How to assemble an effective digital marketing plan for your business

The key to your successful digital marketing is having a clear answer to a critical question: how will you create and sustain a competitive advantage?

The key to your successful digital marketing is having a clear answer to a critical question: how will you create and sustain a competitive advantage? 

Are you now ready to adopt digital marketing as an integral part of your business?

If so, we would like to recommend putting together your company’s digital marketing plan as a blueprint for all your future online marketing actions.

The key to your successful digital marketing is having a clear answer to a critical question: how will you create and sustain a competitive advantage (Michael Porter, “What Is Strategy” – Harvard Business Review). To get there, we suggest using the SOSTAC planning model developed by PR Smith. SOSTAC stands for situation, objectives, strategy, tactics, action and control. The SOSTAC planning framework can be used when developing any marketing or even business plan.

The document should start with an executive summary describing your key findings and recommendations regarding digital marketing. Write a short overview of your plan. This is best done at the end, once you are clear on your approach. Make sure it can be read as a stand-alone document and that it includes key metrics.

This should be followed by an introduction. Describe the purpose of your plan here and provide information about the background of your company and its business.

Here is what you should include in each section of your plan: 

Situation: Answer the first of three central questions for the planning process: where are we now? Conduct 5C analysis of the environment and the company (company, customer, context, competition, collaborators). Summarize your thoughts in the SWOT format (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats). Make sure to draw important conclusions from the situation analysis.

Objectives: Answer the second of the three central strategic planning questions: where do we want to be?  In this section you are supposed to set SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely) objectives for your online marketing. Make sure to align your objectives: start with the desired key end goals, such as specific increase in profit and sales, then work backward and figure out how many online customers or orders you need in order to achieve your sales and profit targets. How much extra traffic on your site do you need in order to get your target number of online customers? 

Strategy: Answer the last of the three central strategic planning questions: how will we get there? Make sure to have a clear idea how you plan to create and sustain a competitive advantage and achieve your objectives in the long run. Make sure to address questions related to market segmenting and targeting, positioning, revenue model strategies and product/market strategies. 

Tactics: In this section you should focus on “what.” What actions do you need to take to successfully implement your strategy? Consider website redesign, search engine optimization, social media, email marketing, pay-per-click advertising, mobile marketing and other activities. 

Action: Describe how you will put this plan into action. Consider the three Ms: men/women, money and minutes. In other words, what kind of skills/jobs, organizational structures and systems do you need in place? Who will be responsible for each task? What are the timelines? What is your digital marketing budget? Note: in a recent survey of almost 600 clients published by Econsultancy the respondents indicated that they spend as much as 38% of their marketing budgets on digital marketing.

Control: Describe how you will track your performance over time to establish if you’re making progress as planned. Create measurable KPIs (key performance indicators) to align against objectives and stay on track.

Examples of your KPIs could be your online sales, website traffic, conversion rates, search engine visibility, email subscribers, number of fans and followers.

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Cyri Jones (, founder of and co-founder of Zen Launchpad, teaches at BCIT and Capilano University. IPower Lab CEO Ivan Surjanovic ( is in Capilano University’s marketing faculty.