Stay in sync with a calendar to align marketing with finance and operations
As anyone disciplined in the art of marketing will tell you, there’s a lot more to it than advertising and sales. It starts with developing the right product or service for the right market, at the right price and placing it where people will want to buy it. But wait, there’s more.
You also need to understand how your marketing decisions impact and intersect with other key aspects of your business, namely your time, finances and operations. For example, when you’re developing a new product or service, you need to balance supply and demand – how much you can deliver with what the market wants. You need to understand how your promotions will impact that forecast. More demand than you can manage, and you could end up disappointing customers and they won’t come back. Too little and you’ll end up with excess capacity – particularly bad if you have high fixed costs.
The only way to keep all the balls in the air at once is to plan ahead and intelligently forecast. The first step in that process is to create a marketing calendar. Not only will it help you sync marketing with other aspects of your business, it will also help you promote at the right time.
Create Your Own Marketing Calendar
Use what makes your life easier, whether that’s a white board and sticky notes, spreadsheet or Word document.
Create a chart with months across the top – six months to a year should be sufficient. Make it as granular as you like. If monthly is too detailed, do it by quarters. If too general, break it down by weeks (for this level of planning, you don’t need to break it down by day. That level of precision would be appropriate for a specific campaign like one that supports a trade show or product announcement).
- List the categories that impact your business down the left side of the page, such as major dates, holidays, milestones and marketing activities that affect both your customers and your business. Consider the following ideas to build out the calendar:
Customer behavior: purchase cycle, purchase patterns, life stage, etc.
There are many things that impact a customer’s state of mind and the timing of their purchases. So time your marketing activities with their purchase behavior. One way to do this is to deliver messages when a prospect starts thinking about making a purchase, usually set off by a trigger event. For example, people often look for a house or new apartment when they’re getting married or having children. Think about where on your calendar you would beef up your marketing activities, say around springtime. By timing communication appropriately, you can be top-of-mind just when they’re ready to shop (otherwise known as the ripest moment).
Another way to time your activities is in accordance with the cycles of your business or industry. For example, participate more frequently in advance of the months you know you’re going to be slow. Or conversely, slow down your communications in anticipation of being too busy to handle the work or the orders. Consider what the competition is doing as well and time your activities to coincide with or to counteract them.
Consider key dates that impact the operation of your business. For example, anticipate the need for supplies, consider dates you need to be closed or when employees are taking vacations. Other key dates may include anniversaries, key milestones, events, etc.
Consider how the seasons, holidays and school schedules affect buyer behavior and your income. Either you have a business that’s super busy during November-December, or things come to a crashing halt. Plan accordingly to flatten out the highs and lows, and to anticipate budgetary constraints. Your messages should be “seasonal” too, in that they should relate to what customers are thinking about at these key times.
Campaigns: Schedule Marketing Activities Together for Greater Impact
Coordinate your marketing activities, like sending out a press release with your trade show participation, to increase their impact. Bring them together under one campaign theme to give you something to talk about in ads, materials, signage or whatever you plan on using to promote.
As they say, timing is everything. This marketing calendar will give you a big picture view to help you stay on top of your business.