Marketers who document their strategy are 414% more likely to report success than those who don’t. Yet 40% of marketers say that they are not documenting their strategy.

The easiest way to document (and execute) your strategy is to build an effective marketing calendar.  In this post, you’ll learn what a marketing calendar is, the tools you can use to create one, and most importantly – how to create one that works.

What is a marketing calendar?

A marketing calendar is a simple tool for visualizing, planning, scheduling, and organizing all your marketing activities for the future — which could be months or years ahead. You can think of a marketing calendar as a literal calendar. In this case, instead of noting birthdays and anniversaries, you focus on projects or activities you want to complete.

Your marketing calendar is a central hub where the marketing team finds their assignments and who is in charge of different projects, deadlines, and progress updates.

Here’s an example of what your marketing software calendar might look like:

What is a marketing calendar?
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Just how important are marketing calendars to helping you achieve your business goals? Let’s find out.

Why is it important to have a marketing calendar? 

The marketing team has several moving parts, making it easy for some tasks or responsibilities to fall through the cracks. A marketing calendar can identify the gaps and ensure things go as planned quickly.

Here are some more reasons why having a marketing calendar is crucial. A marketing calendar helps you:

1. Pre-plan your marketing.

“If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail.” These words especially ring true concerning your marketing efforts. In a world facing intense competition and many other uncertainties (looking at you, COVID), you simply cannot afford not to pre-plan your marketing efforts. With a marketing calendar in place, you ensure every team member knows what they need to do and when. You’ll also be able to identify holidays you can take advantage of, when to start a marketing campaign, and so on.

2. Easily adapt to unplanned projects or requests.

Sometimes, unplanned projects or requests might creep up on your marketing team. A marketing calendar helps you quickly decide if you have the time or resources to handle such projects or requests.

For instance, if your calendar is already full of projects you’re yet to complete, you’ll be able to avoid adding extra responsibilities to your team’s workload. Or if the new project request takes priority, it can help you determine what project gets pushed back to make time for it.

3. Visualize how your entire marketing strategy works together.

A marketing calendar works like the picture on the back of a jigsaw puzzle in that it helps you and your team members visualize how your marketing strategy works together. Are you creating content for all of your product or service lines? Is too much of your content promotional? Are you sending too many emails to the same audience? With a complete picture, it’s easier for you to know how the projects you complete in the short term affect your overarching long-term goals.

4. Ensure you don’t miss important events/campaign triggers.

Since a marketing calendar helps you visualize your entire marketing strategy, you’ll know when to start specific campaigns. By pre-planning your work on your Calendar, you can stay ahead of important dates or campaign timelines. 

For example, by adding your Christmas Sales Campaign to your calendar in advance, you can make sure to start working on the promotion long before the holiday season starts, so everything goes smoothly without scrambling.

5. Identify (and fill) gaps in your marketing schedule. 

A marketing calendar gives you a big-picture overview of your projects, so your team can track their progress & review their workload. Because of the calendar overview, it’s easy to spot gaps or blockers in your team’s marketing schedule.

marketing calendar and schedule

This gives your team clarity & visibility of what projects they should work on by looking at the calendar. 

6. Avoid overscheduling content, social messages, and emails.

Most marketing teams use different channels to communicate with their audience or run various campaigns. With a marketing calendar, you’ll know what content to post, the channel to use, and the time to post.

marketing calendar for a product announcement

Furthermore, the calendar helps you stay consistent with your messaging across different channels — email, social media, or elsewhere.

Types of marketing software calendars 

You can create different marketing calendars depending on what you want to organize or your company’s marketing goals. Here are common types of marketing calendars you can create:

Marketing calendar

A typical marketing calendar encompasses your entire marketing efforts. All the other types of calendars fall under this one.

Marketing calendar

This marketing calendar helps you get a bird’s eye view of your marketing activities, identify gaps, plan, assign responsibilities, and track project progress.

Content calendar

A content (or blog) calendar plans a company’s editorial process for blogging and social promotion.

content marketing calendar

This calendar helps you take note of the keywords you want to target, links to include in your content, the publishing date, and your promotion plans after publishing, etc. In addition, a content calendar helps you maintain a consistent publishing cadence that ensures your audience has something new to read whenever they visit your website.

Social media calendar

The billions of hours people spend on social media daily highlight how important it can be to help you achieve your marketing goals. But to make the most of social media, you need to organize your post and publish it when your audience is most likely to see it. That’s where a social media calendar comes in. A social media calendar helps you plan your posts for the social media platforms you use to reach your audience.

social media marketing calendar

Most social media calendar tools have scheduling and analytics features that automatically post your content and measure how well it performs.

Email marketing calendar 

An email marketing calendar helps you plan the schedule for creating newsletters and email campaigns and when to start sending them to subscribers.

email marketing calendar

Given how effective email marketing campaigns are in turning leads into repeat customers, creating this calendar type is vital.

Choosing your marketing calendar tool 

Once you know the marketing calendar you want to create, the next order of business is to choose how you want to make it. While some people choose the offline route — using a pen and paper, it’s best to use digital or online calendars. 

Some of the perks of using an online calendar include accessing the calendars from anywhere, creating a hard copy for offline purposes, collaborating with other team members, and so on.

Here are some tools you can use to create an online marketing calendar:

Spreadsheets 

Spreadsheets, like Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets, are excellent examples of tools you can use to create a marketing calendar. The good thing about spreadsheets is that they have ready-to-use templates, so you don’t have to start creating a calendar from scratch.

Here’s an example of what a Google Sheets marketing calendar template looks like:

using spreadsheet template to create a marketing calendar
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Some downsides of using spreadsheet templates are that they’re not easily customizable, teams might find it inconvenient to use them to collaborate, and they offer little to no integration or automation with other tools.

