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A practical digital marketing strategy framework

A practical digital marketing strategy framework

Streamline your planning and measurement of digital marketing with the RACE Framework and growth process

We created the RACE Framework and growth process to help marketers and business owners plan and manage their digital marketing strategy in a more structured way.

To explain and fully define the scope of ‘What Is Digital Marketing?’ we created this popular infographic structured around the RACE Framework of plan, reach, act, convert and engage. It shows the key measures to set targets for and evaluate at each stage of the funnel.

A practical digital marketing strategy framework

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Business Tools - A practical digital marketing strategy framework


Why and when was RACE developed?

Dr. Dave Chaffey created the RACE framework in 2010, when we launched Smart Insights since we found that many businesses don’t have a well-formed digital marketing strategy and implementation plan. Our research shows this is still often the case.

We designed RACE so that it can be customized and applied to all types of B2B and B2C businesses from small businesses and startups to larger organizations working on digital transformation. Our Business Members are applying the RACE Framework to their marketing planning and strategies in all sizes of businesses across many different sectors. RACE is growing in popularity today due to its practical nature and flexibility in supporting a variety of business aims and objectives.

The templates and digital learning available as part of business membership were originally developed from 2000 to 2010 as part of digital marketing consulting and training projects led by Dave including large international brands including 3M, BP, Barclaycard, Dell, HSBC, Mercedes-Benz, Microsoft, M&G Investment, Nokia, O2 and Royal Canin (Mars Group) to many smaller businesses and startups like Arco, Confused.com and Euroffice.

In the final section of this article, we explain 5 reasons why RACE has become so popular for improving digital marketing capabilities. Plus, if you’re looking for a marketing strategy to develop your growth during inflation, don’t miss our 10 growth insights structured across the RACE growth system. Download your free copy now.

RACE Ahead Of Inflation

Download our 10 growth insights to create a RACE digital marketing strategy during inflation

Access Now For Free

Business Tools - A practical digital marketing strategy framework


What does the RACE Framework stand for?

The RACE mnemonic summarizes the key online and multichannel marketing activities that need to be managed as part of digital marketing. RACE covers the full customer lifecycle or marketing funnel from:

(Plan) > Reach > Act > Convert > Engage

There is an initial, vital phase of PLAN, which involves creating the overall digital strategy, objective setting and plan. The plan phase will ensure that your digital communications are aligned with your business and marketing strategy.  Sometimes members call the framework, PRACE, but we prefer RACE Planning for simplicity…

We have defined four steps of engagement across the customer lifecycle, since in online marketing there is a major challenge in gaining interaction, participation with prospects and creating those all-important Leads after the initial customer touchpoint.

These interactions, covered in the Act step can take place over several channels and touchpoints such as web, mobile, social media and email contacts, so these leads need separate management from final conversion to online or offline sale through techniques like retargeting and assisted selling.

The RACE Framework consists of these four steps or online marketing activities designed to help brands engage their customers throughout the customer lifecycle.

  • 1. REACH. Reach involves building awareness of a brand, its products, and services on other websites and in offline media in order to build traffic by driving visits to different web presences like your main site, microsites or social media pages. It involves maximizing reach over time to create multiple interactions using different paid, owned and earned media touchpoints.
  • 2 ACT. Act is short for Interact. It’s a separate stage since encouraging interactions on websites and in social media to generate leads is a big challenge for online marketers.  It’s about persuading site visitors or prospects take the next step, the next Action on their journey when they initially reach your site or social network presence. For many types of businesses, especially, Business-to-Business, this means generating leads, but 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.
  • Google Analytics Goals can include “Viewed product”, “Added to Basket”, “Registered as a member” or “Signed up for an enewsletter. Act is also about encouraging participation. This can be sharing of content via social media or customer reviews. The specific goals and dashboards need to be defined for each business.
  • 3. CONVERT. This is conversion to sale – occurring either online or offline. It involves getting your audience to take that vital next step which turns them into paying customers whether the payment is taken through online Ecommerce transactions or offline channels.
  • 4. ENGAGE. This is long-term engagement 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.

Structuring your marketing plan around a funnel is proven to boost performance. Download our free 10 growth insights to RACE ahead of inflation.

RACE Ahead Of Inflation

Download our 10 growth insights to create a RACE digital marketing strategy during inflation

Access Now For Free

Business Tools - A practical digital marketing strategy framework


Why the RACE Framework?

We created the RACE Framework planning system to help give a simple framework to help small and large businesses alike take the best advantage of the opportunities available from digital marketing.

In our research, we have found that, shockingly, many businesses don’t have a digital marketing strategy. When creating a digital marketing strategy, knowing how to structure it and where to start is sometimes the biggest challenge!

There are so many tools and tactics available that it’s difficult to know where to start. We hope the RACE Framework gives a structure to help you review and prioritize when there are so many options, but some options work better than others.

RACE is a practical framework to help manage and improve results from your digital marketing. It covers always-on digital marketing activities across the customer lifecycle which are sometimes neglected in favor of the still important campaign-based activities for launching new products and promotions.

Investing time and budget in planning always-on activities is vital for many businesses to connect with customers who are researching new products by searching or asking via social media.

Did you know – nearly half of companies don’t have a clearly defined digital marketing strategy? These companies are missing opportunities for better integration and risk losing customers due to out-of-date processes.

