A Guide to SOSTAC
SOSTAC is a marketing strategy created by PR Smith to streamline how you manage your business and guide it into the future. Each letter of the acronym represents a different stage of the strategy which is to be analysed in order to write the perfect marketing plan for your business.
SOSTAC stands for:
Situation Analysis: Where you are now
Objectives: Where do you want to go?
Strategy: How do you get there?
Tactics: The details of the strategy (marketing mix)
Action: How will your plan be executed?
Control: What will you measure?
The SOSTAC marketing strategy also integrates the 3 M’s: Men, Money, and Minutes. In other words, human resources, budgets, and timescale.
Let’s go into more detail.
The first stage of SOSTAC is to perform a situation analysis of your business. This means understanding the current status of your business. Essentially, where are you now? To understand your situation, you must be able to answer the following three questions:
Consider your customers. Identify them and break them down into categories – who are your dream customers, your nightmare customers and your most influential customers?
Consider their incentives. Why do they buy from you? What are their needs, and do these needs change? What content do your visitors like?
Consider your customers’ journey. How do they buy from you – physically or digitally? What percentage of visitors use mobile versus desktop? What is the best time to post content? What is their mental processing – do they understand the messages you are sending out?
A SWOT analysis can provide further insight into your situation. When considering your business’s strengths and weaknesses, consider your competitors. Identify your competitor’s strengths & weaknesses. Are they meeting their customers’ needs? Are you meeting your customers’ needs? Consider the gap between what you produce and what your customers need. Think of ways to push the intersection of this Venn diagram closer together:
Creating as much positive value as possible is important as we live in a world of hyper-competition. In the modern world, competition is…
Borderless: Competition comes from anywhere
Nicheless: Business shifts into other spaces and can’t be narrowed down
Disruptive: New players enter the market with new tech, systems and methods
If you’re producing a lot of things your customers don’t need, you must fix your product or services. If you’re producing a lot of value but your customers aren’t there, you must fix your communication. Discover your competitive advantage by finding what you produce that meets your customers’ needs that no one else can produce.
Perform a PEST analysis to identify current trends that affect your business – i.e. opportunities and threats we cannot control:
- Political: Political shifts (e.g. Brexit), new laws (e.g. GDPR)
- Economic: Economic cycles affect your marketing mix
- Social: People have shorter attention spans and are more visually driven in the age of the digital junkie
- Tech: Consider how technical factors such as AI/bots, the Internet of Things, VR/AR, and marketing automation can affect your business
The second stage of SOSTAC is to know your objectives. This is concerned with your business’s mission, or where you are going.
Your business should have three different types of objectives:
- Infographics (which have risen by 67%)
- Videos – how-to’s, testimonials, behind-the-scenes, what’s going on in the office
- GIFs and memes
From these actions, you will be providing your audience with informative and entertaining content which will result in more users wanting to follow you.
- Mission: This is the primary reason your business exists. What do you offer people (the direct benefit of your product/service? What do you offer the world (on a social scale)?
- Vision: This is your ego-driven objective. It is centred on how great your business is – e.g. do you want to be number one in your industry?
- KPIs: Key Performance Indicators are your SMART objectives. They are concrete, measurable bits of data that you can analyse to conclude how successful your business is, and where it may be heading.
One method of analysing your KPIs is with a KPI Pyramid. Once you have identified your KPIs, fit them into a pyramid. This hierarchy expresses your goals, from macro/abstract to specific/small ones.
Another approach is the 5 S’s. These are:
- Sell: Can we sell more?
- Serve: Can we serve better?
- Save: Can we save money? Can we save time?
- Speak: Can we engage more with customers?
- Sizzle: Can we add/create an exciting customer experience?
Whichever method you choose, these methods will be measured in the Control stage, and those measurements will feed into the next Situation Analysis. In this way, the top half of the SOSTAC circle forms a loop.
The third stage of SOSTAC is concerned with your strategy. Once you know your objectives, this stage will determine how you get there.
When creating your marketing strategy, you must know the crucial components of targeting and positioning. If these are wrong, everything that comes later will be compromised (your tactics, actions, etc.) so you must get these right.
