How to Write a Marketing Plan, Part 8
Now that you’ve identified your marketing goals, customers, and marketing platforms, you may be tempted to jump right in and start creating marketing campaigns. After all, the sooner you start promoting your business, the sooner you’ll start seeing sales, right? But don’t give in to that temptation just yet. There is more planning to do. You need a content marketing calendar.
What Is a Content Marketing Calendar?
A content marketing calendar is a visual representation of all of the decisions you’ve made up until now. It should include your target audience(s), the platforms you are using, the messaging and design of your marketing campaigns, and the metrics you’ll use to evaluate your efforts. Most marketing calendars stretch for an entire calendar or fiscal year. In addition to the campaigns you’ve already planned, use the marketing calendar to discover other marketing opportunities such as seasons, holidays, or awareness days. When complete, this calendar will serve as both a checklist and timeline for all your marketing activities for the year.
Why Do I Need a Content Marketing Calendar?
Strategic planning is always a better decision than knee-jerk reactions or making guesses on the fly. You should always make your marketing decisions with your business goals in mind.
It’s also important to plan ahead so that your content and tactics don’t compete with each other. Consistent and clear marketing is crucial to building brand recognition. The bottom line is a content marketing calendar keeps you on track.
How Will I Use a Content Marketing Calendar?
Think of this calendar as a tool to manage your marketing strategy. Share your calendar with your marketing staff or co-owners so that you can collaborate on campaigns, share notes, and monitor results. You can set deadlines and other milestones to execute your marketing plan in a timely and efficient manner. With your entire marketing strategy mapped out for you in this manner, you improve your chance of meeting your goals.
What Do You Mean by Content?
The term “marketing content” has been used recently to describe a type of marketing in which a business uses educational content to promote its product or service. Offering a free e-book on the best ways to buy a car or the ten items to pack when going on a trip are examples of this type of marketing. The content builds awareness and offers information that a prospective client may be looking for without a hard sell. Sales come later when the content has hooked the prospective client, and they want to know more.
For some of your customers, content marketing may not be appropriate. If they are familiar with your product or service and ready to buy, offering a discount is a better strategy. Or if they are already a customer, offering tech support or a how-to video may be what they need. These tactics are also forms of marketing targeted to customers in the later stages of the sales funnel.
What Goes in a Content Marketing Calendar?
For the purpose of this article, we are going to broaden the meaning of content. Your content marketing calendar should include all forms of marketing. This includes:
- Each marketing campaign highlighting the theme and target audience
- The messaging and visuals for each campaign
- The dates each campaign will run
- The marketing channels used
- The KPIs assigned for each campaign
- The leader or employee assigned to each campaign
Your calendar will help you plan your marketing strategies so that you don’t overlap messaging and cause confusion. It also allows you to develop integrated marketing campaigns where you use different channels to reach more people. You can also collaborate and keep track of others who may be sharing the marketing efforts for your business.
While a calendar will set your marketing strategy for a year, leave a little bit of bandwidth so that you can react to unforeseen events or opportunities, such as a news story that highlights your industry or a worldwide pandemic shutting down your storefront business. These events may mean that you need to temporarily change or update your marketing strategies to address the issue at hand.
What Should My Content Marketing Calendar Look Like?
There are plenty of online calendar tools available for purchase. However, an Excel spreadsheet works just as well. Here’s an example:
Build a calendar that works for you and your planning process. You might want to include deadlines for designing content or art submission dates. You may want to have more than one KPI. You could color code the information by platform or target audience to make it easier to read at a glance. Don’t forget to keep track of your results using the KPIs you set.
Building a content marketing calendar is a crucial step in your strategic marketing plan. A detailed calendar is a visual workflow that will keep you organized and focused on the critical task of promoting your brand.
Coming Up Next
In our next article, we’ll discuss measuring micro-goals and primary goals to help you understand if your marketing is effective. The outcome of this process is that you’ll have identified what you are measuring when to measure it, and the metrics you’ll use to determine if you are on the right track or not.
More Marketing Plan Articles
This article is part of a series to help you create a robust marketing plan:
- Part 1: How to Write a Marketing Plan
- Part 2: How to Define Your Marketing Goals
- Part 3: How to Define Your Target Audience
- Part 4: How to Analyze Your Competitors and Their Marketing Plans
- Part 5: How to Conduct a Marketing Asset Assessment
- Part 6: Creating a Marketing Budget for Your Business
- Part 7: How to Choose the Best Marketing Platforms for Your Business
- Part 8: How to Create a Content Marketing Calendar
- Part 9: Defining Your Marketing Metrics