These are five reasons why we recommend the RACE framework for modern marketers, and why it has been widely adopted around the world – Smart Insights have members in over 100 countries.

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Reason 1. RACE is data-driven, based on KPIs focused on business growth

We believe that data-driven marketing is the best approach to growing business through digital marketing. Priorities and improvements should be based on a sound evaluation and optimization process using digital analytics showing which marketing activities are effective and which aren’t.

Here’s an example of our recommended measures using a simple summary of RACE KPIs which could form a dashboard – the best dashboards show not only volume and how they change through time, but also the quality of visits and the value generated.


Many of these measures can be pulled directly from Google Analytics although you will need to customize for example to record goal value or revenue per visit. For some other measures such as social mentions, you need to pull in from other tools.

For Business Members, we offer an interactive monthly reporting dashboard based on the RACE Framework using the Google Analytics API to rapidly create monthly reports using Google Docs Sheets.

The dashboard makes it easy to compare digital marketing performance through time with a focus on the key digital marketing measures across the customer lifecycle or marketing funnel defined across the RACE  Framework.

For regular review using our dashboard, you can compare year-on-year or compared to the previous reporting period both overall and for each of the digital marketing channels such as organic, paid search, email and social media marketing.

Reason 2. The RACE Framework is practical and action-oriented

Our dedicated Learning Path guides you through a step-by-step process to implement RACE in your digital marketing strategy and start achieving your goals straight away. Our unique digital learning approach integrates practical guidance and examples with Word, Excel and Powerpoint templates that you can use to review your marketing activities and plan improvements. RACE is comprehensive, covering 25 essential marketing activities across the customer lifecycle which are explained in our digital learning paths and actioned in our templates. Learning paths with integrated templates cover:

  • Digital Strategy and Transformation
  • Campaign planning
  • Content marketing
  • Organic search marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Email marketing and marketing automation
  • Optimizing digital experiences
  • Customizing Google Analytics

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Reason 3. The RACE Framework is strategic and integrated

Digital channels always work best when they’re aligned with your overall business and marketing strategy and digital communications are integrated with other channels, so remember that where appropriate, digital channels should be combined with the traditional offline media and channels.

The Plan phase of RACE reviews marketing fundamentals such as segmentation, targeting and positioning and how they can be applied online.

The most important aspects of integration are first using traditional media to raise awareness of the value of the online presence and drive visitors to the website(s) at the Reach and Engage stages.

Second, at the Convert and Engage steps stage customers may prefer to interact with customer representatives as part of the buying or customer service process.

Reason 4. The RACE Framework is Social

Digital marketing today is not just about your website, and in fact, it never has been, partnering with other sites or co-marketing and influencer marketing have always potentially been important.

But today, the popularity of participation in social media with web users means that how to reach, interact, convert and maintain ongoing engagement of customers through social networks is vital to the success of a brand.

At each step in RACE, you need to think about how social media can help achieve your goals and how you can measure the effectiveness of social media.

Reason 5. RACE helps evolve your process to drive growth with the RACE OSA growth process

To make the RACE planning framework actionable, OSA gives your a simple process to create your overall strategy and improve the results of individual channels such as search, social media and email marketing.

OSA stands for Opportunity > Strategy > Action

The RACE OSA growth process is designed to help our members improve their results from marketing, customized to their needs based on the size of business,  their personal experience and needs. It has three simple parts which integrate with our planning templates, learning paths and other tools:

Business Tools - A practical digital marketing strategy framework

In your first 90-days with Smart Insights, our system will quickly help you decide where you need to prioritize to achieve your business and personal needs by using our learning paths, tools and templates to create your learning and action plan.

You can then continue improvement using our 90-day planning template.

What are the key activities in each part of OSA?

You can apply OSA to different marketing activities from creating a growth plan for the next 3 months, creating an annual plan or improving your marketing campaign process. It also works well for driving results from individual channels like the website, organic or paid search, social media or email marketing. You can also apply it to your personal learning and skills development.


  • Audit performance
  • Review marketplace
  • Key issues summary
  • Set objectives


  • Review marketing and digital strategy options
  • Assess budget / business case
  • Prioritize and select strategic initiatives


  • Plan 90-day activities
  • Implement plans
  • Review results

To get started with using RACE to improve your business growth, our free planning template will help you prioritize by considering the success factors for each part of RACE.

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I also like to credit the REAN (Reach > Engage > Activate > Nurture) framework for web analysts which influenced my thinking back in 2010. It was originally developed by Xavier Blanc and popularised by Steve Jackson in his book Cult of Analytics of which I was a big fan.

We devised RACE since we wanted to develop our own approach for improving digital communications and we feel Step 2 is more about initial interactions with a brand and in step 4, customer engagement is a longer-term process for developing customer loyalty.

Through 15 years of advising marketers through my books and training I’ve found that, after time has passed, all that often remains from the course as a takeaway is a framework on which to hang future actions. C’est la vie! But busy people seem to like frameworks and mnemonics to structure their actions. To help digital marketers structure their thoughts, over the years I’ve created or been involved with these frameworks too – I hope you find they’re useful – that’s what we aim for – to make marketing life simpler and more profitable.

And finally, it’s why we’re called SMART Insights – we believe the best marketers compete and win by a data-driven or insight-driven approach to marketing.

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