Planning Your Marketing Calendar for the Year
Planning your marketing calendar allows you to strategically bring your content ideas to life and structure your marketing campaigns for a whole year.
As soon as the holiday rush slows down, everybody starts planning for the next year and that’s where the yearly marketing calendar helps.
We want to help you stay ahead of everyone else with different techniques and concepts that we’ve applied ourselves and found fruitful. Therefore, in this blog, I will walk you through every step to be taken to build an effective marketing calendar.
- What Is A Marketing Calendar?
- Why Is A Marketing Calendar Important?
- What Should Go In A Marketing Calendar?
- Goals and Strategies
- Other Sales/Marketing Initiatives
- Key Dates
- How To Build A Marketing Calendar?
- Playing The Hits
- Understand What’s On The Customer’s Mind
- Seasonality And Demand
- Sale Peaks
- What Dates Are Relevant?
- Peaks And Valleys
So let’s begin with it!
What Is A Marketing Calendar?
A marketing calendar is exactly what it sounds like; a roadmap or a plan that covers your marketing activities and goals for the entire year. It helps you structure your yearly marketing plans and align them so that you can start bringing them to life in a little bit more granularity each quarter and each month.
So basically, you can consider the calendar as a skeleton that you’re going to put meat on through your monthly and quarterly planning. It gives you a holistic view of what your year is going to be like. Consider what opportunities you might get, what aims you will shoot for, what the focal point of your marketing will be, etc.
All these things help you strategically plan for your year and, as we like to say it, ensure that you’re not shooting from the hip.
This calendar prepares you for everything beforehand, so you’re not overwhelmed when opportunities arise. It keeps you more proactive than reactive and keeps you on your heels rather than on your toes.
So further, we’ll walk through some of the nuts and bolts of this, focusing on why these calendars are important and how to start building. By the end of this article, you’ll feel like a rockstar, planning your yearly calendar and getting ahead of the time for next year in terms of what you want to achieve.
Why Is A Marketing Calendar Important?
A yearly marketing calendar connects you to your goals and assists you with bringing your business ideas to life throughout the year. It accounts for the timing and implementation of different pieces. It prepares you for situations beforehand, so you don’t have to go through marketing setbacks at any point.
For instance, you mark a code freeze period from September to December in your calendar, which means you’ll be unable to modify codes for your e-commerce sites. So, this will remind you that you can’t do much heavy lifting in that window. Staying updated about such situations helps you save yourself from many worries and troubles.
Now you’ll be ready to think about the holiday sales early in August and September, so you’ll not be scrambling during peak times.
This allows you to be ready to do everything more effectively because you already have planned creative and content that you’ll need at different times of the year.
Besides this, it also allows you to plan your email inventory for the year, what you already have, and how you can repurpose it at different times.
This way, you can see what you can recycle and what works well to get more life out of that. You get to play the hits in your business. It also becomes fun because you can enhance and improve the content you’ve used.
You can act more strategically instead of trying to sort things at the last minute. And that’s one of the real advantages: you can think proactively for a long window of time and be on your toes, not your heels.
What Should Go In A Marketing Calendar?
Let’s talk about some of the important things that should go into your marketing calendar for a year.
Goals and Strategies
Before the new business year starts, you will be thinking about a high-level view of your goals and the strategies you will bring to life during that year.
What are your main goals going to be? These goals might be to increase the number of new customers or the plan to increase the number of repeat customers, etc.
To fulfill these goals now, you know that you will need to add two new automations a month. These automations will be focused on bringing in repeat customers only and on the retention aspect of our business.
So you’re going to plan this in a specific way by starting the acquisition phase in August when we want to acquire new customers. But we may not be converting them to repeat purchasers immediately.
But we want to build our list in August, so we plan to convert all those customers during the holiday window. So these are all things we want to be thinking about, starting with planning our goals for different times of the year and how we will bring those to life.
Now to bring these yearly marketing plans to life, you’re going to use tactics that will also be part of the calendar.
These tactics include the sending you will be doing at different times. For example, you plan to send four campaign emails every week, or you plan to send certain emails to certain segments of your audience, etc.
You’ll also need to distribute content every other week so we know that you have a drumbeat and a consistent rhythm of communication with your customers or clients.
So even if we plan to send one email every week, it takes about 52 emails a year, which need to be included in your calendar, so you have a rough idea of your sending pattern.
This will give you the framework of how to go about your year in terms of email, and then you can get more precise by adding the quarterly and monthly nuts and bolts of these plannings. So again, this is like a skeleton that you will put a little meat on afterward.