Google Calendar

Google Calendar is another great tool for creating a marketing calendar. Since most people already have a Gmail account, it’s easy to use Google Calendar to collaborate with others. All you’ll have to do is fill the calendar with events representing your posting schedule. This simple guide shows to set up a content marketing calendar on Google Calendar. 

Here’s what it’s supposed to look like once you’re done.

using Google Calendar to develop a marketing calendar

Some drawbacks of using a Google Calendar are that it might be challenging to read if you have too many events, and it doesn’t work well with email addresses that aren’t for Google Workplace.

CoSchedule – marketing calendar software

CoSchedule is a marketing software that enables teams to manage and coordinate their projects and processes. Among CoSchedule’s suite of marketing tools is the Marketing Calendar.

marketing calendar software by CoSchedule

CoSchedule’s Marketing Calendar helps teams save time and resources as it organizes all marketing projects in one place. With this tool, you can see all your projects at a glance, quickly reschedule when a change comes up, track project progress, publish content or social messages, and so much more. In addition, you can collaborate with team members in real-time and use the tool’s automation and integration features to create, schedule, and post on different channels.

CoSchedule offers a Free Version of their Marketing Calendar as well as paid solutions with more robust functionality & features for high-performance marketing teams. 

Benefits of using marketing calendar software vs. templates

Already thinking about whether to use software like CoSchedule or a template for your marketing calendar?

Here are some benefits of using marketing calendar software over templates.

Marketing calendar software:

  • Updates the calendar in real-time. This way, everyone on your team has the updated version of the calendar.
  • Easily provides stakeholders access to reports they need to see without showing them everything your marketing team has planned. 
  • It is often packed with publishing integrations for blog publishing, email solutions, and social media platforms.
  • Has in-built task management features to keep projects on track.
  • Allows teams to reschedule events flexibly when project timelines or priorities change.
  • Includes collaboration tools to easily work with your team on projects. 
  • Keeps all key files & assets together with the project.

How do you create an effective marketing calendar? 

Follow these eight simple steps to create a marketing calendar that works.

Step 1: Define your goals.

First things first before creating a calendar is to define what you’re trying to achieve. What are you working towards? Do you want to generate new leads? Create awareness? Make more sales? Or something else? The goals you set will shape how you create your marketing calendar.

Step 2: Choose your marketing calendar tool. 

You’ve already seen the different tools you can use to create a marketing calendar. Depending on your company’s size and needs, you can choose between spreadsheets, templates, or marketing software like Coschedule. If you don’t want to create a calendar from scratch or have a small team, then templates might be your best choice.

On the other hand, if you want a calendar tool that allows you quickly get an overview of your projects, collaborate with team members, and automate social sharing, among other benefits, then CoSchedule Marketing Calendar is the tool for you. Moreover, CoSchedule comes with templates, so you won’t be starting from scratch even if you’ve never used the tool before.

Step 3: Choose your marketing calendar team.

Your marketing calendar is only as good as the team that decides to use it. So to give your calendar the best chance of working, you need to set up a team that understands what you want to achieve with the calendar. Every team member should know their responsibility and be accountable to the team leads. The team leads should also ensure they make every project detail (timelines, responsibilities, campaigns) clear with their team members. This way, there’s enough visibility across the board, and everyone knows what they need to do.

Step 4: Add your existing and planned marketing projects.

With the team in place, it’s time to fill up your calendar with marketing projects. These could be new projects, existing projects, or ones you’ve planned.

checklist of marketing projects, such as blog posts, website projects, webinars, conferences, social messages, marketing campaigns, and so on.

As you add these projects to your calendar, don’t forget to include milestones and deadlines, and notify the team members responsible for completing the project tasks.

Step 5: Add important events. 

A recommended best practice for building practical marketing calendars is first adding projects with the highest priority to the calendar before adding the ones with a lesser importance. Top priority events or projects could include but are not limited to product launches, anniversaries, industry conferences, community events, holidays, and so on.

key events to add to your marketing calendar, such as product launches, company anniversaries, industry conferences, community events, and holidays

Noting these critical events is crucial as it’ll help you plan campaigns around these events well ahead of time instead of scrambling at the last minute.

Step 6: Brainstorm new content ideas. 

You can add only so many important events to fill up your marketing calendar. In time, you’ll have to create new events, projects, or content to meet your audience’s demand.

Some ideas to help your brainstorming sessions include creating a swipe file of content you like, reviewing frequently asked questions from customers, researching competitor reviews, or conducting competitor analysis to see what’s working for them, performing keyword research for industry terms, and so on. Once you’ve come up with a list of ideas, don’t forget to add them to your marketing calendar so they actually get completed.

Step 7: Plan projects in advance.

You have different time-frame options to plan your calendar around. For example, you could prepare for a month, a quarter, or even as far out as a year. Planning projects monthly allows you to make the most of trends and spend significant time planning. On the other hand, quarterly planning lets you prepare for three months at once, which is ample time to think up and execute campaigns.

Yearly planning makes a lot of sense if you have to run big projects or campaigns throughout the year, although it does limit your flexibility. Planning projects in advance also involves making room for changes that might happen in the future. In other words, you must prepare for when things don’t go to plan.

Step 8: Execute and track your projects. 

Once all the steps are in place, it’s time to assign work to your team and execute your projects.  Find a Marketing Calendar software that features task management features to help your team complete a project from start to finish. This way you can easily confirm projects are done by delivery date or publish date. 

By using a Marketing Calendar, you can stay focused on your strategic marketing goals, plan ahead, & complete more work in less time. 

Guest Post Author: Whitney Deterding, Product Marketing Lead at CoSchedule 

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