How do I integrate the SOSTAC® and RACE frameworks?

PR Smith’s SOSTAC® Planning framework and the Smart Insights RACE digital marketing plan model have become popular ways to create marketing and digital marketing communications plans and strategies.

I’m often asked by Smart Insights members how best to integrate them. It’s a common question since it’s not immediately obvious which you start with.

What is the difference between the SOSTAC® and RACE models?

Let’s start with why you need to integrate them, which is based on the difference between them. It’s because each was created for a slightly different ‘use-case’ and has different strengths.

  • PR Smith’s SOSTAC® framework is a strategy development process that can be applied to any type of plan. It was originally developed for creating marketing communications plans by Paul Smith in the mid-1990s before there was a need to create digital marketing plans, so it doesn’t reference specific digital marketing activities. Listen to Paul Smith explain SOSTAC®.
  • The Smart Insights RACE planning model is aimed at creating digital or multichannel marketing plans for prioritizing and managing digital marketing activities. I created this around 2010 when we first launched the Smart Insights learning platform since I knew there wasn’t a comprehensive planning process for digital marketing. Each part of RACE planning is broken down into 5 activities which are essential for most organizations to manage, to give 25 activities in total.

Given this, I recommend that to combine them, it’s best to start with the strategy process, i.e. SOSTAC® and then add a plan for relevant digital marketing tactics for each part of RACE. Here is a visual explainer:

An alternative to SOSTAC®? Opportunity > Strategy > Action

In addition to the four parts of RACE shown above, there is also a Plan section, so RACE has similar strategic planning process activities to SOSTAC® built-in. If we consider the 5 planning activities at the start of RACE, we have:

  • 1. Situation and performance review (equivalent to Situation analysis in SOSTAC®).
  • 2. Vision, objective setting and reporting (equivalent to Objectives and Control).
  • 3. Strategy (equivalent to Strategy focusing on prioritization of digital initiatives and governance, including developing the people skills, processes, measurement systems and marketing technology needed to support digital transformation).
  • 4. Segmentation and targeting (Part of strategy).
  • 5. Positioning and brand development (Part of strategy).

Weaknesses in the SOSTAC® planning model

In our Smart Insights marketing e-learning modules we explain a simpler alternative to SOSTAC®. Despite its popularity, we have found SOSTAC® has some weaknesses for developing and communicating strategies to colleagues and clients, particularly in smaller companies.

The weaknesses with using SOSTAC® for digital planning to be aware of are that:

  • It doesn’t specifically reference digital marketing activities
  • The Objective Setting stage closely relates to situation and control when reviewing performance and setting reviewing goals, so these need to be combined
  • The distinction between strategy and tactics isn’t clear, most digital strategies are in-fact tactical communications initiatives. 

These limitations may mean that you prefer to use a simpler version of SOSTAC®, which we define as ‘Opportunity > Strategy > Action’ if you want to combine it with RACE. This is shown in the second chart you can see the two alternatives map like this:

  • Opportunity: Define online demand through Situation analysis and Objective setting
  • Strategy: Define priorities and resourcing to achieve objectives through Strategy and Tactics
  • Action: Manage implementation and agile optimization through Actions and Control

Using these three steps can make your digital marketing or marketing communications strategy quicker to create and more importantly simpler, so easier for colleagues and clients understand and buy into.  We have a one-page marketing plan template that relates Opportunity, Strategy and Action to different parts of RACE

I hope this post answer this frequently asked planning question. That it gives you a choice depending on the scale and scope of your planning. I know their are still many advocates of SOSTAC® that prefer the detailed breakdown.

Do let me know if you have any questions.



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Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice
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About Smart Insights

Dr Dave Chaffey is co-founder and Content Director of digital marketing advice site Smart Insights. We’re a publisher and learning platform that helps our 150,000 active members in over 100 countries plan, manage and optimize their digital marketing activities by applying the actionable advice in our planning templates, guides and interactive e-learning tools.

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