These are the things we will be looking at when thinking about the tactics you will use. But this would give you that high-level view of things which you can use to sort through what’s going to work, what’s not, and also how to bring things to life.
Other Sales/Marketing Initiatives
When thinking about all this, you also need to consider how you will connect this with other sales and marketing initiatives in your business.
Especially if you’re a large e-commerce business or even a smaller one, you need to see how you connect different marketing and sales initiatives across your organization.
It would help if you thought about this strategically because it might be possible that no one else is viewing things this way. You may be the only group in the business thinking about what other teams are doing and what other marketing and sales activities you can incorporate into this to ensure that you have everything included here. This holistic engagement helps.
One thing that will be crucial and relevant for you is the key dates so you can plan the right things for the right time in your business.
For example, if you are a cosmetics brand, your key date may be Valentine’s Day, or if you’re a heavy gifting business, the holidays or Mother’s day would be really important.
So these would be the marked times of the year when there would be a lot of traffic and good stuff to work on. We can pin those days and structure our marketing plans and main sales according to and around those days. This provides us with a more structured frame.
Another thing to consider during all this is the segments in your audience and how you will focus on different segments at different times of the year.
Normally, the audience will not be active with you all year round. Rather it might be different segments dynamic during other times of the year.
So the question is how you’re going to serve them?
Some segments are heavy gift-givers, usually active around the holiday or days leading into Mother’s/Father’s day. Around these days, you have a lot of gifting activity; during the other times of the year, you may not be reaching the gifting segment as much.
And then, we have some segments that are purchasing for themselves, which might be active during the holiday season too. Still, they might be more active during the change of the seasons or around any religious or traditional festivals.
So to figure out these segments and their activeness throughout the year, you will have to collect data at different times. We can build VIP lists for our second-time customers through a post-purchase sequence or a popover that serves up post-purchase the second time somebody’s purchased.
How To Build A Marketing Calendar?
When building a calendar, there are some really important things to consider to get the most rewarding and well-organized calendar.
Playing The Hits
So, you should always look at the year and review the successful events. It is like a postmortem of what’s worked and what hasn’t. And looking into what were the promising things we expected to work but didn’t.
Understanding this allows us to critically judge what was fruitful for the business and eventually leverage from that and start moving forward.
It helps you determine which kind of content the audience engages with at which time of the year. You’re just playing the hits, so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel all the time. And this helps to get a good structure for the calendar.
Understand What’s On The Customer’s Mind
Understanding your customer is one of the qualities every good marketer should possess. What’s on their mind at different times of the year is an important factor to consider while planning your calendar because it gives you a broad view of what’s important.
For example, I always think of Walmart like it has the mind of mom’s calendar. Meaning they think like the moms and plan according to what might be on mom’s minds during specific times of the year.
So we take January, for instance; marketers know that at this time of the year, moms and everyone else is motivated by the “New year, new me” mantra, focusing on getting organized and tightening up the budget because people are running into the new year with lots of goals and hopes.
Then, people are excited about getting into spring, thinking about spring break. After that, again, leading into the summer, people start planning vacations and being productive during them. Then, going into the fall, people start thinking about the back-to-school routine, which eventually leads to the holidays, a major time of the year for almost every business.
One thing common throughout the changing seasons is that people will be looking up for brands to buy from at the beginning of every season. Whether you show up for them will depend on how you have planned for your year.
To do that, you want to be thinking about things proactively to match your marketing calendar to what will be contextually relevant for your audience at that time of the year, depending on how you plan your marketing calendar.
Seasonality And Demand
For every business, your seasonality and demand will be very different depending on the type of business you are in. Simply put, your peaks and valleys (or high and low times) will differ relative to your business.
For instance, let’s talk about marketing for a university. During the summer, for a business like this, it is always very silent and deserted during this time of the year. You have to get super creative to keep people engaged.
However, on the other hand, it’s a great opportunity for you to start experimenting and exploring what works and what does not. You don’t have much to lose during dry periods, so you can take that risk. Because later, it will only help you figure out what works at that time, you can always build that into your calendar.
So, thinking about seasonality and the year’s context is crucial while planning your calendar. When you know that a particular time is not very active for you, you can try new things and see what sticks you can leverage and borrow later.
As we discussed earlier too, for e-commerce businesses, you have different sales peaks during other times of the year.
Everybody knows Black Friday/Cyber Monday is the highest time for business; if planned well, you can get the most out of it. But the main thing is how yes, you’re strategically building your calendar for other times of the year.
