount of research, analysis and reflection.

However, as an introduction, we'll take a look at our interpretation and some essential questions to consider at each stage of the framework:

  1. Situation Analysis
  2. Objectives
  3. Strategy
  4. Tactics
  5. Action
  6. Control

Each stage is introduced below.

Situation Analysis

This first stage is all about looking at your current situation. In other words: Where are we now?

Some of the questions to consider at the start of your strategy include:

  • Who are your digital customers right now?
  • How do they interact with the brand?
  • Which digital channels are they using?
  • What are their demographics?
  • What are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to the whole organisation (SWOT analysis).
  • Who are your competitors? How do they compete? For example, what are their key differentiators?
  • Of the digital channels you are currently using, which are performing well, which are performing not so well?

Objectives

What are the objectives of your strategy?

You might have different objectives for different stages of the online customer lifecycle. So, for example, you could write 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
  • Time-bound

An example of a SMART objective might be to 'Increase the number of website visitors who request more course information by 3% by the end of July next year. This will be measured through Google Analytics.'

Strategy

How are you going to fulfil the objectives?

This involves analysing the information you gathered during the first stage of the plan, Situation Analysis. Some of the questions to consider at this stage include:

  • Who is the target audience for your strategy?
  • Which segments is your strategy going to target?
  • What activities are your competitors engaged in that relates to your objectives? For example, if they have a weak Facebook presence, this might be a channel to investigate in terms of reaching your target audience.
  • What are the activities and behaviour of your target audience that relate to the objectives? For example, if your audience is particularly active on Facebook, then it might be a channel worth focusing on for your campaign.
  • What is your Online Value Proposition? In other words, how are you going to differentiate yourself online? This applies even if your actual sale is offline, or you don't makes sales at all, if you're a charity, for example.

Tactics

How 'exactly' are you going to fulfil the objectives?

This stage is all about the tactical tools, which ones are right for your target audience, and how are you going to reach them through these tools. That sort of thing.

Without the groundwork of completing the other stages, you'd stand a very good chance of wasting time and money here. And this is where a lot of folk go wrong - by jumping straight in at the tactics stage, the choice of tactics tends to be based on 'gut feel', rather than tangible strategy.

And some questions to consider at this stage include:

  • Which tactical tools are you going to use to reach your target audience?
  • How will your choice of tools allow you to target the intended audience?
  • How will you convey your online value proposition?
  • What do you need to develop in terms of a emails, posts, ads, landing pages along with lead-capture bait such as a newsletter, voucher, white paper, etc.
  • How will you select the right content in terms of imagery, copy, call-to-action, etc.
  • Is there any supporting set-up required? For example, set up UTM codes through URL Builder and conversion goals in Google Analytics.

Action

Who does what and when?

This stage involves outlining the responsibilities and a schedule for the actions required to implement your tactics. In other words, what needs to be done, who will do it, and when will they do it. Does anything need to be outsourced, or do you have the skills within your organisation.

Control

How are you going to monitor performance?

The last stage is to plan how you are going to monitor and measure whether you're meeting your strategy's objectives.

More than just tactical tools

The most important conclusion from this quick overview is that 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 to target your audience, with the right messages, through the right channels, at the right time.

To learn more, go to the top of the page and download our full guide to Writing a Digital Marketing Plan.

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