Knowing where to start, how to structure a plan, is often the most difficult part of planning. Part of what I like and also how we are structured at Ferring Pharmaceuticals is a 3 boxes organisation:
- A team optimises the commercial operations down the line
- A team prepares the incoming brands and activities to come
- A team plans ahead of the next big thing
In this article, we will use tried-and-tested frameworks to help you structure a multichannel plan which will make it quicker for you to complete and easier to comprehend by your colleagues you present it to.
Today, there are so many digital marketing techniques like those shown in the lifecycle visual. Plus, you may want to use them alongside traditional marketing communications too. So, it’s important to plan these activities in, otherwise, you may miss opportunities to make your campaigns effective.
Why a multichannel plan, not a digital marketing plan?
Digital marketing plans have the disadvantage that they may limit the integration of marketing activities. We know from research, that digital integration is a major challenge the industry face.
Once a brand has created and implemented a digital marketing plan and digital transformation is underway, digital marketing shouldn’t be seen as something separate. Instead, it should be integrated. This is where a multichannel marketing communications plan can help. It can help in different situations.
- Purpose: Define strategies for growing profitability over a long-term period
- Scope: Annual to 5 years > New product development > Revenue sources and cost management
- Purpose: Define strategies to engage audiences to achieve business objectives
- Scope: Typically annual
- Purpose: Define audience engagement to achieve brand sales
- Scope: Typically annual
Digital marketing plan/Business Transformation plan
- Purpose: Define how to compete more effectively with digital tactics
- Scope: Typically annual. Transformation plans may be longer > Review digital capabilities > Define digital marketing technology > Define resource requirements for digital
Multichannel marketing plan
- Purpose: A long-term integrated communications plan for using different media to hit lead or sales targets.
- Scope: Annual plan > Engaging audiences > Content marketing > Integrated media schedule of always-on and campaign activities
Marketing campaign plan
- Purpose: A shorter-term integrated communications plan for using different tactics to hit lead or sales targets.
- Scope: Shorter-term plan (3 to 9 months): > Engaging audiences > Content marketing > Integrated media schedule
Depending on the type and scale of your brand there may be even more plans for individual channels where different people are responsible for each. For example:
- Advertising plan
- Customer acquisition plan
- Email marketing plan
- A retention plan
- A social media marketing plan
- Conversion optimisation plan
That’s a lot of plans! But if you only have one, you should use a multichannel marketing plan since it will give you focus to boost your leads and sales with a planned approach which enables you to select the best strategies and marketing channels to improve your results.
How to structure a multichannel marketing plan using SOSTAC® and RACE?
Think about the important features of an effective marketing plan. The structure you choose will define whether your plan is successful or not.
A solid plan has:
- Clear, realistic goals which you can be confident of hitting
- The best strategy to achieve these goals against your competition
- Sufficient details of the tactics and actions needed to translate the strategy into action
- A method to check you are on track with your plans
It is recommended to use a combination of the SOSTAC® and RACE planning frameworks since this ‘ticks all these boxes’ for creating an effective plan.
SOSTAC® is structured around process covering all stages of creating and implementing your plan including goal-setting, strategy, implementation and review.
RACE Planning is structured around the many activities in the modern marketing funnel designed to define online and offline tactics to engage audiences to get results.
So, you can see that the strength of SOSTAC® as a general planning framework is also a weakness; it doesn’t apply specifically to the multichannel marketing communications needed to engage an audience through an engagement funnel.
So, what does SOSTAC® stand for? We showed a visual at the start of the Quick Win.
Here’s some more detail to help to understand:
Situation analysis means ‘Where are we now?’ For multi-channel marketers, questions include are we measuring results accurately through analytics? Which type of prospects are we reaching online? What are our competitors doing? What’s working for them?
Objectives mean ‘Where do we want to be?’ What is the growth forecast? What are the top-level goals 5 Ss (Sell, Serve, Speak, Save and Sizzle)? Plus we can build specific forecasts for leads and sales by channel to hit the business plan target. Good objectives are quantified against timescales.
Strategy means ‘How do we get there?’ Strategy summarizes how to fulfil the objectives. It is the shortest part of the plan, but arguably, the most important, as it gives direction to all the subsequent tactics. It answers questions including: Which segments will be targeted with which propositions? What positioning will we choose? How will leads and sales targets be achieved? Which channels should we focus our media investment on? What communications strategies will be used to support customer acquisition, conversion and retention?
Tactics are the details of strategy (the marketing mix, communications mix and channel mix are the tactical tools). They highlight on a campaign timeline exactly which tactics occur when. For example, how do we improve our ‘always-on’ communications, e.g. how to harness Marketing Automation alongside Content Marketing to generate and nurture leads.
Action is the detailed planning of tactics. Who does what, when and how? What processes, activities and are required to make things happen?
Control identifies what you need to measure when and what happens when you see a blip? The Control section of the plan ensures you know if you are succeeding or failing – and you can make adjustments– before it is too late.
Once you finished, it’s time to RACE: a practical framework to help manage and improve results from your multichannel marketing. Ultimately, it’s about using best practice across digital and offline marketing techniques to get more commercial value from your marketing investments.
RACE covers the full customer lifecycle or marketing funnel from: (Plan) > Reach > Act > Convert > Engage.
Reach. Reach involves building awareness and visibility of your brand, products and services on other websites and in offline media. It shows how you will build traffic by driving visits to different web presences like your main site, microsites or social media pages. It involves maximising reach over time to create multiple interactions using paid, owned and earned media touchpoints.
Act. Act is short for Interact. It’s a separate stage from conversion since encouraging interactions on websites and in social media need a special effort. For most businesses, the main aim of Act is to generate online leads or new email subscribers. So, it’s about persuading site visitors or prospects take the next step, the next Action on their customer journey when they initially reach your site or social network presence. It may mean finding out more about a company or its products, searching to find a product or reading a blog post. You should define these actions as top-level goals of the funnel in analytics. Goals can include “Viewed product”, “Added to Basket”, “Registered as a member” or “Signed up for an e-newsletter. Act is also about encouraging participation. This can be sharing of content via social media or customer reviews (strictly, part of Engage).
Convert. This is simply conversion, either online or offline. It involves getting your audience to take that vital next step which turns them into customers whether the change of behaviour is taken through non-personal transactions, or sales reps.
Engage. This is long-term customer engagement and communications. That is, developing a long-term relationship with first-time buyers to build customer loyalty as repeat purchases using communications on your site, social presence, email and direct interactions to boost customer lifetime value. It can be measured by repeat actions such as repeat sale and sharing content through social media. We also need to measure the percentage of active customers (or email subscribers) and customer satisfaction and recommendation using other systems.
Within each part of RACE planning, we have defined 5 key activities which should be included in your multichannel marketing plan.
Use SOSTAC® as the main overarching framework to structure your plan. Your plan is best structured with the 6 headings forming SOSTAC®.
Within each, you should include a reference to the RACE activities. Use RACE within each section to review and plan the details. For example, your situation analysis, objectives, tactics and actions can all be readily be broken down by RACE.
I hope this was useful to navigate the strategic planning of multichannel strategies. I am curious to know what you guys are using to plan ahead and if you have some hacks, please feel free to share them in the comments section below.