This Magic Bullet Can Fix Your Erratic Marketing Program

How to build an effective marketing calendar that can keep your marketing strategy on track

Marketing is very important for any business to continue finding new customers and getting the existing customers to keep coming back.

Especially for startups and small businesses continuous marketing interventions are important to create awareness and maintain brand presence.

Yet marketing represents on 7% of the total business spends in the first year for many small businesses. Founders later wish they had spend at least 2-5x more in the first year of business for their marketing activities.

Even more important than marketing spend is the marketing discipline – to create, run, and sustain marketing programs consistently, month on month.

This is where most small businesses fail.

Image Source: Marketoonist.com

Small businesses often operate in a reactive mode.

They are always thinking about the bills to pay, and do activities that enable them to do so. That puts them in a frantic cycle of just chasing after the most recent bills: get a bill, run an activity, get a bill.

This is a path of non-progressive growth, because you aren’t thinking about the future. You aren’t able to do anything that gets you to that progressive future state.

You are so focused on the NOW, that you’ve lost the path to your vision.

How do you fix that? How do you wield marketing as a tool to push you forward towards your vision?

KNOW YOUR BUSINESS

The first step in getting your business back on track is to know what makes it tick. Every business has two types of activities: Fort activities and Knight activities.

Think back to the medieval times. You have a castle or a fort that you need to safeguard, while also sending out your armies or your knights to expand your kingdom. Forts are stability, they are your realm that needs to be ruled wisely. Knights seek adventure, they are the adrenaline rush your business needs to break out of the comfort zone and do something exciting that could yield great dividends.

Fort activities are those that are crucial to protect the core of your business.

This is the metaphorical equivalent of your existing realm.These are the activities you do 80% of the time. They are essential, because without them your business won’t function. For example, maintaining your product portfolio, keeping your website updated, running systems and processes like payments, recruitment, customer support etc. are Fort activities.

Knight activities are those that drive the future growth of your business.

This is the metaphorical equivalent of Knights going to conquer new lands. You should assign 20% of your activities in this bucket. Knight activities include new products, new marketing campaigns, new design, new funnels, and breakthrough ideas.

Unfortunately many entrepreneurs are struggling with day-to-day challenges and lose sight of Knight activities. Which is why they need a disciplined approach, an anchor – something that can help them focus, and do things effectively.

From a marketing standpoint, that anchor is a marketing calendar.

CREATING AN EFFECTIVE MARKETING CALENDAR

Marketing often dips in priority when fire-fighting on several fronts. That’s a mistake almost all small businesses end up making.

Business has only two functions

-Marketing and Innovation

It can be difficult to churn out marketing content regularly and most small business campaigns fizzle out soon. A marketing calendar makes sure that you are regularly promoting your business and engaging with your clients.

A marketing calendar is simply a 3-12 month plan that outlines your marketing activities on a month-to-month basis. It helps plan campaigns in advance and keep resources ready to tap in to big opportunities such as festival promos.

Creating a marketing calendar should be an agenda on your strategic plan. It needs to answer this question – do you have defined activities for coming XX months that will guarantee results/ revenues?

Creating a calendar might be difficult to do in the beginning, but as the activities gather steam, you’ll be thankful you prepared in advance.

To start your calendar, write down what activities are important to you and list them down by the month you plan to run them for. Try and add one Fort and one Knight activity in each month.

In case your business cannot afford Knight activities at present, list only Fort activities but remember to include the Knight activities when funds become available. To know which is a good activity to include – run the LERR – Leverage, Ease, Risk, and Reward – assessment.

Next, list down the target market, costs, campaign timeline, and potential reach for each activity. If possible, even add a column on expected results. You can compare/replace this with actual results when the campaign is done and improve forecasting.

When you are done, your calendar should look something like this:

These details help you measure the effectiveness of your marketing activities – what time frame works best for your business, what are the costs generally associated with your campaigns etc. and helps you improve campaign ROI.

The key to creating a great marketing calendar is to keep it simple.

Image Source: http://www.apimages.com/metadata/MSIndex/Marketing-plan-has-been-simplified/244085427/2116/0

Spreadsheets are the most common form of creating a marketing calendar. They are simple to use and very customizable, but they are not responsive.

There are online tools available (such as Google and Microsoft) that can help you create these calendars as well as integrate them with e-mail and other productivity software to get reminders etc.

Find out which tool works best for you – there is no one size fits all approach. The important thing is to create the calendar and stick to the activities and timelines you have defined for yourself.

Why don’t you give it a go right now? Pick up a pen and some paper, and list out predictable marketing activities for the next 3 months. Once you are done, detail it out even more by answering these questions:

  1. Can you identify Fort and Knight activities for each month? If not, what else can you add to make it balanced?
  2. Have you mapped out the channels for each activity? Can the same activity be done across multiple channels?
  3. Are the timeframes you have assigned to each activity reasonable? Would it make sense to do it another time to capitalize on some festival/holiday season?
  4. How much would each activity cost? Add a buffer to that number just in case
  5. What is the expected return from each activity? Are you looking for CTRs? Newsletter Signups? Direct sale?

How do you keep your marketing plan on track? What are the tools you use to plan and execute campaigns? How far in advance do you create your marketing calendar? I’d love to know.

Every year we select a few entrepreneurs to work with us to grow their companies while reducing the number of hours they invest working “in” the business. If this year if your year, if this is the year you will love to see extraordinary success for you business, we would be curious to see if we could help.