It’s a New Year and we’re all ready to say goodbye to the pandemic and hello to a fresh January. Naturally, this is the time of year to refresh, organize, and plan for the year ahead. When it comes to marketing, it’s easy to lose track of progress, especially when you have several spreadsheets, email chains, and sticky notes to navigate. Often, marketing campaigns fall short because of a lack of implementation. The ideas are there, but the execution falls short.
A marketing calendar helps you to navigate your marketing campaign in an efficient way. By mapping your marketing plan in a calendar, you can create a centralized space to run your marketing efforts. Bring your marketing team together in one place to hit your goals faster, track progress and approvals, and create a centralized marketing system.
In this article, we will go through what a marketing calendar is, why you should use one and how to create one for your business.
Skip ahead to:
- What is a marketing calendar?
- Why use a marketing calendar?
- How to choose your marketing calendar template
- How to create a marketing calendar in 11 steps
What is a marketing calendar?
For any new business, marketing has a tendency to feel a little sporadic. You know that you need a marketing plan, but sometimes all those good intentions can drop to the bottom of the priority list. Everyone knows that marketing is important for your business to raise awareness and attract customers. Having a plan that you can follow to implement a steady flow of marketing strategies is crucial. That’s where a marketing calendar comes in.
A marketing calendar is a plan that outlines your marketing efforts for the year. It’s a schedule of your marketing strategy. Usually, you create a marketing calendar for the quarter or the year. You can adjust your marketing campaigns as you see opportunities, so there’s still flexibility. Your marketing calendar will take into account the different channels you use. Think of it as a roadmap for your marketing strategy. A marketing calendar includes elements like:
- The project – what marketing projects do you have planned for the year? This could include holiday promotions, social media campaigns, and product launches.
- The owner – who is in charge of the project or task?
- The timeline – when is the project or task due?
On a basic level, your marketing calendar should answer the above questions. The idea is that you put all of your marketing efforts and plans into one centralized space so that you can implement your strategy effectively. It’s easy for ideas and tasks to get lost when there is some confusion about who is doing what and when it should be done.
There are multiple types of marketing calendars and depending on your business, you may need one or several to map out your marketing activities. Different types of marketing calendars include:
- Email marketing calendar – schedule for your email blasts and ideas.
- Social media marketing calendar – plan your social media posts and track engagement.
- Editorial calendar – plan your blog posts and editorial content for the year.
- Marketing campaign calendar – focuses on one single campaign rather than the overall marketing plan.
- Marketing calendar – high-level view of your marketing plan.
Why use a marketing calendar?
Just because you spend a lot of money on marketing, doesn’t guarantee you success. You could be spending thousands every month and seeing mediocre results. Some of the most common reasons for failed marketing are a lack of strategy, unclear understanding of your target audience, and no testing or adjusting based on previous metrics. While a marketing calendar isn’t a magical cure for poor marketing, it does set a good foundation for your marketing so that you can implement the right strategy and messaging to your target audience.
A Gartner survey reveals that 66% of marketers have a centralized marketing organizational structure. By creating a centralized marketing hub, it can help to reduce confusion and error by increasing the ability to track progress. Whether you’re a team of one or ten, you can look to one marketing plan that contains all the data you need.
Organize and plan
A benefit of a content calendar is that you can solidify your messaging and ensure that your business uses one voice. With clear deadlines and project management, you can organize workflows more efficiently so that you implement your marketing efforts at the right time. Whether it’s creating podcasts, videos, or webinars, you can organize your time.
Track progress and success
Marketing calendars can help you to track progress and success, especially with social media, emails, and blog content. You can track how well your content and marketing is performing as a whole as well as on a granular level. It’s important that you adjust your marketing plans, test, and check for success so that you can adapt and be flexible.
Monitor marketing budget
Most marketing budgets are set at the beginning of the year. You then need to track and stay on budget throughout the months. You have the option to add a budget to your marketing calendar so that you can track elements like costs, resources allocated, or time spent on marketing projects.
See the big marketing picture
Your marketing calendar should show the overall marketing picture of your business. You can see which areas are performing well, allocate resources to special holiday projects, and have an overall view of the months ahead.
