Marketing Strategy and Startup Frameworks


When CEOs, product and marketing managers or decision makers in general are out to pursue a certain goal there are many options/paths that they can take to achieve them. A framework is a basic structure that helps them to organize their options and prioritize what are the most important milestones/actions they need to reach/take.

Normally when we speak about marketing, product or startup frameworks the purpose is to come up with a strategy. This can be a 6 months product or marketing roadmap, SEO/content plan, UI/UX feature rollout etc...

Some of the most common frameworks used in marketing/product and startups are the the SOSTAC® by PR Smith, RACE by Smart Insights, the AARRR by Dave McClure and the 9 Steps for a Lean Web Startup by Steve Blank.

These frameworks all work with the same objective and they somewhat have overlapping or similar concepts. While the 9 Steps might help you to plan your overall startup strategy, SOSTAC® should be used for general planning of each of the steps. Finally RACE & AARRR might be used to think about your objectives and prioritize your actions.

Let us illustrate this with an example. Imagine you are in the customer discovery stage (Steve blank's step 6) of your early stage business.

SOSTAC® by PR Smith

Situation: Describes your current status.

Currently you have a low fidelity MVP that consists of 3 webpages explaining the basic proposition. You also have a limited budget to prove your initial assumptions to your investors.

Objectives: These should be S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, Time-related).

Firstly you need to evaluate if people like your solution to their problem, this means finding 7 reference customers within the next 2 weeks. Secondly, you will need to do it under a fix budget of £500.

Strategy: The overarching idea that summarizes how you will reach your objective.

We will drive traffic to the website so that we can get sign ups/sales. Because we have a tight budget we will try keeping it as lean as possible so that we are able to try different channels to de-risk.

Tactics: Here you should start funneling your channel options by evaluating channels by cost/awareness vs acquisition vs WoM/measurement/scalability/localization...). This is why I went for Direct Comms/PPC/Partnerships instead of for instance PR, Affiliates or Print, Display, Outdoors...

  1. We are going to create initial user personas based on our customer interviews so that we can pursue direct communications with the right message.
  2. We are going to create partnerships with non-competing businesses so that we can try leveraging on their large user base.
  3. We are going to create highly targeted (geo, device, time, messagewise) PPC search campaigns close to the intent of purchase.
  4. We are going to use our sales leads to get more similar people.

Actions: Precise actions that you will take.

  • Perform customer interviews at a coffeeshop/event.
  • Create a list of interesting partnerships and contacts.
  • Contact potential partners.
  • Email customers to refer family/friends/colleagues.
  • Create an email campaign on people that abandoned the shopping cart with an incentive to come back.
  • Do keyword research to evaluate witch are the most important keywords/av. cpc's/locations/devices.
  • Split test landing pages for PPC campaigns.
  • Split test Email creative.
  • Create targeted PPC proposition campaigns.
  • Create targeted PPC Brand campaigns.
  • Create remarketing PPC campaigns.
  • Email leads with new offers every other day.

Control: How you will evaluate your performance and understand if you have reached success.

  • Measure number of leads/sales every day/week.
  • Measure cost per lead/sale.
  • Measure acquisition percentages per channel.
  • Assign each metric to someone to own.

Now that this basic SOSTAC® is done we can try prioritizing these actions using RACE (Reach/Act/Convert/Engage) or AARRR or even both (if you have the time). We are going to use AARRR as an example, but RACE should be very similar.

A.A.R.R.R. by Dave McClure

Acquisition Customer interviews List of partners Contact partners Keyword research Create PPC proposition campaigns
Activation Split test landing pages Split test Email creative
Retention Create remarketing PPC campaigns Create PPC brand campaigns Email leads with new offers every other day
Referral Email customers to refer others
Revenue Create an abandonment email campaign

With this analysis you can define what is the most important thing to you. If your main objective is to get 7 reference customers then acquisition should be pretty important and you will prioritize that versus for instance referrals that will drive your cost per acquisition down or versus activation, which improves the rate to which you will acquire new people! After this you can rewrite the above actions based on priority.

Now you "just" need to keep this loop going!

You might also want to read:

  1. The AARRR Framework
  2. Definition of framework
  3. Steve Blank - 9 steps on how to build a lean web startup
  4. The RACE Framework
  5. SOSTAC by PR Smith
  6. SMART Objectives
  7. Marketing Models