How to Create a Content Marketing Calendar
How to Create a Marketing Calendar
A marketing calendar is a document that maps out the dates when marketing tasks will be performed. You want your marketing events to be as successful as possible, and a well-designed marketing calendar will help ensure your business or company employs an effective marketing campaign year-round. In addition to teaching you about the purpose of this essential business tool, this article will help you plan and design your marketing calendar.
Understanding the Purpose of a Marketing Calendar
Learn about the purpose of a marketing calendar.Before you can start creating an effective marketing calendar, you need to make sure you understand the purpose behind this essential business tool. A marketing calendar is a plan that details your specific marketing activities for the upcoming calendar year.
- Think of it as your marketing blueprint that will precisely identify how your company or firm will convey its message or sell its services and products to the targeted audience. It charts how and when you plan to distribute your content, messages, services, or products.
Understand the benefits of a great marketing calendar.In order to create an awesome marketing calendar, it is helpful to understand why it is worth spending your time and energy on this exercise. Here are some of the main benefits of creating a well-designed marketing calendar:
- It will expand the reach of your business and increase your company’s visibility.
- It will help you budget your resources.
- It will help ensure that your products or brand reach the intended audience.
- It will help separate your company or product from the competition.
- It will save your company time and money while making the marketing process less stressful.
- It will help you set deadlines and keep employees on track.
Recognize what a marketing calendar should include.To be as effective as possible, the marketing calendar should identify exactly how and when you plan to market your goods or services using a range of mediums including: print materials, email blasts, social media, blogging dates, press releases, events, promotions, online ads, videos or podcasts, etc. Although you might not have all the details worked out when you first get started creating the calendar, here are a few other important points you should try to include for each entry in the calendar:
- Title or name of the project, event, or promotion.
- The date you set.
- The name and contact information for the person assigned to manage this specific project.
- A list of other employees, contractors, or individuals that will assist with the project, and details on what their roles will be.
- Space to make notes about how effective the marketing campaign was and what should be improved. Being able to attach or include supplemental reports and data can be invaluable.
Invest the time and resources to plan your marketing calendar.Although it might seem overwhelming at first, it’s important to invest the time and resources into carefully developing your marketing calendar. Your efforts will pay off when your marketing is done ahead of schedule and you can spend your time working on other aspects of your business.
Re-use your marketing calendar next year.In the future, you will be able to update your marketing calendar and re-use it, so you won't be starting from scratch the following year when you have to plan out your marketing strategy and set these dates. If you’ve carefully updated your existing calendar and made notes on the effectiveness and success rate of different marketing strategies, it will be much easier to adapt and refine your existing calendar for the following year.
Planning and Preparing a Marketing Calendar
Take note of your budget.Your budget will have a significant influence on how you market your products, content, or services. It’s a good idea to take hard look at your budget before creating your marketing calendar so you can make sure you are not planning events, promotions, and advertising that you will not be able to support.
- When you are familiar with your budget, you can better space out the events on your marketing calendar and make sure your plans don’t exceed your available resources.
Review your annual marketing plan if available.Creating a marketing calendar will be much easier if you review the annual marketing plan your company or business has in place. Most large companies and many small companies have an annual marketing plan, which outlines marketing strategies that will be used throughout the year.
List your marketing strategies.Make a list of the marketing strategies you or your company plans to employ. Include all aspects of your marketing effort, such as emails, articles, social media posts, advertisements, video or podcasts, press releases, partnerships, and affiliate marketing.
- This list will help you when you start filling in your marketing calendar and need to make sure you are setting up the most effective marketing strategy for a specific event.
- Make a note of who is responsible for each marketing effort so that this information will be included on the calendar.
Be aware of your intended audience.Your overall marketing and the marketing calendar won't be very effective or targeted if you aren’t sure about the intended audience or demographic you hope to reach. For each event you create on the calendar, you should be able to identify the customer you hope to appeal to.
Locate a calendar or something you can use to outline a draft.Before you begin creating a more detailed marketing calendar, it will be helpful to have something you can use to take notes on and start outlining your ideas.
- You can print out a free monthly calendar online, map this out on a dry-erase board, or type it into a spreadsheet or document. Use whatever you feel comfortable with since this will really just be a rough draft of your marketing calendar.
Mark holidays, vacation times, and days off.While it might seem challenging to get started, filling in the holidays, vacation times, days off, and other established dates or events will help you get started and think about when you might be able to schedule key marketing events.
Research the traditional marketing cycles in your industry.Most industries have peak periods or seasons where they market their products more aggressively or successfully. Do a little research to identify the key months when your competitors market similar products or services.
- For example, if you are marketing a moving company, the peak periods for this industry are often in the spring and summer when people are relocating, so you will probably want to increase your marketing during these periods.
- Similarly, if you sell health and wellness products, many people purchase these items in January at the beginning of the New Year, and you can adjust your marketing level accordingly.
Think about monthly themes in the traditional marketing cycle.Based on holidays, seasonal changes, school calendars, sporting events, and pop culture events, think about monthly themes that might help you develop specific sales, events, promotions, etc. The basic calendar breakdown below should help you get started:
- January: New Year’s Day, resolutions, health, wellness, and organization.
- February: Valentine’s Day, and African American history month, Valentine’s Day.