How to choose your marketing calendar template
When it comes to your marketing calendar template, you have a few options. First, you have to determine the type of calendar you’re looking to create, such as an editorial or social media marketing calendar. Then, you can choose the right calendar format for your business. Some of the main calendar formats include:
- Google Sheets / Excel
- Google Calendar
In addition to these formats, you have the option to use marketing software. These marketing tools allow you to organize, schedule, track and even post content. You can also assign tasks and set deadlines. The features and functionality available depend on the software you use. Some of the most popular tools for creating marketing calendars include:
How to create a marketing calendar in 11 steps
Like most things, creating a marketing calendar requires an initial investment of time and resources. But, once your calendar is up and running, it comes down to following your plan and implementing your digital marketing efforts. Follow these eleven steps to create your marketing calendar from scratch.
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1. Choose your marketing calendar host
Start by choosing your marketing calendar host. So, this is the format you will use such as spreadsheets, Google Docs, or marketing software. Whatever format you choose, make sure that your marketing team is happy with the decision. You can get both free and paid marketing software to centralize your marketing activities and keep track of all your campaigns across the business.
2. Determine your marketing goals
After choosing your marketing calendar format, evaluate your marketing objectives. Define your marketing goals before you create any ideas or content. Think about what you want to achieve with your marketing plan, such as more leads, sales, increasing brand awareness, or positioning yourself as an authority in the industry. Your goals will help you to determine the best strategy and content to use.
3. Identify your marketing strategies
The next step is to think about the marketing strategy you will use. You need to know your marketing channels and strategies before you create your calendar or any ideas. Marketing strategies tend to include several channels to target your customer base. Popular marketing strategies include email marketing, social media, and content marketing.
4. Know your target audience
To create content that resonates with your target audience, you should have a deep understanding of who you’re speaking to. With your marketing strategies in mind, think about your target audience so that you can use your marketing activities effectively. Start by defining your typical customer using characteristics such as age, gender, occupation, interests, and hobbies.
From here, you can go further into things like hopes, fears, and wants. The more you know about your target customer, the better you can create a message that resonates with them. Relevance is crucial in your marketing and that starts with a solid foundation of understanding your customers.
5. Create content and marketing ideas
At this stage, you have chosen your marketing calendar format and mapped out the strategies and channels you plan on using. Using this information, you can start to come up with content and marketing ideas that support your marketing goals and are relevant to your target audience.
Content and marketing ideas should be a team effort. Spend some time gathering ideas and encourage your team members to write down any ideas they have. You can then condense your list and find the best ideas and projects.
6. Label important dates
With your blank marketing calendar, jot down the important dates. By doing this before you populate the calendar, you know where to include some key marketing projects. Important dates could be holidays, launch dates, business anniversaries, and news announcements. You can also label important business dates that are personal to your company.
7. Populate your marketing calendar
After prioritizing your marketing ideas and narrowing down the list of the best choices, you can begin to populate your content marketing calendar. Depending on the type of calendar, this could look a little different. For instance, with a social media calendar, this would include plotting out your content for the months ahead. But your overarching marketing calendar would include your marketing campaigns for the year to give you the bigger picture.
8. Assign marketing roles to your calendar
Next, assign marketing roles to your calendar. Determine who oversees what and add that to the calendar. Think about who is in charge of creating the content, planning, publishing, and even designing. By assigning actions to your calendar, you can start to figure out who owns what. At this point, you can also set deadlines for projects and general timelines.
9. Consider important metrics to track
In your marketing calendar, you will have the option to add certain metrics and KPIs. Depending on the type of calendar, these metrics will differ. Think about the metrics that are important to show the progress or success of your marketing activities.
Your metrics should help you to see whether you have achieved your marketing goals or not. For example, if you want to increase leads, then you would track click-through rates and conversion. You wouldn’t track leads by monitoring engagement and follows.
10. Run your marketing campaigns
With your plans, goals, and ideas in place, it’s time to create content, implement your marketing strategy, and run campaigns. Stick to your marketing plan, track deadlines, and implement your ideas. Use the marketing calendar to navigate your activities so your team knows when to focus on a particular project.
11. Analyze progress and success
Your marketing calendar isn’t set in stone. If you find that a certain type of content, topic, or paid ad strategy isn’t working well, you can change it. The calendar sets a foundation for your strategy so that you have a plan. But you should still test, monitor, and track your progress, success, or failures. By using the right metrics and taking the time to compare marketing efforts, you can continue to implement the most effective strategies that deliver the best results.
A marketing calendar can give a high-level view of your yearly marketing campaigns as well as
the day-to-day tasks that your team should be working on. Whether you want to plan your editorial for the year or nail down your marketing projects for key dates, your marketing calendar forms a roadmap for your business to follow. By defining your goals and choosing the right calendar format for your business, you can make an effective marketing plan for 2022 and start hitting your goals faster.