Does creating content for your business ever feel like treading water? Do you feel aimless or lost, like you’re repeating yourself without any direction or fresh ideas?
Then you could probably use a marketing calendar.
A marketing or promotional calendar is a tool that helps you plan all your marketing pieces, including emails, print, blog posts, and social media. A well-constructed calendar will ensure you never have to create content out of thin air. You’ll always be working toward a particular campaign, goal, or theme.
When you make a marketing calendar, you’re saving your future self time and effort. Making a calendar now will ensure you have more time to focus on your business during next year’s holiday season.
A marketing calendar isn’t set in stone. You can make changes as you see fit, especially if you notice that a certain tactic isn’t working with your audience. A lot may change between now and next year’s holiday season, so don’t feel beholden to the calendar if it’s not relevant anymore.
Today’s blog post will walk you through creating your own marketing calendar in 5 simple steps. We’ve also included some resources you can refer to for help, especially if you’re not proficient in spreadsheet programs. With a little time and brainstorming, you’ll soon have a calendar that will guide your marketing materials for an entire year!
1. Get comfortable with Excel or Google Sheets. .
Microsoft Excel and other spreadsheet programs aren’t just for keeping track of data and doing quick calculations. They’re also capable of building calendars where you can plan your upcoming campaigns. When you’ve scheduled your emails or posted your social media content, you can add links to them on your calendar.
A good marketing calendar is both a record of past campaigns and a plan for future promotions.
If you want to build your calendar from scratch, you can reference this step-by-step guide from HubSpot. They tell you exactly which formulas to use to create a calendar in Google Sheets, one month at a time.
Otherwise, you can find free calendar templates online. Here are templates for Google Sheets, Microsoft Excel, and Apple Pages.
2. Mark holidays and events you know you will celebrate.
The first step to filling your calendar is to mark holidays and pre-scheduled events.
While most elements of your calendar can be moved as needed, you can’t change when holidays will fall. You need to build the rest of your campaigns around immovable events and dates.
There are a lot of holidays out there, and it can be overwhelming to pick which ones to add to your calendar. Check out these previous blog posts about marketing holidays to get some inspiration:
- Top 7 Holidays You Should Celebrate to Promote Your Business
- 8 More Holidays You Should Celebrate to Promote Your Business
- 6 Holidays Every Nonprofit Marketer Should Celebrate
Holidays aren’t the only rigid elements of your marketing calendar. You also need to consider major events that get scheduled months in advance.
Do you attend industry events and conferences every year? Does your community hold festivals or celebrations that your business takes part in? Add those events to your calendar as soon as you confirm the dates.
If you know you will send out marketing materials leading up to these holidays and events, add them to the calendar. You don’t have to plan the exact dates of your emails or ads yet—just mark the days or weeks before the holiday so you don’t accidentally end up running multiple, competing campaigns.
3. Set aside time for sales and campaigns.
Once you’ve marked your holidays and events, it’s time to plan your major marketing campaigns. Some campaigns will be short, like one-day-only flash sales. Other campaigns, such as a new product launch or outreach to a new audience, may go on for several weeks.
Think about campaigns your business has run in the past and times of year that are exceptionally good for your business. Try to replicate your past successes in your calendar. If a back-to-school campaign in August worked once, plan on doing that again next year. If your attempts at reaching new customers fell flat in the holiday season, consider focusing on getting repeat sales and gifts from existing customers instead.
Flash sales are a great way to invigorate your online sales and keep your audience interested in your digital communications. Consider holding a flash sale every 4–8 weeks, with the sale itself lasting between a day and a week long.
4. Plug in your weekly or monthly communications.
Now that your major campaigns are in the calendar, it’s time to add your weekly or monthly communications. Your newsletters, blog, or weekly emails should support your campaigns, not compete with them.
For example, if you send out an email every Monday with tips for using your products but you’re planning on holding a surprise sale that starts on a Monday, you don’t have to send two competing emails that day. Instead, consider making the sale the subject of your weekly email—or skip the educational email entirely.
You can also skip or reschedule your regular communications for holidays. At Sigl Creative, we don’t send out our regular Monday emails on days like Memorial Day or Labor Day. We either postpone them until Tuesday or take a break from emailing for the week. We know our audience probably isn’t checking their emails on 3-day weekends or religious holidays, and we don’t want to send emails that will be deleted or ignored.
In general, try to avoid sending multiple emails on the same day to your main list. (This doesn’t apply to flash sales, corrections about mistakes, or other urgent communications.) If you have to move your newsletter to make room for a sale one month, that’s fine.
5. Fill in the blanks!
Take a moment to scroll through your calendar. Are there months that look empty? Then brainstorm things you can promote during those times. Try some of these ideas:
- Throwbacks to older, successful blog posts, photos, or product designs
- New product releases. You might find it more beneficial to release your products in small collections or to “drip feed” one new product at a time.
- A limited-time release. Instead of adding a permanent addition to your store’s catalog, consider a limited-time product that is only available for a few weeks or while supplies last.
- Encourage your customers to refer their friends and family by offering discounts for referrals.
- Create a customer loyalty program. During lulls in your marketing calendar, focus on telling your audience about this program and benefits they can receive from repeated purchases.
You don’t need a dedicated campaign for every week of the year. However, it helps to have a general idea of what to feature in your communications, especially if you find yourself struggling with stale, repetitive content or last-minute changes to your emails.
Ta-da! You just made a marketing calendar! This tool will help you save time and brainpower for all of 2023. You probably won’t stick to it exactly, and that’s okay. Think of your calendar as more of a broad map than a step-by-step instruction manual.
Sitting down to create a marketing calendar takes a lot of time and work, even with helpful digital tools like templates and holiday lists. Sometimes, you need outside help to get the job done. Schedule a call if you can barely think ahead to next month—let alone next year. We’ll help you plan and execute a digital marketing strategy that will retain existing customers and draw a new audience, while you focus on running your business.