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I admit that I am much better helping my clients develop their marketing calendar and sticking with it than I am with one for my own company. In the fall each year I step back and look at my company’s sales and marketing plans for the previous year and write down my plans and goals for the next year. Unfortunately, I don’t hire someone like me to stay on top of my marketing calendar.
So, yes you can be successful without one, but how much more successful might you be with an effective marketing calendar. So, what is a marketing calendar? Think about it as a monthly/weekly plan that helps you maintain top of mind awareness with your clients and best prospects (think your target audience) consistently.
Marketing Calendar Details Annual Marketing Efforts
Your marketing calendar should initially be an overview of all your marketing efforts for the year including (and for your business/industry of course there could be more):
- Social Media (including blogs)
- Traditional Advertising (print, TV, Radio, Billboards)
- Sales Promotions (these of course are not stand alone)
- Direct Response Mailings
- Sponsorships & Events (non-profit or community organizations, sports programs, etc)
- Trade Shows (exhibiting and attending)
- Speaking Engagements (target quarterly opportunities)
- Networking Opportunities (I try to attend one targeted event each week)
Where to you start and how to create a marketing calendar? Most develop their marketing calendars based on a 12 month plan tied to the fiscal budget or calendar year. Many find it natural to develop the plan based around tie-ins with Federal Holidays (think Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Years, Labor Day) as a starting point.
Keep Business Objectives in Mind for Effective Marketing
However, when developing your plan it’s best to first have a clear understanding of your business objectives, marketing strategies, budget, target audience, any major events (anticipated new product introductions, roll-outs of existing products to new markets, etc.), available communication vehicles (which do you want to concentrate on given your business objectives) and of course the products to be highlighted.
For many small businesses they are developing a marketing calendar for the business as a whole.
However, if you have multiple product lines (especially with different target audiences) then you will want to develop a marketing calendar for each one. You can initially develop a generic marketing calendar template and then customize as needed for each product.
As an addendum to your marketing calendar it is also recommended that you develop a master content calendar. This calendar should include all your content initiatives and then you can develop specific content calendars for each of your major events. You may have specific times of the year that it’s appropriate to write about special promotions or happenings. With that said, you do want your content to be fresh and timely so you don’t want to be too rigid in your planning (we have a general list by month to draw from and then stay on top of news and trends for additional inspiration).
Marketing Calendar Software and Templates Can Help
There are many calendar and planning software tools & templates available (some are free). I recommend you check them out to see what works best for you. If you want to just get started, you can begin by using your outlook calendar. I just recommend that you develop your own color-coded system for each discipline (social media post or trade show event and then prep time) so you know what needs to be done when.
Now is the perfect time to start developing your marketing calendars for 2017. If it’s to be done right you need to set aside time to think through all the elements and if you have various product teams, meeting with each one to determine the specific objectives you want to achieve.
Then I recommend you develop your guidelines for each element of your marketing plan so you can develop the calendar appropriately. For example, do you have a blog associated with your website (important to keep your website current so if you don’t, time to get that on the calendar to start)? If so, how many times a month do you want to publish a blog? What content? And how long does it take to write and post?
Schedule Each Task for Each Marketing Initiative
I recommend you post at least twice a month (once a week is even better initially). So you need to schedule that on your calendar. But you also need to schedule the prep time. If it takes you 1-2 days to research and write the blog (not full days, but you need some time “set aside”) then you need to add it to your marketing calendar as well. So if you are posting on January 15 about the new product coming soon, then you need to have January 12 on the calendar for writing/research (of course you may want to schedule your calendar so you write a month’s worth at one time). Of course, it may not be you that’s writing the post so if that’s the case the calendar should indicate who it is assigned that task to complete.
Of course, with social media, you’re going to want to re-purpose the blog into multiple tweets, Snapchats, Instragram messages Facebook postings and more. All need to be scheduled on your marketing calendar. Get the idea?
Marketing Calendar Keeps You Focused
Let’s look another example, a none social media focused event (even though every effort should have a social media element) like exhibiting at a trade show. The trade show is in October, so the date is marked on the calendar for attending. When do you need to develop your new trade show booth? July/August time frame to be safe, so mark it on the marketing calendar. What about your materials for the show (brochures, giveaways and such)? Probably the same time frame as the booth development, at the latest – August. Now, do you want to send a pre-show mailing to your clients and prospects with a special invitation to visit your booth? You will want to have that in the mail at least 3 weeks before the show, so mark that on the calendar, but of course you have to prepare your message and materials so mark 6 weeks before the mail date for creative and production. You may also want to send a post mailing, if so, it’s best to prepare that before the show.
Of course there could be more marketing elements you want to include but I hope this helps to illustrate the steps to include on your marketing calendar. Having a marketing calendar really helps you to evaluate all the various elements and plan for them accordingly. If you follow the plan then your marketing initiatives will be that much more effective.
Marketing Calendar Should be Flexible
However, with all the planning, you also need to recognize what’s working and not working. Don’t be so rigid just because it’s on the plan. If a new promotion comes to mind, add it to the calendar. If you find a social media program isn’t working, change it! The marketing calendar is your tool for continually fine-tuning your plans. Just as social media changes constantly your plan may too (even though some elements may be a constant – say your weekly blog).