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How to Set Up a Marketing Calendar That Actually Works

By Sammi Caramela,
business.com writer
| Updated
Mar 12, 2020
Image Credit: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock
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Manage your promotional content with a schedule strategically designed for success.

Your business is only as good as its marketing efforts. If you want to increase your lead generation, you'll have to dig deeper into your audience by creating buyer personas for whom you can curate your content. Understanding your audience's demographics is essential to creating an effective marketing strategy. 

However, tactics like social media content, blog posts, email newsletters and marketing campaigns require careful organization and scheduling. There are many channels to keep in check, and simply winging it day to day will not serve your business well. To stay afloat, create a marketing calendar for your business's various content and tactics. Here's how to do it.

What is a marketing calendar?

A marketing calendar acts as a guidebook for your business's year ahead. It is a living document that organizes your content according to your company's marketing plan. 

Typically, marketing calendars are created with tools or software like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets, and shared with everyone involved. By mapping out your efforts and campaigns months in advance, you'll be prepared and never miss a deadline or opportunity.

Why is a marketing calendar important?

Consumers are more trusting of and loyal to businesses that are consistent. If you post on your blog three times in one week, then not again for a month, you'll appear disorganized and unprofessional. This not only hurts your reputation, but also hinders any potential growth your marketing efforts might attract. It can also negatively impact your organic search strategy, pushing you further down the search engine results page (SERP) and out of your audience's line of sight. 

A calendar helps you keep track of all your marketing channels – like your social media accounts, blog and email newsletter – as well as your different content types, like long and short blog posts, videos, and images. It also allows you to schedule cross-channel content (e.g., an Instagram post going live with a blog post) and repurposed content. 

Planning your calendar weeks or even months ahead, and based on the volume of your content, will help you retain more followers while establishing a comfortable schedule for you. Remember, this is not set in stone. If you want to make adjustments or experiment with posting times, you can always revisit and tweak accordingly. Your calendar will allow you freedom and flexibility while still keeping you on track.

 

Editor's note: Looking for project management software to help you plan out and schedule your marketing efforts? Complete the questionnaire below to be connected with free information from our vendor partners.

 

 

There are many points to keep in mind when creating a marketing calendar. To ensure you're fully prepared and not missing anything important, follow these steps to create your calendar.

1. Choose a calendar template.

You'll want to find a marketing calendar template or software to help you with project management, communication and workflow, setting your team up for success. These are some programs we often receive questions from our community about:

Microsoft Excel

Microsoft Excel is great productivity software for marketers who want an organized, ready-to-use template. To access its many options, go to File > New and select Calendar (you might have to type it in to find it), or you can visit Microsoft Office Online. There are various styles to choose from, so browse your options before deciding which one best suits your business. Once you choose a template, click Create and fill it out accordingly. 

If you're particularly handy in Excel, you can also create your own custom calendar by typing the days of the week in the first row of the spreadsheet and dating them accordingly. Note that 31 days will require seven columns (days of the week) and five rows (dates 1-31).

Google Sheets

Google Sheets is perfect for marketers who want creative freedom with some structure and guidance. To create your calendar, open a blank spreadsheet and label your year, month or week at the top. From there, add your dates accordingly. You can do this along the top or side of the document. Then, simply type in your to-dos (e.g., post to Instagram, attend the networking event, share blog post). You can include any photos that might accompany these posts or links to certain drives that hold your media.

Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word, like Excel, offers free calendar templates to choose from. Note that you'll have to open Office Online to access the calendars. Then, simply customize the details in your document to make it yours. Replace any photos or notes that might already exist in the template and start mapping out your content accordingly.

2. Define your goals.

How will your marketing help you reach your business goals? What specific goals do you have for marketing? These are two key indicators that will guide your marketing calendar. Every business will have different goals, most likely tied to sales, and marketing ladders into those goals. 

Before you develop a calendar, make sure you are crystal clear on what business objectives your marketing will help you achieve. Then, begin to plan a marketing calendar with the tactics that will best help you reach those goals.

3. Plan your tactics.

Planning your calendar means more than mapping out your social media posts against a monthly calendar. You should plan every marketing tactic with the intent to further your goals. 

Begin to lay out your calendar against your customer buyer cycles, working backward from the end dates of any campaigns. For instance, if you want to run a back-to-school campaign, the time to start is not when kids are back in school but when parents are planning for the back-to-school season. 

Your plan will include a calendar of key moments, campaigns or dates. Armed with this understanding, you can layer in different elements of marketing to align with these moments. 

Be sure to allow yourself enough time for revisions, hiccups or any obstacles that could stop your marketing in its tracks. Add a buffer, if for nothing more than peace of mind.

4. Execute.

Now it's time to execute on your strategy. How you set up your marketing calendar should depend on your business. Some marketing teams map out a large annual calendar and then allow each team member to manage their piece. Other marketing teams have one large calendar that everyone updates and works against. 

As you build out the channels and tactics of your plan, prioritize those that will help you reach your goals based on buyer intent. Map out your content against deadlines (keeping in mind that changes and roadblocks happen), and make sure all the key players of your team know which elements they will manage.

5. Revisit.

There might come a time when your marketing efforts increase, or a last-minute opportunity might arise that pushes back some of your scheduled content. Don't be afraid to adjust for potential growth. 

Always revisit your calendar to assess what's working and what's not, experimenting with different posting days or times based on analytics and different content types like videos, case studies, and even audio (like podcasts). 

Marketing calendars are more than just schedules of social media or blog posts. They can also include email newsletters, public relations outreach efforts, promotions, in-person events, community relations, digital and traditional paid advertising, and so much more. Calendars will help you stay organized as you coordinate all of these moving pieces. With one succinct plan in place, your team will be ready, accountable and excited to charge forward with marketing execution – all while working toward a cohesive goal. 

Megan Prejzner contributed to the writing and reporting in this article.

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Sammi Caramela
Sammi Caramela
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Sammi Caramela has always loved words. When she isn't writing for business.com and Business News Daily, she's writing (and furiously editing) her first novel, reading a YA book with a third cup of coffee, or attending local pop-punk concerts. She is also the content manager for Lightning Media Partners. Check out her short stories in "Night Light: Haunted Tales of Terror," which is sold on Amazon.
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