Marketing Calendars Help Keep You Focused and Ontrack.
Can you imagine running your business or remembering important events without a calendar on your desk? Sounds crazy, right? How could any person remember all of those deadlines, appointments, and sales calls without a daily, weekly, or monthly calendar nearby?
Well the same logic applies to your creating and following a marketing calendar for your business.
Typically designed to provide a year-long overview of a company’s marketing efforts, a marketing calendar functions a lot like that every day calendar; it marks the passage of time and helps you keep track of important dates.
The major difference is that a carefully thought-out marketing calendar focuses exclusively on your company’s marketing efforts for the coming year. It helps you organize, categorize and prioritize your marketing initiatives in a logical and achievable manner.
With significant promotional dates and deadlines built in, a marketing calendar can:
- Help you spot gaps in your marketing timeline. Too much time between your marketing projects can “distance” you from your customers, and leave potential prospects untouched. Repetition is as crucial as consistency, so fill-in any holes in your marketing schedule.
- Allow you to see bottlenecks. Too many projects stacked one on top of the other begs disaster. Some bottlenecks may be inevitable due to seasonal demands of your business, but when possible, spread work out evenly.
- Help you evaluate your marketing effectiveness. At the end of the period of time covered by your marketing calendar, look back and evaluate the success of each project. Which ones achieved their goals? Which actually increased revenue? How many new customers did each project bring in? Be honest in your evaluations so that when you sit down to plan your next calendar, you’ll know which projects to repeat and which ones to dump.
EVERY project you’re planning must be included in your marketing calendar. In order to do that, you need to know in advance the details of every marketing project you want to launch in the coming year. Your marketing calendar will be useless if it is not all-inclusive – if a new project must suddenly be added to your calendar, you must adjust all of the other projects you’d planned accordingly.
A good starting point when contemplating a marketing calendar is to brainstorm with your team (or yourself!) on all of the marketing projects you’d like to accomplish in the coming year.
Be realistic here, though, and acknowledge that you probably won’t be able to do EVERYTHING you’d like to try.
Remember to balance your marketing goals with the other ongoing tasks you need to perform for your business. Add projects to your calendar only if you will have the resources necessary to complete them satisfactorily.
The next most important factor is accurate project completion estimates.
The more realistic your estimates are, the easier it will be to adhere to your schedule. Underestimating the time required to carry out a project helps no one, and doing it consistently dilutes the effectiveness of your marketing calendar and can damage morale.
There are hundreds of effective marketing strategies and tactics, so it’s important to know just when you’ll be doing all of it. Whether it’s a media schedule, a direct-mail campaign, or some other special promotion, your marketing team has to know what efforts are happening “when” and “where.”
Your marketing calendar will assist you in launching these promotions in a way that will drive you to your goal in a structured and well-thought-out manner.
Start by selecting your marketing strategies and forecasting your efforts using a 12-month calendar. Then decide if you’re going to plan by the week or by month (I like to use an Excel® spreadsheet because of the flexibility and ease of use). You can use whatever works best for you, as long as it provides for the following key considerations.
Here are the seven essential column headings you’ll need.
- EVENT DESCRIPTION
- PERFORMANCE-RATING (from 1 to 10)
Once you have the columns set up, populate it with your planned marketing activities and events. For example, you may have mailings going out every other month, and you may be exhibiting at three tradeshows this year. Block them out accordingly on your calendar.
Include any newspaper, magazine, or radio advertising efforts on your calendar, too. If you’re considering a new “Fall Sales Special” campaign… put it on your calendar. Once everything you’ve got in mind is in its proper place on your calendar, you’ll see any gaps or holes in your marketing efforts. The more inclusive your calendar, the better you’ll be able to forecast and track your marketing performance. Imagine how powerful that will be during budgeting time!
Creating an annual marketing calendar helps you get the most out of your marketing resources. They help you eliminate “shotgun” marketing attempts that result in inconsistent sales (at best). It’s an essential tool to assist you with your marketing budgets and plans, and it will help you reach your marketing goals in an organized and profitable manner.