- March: spring gardening, St. Patrick’s Day, women’s history month.
- April: Earth Day, dieting and wellness before summer.
- May: Cinco de Mayo and Mother’s Day.
- June: graduation season, Father’s Day, summer vacations.
- July: summer, family reunions, 4th of July, outdoor cooking, and entertaining.
- August: back to school and the end of summer.
- September: back to school, organization, sporting events, and parenting.
- October: fall activities, Halloween, breast cancer month, and political campaigns.
- November: Thanksgiving, pre-holiday shopping.
- December: holiday promotions and year-end sales.
Develop marketing events based on these themes.Now that you’ve considered these monthly themes, it’s time to start brainstorming about potential events, deals, sales, and promotions that you think will be successful. To make your planning more effective and so you are not starting from scratch, think about these questions:
- Have you pulled off successful events in the past? If so, include them again on the calendar and make some notes about why you think they were successful. Also, start assembling the past promotional materials so you can use these again or easily update them.
- Are there marketing activities that were not totally successful, but could be improved or tweaked to get better results? This is helpful because you don’t have to start from scratch and can refine your existing approach to get better results.
- What has not worked in the past? If you’ve had unsuccessful activities or marketing strategies in the past, and don’t think they can be improved upon, you’re probably better off leaving these out of the calendar.
Consider special quarterly marketing opportunities.Although you've probably already come up with a lot of potential ideas based on your industry cycle and monthly themes, some experts also recommend designing a special marketing opportunity for each quarter.
- For example, you could offer a deal to people who sign up for your mailing list, or disseminate a special discount only through social media.
Choose a format for your calendar.There are many different tools you can use to create your marketing calendar, and ultimately you should select a format that works best for you, your employees, and the specific needs of your business. Here are a few things to consider when selecting a format:
- Research free online calendar options through Google, Microsoft, or other companies that offer email platforms so you can easily send out announcements or updates. These programs can also set up reminders and recurring events, which can be very helpful with your marketing calendar.
- You can also format the calendar as a spreadsheet, which would allow you to see more information at one time, but spreadsheets can be more difficult and clunky than an online calendar program.
- You can also consider hiring a company that develops a marketing calendar to suit your needs.
Assign someone to oversee the marketing calendar.This person should create the calendar and be the contact for adding, updating, or removing events. An ideal candidate is someone who is organized and proficient using the program your calendar is created with.
- An important part of their job will be compiling information and making notes about what worked and what didn’t.
Be flexible and make changes as needed.A marketing calendar is designed to be a working document that you can make changes to, so be flexible and make adjustments as needed.
Keep good records.One of the essential components of a marketing calendar is preserving a record of your results. The more detailed information you provide on how successful your events, promotions, or efforts were, the better prepared you will be to refine your marketing strategies so you can reach new customers.
Designing your Marketing Calendar with Google Calendar
Sign into a Google account.If you’ve decided to use Google Calendar to design your marketing calendar, then you will need to start by signing into your account on the Google homepage.
- If you’ve assigned an employee to manage the marketing calendar, they can perform this task.
Locate the Google Calendar application.Click on the icon in the upper-right corner of your screen, which looks like a grid of 9 squares. Then, select the calendar application.
- After clicking the grid icon, you may have to scroll down to locate the Calendar application.
Click "My Calendars" on the left-hand side of the page.After clicking “My Calendars,” there should be an option to create a new calendar. Select this option to create your marketing calendar.
Set up your calendar.You should now be directed to a page that allows you to input a calendar name, description, location, and time zone. Add in the details for your business and select a name for the calendar.
- Remember, if you choose to make this calendar available to employees or coworkers, they will be able to see these details. It’s best to pick a business-appropriate name for your calendar.
Add the important marketing events.To begin adding marketing events, click the “Create” button in the upper left-hand corner of your screen. Choose a name, a date and set reminders 1 week or more in advance to remind employees about upcoming events on the calendar.
Invite guests.You can invite guests to your event, by entering their email addresses in the box on the right-hand side of the event creation page.
- If you invite people who will be working on the event, they will receive reminders about the date. This can be helpful if people have specific responsibilities related to the event.
Save your event.When you’ve finished entering in the details about your event, click the “Save" button at the top of the screen.
- To save time, you can create recurring events. Instead of creating a single event on each date, check the "repeat" box at the top of the event creation page. Choose how often the event repeats, and it will automatically appear in your calendar.
Continue adding events to your calendar.Finish adding events to your calendar. Follow the procedures described above to enter each event into the calendar.
Set reminders about submitting results and reports.An essential part of marketing initiatives is measuring their success. Setting automatic reminders to generate reports following after event, will help your business assess the effectiveness of each marketing effort. To do this, add these to the calendar as events.
Ask your employees to visit the marketing calendar regularly.If your employees, especially the ones involved with marketing efforts, visit the calendar on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, everyone will remember the important marketing functions that need to be taken care of.
- Google Calendar has a color coding option in their calendar. At your marketing meeting, you can assign a color to different teams, strategies or employees. Then, set each event so that it is appropriately color coded.
- Make sure that every event that you add on the master marketing calendar is a public, rather than a private, event. Individuals can add private events that can help them to schedule their work; however, it is essential that all employees be able to reference the entire calendar throughout the year.
Video: How to Create a Marketing Calendar for 2016
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