Whether you’re an established business owner or an entrepreneur looking to grow, organizing an engaging marketing plan is essential and requires creativity and strategy. Creating a marketing calendar is key to ensuring that success. Let’s break down methods, such as polling your customers and strategizing with your team, to help you plan a marketing calendar with compelling content designed to grow your business.
What Is a Content Marketing Calendar?
A marketing calendar is a plan that maps your business’s marketing initiatives over a set period. Clearly laying out your marketing schedule allows you and your team to see what deliverables you need to complete on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis. Not only can you use this as a forecasting tool, but also as a tool that can provide a retrospective view of the marketing strategies you’ve undertaken during the year.
A marketing calendar also allows you to schedule and delegate assignments with ease, establish deadlines and provide details on the project to be completed. Consider developing successive monthly calendars in one file so you can view your annual marketing plan in one easy-to-find location. The objective is to clarify your goals, specifically outline them and develop a plan for your company’s success.
How to Create a Marketing Calendar for Your Small Business
Creating a marketing calendar doesn’t have to be challenging. If you’re starting from scratch, search the Web and you’ll find various marketing calendar examples and templates you can use to get started. (Even the small business organization SCORE offers a free download of a content marketing calendar template.)
If you’re spreadsheet savvy, you could create your own version using Excel or Smartsheet, although you can also find a content calendar template online that is compatible with these programs. Google Calendar is another option.
Alternately, if you’d like more features than a simple spreadsheet can offer, consider purchasing a subscription from a company, such as Asana, Airtable or SEM Rush. Such platforms provide ready-to-go marketing calendar tools that are designed with ease in mind and real-time collaboration capabilities.
Some companies even offer metrics analysis, so you can easily track your efforts. Make your calendar easier on the eyes by color-coding your entries by project type.
What to Include in Your Marketing Calendar
According to the American Marketing Association, before developing a marketing calendar, it’s paramount to fully build your marketing strategy. Here are the steps you’ll need to follow:
- Determine the platforms on which you’ll be advertising.
- Use your marketing calendar to document the details of your company’s planned marketing events.
- Notate market research opportunities you’d like to complete and list titles of upcoming online posts.
- Consider including costs and deadlines, and note the results of each activity for future reference.
Don’t feel that you have to strictly copy the marketing calendar examples you find online. It’s ultimately your marketing plan, and you can personalize your calendar to make it as detailed as your needs warrant.
However you design your calendar, it’s helpful to keep the acronym SMART in mind, and create goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. This will aid in developing fully formed and targeted marketing strategies.
Putting the SMART Method to Use
A SMART marketing calendar entry example for a real estate company might be:
“Create a 5-minute video with home staging tips for sellers. Once complete, upload the video to YouTube and email the link to the company lead database to attain a minimum of 500 views in 2 months.”
You’ve addressed all aspects of SMART. How?
- Specific: You’ve noted the video’s detail and length and indicated where and how you’ll advertise it.
- Measurable: You’ve indicated your page view goals.
- Attainable: You’ve established realistic targets.
- Relevant: As a realtor, you’re creating content that will interest your existing and potential customer base.
- Time-Bound: You’ve given yourself a time frame by which you measure success.
Engaging Entries for an Integrated Marketing Calendar
One way to build your brand is to market effectively, and to do this, you must be organized and have a plan and marketing schedule in place. Here are some things to consider when you’re building your marketing calendar.
Consider Your Customers
When developing your marketing schedule, think about what your intended audience wants. Then think with the end in mind: What types of marketing activities will engage current and prospective customers, build your brand and ultimately generate more business?
Also, consider querying your existing clients and followers to find out what interests them. You can do this by sending email surveys to your existing database or posting surveys on social media asking for feedback.
Finding the perfect calendar slots for your marketing schedule and conceptualizing events and advertising that will engage current and prospective clients are likely to lead to positive results.
Get Creative With Your Marketing
Challenge yourself and your team to think outside of the box. Developing the most engaging advertising may require some innovative approaches that you may not have considered before. Maybe you want to rework your messaging, or increase engagement or encourage more user-generated content. You might also explore partnerships or develop a video channel.
When it comes to marketing calendar planning, Forbes recommends funneling a nominal percentage (about 10% or less) of your marketing budget to testing new tactics. The potential for even a slightly higher return on investment may be worth it. Plus, you’ll be branching out into new marketing territories that can further expand your brand’s reach.
Gain an Influential Following
Additionally, reach out to “influencers” – popular individuals who post on the Web. Contact influencers who align with your company’s target audience and see if they can mention your company or develop posts with links to your website. You could strike an arrangement that is beneficial for you and them.
Content Marketing Activities to Include in Your Calendar
Your marketing calendar should have a schedule for any print, radio and TV advertising, as well as public relations, you should also have entries devoted to planning your online content posts. Your content marketing calendar might include activities specific to the following:
- Social media posts
- Email campaigns
- Blog posts
- V-logs or YouTube videos
- Case studies
- Newsletter blasts
- White papers
Content marketing, such as SEO blogs and website posts, are web-marketing techniques that can save time and money.
If you’re a business-to-business (B2B) marketer, this type of content is key. Why? Approximately 90% of successful B2B marketers use informational content marketing to target customers, according to a 2019 report from Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs.
Once you’ve decided on your overall marketing goals and content formats, determine the following:
- Content topic
- Supplementary media
- Distribution channels
Include infographics and videos to pique interest. Visual components, such as images to illustrate content, are favored by online users. In fact, according to Social Science Research Network, about 65% of individuals prefer visual content. As such, consider how you can maximize your content by providing graphics to enhance the user experience.
Analyze Your Marketing Calendar’s Effectiveness
After you’ve developed a solid marketing calendar, be sure to track how your various marketing plans progress and analyze the outcomes. Find out what types of content and posts appeal to your ideal clientele. If you’re posting on your own site, use Google Analytics to determine which pages are viewed most often, and focus on developing those even more.