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Using Our Free 2016 Marketing Calendar

A common thread in successful collective marketing efforts is planning. Organizing your planning in a way that is convenient and shareable makes it all the more effective. Today, we’ll discuss a marketing calendar that’s available free on this website, and why and how you should use it as part of your 2016 marketing plans.

Download the marketing calendar.

Why use a marketing calendar?

You might choose to fill in just the high points, or be go about it with much more detail — it all depends on how you like to work. Either way is great, because:

  • Schedules are proven to help keep projects on track and tasks from being overlooked. This is especially important in situations where more than one person is responsible for marketing — you can indicate who is responsible for each task.
  • You can be proactive instead of reactive. There will always be situations when people have to scramble to meet a deadline, but being able to look ahead will help minimize these, and decrease the chances of a mistake.
  • A calendar provides at-a-glance comprehension of where assistance will be needed. This can be both internal and external. Internally, you can see when you might need to recruit more help from your co-workers. If you work with any outside professionals on your marketing— from full-service advertising agencies like Prime Design Solutions (in which case, they may be collaborators on your calendar) to freelancers who help you with a specific area, such as print design or your website — the calendar will help you get the most out of their assistance.

What are some common areas that can see marked improvement through the use of a marketing calendar?

  • Your social media can benefit from planning. You can make sure you leverage observances or holidays that are relevant to your business, even silly things like “National Cheeseburger Day” if you’re a restaurant, for example. You can also figure out where you have good ideas for posts, and where you need to fill in holes.
  • Content marketing improves. Content marketing only works when it is consistent and high-quality, and timing matters. What information would be most beneficial to your customers at different times of the year? For example, this podcast is a form of content marketing, and this is the October 2015 podcast — so it makes sense for our topic to be about planning your 2016 marketing, much more so than if this were April.
  • Communication among all team members will improve. A calendar ensures everyone on your team knows what’s going on, when it’s supposed to happen, and who’s responsible. Everyone can consult the calendar, and changes can be made as necessary.

Let’s take a closer look at these main areas

Social media planning

  • Your calendar will help you avoid missing important dates/opportunities on social media, including your own promotions, and balance your presence with all active channels.
  • Hootsuite or other scheduling solutions can help with scheduling social media posts, especially with Twitter.
  • If you use visually-oriented social media (Pinterest and Instagram), you can plan when to get photographs of new products, etc.

Content marketing

  • A calendar helps identify holes that need to be filled, and find new ideas for case studies, blog posts, articles and other good content that your customers will find useful. Talking with your sales team can be a great source of inspiration.
  • You can work ahead of schedule, and get help to create better content. If you’re tasked with writing a case study and don’t have all the information, you have advance notice and get help from the people who do.
  • Consistent publishing on your website helps with readership and SEO (search engine optimization). Your website is your most important digital marketing tool, and consistently publishing on your site attracts readers while making it more likely that search engines will find you. (Much more information on content marketing and its benefits can be found here.)

Working with a team

Using a marketing calendar is a collaborative effort that improves the effectiveness of everything you do in marketing, including:

  • Tracking goals and progress (what are we behind on? What should be changed for future efforts?). Scheduling a brief meeting after a major initiative is over can help everyone identify and agree on what worked, what didn’t, and what should be changed next time. More importantly, this information can be recorded for future reference.
  • Balancing across all active media and budget. Having all marketing-related initiatives written down in one place helps you make sure your budget and your media are scheduled to maximum effectiveness. For example, you probably want to let your email newsletter list know about a key sale or promotion before that ad about it appears in the newspaper. Even things as simple as noting when key staff are taking vacation can make your marketing a lot smoother.

How to use this calendar

First, please share with anyone you think could use the calendar!

  • Download the marketing calendar here — it is in .XLS format
  • You’ll see monthly tabs on the bottom for each month.
  • Begin by filling in key dates, such as events, quarterly promotions, seasonal happenings and so on — everything you know for sure you will do over the course of the year.
  • Start to fill in more details for the next few weeks or even a month, but don’t get too far ahead with extensive detail — things change.
  • Include general notes as needed in the grid area. Below the grid, assign additional deadline information.
  • Fill in deadlines, this month and next month. For example, the grid may list publish dates, while the “deadline” area lists deadlines to the printer to hit said publish date
  • Look ahead to next month’s deadlines and who is responsible for hitting this deadline.
  • Observe emerging scheduling trends. With time, you’ll see where pressure points in your marketing are, and can work to solve the problem. Also, once you’ve been through a full year using the calendar, scheduling the following year will be much easier.
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