How to plan a year of marketing in one afternoon

A new year is here, providing you a chance to start fresh. This is also the best time to plan your marketing campaigns.

A successful year begins with your marketing calendar. Here’s how to get it done in one afternoon.

What is a marketing calendar?

A marketing calendar is NOT your Microsoft Outlook calendar. It is a poster, which you hang in your office, that diagrams all your marketing campaigns for the year.

It shows the dates of major product or service launches, announcements, conferences, expos, trade shows, sponsorships, award ceremonies, awareness weeks and more.

It also displays the phases of your marketing campaigns. For example, if you have a product launch on May 1, it reminds you start planning content for it in February, as part of your pre-launch phase. After the event, it diagrams your post-launch phase and follow-up actions.

Why use a marketing calendar?

Many companies struggle with marketing continuity; they jump from project to project without zooming out to look at the big picture and make sure it all fits together. For your marketing to be effective, you must have continuity between campaigns that reinforces the same messages over months and years.

A marketing calendar allows you to be more intentional and strategic with your communication plans, and prevents you from living in reaction mode. You have time to plan and prioritize your activities, so that you can perform at your highest potential.

It also makes your company more efficient by helping you allocate your budget to planned marketing activities and prevents you from chasing random opportunities that fail to fit in with your long-term plan.

How to create your calendar

Creating a calendar is easy to do from Microsoft Word. Open an 11x17 or larger document and create a table with 3 columns and 8 rows. Starting with the top row, label the cells January, February and March, skip a row and label the next set April, May and June. Repeat this step for the remaining months. Then vertically expand all the blank rows so that you have lots of room to fill each month with lists and dates. Or save time and download our template.

Fill out your calendar

Use this checklist to help you get started with filling out your calendar:

  • Major holidays and seasons

  • Product/service launches

  • Advertising campaigns

  • National awareness weeks relevant to your industry

  • Annual events you plan to host or attend

  • Planned features from the editorial calendars of your local business journal and trade publications

  • Sponsorships

  • Conferences/Expos/Trade Shows

  • Corporate social responsibility and cause marketing campaigns

  • Awards with application deadlines

Prioritize and delegate

You will not be able to do everything on your calendar. Therefore, prioritize projects that fit in with your overall message and brand strategy. If you work with a team, delegate responsibilities now so that everyone knows their role well in advance of the due date and can plan accordingly.

Consult your calendar weekly

Print your calendar and place it prominently where you and your team will be able to see it daily. Each week, reserve time to consult the calendar as a team and make adjustments.

The calendar is a living document. It will grow with your company as you identify new opportunities and priorities.

If you take the time to start a marketing calendar today, you will have more focus throughout the year, greater efficiency, consistency, continuity, budget management and the best chance of accomplishing your goals!