Incorporating things in your calendar that can keep your audience engaged throughout the year is one of the most important things you need to do. And it is also crucial that those engagements are not only the result of sales and discounts.
As I always say, you shouldn’t have too many sale events because when everything’s on sale, nothing is on sale. That’s just a simple downfall for a brand’s image and value. Frequent sales only rob the business of the benefits it could have during the holiday season. It would take the essence off the holiday sales, and nothing will be special about it.
We can use the balloon analogy to understand this, so if you have a balloon that you blow up now and then and let it get big in size before you pop it. But blowing and popping it weekly will not be exciting and special for you. It will be like pop, pop, and pop, and everything levels out. But we can build anticipation if we blow that balloon up large and have a big pop during that window.
That’s what you should consider in terms of sales for the business; if you have a large sale and big promotion once or even twice a year, that’s going to be more valuable because it would be like waiting for the balloon to get bigger, so you can get a bigger blow.
In this way, you’re not also sacrificing margin through discounting. You can drive more volume strategically instead of just going all-year sales.
So those are the things you’ll be thinking about and understanding the peaks and valleys and when your audience is more and less in love with you during the year so you can experiment and explore.
What Dates Are Relevant?
To plan an effective calendar, it is important that you understand what dates are relevant and what you are going to do each month by experimenting and testing different things.
So let’s look at a year for an athletic brand that deals with cycling and cyclists. Our brand will do different things to look at peaks and valleys throughout the year.
Let’s start with January when it’s cold, so you may not have as much engaged audience here. This may be the valley where you’re going to experiment. You could engage the audience by sending content like “How do you stay warm cycling in the winter?” So that they don’t give it a break.
Then leading into spring, you know, your audience is going to think about riding in the warmer season, and they’re going to need content relevant to that, like, “How do I get used to riding in the warmer weather?”
Experimenting with your messaging in January and February may prove advantageous because you may want to build a sale or promotional event going into March, where you can expect a little bit more volume as a result of successful experimentation in winter.
So it’s important that you build that momentum at different times to benefit you in times of need. These promotions help e-commerce businesses get more people over the fence in case of sale events.
Peaks And Valleys
It would be best if you also were actively engaging and communicating things during the year that will be contextually needed. For instance, now, if they’re getting ready for riding in the spring and then maybe going into the summer, then they will be even more interested in your brand.
So you’re going from a low level of interest to a higher level just because people will be riding more and more during this time of the year. It may drop off a little in between regarding how much they’re riding, but the overall use of your brand will increase at this time of the year.
The audience will be in love and not so in love with your brand during different times of the year. So you use the first two months, valley times, for experimentation and Spring and Summer times as the peak times for sales.
It is very important. These sales peaks are meant to build into your marketing calendar, where you will have a higher volume of purchasers in months that you can piggyback off.
The sales peaks help you to have a large sale event during the course of the year. This is why Amazon has a prime day; they want more reasons to have large-sale events.
So if you can build those in and strategically think about it, you will be able to capture more volume at different times of the year.
To sum this all up, this idea is generally about how you can build three to four different sales peaks in the year in addition to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. And to think about what type of volume you’re going to be selling at those times.
Understanding what’s contextually relevant for your audience at different times is important too. That’s where you’re going to add those key dates for the rhythm of your consistent weekly or biweekly sends from the email perspective.
So many things here are all relative and seasonal, but you have to understand that seasonality and start using that to strategically plan everything in your calendar.
To summarize it all, it would be really helpful for you to think about what you want to accomplish and how you want to achieve it before the year begins.
The seasonal peaks are a way to start bringing more sales volume. So instead of a consistent level of sales, you will push those boundaries a little farther upwards and capture a little more volume than you normally would.
But if you’re planning this for your marketing organization, you should also incorporate it into other parts of your organization to ensure it is all aligned.
In the calendar, you don’t have to have an exact detailed plan for every day and every month of the year, but you should use this as the structure and skeleton for your marketing calendar. This gives you a way to think strategically about what you want to do in this quarter.
And then, once you’ve figured that out, you will be breaking those into months and then planning those months out ahead of time. In August, you will be planning about October; in October, you will be thinking about September, and so on.
This whole calendar planning doesn’t seem important early on. Still, you need to know that it gives you a roadmap for how you will bring your goals to life during the year and how you will implement different marketing components to make sure you’re successful in that. Ultimately, you’ll drive revenue for the business that will benefit you in the long term.