Marketing Calendars: the Friendlier, More Gentle Cousin of the Marketing Plan

Have you ever been told, “Your business needs a marketing plan?” Did you politely smile and slowly back out of the room? I’ve done the same thing (and I’m a marketer).

They’re right, of course, in that everyone needs a plan, a goal, a well-thought out way of getting to their destination. I do, however, cringe slightly at the thought of all business people slogging over a 20 plus page document, only to complete it and file it away for review in 12 months. How helpful is that?

It’s not.

A marketing calendar, however, is a working document — something that lives on your Google Calendar or on your cork board. It lives. It works. It does the heavy lifting. The marketing calendar is where you plan what activities you’re taking on, when they need to go out, how they’re getting done, who’s doing them, and where they’re being sent. See? They’re the action genre of the marketing world.

Anything this helpful must take forever to plan and write, right? Nope. That’s the beauty.

This is my recommendation for pulling together a basic, easy-to-follow, effective marketing calendar:

  1. Brainstorm: Take an hour to think about what marketing activities have worked in the past, what you love to do, what activities you really dislike (e.g. maybe you’re not a good writer and so drafting that newsletter each month feels like climbing Mt. Everest), how much of a time and money budget you can dedicate to marketing, who your competitors are and who your target audience is. Freaked out? Only give yourself 5-10 minutes for each topic and go at it full speed ahead…there are no right or wrong answers
  2. Organize the pieces: Take a look at the “what works” and the “what you love” lists and see if there are any cross-overs. Start there. Choose two or three activities that you can do consistently. If you commit to a monthly newsletter, make sure you can actually deliver a monthly newsletter. Be sure to take into account how much time each activity will take to prepare
  3. Get out your calendars: Actually, physically schedule the activities you have chosen. Writing a monthly newsletter? Set a date to start writing, a date to lay it out in an e-newsletter program, and a delivery date. Do this for each activity for the next three months. Take a look at your commitments and make sure they are realistic. Frustration does not encourage consistency
  4. Review your marketing calendar: Remember how I said this was a living, working, moving document? This is where that comes in. After you’ve lived your activity schedule for a month, take a look at how that went. Do you wish you left more time for preparation? Do you think you can add another activity? Adjust your next few months accordingly

As you go through this cycle of doing your activities and reviewing your schedule, you will begin to see trends. Maybe some of your activities work better than others. Tweak the calendar as you go, remembering that activities take a bit of time to get results. Don’t revamp your activities every month, but it is okay to make improvements as you go along and learn more about your market, your targets, and what they’re looking for from your business.