How to Create a Marketing Calendar to Save You Time & Keep You Focused
Too often I see soapmakers run their businesses like today is the only day that matters, and while that kicks some serious ass for motivation and getting stuff done, it doesn't do you any favors in the long run! When you create a marketing calendar on the other hand... winning!
How many times have you sat with your business baby and thought to yourself, I wish I...
- promoted this product or promotion better.
- started this product development sooner.
- started holiday production before I got crazy busy.
- knew what the heck to post on social media.
- had something to show for all the time I spend puttering about on Facebook.
- knew what to send in my newsletter.
If any of that sounds familiar, you need to create a marketing calendar to save you time and keep you focused in your business.
Planning out your product launches, promotions, social media campaigns, blog posts, newsletters, and pitches will help you get more done in the long run. Plus, a marketing calendar will help you do it more effectively so you aren't wasting time asking, "Well, wait, what do I post? Let's research that!"
Many small biz owners use multiple means to plan and plot out their product launches, sales and promotions, social media posts, newsletters, and blog posts. It's often that I hear, I use Google Calendar for X, a spreadsheet for Y, a Word document for Z, and on the list goes! The plus side is that they are doing the planning in the first place (yaaass!). On the other hand, it's hard to keep your schedule straight when you are popping all over the place to get it working.
I hugely recommend creating a marketing calendar to get things working in tandem. For instance, social media works in conjunction with your other efforts (blogging, newsletters, product launches, PR efforts, etc.) It's best to think of everything that should be on a marketing calendar as a giant circle of folks holding hands and singing Kumbaya!
When you plan all these arms of your business together, you see some major benefits, like:
- Cross-incorporating the same theme/goal into multiple tasks
- Saving your sweet, sweet time by knowing what is and isn't happening in one glance
- Preparing for the unexpected, so when something new crops up, you know exactly what to move around
- Pointing to specific actions as successful that should be repeated (or utter failure that shouldn't be repeated!)
It makes it a million times easier to write that blog post or send that newsletter. When you create a marketing calendar, you can see that all these other actions on your To-Do that are dependent on each other! Plus, you will actually follow through with a launch plan for new products or promotions. No more questioning whether you should or shouldn't share that marvelous new scent one more time!
How to Create a Marketing Calendar for Your Business
To create a marketing calendar, you want to start with the calendar itself. Choose one tool to get started, whether that's Google Calendar, another app, or a paper planner. However, you work best, is the way you want to go.
When I first started making marketing calendars for myself, I used Google Calendar. Nowadays, I much prefer pen and paper, and then I move it to a digital format when I'm done planning. I personally use our annual marketing calendar, then put my individual tasks for everything on ToDoist. You can snag our marketing calendar in the Resource Library below:
Setup Your Marketing Calendar
You want to start by identifying major holidays, postal holidays, and other important dates. For instance, you might want to mark Daylight Savings Time which messes with your schedule or days when the post office closes its doors.
If you are using a pre-printed calendar or app, you want to check to see what dates are (and aren't) marked, so you can add ones that matter to you.
Start by popping other important dates on the calendar that your business needs to keep an eye on. You might also want to take a peek at fun celebrations like Cupcake Day or Take a Bath Day. These clever holidays can be a fun way to market your products creatively. Some great resources for finding holidays that might tickle your fancy include Holiday Insights, Giftypedia, Time and Date, and Days of the Year.
Add in special events you might be planning, whether it's craft shows, farmers markets, or demonstrations. Don't forget to pop in reminders for things like Tax Day, annual sales for your favorite suppliers, or deadlines for applications or other annual important dates.
Next, use a highlighter to indicate any special product launches or promotions you plan on running. For instance, you might create a Spring product line and a Winter product line. If so, highlight the launch day of those lines on your calendar. Make a note on those launch days with what is launching and why. Most soap company owners have a holiday collection or product line and may launch that in early fall to late fall.
If you send a weekly newsletter, post on Facebook three times a week, or do any other regular content schedule, mark those days.
I love color-coding here, as it makes it easy to see at first glance. Since I work with our marketing calendar print-out, I will use a felt tip marker and color code the corner of the date on the calendar. This will make the next step easier!
Jumpstart Your Marketing Calendar
Once you feel like you have all your important dates, it's time to start filling in your new marketing calendar. I like to start at the end of the year, but you can start at the beginning of the year, too!
The goal here is to work backward from the launches, campaigns, and other important dates that you already marked on your calendar. You want to list any major actions that need to be taken. Consider this a generalized "to do" list of what needs to happen to make this important thing successful.
Then, give yourself deadlines for each task. Give yourself plenty of time to complete each task, take into account curing time or shipping times, or any other turnaround factors that might influence your deadlines.
Here's an example, starting with a new product collection launch date on November 1st:
- Launch Date: November 1st
- Social Media Graphics Deadline: October 25
- Product Descriptions Deadline: October 15
- Product Photos Deadline: October 1
- Production Deadline: September 1
- Supply Ordering Deadline: July 25
- Research & Development Deadline: July 15
Chances are that you'll be looking at a couple of launches, so there may be additional actions you need to take. For instance, if you plan on chasing media features or other PR for your launch, then you need to scoot all these deadlines up by months. Most major publications work three to six months in advance (so you'd need to have product photos ready to go by August instead of October.)
Another difference might be if you wholesale your products and allow stockists to pre-order new collections. If so, you will need to create a new line sheet (which requires those product photos), contact your accounts, and move production for wholesale into the mix.
Add the dates for each major goal, launch, or campaign and the necessary tasks with deadlines to your marketing calendar.
