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Everything we’ve discussed so far in this Digital Marketing 101 series has focused on what to do and a bit about how to do it. But in marketing, timing is everything, and the two parts of timing in marketing are frequency and consistency. So here we’re going to move past what and how and look into when. The most valuable tool in your digital marketing arsenal will help you know when to do something, help you maintain your frequency, and, more importantly, your consistency. That tool is your digital marketing calendar.
Why do you need a content marketing calendar?
At the most simple level, it’s so you don’t wake up each morning and say, “Gee, I wonder what kinds of stuff we’ll tweet and blog about this morning?” As a professional digital marketer, you want to be thinking about what you’ll be doing 1, 2, 3, and 6 months from now, while today, you’re watching the events of the day to see how you can ride the social wave like Arby’s did at the 2014 Grammys. That moment wasn’t planned, but Arby’s was ready. You need a marketing calendar so you can plan your marketing year, down to the week and day, and be ready to participate in the events of the day via social media.
Where do you start?
My first rule of thumb for doing anything, and in particular creating a calendar of action, is the KIS rule: Keep It Simple. That said, use a tool you know and are familiar with, like a spreadsheet or Google Calendar or whatever calendar app you use all the time. There are dozens of really, really good and simple examples of marketing calendars available at the click of a mouse. Here are just a few:
Now that you’ve got a template from a 3rd party or you’ve made one yourself, here are the main points for each campaign or piece of content that you need to include.
- Date: when will this campaign or content be published?
- Name of the topic/campaign: A name for this content (blog, article, post, etc.) or the campaign
- Owner: Who is the owner or author of the content or campaign? This person will click “GO”.
- Status: The current status of the content/campaign as it moves through your process
You may or may not add to these points, and that is okay. The main point of this exercise is to create a calendar system that works for you and your marketing team, to keep you aware and accountable for when each item in the marketing campaign must be completed.
Planning & Creating Your Calendar
Every business has some sort of “season” or seasonality. For example, retail businesses are strongest between October and December. Software or SaaS businesses are slower in the summer and have high points at the ends of calendar quarters. What events does your business participate in? You may consider building your marketing calendar around those events, or around one particular event that really drives your business, like a tradeshow or annual conference.
Once you have identified those events or seasonal patterns, build your calendar around them. Also, for social media, you can engage your audience by sharing content that is related to certain calendar events like holidays or things like “back to school” or “Breast Cancer Awareness Month.” Take a 100,000 foot view of your brand’s annual cycle, and plan your marketing around it, then work backwards based on how long it will take to produce, approve, and launch each campaign or content.
You’ll be surprised at how quickly the calendar fills up, and then you’ll see where the gaps are that you can fill.
Execution is Everything
There’s a current adage in the startup world that goes something like this: “ideas are easy, but execution is everything.” In other words, it doesn’t matter how incredible your “change-the-world” idea is if you can’t execute on it, and a very simple idea executed really well can also change the world. Your calendar is a very prominent part of your ability to execute even the most complex of marketing campaigns.
It’s also helpful to remember that nobody is perfect. Life happens. You’re going to miss a deadline, misspell a word in a tweet, share a bad link or the wrong link, or think you posted to social media but, for reasons nobody knows, that fantastic image never makes it to Facebook. Your calendar is a reminder, not a taskmaster. It’s up to you to create the calendar system that works for you, and then abide by it.