For an easily memorable list of components you may wish to keep an eye on, remember TOPPP SEEED:
- Target market(s)
There is no specific order to these points, and they may not all be relevant. Know which ones are relevant to your business, and work them into your marketing strategy.
Stage four of SOSTAC is to know your tactics. These are the details of your strategy, so these two stages are closely related. If the strategy is concerned with picking a direction to move in, strategy is how you’ll go about moving in that direction.
In short, your tactics are your marketing mix:
- Physical evidence
As the world evolves, these categories are becoming less clear-cut. For example, a mobile app could be considered a product, place, and promotional tool. Additionally, products and services are morphing in general – you may buy a product that receives new services added to it online.
There may be some overlap, but it is important to define what your business is offering in terms of its marketing mix.
When creating your marketing mix, consider the following:
- How to boost awareness – e.g. PR, sponsorships, ads
- Customer acquisition – e.g. remarketing/retargeting ads
- Customer retention – e.g. mail shot with a surprise gift
- Customer lifetime journey – e.g. your Tactical Mix
You should always optimise your tactics over time. For example, perform constant split (A/B) testing to understand your current audience and the value your business is offering to them. Change your headlines, offers, images, colours, key phrases, etc. to figure out what works best and be open to adaptation.
A good way to streamline your tactics is to integrate them together. Re-use ads, images, and content across different tactics and platforms. If one tactic is unsuccessful, that does not mean the content is bad, it just might need a different tactic to thrive. Experiment and adapt your tactics until you uncover something that works.
A simple but effective way to understand your tactics is via the Magic Marketing Formula:
- Identify the needs and benefits your customers seek
- Reflect these benefits back to customers (through ads, mail shots, etc.)
- Deliver a reasonable product
The fifth stage of SOSTAC is to plan out the actions you will take to ensure your strategies and tactics are executed with passion.
Your execution is down to your internal marketing efforts. The work always comes down to your team, so you must ensure their motivation, communication, and training are up to scratch. Allocate the right time, resources and budget for each of these to ensure excellent execution.
Excellent execution creates a competitive advantage, as other businesses in your industry may provide the same services, but fall behind in execution. In short, happy staff leads to happy customers which makes happy shareholders.
You may wonder why certain services from big brands still end up sloppy. The answer lies in internal marketing. A dispassionate, lethargic team – even employed by a big brand – will not produce high-quality, polished work. You can always gain a competitive advantage by ensuring your team is fully motivated by the project they are working on.
To achieve this, you may have to change your work processes, which can be tricky as human beings have an innate resistance to change. If they are resistant to accepting a new CRM (customer relationship management) system, you must motivate them. Explain the benefits, show them how to use them, employ financial benefits or psychological benefits (e.g. recognition) – anything that will ease their resistance – and you’ll thank yourself in the long term.
To improve team communication, look at how your team currently communicates and identify any areas for improvement. Embrace any communication methods that may help you – face-to-face meetings, dinners, conference calls, video chats, recorded videos, etc.
Finally, you must consider their training. Are they as fully equipped as they can be to handle the work ahead? Employ breakfast briefings, webinars, workshops, one-to-one mentoring, checklists – anything that will streamline their work processes. Each employee has different strengths and different needs – make sure everyone is working to their full ability and receiving any support they require.
The sixth and final stage of SOSTAC is to control your future plans by measuring your data. In short, you must identify how you know you are on the right track.
Throughout SOSTAC, you have constructed a marketing strategy to guide the direction of your business, but is it working? This stage encourages you to measure whether your tactics are working or not. SOSTAC is a flexible framework that requires constant adaptation to remain effective.
No marketing strategy is 100% perfect – there will always be room for improvement, especially as your business grows and changes in an ever-changing world.
There are several aspects of your business you could measure to reveal the success of your strategy. These can include:
- Feedback and reviews
- Net promoter score (NPS)
- Sentiment analysis
The beauty of SOSTAC is that it loops. The world is constantly changing, and your business needs to adapt to these changes to survive. An effective marketing strategy must also be flexible and adaptable. Each new situation analysis should be informed by the results of the previous cycle.
Don’t get left behind – get in touch to see how we can use SOSTAC to help your business thrive.