December… year-end wrap-up… and planning for next year. Have you started on your 2016 marketing & sales plan yet?
Whether your firm invests in a full-blown plan with well-thought-out strategies and detailed tactical steps… or if your plan is more of a one-page outline, there is one thing that every marketer must employ to effectively manage their growth plan…
… a Marketing & Sales Calendar.
Yeah, I know, everyone right now is saying, “Well, duh…” And my response is, “Well, maybe…”
I’ve seen too many marketing & sales plans in our industry without a good calendar to go by. Because of that, I want to use this article to make two recommendations… one is about the best kind of calendar to use and the other is about the best way to use it.
The Best Type of Marketing Calendar
Regardless of the tool you use to create your calendar, for it to be most effective, it must be “visual.” It must be easy for anyone to glance at it and quickly and easily understand what’s being communicated.
Those of you without a dedicated marketing person or staff – and that’s the vast majority of market research firms – have an employee who allocates some of their time to marketing. Which means that the majority of their time is spent doing something else. Which means that when they get busy (with their real job), it’s easy for marketing details to fall through the cracks.
That’s why a visual calendar is so important. Print it out and post it to your wall… so that every time you walk by it, you’ll be reminded of what needs to be done… and by when. And it must be in an easy-to-understand format so that your colleagues, supervisors and even your marketing vendors will quickly grasp it.
There are scores of software platforms that can be used to create visual calendars:
- Microsoft Excel (a great place to start)
- Project Bubble
- And many, many more…
How to Use Your Marketing Calendar
Even for those firms with some sort of marketing calendar, they often aren’t using it properly, resulting in missed deadlines. Why? They’re not breaking their tactics down into manageable pieces. Consider the following simple example of creating an advertisement to put in Quirk’s magazine.
Your calendar might have on it, “Ad sent to Quirk’s by March 1st.” And while that’s certainly not wrong, it’s missing all of the steps leading up to it…
- Get the media kit from Quirk’s
- Decide on ad size/cost
- Commit ad placement to Quirk’s; sign agreement
- Share the specs of the ad with your designer
- Discuss the ad concept with your designer
- Designer creates first draft of the ad
- First draft of ad reviewed/edited by your team
- Designer creates second draft of the ad
- Second draft of ad approved by your team
- Ad put into magazine-ready format by designer
- Ad sent to Quirk’s by March 1st
Here’s what those steps might look like in a visual Excel spreadsheet…
Clearly, it’s much more than just one deadline! And that’s just one ad. Imagine all of the steps for the creation and promotion of an eBook… or exhibiting at a large conference… let alone all of the tactics happening simultaneously as part of your full marketing & sales program.
Bottom line: Most marketers don’t take the time to consider all of the individual steps and then account for the time to complete each step… which means that they’re often rushing to meet deadlines and, in doing so, cranking out some pretty mediocre marketing. Sad… but true.
So, as you start planning for 2016, now is the time to start thinking through all of the steps of all of the tactics you’ve chosen to implement and putting them on your marketing calendar.
Do that… and you’re well on your way to becoming a truly efficient “marketing machine.”