The SOSTAC Marketing Model For Online Businesses.

A useful tool for creating a marketing plan was developed by best selling marketing author and consultant, Paul R. Smith, in 2011. He calls it SOSTAC ®. It provides a simplified approach to creating a business or marketing plan for anyone who has never had to create one before. I am a great admirer of Smith’s work and I am reproducing the central tenets of it here today to create awareness of the tool. PR Smith published an update to his original work for digital marketers in 2015, and this is available for purchase on Amazon. This article reflects on Smith’s updated model.

The SOSTAC model’s core components are as follows:

S – Situation Analysis – where are we now?

O – Objectives – where are we going?

S – Strategy – how do we get there? The big picture view

T – Tactics – details of strategy including the marketing mix and communications mix? The detail

A – Action – who does what, when and the processes and systems that support metrics

C – Control – measurement and metrics. Tracking progress

We can then add in the 3M’s – Men, Money and Minutes. These represent manpower/ human resources, budgets and timescales.

Situation Analysis

We begin with situation analysis because we have to figure out where we are right now before we rush off to where we ultimately want to be. This requires:

  • analysis of our marketplace – SWOT;
  • analysis of our customers – who they are, why do they buy from us, how do they engage with us
  • analysis of our competencies – what are we really good at and how strong are our brands
  • analysis of the current market trends – what’s hot, what’s not;
  • analysis of our performance or results – key performance indicators and 5 S’s – Sell, Serve, Speak, Save, Sizzle.


Objectives are all about where we want to be or where we want to get to. This involves developing clarity around our Vision, our Mission, our KPI’s and our 5 S’s as mentioned in the last section.

The 5 S’s can be summarized as follows:

Sell – customer acquisition and retention targets

Serve – customer satisfaction targets

Sizzle – the wow factor generated by our added value

Speak – number of engaged customers

Save – quantified efficiency gains 


Strategy determines how we plan to get to where we are going as defined in the objectives section. This starts with Targeting and Positioning – in an online environment it focuses on our online value proposition. Next it looks at Partnerships – strategic alliances that work in our favor. Affiliate relationships will often be key in getting our message and products out to a wider audience than we have direct access to. It then looks to Processes and how we can integrate marketing automation. These include a number of online platforms such as Ontraport, Infusionsoft and Simplero.

Next comes Sequencing – wherein we build our credibility with our audience before increasing our visibility. In the context of online marketing, this will usually involve sending a series of communications to our list of followers (both directly and through affiliate partners) in a short space of time and providing valuable content for free. This is frequently in the form of video sequences where no attempt is made to sell anything until our audience has consumed significant free content and value has been delivered. This creates a desire for reciprocity on the part of our audience. Then comes Integration, which concerns itself with information, our database and our online value proposition. We use Tactical Tools to get our message out there and to build an audience of followers, mostly by using content marketing and social media. We encourage Engagement throughout the process so that we can better understand the needs of our constituents and so that we can customize our offering to satisfy the identified needs.


Tactics takes the strategy down into individual tools and initiatives that are likely to produce the desired results and get us to where we ultimately want to be. Smith lists a series of tactical tools and tactics to use including the following:

  • Marketing Mix
  • Communications Mix
  • Tactical mix of online and offline promotional tools and their individual primary objectives
  • Scheduling of promotional events and messaging
  • Use of online funnels
  • The AIDA +A process – Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action, Advocate
  • Understanding and pursuing life time value of customers


Actions are concerned with execution of the tactics to get the desired results. They involve the following components:

  • Responsibilities and Structures – who does what when
  • Systems and processes – what systems and processes will be used
  • Checklists and Guidelines – how to follow the script for best results
  • Internal marketing – communication and motivating your team
  • Execution Excellence – getting it right all of the time
  • Using internal versus external resources – optimum mix based on competencies


All of the actions you take will generate consequences. Therefore it must be decided who will monitor and measure these consequences and when and how often they should do it. Some of the tools mentioned in the situation analysis section will be used, such as key performance indicators (KPI’s), 5 S’s, and analytics derived from the tools used for promotional activities. Some of these might include:

  • Website visitors (unique and repeat)
  • Website page impressions/views
  • Website stickiness (average duration per visitor)
  • Number of subscribers on list
  • Response to calls to action
  • Facebook likes
  • Twitter followers
  • Re-tweets on Twitter
  • Sales

Smith’s new SOSTAC book runs to more than 300 pages and it is well worth reading, particularly if you have an online business or plan to have one soon.

I don’t have any connection with PR Smith and I do not receive any compensation for highlighting his work here.

Niall Strickland