Buckle up, we’re about to hit a new year. After the fireworks have rung in another January, people’s thoughts turn to the resolutions and positive choices that could make the next 12 months their most successful yet.
As in life, so in business. One of the best resolutions you can make is to apply more of a structure to how you do your marketing. Drawing up a calendar of marketing activity for the year ahead is a very straightforward way of doing this, and failing to do so is actually one of the biggest mistakes business owners can make.
Taking the time to think about how you’ll market your business throughout the year will ensure you’ve always got something effective to say to customers old and new. People can tell when ideas have been rushed at the last minute, so creating a marketing calendar will save time and maintain quality.
A marketing calendar helps you to co-ordinate and focus throughout the year, so that you and your team can stay on board with every opportunity that comes your way.
Ahead of New Year’s Day, use the steps below to create a marketing calendar for 2020 that will help your efforts pay off all year.
You probably already know when your peak busiest periods are. Start with a blank calendar and write in when your current peak times are. Next, write in important annual events (like holidays or specific celebration days) which are relevant to your business.
Take a look at your calendar. Are there any periods where business is quieter, that you’d like to ramp up a bit? Well, put them down too!
Once you’ve got these periods in your calendar, it’s time to think about what you actually need to do, whether to keep the busy times buzzing, to boost the sleepier periods or to hit the key dates that all your competitors will be working towards.
What kind of promotions do you want to run whenever you hit an upturn or downturn? And which products or services would be best pushed at each? After you’ve examined the past year’s sales figures, pay this some thought.
You should also keep track of staff members’ annual leave on your calendar so that you’re always able to plan around absences and ensure social posts and emails are scheduled in advance (more on this later).
Let’s have a look at what Sarah, the owner of a cake shop, did to increase and regularise her sales.
Sarah has plenty of custom around Christmas and on Valentine’s Day, but things can get pretty quiet in summer. Last year, to consolidate her success at these peak periods, she ran a paid-for Valentine’s Day event, teaching attendees how to decorate cakes.
To try and boost business in the sleepier seasons, she produced a new range of cakes designed for Summer birthdays and BBQs, and offered a discount for customers buying them in June or July.
Once you’ve sketched out your annual calendar, look at each month specifically. Think about what you’ll do in the lead up to points of big marketing activity; for example, think about when you’ll publish a specific blog post and the social media posts you will use to promote it.
You may also want to include the marketing cost for each campaign, and check you have the budget to support your plan.
Sarah looks at her marketing calendar and examines each month. She wants to drive bookings for her Valentine's event, so she’s planning to publish a blog post about it in mid-January, and has booked an advert in her local paper at the end of that month.
She’s also scheduled social media updates about it to go out every week from mid-January, rising to a daily rate in the first weeks of February in order to catch any last-minute customers.
When you’re looking at each month of your calendar, you can plan in themes to help you focus your ideas. These could be based on seasons and holidays, like Father’s Day or Christmas, or specific activities you know are important to your audience at that time.
For example, if you’re a local garden centre, you can plan out some blog posts packed with gardening advice for each month of the year.
Let’s turn back to Sarah and her cake shop. Sarah has been plotting out a different monthly theme for a specially-decorated cake, which will also inform how she decorates her shop.
For March, she’s chosen St Patrick’s Day, and intends to bake a clover-decorated cake to complement a temporary emphasis on green in the shop’s decor. For September, she’ll go for a back-to-school theme, and in November it’s Bonfire Night. For each of these, she’ll share photos on social media to tap into the wider conversation around these dates.
After you’ve broadly planned out each month, you can start to look in more detail at what your digital marketing will look like on individual weeks (or even days). This should help you feel more in control and able to manage things more effectively. Remember to include all the channels you use and plan in any holidays you might take.
You can also use mini-themes to help you, just like Sarah does.
Sarah has accounts for her business on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and she plans out what she’ll post on these each day, sticking to particular patterns to make things easier to organise. For example, on Mondays she’ll share a new blog post, Tuesdays are for behind-the-scenes photos, while Saturdays see her share a photo of a happy customer along with a testimonial.
Not everything goes to plan, so it’s important to stay flexible and adapt your marketing calendar if it isn’t working for you. Use measurement tools to help you work out what marketing activity is successful and what’s not, and regularly update your calendar to reflect this.
After a couple of months, Sarah checks her stats and finds that her Twitter activity isn’t driving people to either her website or shop. She does a little bit of research online and decides to spend more time on Instagram and Facebook to boost footfall.
A carefully considered calendar will keep you on top of your marketing and make sure you’ve always got something interesting to say to your audience. Although it can feel like hard work to start with, it’ll pay off in the long run.
For more tips on putting together a killer year-round strategy, download our dedicated guide to planning your marketing.