Plan Your Marketing for Important Dates
When you are done working backward from your launches, special events, and campaigns, it's time to work forwards! Plan out all the marketing tasks to push a new product line or promotion to the masses.
Remember to share to each media channel that you use for marketing more than once.
Did you know that it can take a consumer seeing an ad or promotion up to 7 times before they pull the trigger? Don't be shy!
To continue with the launch example above:
- Announce the launch on Instagram: October 26
- Announce the launch on Facebook: October 27
- Give a teaser of the launch on Instagram: October 28
- Give a teaser of the launch on Facebook: October 29
- Publish blog post announcing the launch: October 30
- Send email with the launch blog post & upcoming FB Live broadcast: November 1
- Share launch blog post on Facebook: November 1
- Share group photo of the products on Instagram: November 1
- Host Facebook Live event to show off the new products: November 2
- Share single product image and inspiration story on Instagram: November 3
- Share single product link and inspiration story on Facebook: November 4
- Post a single product image and inspiration story on Instagram: November 5
- Share single product link and inspiration story on Facebook: November 6
- Hop on Instagram Live to share your favorites from the launch: November 7
- Publish a blog post describing the inspiration behind the products: November 7
- Share the inspiration blog post link on Facebook: November 8
- Send email newsletter about the inspiration blog post: November 8
- Post an image of the products and the blog post on Instagram: November 9
- Share single product link and inspiration story on Facebook: November 10
- Post single product photo and inspiration story on Instagram: November 11
- Share single product link and inspiration story on Facebook: November 12
- Post a photo of all the new products and CTA to read the blog post on Instagram: November 13
- Share blog post link and "if you missed the story" on Facebook: November 14
- Share a behind the scenes photo of making the products on Instagram: November 15
- Send an email with some of the highlights of inspiration & announce your FB live: November 15
- Host Facebook Live event to talk about what inspires you as a maker: November 16
- Share a behind the scenes of making the products on Instagram: November 17
- Tag a retailer that carries your new products on Facebook: November 18
- Publish a blog post featuring retailers who carry the products: November 19
- Share a photo of a retailer that carries the new products on Instagram: November 20
- Share the blog post featuring retailers on Facebook: November 21
- Send email featuring retailers & announcing FB Live broadcast: November 22
- Host a Facebook Live event at a retailer that carries your products: November 23
- Share a photo of your new products at the retailer on Instagram: November 24
- Tag a retailer that carries your new products on Facebook: November 25
- Share & tag a retailer that carries your new products on Instagram: November 26
- Share a Facebook event for a show you are doing where you'll have the new products: November 27
- Post a promotion graphic for the show on Instagram: November 28
- Publish a blog post sharing upcoming events for your brand: November 28
- Send email sharing upcoming events: November 29
And on and on the list goes!
Did you notice a couple of things? First, you just scored four weeks of content from a single product launch. Second, there's no way your customers will miss out on your new launch with how much you brag about it. (This is a really good thing! A single post on Facebook does not a launch make.)
You are, of course, welcome to mix it up by alternating the kinds of content you are sharing on a single social media network, but it should be easy to craft up content around a launch when you know it's coming.
If you need more inspiration on blog post ideas or social media posts, here are two hit lists of ideas:
- 25+ Blog Post Ideas for the Holidays (Many work around the year!)
- Marketing Made Easy with 10 Blog Post Ideas + 10 Instagram Post Ideas
After you've planned the future, you have to go back and add more planning before the launch, don't you? Yessum! The next step is to add in writing those blog posts before they're published, and collecting information you need to post. Create deadlines for each piece of content you need to create and get those on your marketing calendar.
Focusing on the Present
Next, it's time to fill in all those empty spaces in between launches and promotions. For the rest of the year, I recommend working three months in advance, so you can incorporate craft shows you get accepted to or can shout from the rooftops about new retailers your brand acquires.
Since you are likely starting with January, start by taking a peek at any special dates you can share or themes you can follow. Then, start by brainstorming blog posts and newsletters that focus on those themes, and put them on your schedule. Next, add in your social media posts to promote those pieces of content.
For each blog post that you write, you should be able to create:
- An easy email newsletter: Link to the blog post and give a little background information about the topic
- An immediate post on each social media network: Link to the blog post to get people bouncing to your house and not the social media network's house
- A later post on each social media network: Re-share content to get the maximum life out of your efforts, really good blog posts can be shared on a monthly basis - yes!
- Multiple bite-sized posts on each social media network: Break down the content of a blog post and see if there are any bite-size bits you can use for a social media post
Remember to pepper your social media posts with variety, by including various kinds of updates. Here are some examples of the kinds of posts you can pop on your marketing calendar:
- Links to your blog posts & email newsletters
- Share your email newsletter sign-up incentive
- Features on your retailers or partners or collaborators
- Links to your products for purchase
- Relevant tips or discussion initiations for your target market
- Behind the scenes photos and stories about your brand and being a creative entrepreneur
- Testimonials and reviews from customers
- Updates and news, like announcements, launches, and events
- Features of customers, retailers, ingredients, charitable causes, or sales venues
- Promotions of relevant (but not competing) makers, brands, and/or products
- Holiday wishes and celebrations from the serious to the made-up & fun
Hot Tip: When you wrap up a month on your marketing calendar, write down important statistics like your social media following, your website traffic, and your revenue on your marketing calendar. This allows you to look back and compare each month's marketing efforts with the results you got.
Now, get to work on taking over the world with your plans! Will you create a marketing calendar to keep you focused in the new year? Let us know in the comments below what works best for you!
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