Running a business or working in an organization can be busy and fast-paced. If you’re the one in charge of marketing, driving customers to your website for conversions and sales, it can be overwhelming. One of the best tools you can use is a marketing calendar.
Your marketing calendar can help you keep track of gathering, analyzing, and presenting good data, as all good market research is done. You’ll also need the calendar to show when to produce content, launch your next campaign, and when to review the results.
To help you get started, we’ll explore how marketing calendars work, why you need one, and 5 templates you can use to build your own.
What is a Marketing Calendar?
A marketing calendar is both a visual representation of future marketing activities and a hub where everyone involved in the marketing process can check in, track their responsibilities, and any project progress.
You can work with a print calendar, draw yours on a whiteboard, or opt for an electronic alternative that people can access remotely to update or add ideas when they need to.
You can think of your marketing calendar as a guide for the next few months or the entire year ahead. A calendar offers a strategic overview that you can amend when necessary. Once completed, you’ll have more time to implement your strategies in a way that works for your team and customers.
Why do I need a Marketing Calendar?
A marketing calendar makes sure your marketing budget, ideas, and processes aren’t forgotten.
Having your tasks laid out for you can help you delegate, plan your day, and get things done. A marketing calendar is also a great way to show others what is happening now and what’s planned for the future.
Questions your marketing calendar can answer include:
- Are there seasonal marketing campaigns?
- Are there marketing plans around holidays such as Christmas or Valentine’s Day?
- Do you have marketing campaigns based on sales, such as Black Friday?
- Are there quirky holidays or national days you want to focus on?
- Do you know of company announcements that need marketing or PR around them?
Your deadlines are possibly the most important reason to have a marketing calendar. You can see how your marketing campaign is progressing and who is responsible for its stages.
How does a Marketing Calendar Work?
A marketing calendar functions pretty similarly to a regular calendar, in that you can input important dates (like birthdays and anniversaries), schedule events, and plan meetings — just like a normal calendar. However, the calendar’s focus is on market research and marketing campaigns.
There are different types of marketing calendars, which we’ll discuss in-depth soon. The purpose of your calendar will likely reflect how you use it. Uses for your marketing calendar include:
- You can plan out daily social media updates.
- You can map out 6-week marketing strategies.
- You can input anniversary dates for your company, or your field, to celebrate.
- Blog posts for the next 12 months can be implemented.
- Birthdays can be added to your calendar.
Once you have determined the purpose of the calendar, and you’ve added dates, action items, and more, then you can check-in at the start of every month or week.
- You see that you have an article due on how Semrush can help you with SEO. Do you know some people in the marketing industry you could interview? You could ring them, arrange an hour of their time to meet and chat in two weeks. You’d add your interview to the calendar to remind you about the interview, and share your whereabouts with your team.
- In the lead-up to the interview, you schedule time for research and creating some questions to ask. After the interview, you schedule some time to transpose the audio and make notes for the article.
- You set a date for the first draft to be completed and you allocate someone to beta read and proof for you. This other person must accept this calendar invite so it is all recorded and on the board.
- A day before the beta read, that person calls in sick and nominates someone else to beta read. The calendar updates.
You can see how having a central point of reference and timeline can work well for your organization.
What do I need in a Marketing Calendar?
There are some basic items you need in a marketing calendar to ensure you’re keeping your marketing goals in sight:
- Project name: Don’t get too complicated with the naming convention. People need to know what you’re talking about without having to look it up. You can even color code with the name so it is visually striking and easy to find on the calendar.
- Team members: Who is responsible for this project? Even if you have a marketing department, each project has its own team. If there are multiple projects you can see who is on multiple teams, and figure out if the workload is too much.
- Date the project will go live: This gives you a target to aim for as you prepare. The deadline also allows you to know when to track and measure your campaign analytics.
- Tasks to complete: List them out and give a timeline for their completion. All tasks, no matter how small, need to be listed.
- Who’s responsible for the task: Allocate responsibility for certain tasks. This can help you keep track of your team’s workloads and completion times, and team members can help each other out.
- Notes on the effectiveness of the campaign: It can be a good idea to keep reports and notes on a campaign linked to your calendar. You can look back on old campaigns and judge the value of the project.
The 5 Most Popular Types of Marketing Calendars
There are many ways you can use a calendar and just as many calendar templates out there. We’ve made things easier by compiling the 5 best kinds of marketing calendars to use, and a downloadable template to help you get started.
This marketing calendar offers a high-level view of your marketing strategy for the next month, quarter, or year. It includes any kind of marketing that you’re doing, whether social media, digital marketing, content marketing, and so on.
