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How to use the McKinsey 7S model in marketing

An example of reviewing your marketing capabilities using the Mckinsey 7S framework

The McKinsey 7S model is a useful framework for reviewing an organisation’s marketing capabilities from different viewpoints. The power of the McKinsey 7S model is that it covers the key organisation capabilities needed to implement strategy successfully, whether you're reviewing a business , marketing or digital strategy.

It also works well in different types of business of all sectors and sizes, although it works best in medium and large businesses. The beauty of this framework is that the elements are self-explanatory, although I have outlined some guidance for applying it later in the post.

McKinsey 7S framework

The 7S model can be used to:

  • Review the effectiveness of an organisation in its marketing operations.
  • Determine how to best realign an organisation to support a new strategic direction.
  • Assess the changes needed to support Digital Transformation of an organisation.

What are the 7S framework elements?

In summary, the 7S stand for:

  • Strategy: The definition of key approaches for an organisation to achieve its goals.
  • Structure: The organisation of resources within a company into different business groups and teams.
  • Style: The culture of the organisation in terms of leadership and interactions between staff and other stakeholders.
  • Staff: The type of employees, remuneration packages and how they are attracted and retained.
  • Skills: Capabilities to complete different activities.
  • Systems: Business processes and the technical platforms used to support operations.
  • Shared Values: Summarised in a vision and or mission, this is how the organisation defines its raison d'etre.

How can I use this 7S framework?

You can review each of the 7S to assess how the capabilities of an organisation can be improved as the starting point of creating an action plan.

An example of applying the 7S  framework to a marketing review

This example considers some of the issues related to introducing digital technology into an organisation. A theme familiar to Smart Insights readers.

1. Strategy

The contribution of digital business in influencing and supporting organisations’ strategy. The key issues are:

  • Gaining appropriate budgets and demonstrating, delivering value and ROI from budgets.
  • Annual planning approach.
  • Techniques for using digital business to impact organization strategy.
  • Techniques for aligning digital business strategy with organisational and marketing strategy.

2. Structure

The modification of organisational structure to support digital business. The key issues are:

  • Integration of digital marketing or e-commerce teams with other management, marketing (corporate communications, brand marketing, direct marketing) and IT staff.
  • Use of cross-functional teams and steering groups.
  • Insourcing vs outsourcing.

3. Systems

The development of specific processes, procedures or information systems to support digital business. The key issues are:

  • Campaign planning approach-integration.
  • Managing or sharing customer information.
  • Managing customer experience, service and content quality.
  • Unified reporting of digital marketing effectiveness and
  • In-house vs external best-of-breed vs external integrated technology solutions.

4. Staff

The breakdown of staff in terms of their background, age and sex and characteristics such as IT vs marketing, use of contractors/ consultants.  The key issues are:

  • Insourcing vs outsourcing.
  • Achieving senior management buy-in/involvement with digital marketing.
  • Staff recruitment and retention, and virtual working.
  • Staff development and training.

5.  Style

Includes both the way in which key managers behave in achieving the organisation’s goals and the cultural style of the organisation as a whole. The key issues are:

  • Defining a long-term vision for transformation.
  • Relates to role of the digital marketing or e-commerce teams in influencing strategy – is it dynamic and influential or a service which is conservative and looking for a voice?.

 6. Skills

Distinctive capabilities of key staff, but can be interpreted as specific skill-sets of team members. The key issues are: staff skills in specific areas such as supplier selection, project management, content management and specific e-marketing media channels.

7. Shared values

The guiding concepts of the digital business or e-commerce organization which are also part of shared values and culture. The key issues are: improving the perception of the importance and effectiveness of digital business amongst senior managers and staff it works with (marketing generalists and IT).

Remember to manage the hard and soft factors separately:

  • Hard factors: Strategy, Structure and Systems.
  • Soft factors: Style, Staff, Skills, Systems and Shared values/superordinate goals.

What to watch for

Superordinate goals is an alternative term for the 'Shared Values' used when the model was first created, but not replaced by a more meaningful term!.

Original Sources

Waterman, R.H., Peters, T.J. and Phillips, J.R. (1980) Structure is not organization. McKinsey Quarterly, in-house journal. McKinsey & Co., New York.

By Annmarie Hanlon

Annmarie Hanlon is the Smart Insights expert commentator on online and offline marketing strategies for business. Annmarie is the MD of Evonomie and author of Quick Win Marketing, and co-author of Quick Win Digital Marketing. She runs social media workshops in the UK and Ireland and shares marketing tips and news in her blog, B2B Marketing. You can follow Annmarie on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.

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