Having a marketing calendar is one of the most powerful, pro-active things that you can do to ensure growth in your business for the coming year. Although of benefit to any business – far too few actually have one. Let’s take a look at how to quickly put one together and get past two of the most common obstacles that often keep business owners from reaping the rewards that come from having a marketing calendar in place.
What Is A Marketing Calendar?
A marketing calendar is a tremendous asset. It provides a framework for achieving your sales goals for the year. It allows you to see at a glance what needs to be done in order to meet your major promotional objectives for the year.
Here are the top four reasons that frequently stand in the way of business owners putting together a marketing calendar.
- Aren’t sure how to put one together
- Think it will take too much time to create
- Procrastination – (this reason is closely related to #4)
- Run their business reactively not proactively
If items one or two are holding you back – this article will show you how to get it done. If item number three is the issue – just know that doing this will help you make more money than you did last year. The business owners in number four are likely to become employees if they don’t snap out of it.
The purpose of having a marketing calendar is that it will focus your marketing activities around what you’ve got planned out. Don’t worry – you can always adapt your plan if the need arises. Having a plan and working the plan is a recipe for getting more done than you could if you were just reacting your way through the year with random acts of marketing.
Begin by breaking the year up into different seasons according to your business cycle or calendar quarters. Next record the big things that you want to do in each quarter or season.
The big things are the things that you’ll later be planning all the detail around. This may be holiday promotions, a live event, a product launch, moving to or opening up a new location. These are all big opportunities for generating publicity and buzz, increasing awareness and traffic, and ultimately sales.
The key to not being overwhelmed by putting together your promotion calendar for the year is to break this project up into bite size pieces. At this point the only season that you need to add all the detail to is the very next season. This is where you plan out the dates for direct mail, email promotions, advertising campaigns, joint venture collaborations, affiliate promotions, etc.
By not recording all the little details that support the big things for the seasons or quarters that are far out, you save time by only focusing in detail on the things that are closest. Additionally, you are more likely to need to revise your mailing dates and promotion timelines when they are laid out 12 months in advance as opposed to just filling in all the details 3-6 months in advance. By filling in the detail only 1-2 seasons out, you’re able to have a workable marketing calendar much faster and you’ll spend a lot less time later changing things. You’ll want to review it on a monthly basis and fill in the detail for the upcoming seasons or quarters as they get closer.
There are lots of different formats for keeping a promotional calendar. You can keep it on a year at a glance wall or desk calendar, monthly calendar sheets, or electronic calendar software. The key is to find the format that works best for you. I’m partial to a year at a glance wall calendar for mapping things out. I have mine laminated so that I can use it with dry erase markers. This works great for me to see the big picture, key dates for planning, and I can update it easily as needed. A close friend of mine just loves Google calendar for doing this sort of thing. There isn’t a right or a wrong format – just find the one that works best for you.
Your marketing calendar is a living document – not something that is done once at the beginning of the year and then etched in stone. Take some time to set one up and then review and update it periodically over the course of the year. Businesses that start using one often consider it an indispensable tool that is responsible for increased sales.