Do you know why your business needs a highly effective marketing calendar? Is your answer to get more organized? There is a lot more going on within your effective marketing calendar than just trying to get more organized and, if you don't know it, you are probably going to have a difficult time.
On the outside, effective marketing calendars seem to be just about getting a whole bunch of tasks laid out in a handy calendar format–like the ultimate To Do list. But all of that organization is useless if you don't know what you are ultimately trying to achieve with that calendar. Once you know that, everything else begins falling into place with ease.
WHAT IS THE POINT?
Most of the time when you hear about marketing calendars, the general idea behind them is that to help you get organized. That's true, and no one will argue with it, but it's not really THE point. That is what it does, but it does not address the "why" behind it.
It's kind of like saying the purpose of a vacation is to get some time off and some time away from home. While that is true, would you let me pick your vacation spot for you based on that? There is a big difference between Disneyland, a cabin in the woods, and a hiking trip up the grueling slopes of Half Dome in Yosemite. Just getting away is not enough. It has to serve a purpose, and if you are looking for relaxation, two out of three of the above itineraries I could pick for you wouldn't give you what you need at all.
I believe that the true purpose of an effective marketing calendar is to get you to take your business seriously enough so that you can avoid the feast or famine cycle in your business forever. A marketing calendar (or a marketing calendar done correctly to be more specific) can become the ultimate accountability tool that gets you to stop taking random, reactive action and puts you back in control of how and when you make money. It turns you into someone who is creating your business on purpose, in a calm and systematic way, with a reasoning you thought out ahead of time and a plan you can stick to.
Let's talk about your garage for a moment. How many times have you created a list of goals, generally around the first of January, and been really excited about what you wanted to accomplish? And how many times has that list ended up in the corner of your desk, and then in a folder, and then in a pile of folders, and then in a drawer, and then in a box? And then that box ultimately ends up in your garage because you have too many things to do and you cannot face looking at what you were excited about in January because it's now September? That is what happens without an effective marketing calendar. Wouldn't it be nice to stop that cycle?
The primary reason that 99 percent of people do not seem to be all that hot at achieving their goals is because they make it very easy to forget why they have those goals, how they're going to make them happen, and what dates they will hold themselves accountable to do them by. As obnoxious as it may sound when Tony Robbins says it, "If you talk about it, it's a dream, if you envision it, it's possible, but if you schedule it, it's real." Once you actually schedule something, you cannot hide from it. It is sitting right there in your effective marketing calendar and you keep that calendar in front of you, you can't pretend it's not there. You can hide from your goals by sticking them in a folder, but you can't hide from a calendar that is tacked to your wall.
Even if that marketing calendar goes into a folder, a drawer, a box in your garage, the universal calendar of life does not. You cannot hide from May if you know you scheduled getting X done in May. It's like how when January 1 gets closer, you start remembering all the things you told yourself you would do last January 1. When you have an effective marketing calendar for your business, you are making a bunch of small commitments that serve a higher purpose, and that will give you some of the leverage you need to do to actually sit down and do things on purpose, on schedule (or as close to that schedule as possible).
Once you have decided what to do and why, you are a lot less likely to sit on your thumbs or feel confused. Knowing there is a good reason to get X done by Monday makes it a lot easier to actually get it done. You can take yourself seriously, because you know you are not guessing or playing around or reacting anymore. You. Have. A. Plan.
No matter what other activities you do, without an effective marketing calendar you cannot take your business seriously. And with an effective marketing calendar, you HAVE to take your business seriously. It is the ultimate accountability tool. And when you can get the right things done, at the right times, in the right ways, you will actually have the control you need to manage your cash flow so you can avoid the "feast or famine" forever.
The Best Practices
I believe in breaking your marketing efforts down into three primary objectives. This will work in your favor by helping you focus on the three most important things you will be doing. As you get better at building and using your highly effective marketing calendar, you can add whatever else you want. But let's get the basics nailed down first:
- You are actively engaged in telling your people to buy from you. This is what we usually call promotion.
- You are making your people more aware of what you have to sell, so they will buy from you later when you actively tell them to. This is what we tend to call warming up, building trust, or the pre-launch things.
- You are getting new people into your audience, so you actually have more buns in the seats to sell to. This is what is called lead generation.
You will figure out when you are going to be doing active promotion, when you are going to do the more passive warming up, and when you are going to be pounding the pavement doing lead generation.
It can get more complicated than that, but it really doesn't have to. The trick is deciding that you are going to give a clear focus to doing ALL three things intentionally and with a sense of purpose, and then figuring out the how based on the way your business operates.
Most marketing plans we see only cover the first objective–promotion. This means the entire marketing department, which would be you in this case, has the job of sending people emails asking them to buy your things. They do not work on consistently building awareness and giving softer opportunities to buy, and they do not have a clear plan for lead generation. And that is what ends up trapping people in the feast or famine cycle. They are not doing all three of these things, so straight sales is their only tool, and it is at its least effective when you are not actively engaging in these big three activities.
Now that you know what these big three marketing activities are, you are going to have to figure out how you do each of them. And by "how" we are not talking tactically. We are not talking what day you should send an email or what is the best way to get people to comment on your blog posts. We are talking about the actual methods you will use to do those three things.
What methods do you plan to use to promote?
- Your email list?
- A physical mailing list?
- Your blog?
- Social media?
- Personal emails?
- Telephone calls?
- Networking mixers?
What methods will you use to build awareness and warm up your audience?
- A series of blog posts with links to your offerings?
- Big pieces of free content emailed to them?
- Free samples or demonstrations of your physical products?
- Regular coupons or soft offers in your mailings?
What methods will you use for lead generation?
- Guest articles on other people's websites?
- Paid traffic?
- Joint ventures?
The "how" doesn't really matter in terms of which methods you use, but you have to make a conscious choice and decide on the primary tools you are going to use. The reason you have to be conscious is because you do not want to run the risk of saying you will get around to guest posting or you will probably run an ad somewhere. That kind of talk is vague, impossible to put on a calendar, and impossible to hold yourself accountable for.
Once you do decide on the specific methods you are going to use to accomplish the three objectives, then you can start figuring out what kind of commitments you will need to be making for yourself. This is the difference between saying "I think I will do some posting around on other blogs," and "I am going to write one guest post every two weeks for lead generation." The latter has a slightly higher chance of getting accomplished.
For those of you thinking "You know, I do not think I need to put something on a calendar so I can do it. I am really productive," it is even more important to use the highly effective marketing calendar. The reason for this is because it is incredibly easy to get distracted and take on too many activities when running your business. Everything looks so good and everything looks like it can make you money, that you end up trying to use too many marketing tactics at once. But if you have guest posting on your calendar (and all your other marketing activities on the calendar), you are going to be less likely to get distracted, because you will have something you know you are doing. On top of that, you will also know when you actually do not have any more time to devote to new activities, so you will not overextend yourself.
Grab some paper and write down the three objectives: promotion, warming up, and lead generation. Pick the methods your business is currently using or needs to start using to accomplish all three. This way nothing falls through the cracks and you don't create a calendar that is missing important activities in it. I have seen a lot of clients in my time not include something as simple as scheduled blogging on their calendar, and then they are wondering why they can never seem to find time to do it. In general, it is a lot easier to make time for activities when they are in writing.
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