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CAM Diploma in Digital Marketing - Digital Marketing Planning

By Stephen Hudson - Digital Marketing Consultant. 

SOSTAC Planning Method

Last month, I wrote a blog about studying for the Marketing and Consumer Behaviour module of the CAM Diploma in Digital Marketing. The blog looked at the theory behind marketing and why we marketers use the tactics we do (PPC, SEO, social media, affiliate marketing, etc.).

This month, I’ll be writing about the second module in the CAM Diploma in Digital Marketing, which is called ‘Digital Marketing Planning’. As the title suggests, it explains the importance of planning digital marketing campaigns, and reveals the digital planning process which helps digital marketers create successful campaigns; after all, as Benjamin Franklin once said, “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”.

The SOSTAC planning process

The SOSTAC planning process is just one of the many ways marketers can choose to plan their digital marketing campaigns, and was made part of their curriculum by CAM and CIM because it is straightforward and easy to use.

Created by PR Smith in the 1990s, SOSTAC stands for:

  • Situation – Where a business is now
  • Objectives – Where a business wants to be
  • Strategy – Choosing the best methods for achieving objectives
  • Tactics – The tools to ensure a business achieves objectives
  • Action –  The plan of action of a business
  • Control – How a business determines whether the campaign has been a success

Situation

Many companies fail to perform a situational analysis when creating digital marketing campaigns; this can result in the creation of unrealistic objectives or the use of tactics which are disorganised and ineffective. By undertaking a situational analysis, a marketer can better understand trends in the current market, their current customer base, the resources available within the company, and what competitors are doing. All these statistics will help a company set realistic (‘SMART’) objectives; for example, if a company doesn't have the resources to spend on SEO, trying to achieve a #1 ranking on Google may not an achievable objective.

Objectives

The objectives stage is crucial as this is where a marketer will set out their reasons for a digital marketing campaign; which need to be based on the findings from the situational analysis. For example, a global service provider may find that they have 20 clients based in the UK but 60% of their website traffic comes from the US. Therefore, a ‘SMART’ (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-related) objective may be to increase their US client base by 20% within 12 months, rather than their UK client base. Having ‘SMART’ objectives helps shape the strategies, tactics and actions that will be undertaken later in the campaign.

Strategy

The strategy stage is where marketers choose the best methods for achieving their aims; for example, if an organisation wishes to improve their website statistics and engage with their audience, a marketer may choose to implement a content strategy. If a company wishes to acquire new customers or retain clients, a marketer may implement a customer acquisition strategy or customer retention strategy. Once the correct strategy to reach the objectives is in place, a marketer can begin to decide on the best practises to implement.

Tactics

Tactics is the stage many companies jump to straight away and this can cause more harm than good. For example, many companies see PPC as the easy way to attract users to their website, and for the most part they’re right, but this can be expensive, especially if they have no conversions set up to track whether the campaign is working. Most digital marketing campaigns involve tactics such as SEO, PPC, email marketing, affiliate advertising, social media, content creation as well as integrating with any offline marketing.

Actions

The actions stage is where the plan gets put into place. Many companies will create a timeline which indicates when certain tactics will be used and for how long. For example, a student letting agency may decide to increase their PPC campaign budgets between November and February each year when most students are searching for properties. Other decisions at this stage may involve hiring new staff to handle tasks and delegating responsibilities to other members of staff.

Control

If the plan has been created with care and knowledge, the control procedures should show whether the marketing campaign is working or not. Many companies use tools such as Google Analytics to monitor their KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and feed this information back into the previous stages to see if any procedures need improving. For example, if a company’s goal is to increase the number of UK-based visitors to their website, Google Analytics can track this data and show the results. If the goals are being achieved then the procedures can be fine-tuned for greater improvement, but if not, Google Analytics helps a company understand why, and can help marketers implement changes to ensure the objectives are met.

A detailed plan is a vital aspect of any marketing campaign. Unfortunately, many businesses either don’t have one or don’t put enough time and effort into it to ensure successful outcomes, which makes it hard to judge whether a campaign, is a success.

The Digital Marketing Planning module is, in my opinion, the most vital module in this diploma and therefore, if you've only got time to study one, I recommend this over the other two. Stay tuned to our blog for my final instalment about the CAM Diploma in Digital Marketing where I’ll be sharing my thoughts on ‘Digital Marketing Essentials’ - the module about the various tactics available to digital marketers.

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