plan your annual marketing calendar

2010 calendar

i’ll try not to add to the chorus of disbelief that the year is practically over and instead say: congratulations, we all made it another year! since the calendar allows us this time to regroup over the holidays and start fresh in the new year, i like to take a couple days sometime in december to do a year-end retreat. whether you get out of town to a new location to clear your head, or take a stay-cation right in your living room, it’s a good time to reflect on the past year, list out any new goals you’d like to incorporate, and chart out a marketing plan for the coming year. this not only allows you to take more control of your schedule, but you save money when you plan ahead, strategize on how best to attack these projects, and avoid rush charges.

if you’re not sure where to start in planning a marketing calendar, use these questions to get the basic framework going: does your business have any fixed dates for events or promotions you already know you’ll be working with? does your industry have any events your business participates in [or would like to]? are there holidays that you can use as a good excuse to reach out with a personalized communication? and alternately, where are the stretches where none of these things happen, and what can you do with them?

once you have these dates & events to work with, ask yourself what type of communication would work best in each case. a postcard? a promotional piece? email newsletter? a combination of a few of these? for promoting your own events, you’ll want to sketch out a specific promotion strategy, but for periodic points of contact, you can pick the best format for the occasion and try to switch it up so your market gets used to seeing the flexibility of your brand. for example, as a designer, sending my own cards on major card holidays is a given. i also commit to a monthly email newsletter, and i like celebrating seasons, so for me, that’s a good time to use a postcard. this means, aside from my monthly newsletter, my contacts are seeing something from me most months of the year.

for the stretches when you don’t really have anything planned is a good time to make something up! while my work is always accessible online & linked in my newsletter, i like to send out a little “what’s new” package of print samples every so often since most of my work is print matter. if you were thinking of offering a promotion, creating a unique piece that announces it and slating it for one of these months where you don’t have anything else going out is a good way to stay in touch. don’t be afraid to share something not related to business–share info on things you like, cool tools of the trade, or send a personal email inviting your colleagues to meet in person.

once you chart these out on a calendar, it should be pretty easy to balance your communications over a few media formats and evenly space them through the year. then the tough part comes: commitment! the surest way to get all these things out the door is to create production schedules at least 6 weeks out for each. but don’t fret–if you got to this point, you can plan certain pieces together and get them done early, consolidate projects and put a little more effort upfront and save time down the line. if you have questions about how to strategize your production schedule, drop me an email and i’ll show you where you can combine & conquer!

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