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SOSTAC® marketing planning model guide

What is PR Smith's SOSTAC® marketing planning model and how do you use it?

If you don't know PR Smith's SOSTAC® model, it's worth getting to know if you're involved with planning marketing strategies or campaigns.  SOSTAC® was voted the third most popular model in the CIM poll on marketing models because it's easy to remember and it makes it easy to structure plans for different planning activities. Whether you're creating an overall marketing or digital marketing strategy or improving individual channel tactics like SEO or email marketing SOSTAC®, is your friend.

March 2016 update: If you're an Expert member of Smart Insights, you can read Paul Smith's brand new and updated 160 page guide explaining How to create the Perfect Digital Plan using SOSTAC®.

What is SOSTAC®?

SOSTAC® is a planning model, originally developed in the 1990s to help with marketing planning by PR Smith, who is my co-author on Emarketing Excellence.

SOSTAC® stands for:

  • Situation – where are we now?
  • Objectives – where do we want to be?
  • Strategy – how do we get there?
  • Tactics – how exactly do we get there?
  • Action – what is our plan?
  • Control – did we get there?

We've referenced this approach in creating our Internet marketing planning template and I've also used it in my books applying it to the core aspects of digital marketing. You can see it gives a logical order for tackling your plan (with iterations) and you should also use it to critically assess your processes. Ask, for example, what you may be weak at? Ask... Do we fail to complete situation analysis? Are our goals unclear? Do we have a strategy? Do we control performance using analytics?

An infographic applying SOSTAC® to digital marketing

In 2012  I worked with Paul and the designers at First 10 on a new SOSTAC® infographic which summarises the key issues to consider at each stage when developing digital marketing plans.

We hope this is useful as an aide-memoire you can print and use for your planning.

How to use SOSTAC®

I think SOSTAC® has become popular since it's simple, easy to remember and covers all the main issues which you need in a marketing plan or business plan. In this video Paul explains how it can be used.

You can find out more about the SOSTAC® approach for marketing planning in this ebook available on Amazon for Kindle, iPad and other ebook readers: The SOSTAC® Guide - to writing the perfect plan by PR Smith.

More tips for using SOSTAC®

Here are some tips on how to use SOSTAC® based on my experience of applying it in companies and seeing how students apply it in assignments.

We also have an example SOSTAC® plan for Expert members available in Word for members to update for their plans.

1. Use SOSTAC® to review your process

Before looking at how you apply SOSTAC® at each step to create a marketing plan, my first tip is to use it to review your planning process and how you manage your marketing.

Ask yourself critically about the activities you personally and your organisation are good at. Maybe you spend too much or too little time reviewing the situation. Perhaps you're not so good at setting SMART objectives, or developing strategies to support them or the control stage of assessing how effective your strategies and tactics are and adjusting them?

2. Get the balance right across SOSTAC®

Oftentimes, there is too much time spent on analysis within a plan and not enough on setting the strategies. I'd also say that for a student assignment, it's best to make reference to AC relatively brief, incorporating them into other sections.

So as a rule of thumb, this is how your balance of content could look:

S (20%) O (5%) S (45%) T (30%) = 100%

3. Summarise your Situation in a TOWs matrix form of SWOT

To give focus to your situation analysis I recommend the so-called fTOWs form of SWOT analysis. This helps integrate SWOT with strategy.

4. Make your goals SMART and link them to your analytics/control process

Since digital marketing is so measurable, it makes sense to be specific as possible about your goals by developing a funnel conversion model. You should also setup specific goals in Google Analytics.

But it's worth thinking about the full range of goals indicated by the 5Ss.

5. Integrate the different elements of your SWOT

Often there isn't good flow relating sections in a plan. To help this I recommend summarising your entire SOSTAC® plan within a table which integrates strategies, situation, objectives and tactics.

Do let us know if you have any other tips on the best way to apply SOSTAC®.


PR Smith (2011) The SOSTAC ®  Guide - to writing the perfect plan  by PR Smith (2011),  published by and available at Amazon.

Share your thoughts

  • Great infographic

  • It somehow give me the same feeling of Message from The Goal and TOC by Jeff cox

  • Stuart commented on May 5, 2015

    Hi Dave, how would you differentiate use of the SOSTAC model to the 6 Stage planning tool you developed with Bosworth (2013)? I would see SOSTAC maybe more for overall marketing planning and the latter better for specific campaign planning?
    I have been asked to use a model for a mindmap of what I would include in a digital marketing campaign (TMA)

    Thankyou for your response and yes I have the big purple book! 🙂

  • Exactly what is the main difference between SOSTAC and RACE

  • maija commented on April 24, 2014

    Hi Dave, I am doing the SOSTAC plan. May I ask you how to act with TOWS? As I understand, the central part of it represents strategic goals, so the strategy arises here. Further I go to the Objectives section, bring there startegic goals from the TOWS diagram and develop Smart objectives to the each goal (following your diagram: goals a broad, objectives smart). I am trying to make this process coherent: step 1,2,3. I haven’t seen anywhere in the literature that this process would have been explained in such the details. Or, am I wrong? Nobody can explain this properly.
    Thanks a lot,

  • YXL commented on November 24, 2013

    Hi Dave

    Am doing an assignment and using SOSTAC to develop the digital plan, and I believe the Action part is where the media plan comes in, but should the justification and rationale for this plan come under the Tactics part (under the Promotions bit of the Marketing mix)?

    These sections kind of seem to overlap.

    Would appreciate your advice, thank you!

  • ecommerceconsultant commented on July 4, 2013

    Is it possible to see an example of an actual SOSTAC strategy in use rather than all the theory please?

  • We love it AND mix it with pRACE !

    • Thanks for sharing The Love!

      Yes, for each of R(AC)E you can plan across SOSTAC

      We have an Expert member template to help with that too.


  • Excellent advice Dave. We recently took the SOSTAC approach/methodogy on a client campaign. The best part was that the client team understood it right away.

    • Hi – thanks for the comment – yes that’s the thing – everybody I’ve met “just gets it”.
      As I said in the post, it can also help them think through what they’re not so good at on the planning / management process for marketing and then try to improve that.

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  • FREE digital marketing plan templates
  • FREE alerts on the latest developments