A marketing calendar offers the structure you need to turn a strategy into a plan, which you can then turn into action.
No marketer should be without one, but what should you include in that calendar and how should you implement it?
Here are 3 big tips for making the most of your marketing calendar:
1. Keeping Track of Your Marketing Calendar
Every business is different and every marketer has different needs.
The first rule of thumb is that your calendar should be something you use. If you work frequently with Microsoft Office, then an Outlook calendar may do the trick. If you are a Google aficionado, then Google Calendar may be the best bet.
Some marketers keep it simple, using spreadsheets to lay out their goals, their timelines, and their results.
More complicated marketing programs should use project management software. These often include calendars as well as a variety of team-oriented features to help you keep track of who’s handling what task. Milestones, goals, task lists, groups, and projects can all help you stay organized and on task.
Regardless of which software you use, every marketing calendar should include a few essential ingredients.
2. What to Include in Your Marketing Calendar
Here are a few of the biggest items to include in your marketing calendar:
A goal is the purpose of a given campaign, marketing program, or strategy. Including goals in your calendar gives your entire calendar purpose and meaning. Adding deadlines to those goals helps you structure your marketing plan.
It’s not uncommon for deadlines to change, especially when you’re entering new territory. As you progress towards your goals, reevaluate periodically and adjust timelines or the goals themselves if they turn out to be unrealistic.
A milestone, such as “Get 5,000 Twitter followers,” is stepping stone towards a goal, such as “Get 10,000 Twitter followers.” These can be included on a timeline or not.
As with goals, however, deadlines can help you structure your tasks.
An Editorial Calendar
An editorial calendar should be part of your marketing calendar. This calendar keeps track of your content marketing and social media schedule, so you know ahead of time what’s being posted and when.
Like everything else on your marketing calendar, your editorial calendar should be tied to marketing objectives – that is, your goals and milestones.
An editorial calendar is one of the most important components of your marketing calendar.
Here are a few of the major items that you should include on that calendar:
- Blog posts
- Social media posts
- Press releases
- Video content
- Article publication dates
Tracking all of your communication, publication, and content is essential for the success of any marketing program.
While your marketing calendar should fit with your own workflow and your business’s work style, it can be helpful to include a high level of detail in your calendar, including:
- Referral programs
- Production dates for creatives
- Events, such as conferences and trade shows
- Advertising schedules
- Marketing meetings
Regularly occurring events, such as holidays and their associated promotions, should also be included.
3. How to Structure Your Marketing Calendar
Structure and organization are two major benefits of your marketing calendar. They allow you to tie your marketing activity to your business objectives and stay on task.
To make a marketing calendar work well, you should structure it appropriately:
- Your calendar should include an annual “layer”, which consists of holidays, annual promotions, seasonal campaigns, and so forth. Many businesses create annual plans in January, so this is the ideal time to create your annual marketing agenda.
- Include evaluation periods. Every 3 to 6 months, sit down and evaluate your goals, your milestones, and your marketing campaigns. Go over everything from campaign results to analytics to SEO. Collaborate with other departments to stay up to date with any other business functions that could impact your department. Hold meetings that will help you evaluate and adjust your marketing goals, and then adjust the calendar accordingly.
- Ensure there are no gaps or “bunches”. Calendars give you the big-picture view you need to see what’s going on in your marketing world. So if you notice too much activity in one place or a gap without much activity, smooth things out. Use your calendar to maintain a consistent level of communication with your audience.
- Set priorities. Not all plans go according to plan. If your resources become stretched, your staff becomes overworked, or your budget gets cut, set priorities. Assign priority levels to your calendar activities and focus on your priorities in order of importance. If necessary, lose or cut down on some activities.
A marketing calendar may be a simple spreadsheet or it may be a complex, multi-layer affair that includes many variables. Regardless of your tools, your goals, or your calendar’s complexity, you should always have a marketing calendar to help you stay focused and earn more from your campaigns.