It also tracks any market research you’re doing, with the presentations and the results included. Get the 12 month marketing calendar here.
Marketing Campaign Calendar
Unlike a marketing calendar, a marketing campaign calendar focuses on a single campaign. You’ll only use this calendar to keep track of the tasks and team members necessary for a particular campaign.
A narrow focus allows for better detail — you’ll be able to plan from the pre-campaign research through to analytics performed after a campaign.
You can focus on media channels for just one project, which can make project management less hectic. Focus your energy on one project, and avoid spreading yourself too thin with multiple projects on one calendar. Get the marketing campaign calendar template here.
Email Marketing Calendar
If you’re running a subscription or EDM campaign, this type of calendar can help you out. You can use this calendar to schedule when emails are sent. You can also include your target email list, and what stage they’re in.
This kind of calendar is can be good for reminders to send emails out to your list about special offers or news updates. Get the email marketing calendar template here.
An editorial calendar works best for planning out blog posts and other editorial content.
Regularly updating your website with SEO-rich content is a guaranteed way to boost your Google rankings, but you need to do it consistently. An editorial calendar can map out what content to create, and when to publish it.
Editorial content can include:
- Blog posts
- Convention reports
- News and opinion
- White Papers
Different kinds of editorial content take different amounts of time and skills to execute. A calendar can show how much time is needed. A white paper with research and interviews will likely take longer to produce than a 1000 word blog article. These considerations must be taken into account and reflected in your editorial content calendar.
If you need some tips on how to get started with blogging, check out our guide on how to write a blog post. Get started with the editorial calendar template here.
Social Media Marketing Calendar
With all of the social media channels available today, having a separate social media calendar is a good idea.
Your calendar needs to be sectioned into the channels you use. If you are on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, you need separate calendar sections for each social media channel. Colour coding the channels helps too.
What you post and how often you do will be unique to each channel, but will still need to benefit your brand.
This is why a social media marketing calendar is such a powerful tool. You can run posts for different channels at different times. With some tools, you can post directly to your social media channels automatically.
Schedule posts and plan out your social media presence with your calendar. Get started with our social media calendar template here.
Offline Calendar vs. Online Calendar
Now you’re thinking that having a marketing calendar is a good idea. An important question to consider is whether to work with a printed or digital calendar.
While both have their pros and cons, either can work for you. Here are a few differences to consider:
Offline Marketing Calendar
Jotting your ideas down on paper can be an engaging visual experience. Offline calendars can come in different mediums. For example, you can have a ream of paper on the wall, visible to the whole office.
Or, you can have a pdf calendar printed out and filled in as you need, kept only where your team can see. Make copies and it can be handed around without anyone needing the same app or online access.
Some people work better with pen and paper. There’s no chance of a software crash or corruption and taking notes is as easy as writing on the calendar itself.
Document in hand, no need for special apps
Cannot update team member’s calendars
Working with pen and paper gives a connection
Lack of integration with other apps
No accidental changes or updates
Something which needs to be carried around and could be left behind.
Online Marketing Calendar
An online calendar can be more accessible, shareable, and has more accessories. You can share the document with members of your team who can access it from wherever they have internet.
Your options for online calendars include Google Docs or Google Sheets, or you can use online Excel spreadsheets. If you can have specialist software and apps designed for your company, feel free to work with those too.
If you need to, you can print your calendar and take it offline with all the advantages mentioned above.
Easily accessed anywhere online
Need permissions or software to access
Can interact with other apps for a more complete User Experience
It may be a steep learning curve or require training
Can print out calendars for hard copy versions
If you don’t have online access, you may not have access to the calendar.
Customization of the calendar can be changed
There can be a subscription cost for some services
What happens when you have a great Marketing Calendar?
When you have a calendar that meets your marketing needs, business runs smoothly.
If you are a sole trader or run a business for yourself, a well-structured calendar can motivate you, help you stick to deadlines, boost your SEO through regular content updates, and boost your sales through consistent marketing.
If you work for a marketing team, a good calendar will clearly show delegation of tasks, what is due and when it is due, so your team stays accountable and on the same page.
A good marketing calendar can inspire more ideas based on the ones you already have. It can also help reposition campaigns if there are better times of the year to run them.
Ultimately, a great marketing calendar becomes a vital part of a well-oiled marketing machine. It makes running bigger easier and empowers team members to know what role they play, suggest ideas, track their efforts, so much more.
With the quickening nature of the online world and media consumption, it can be easy to fret over what to say, when to market, and how to share your message. Organizing this information logically can help relieve the stress and give you a powerful advantage.
While it may take some time and knowledge to set up and get running, it’s certainly worth the benefit.