This blog is all about de-stressing the process of creating a marketing calendar and helping make content planning second nature to you.
I hope that after you’ve read this compilation of tips from myself and my teammate Arta, you’ll see that a marketing calendar is nothing but a pattern of posts repeated for as long as it works. When it stops working, find a new pattern.
Heads up that for the sake of brevity, the examples in this blog mostly relate to social media; however, the principles of planning can be applied to other channels too.
At the end of the read, there are two Google templates waiting for you, both based on what we use at Printful:
Here we go!
2020 has been a harsh reminder that things change.
In the past, the marketing year revolved around sales spikes—especially the end-of-the year ones.
Now, with fewer holiday gatherings to prepare for and an even bigger fraction of our lives happening online, it’s predicted that “shopping patterns will feel longer and flatter.”
This means holiday shopping events may start sooner than before, overlap with one another more, and their marketing angle may also shift.
Sales and discounts, however, will always be expected. So, for retailers, the new rules are: be flexible and offer value way beyond the deal.
When planning your campaigns for the upcoming year, remember that people are anxious, tired, celebrating less, and looking to brands for comfort. Use your brand voice to encourage your customers to enjoy themselves while keeping health and safety a priority.
Now, back to the content calendar.
Marketing isn’t just a series of sales dates.
It’s a pattern of marketing activities that shape your presence as a brand, and a marketing calendar is an excellent way to keep track of that pattern.
To keep your business running and audiences interested, combine sales campaigns with awareness campaigns. Both of them will boost engagement, but in different ways.
How to tell the difference between awareness and sales campaigns?
Compare the two Fenty examples below.
In this first post, there’s a photo that features several products, but there’s nothing visually or textually singled out. It’s all about the vibe + a commentary on the current events. This is awareness.
Below, the focus is clearly on white denim: both in the visual and the copy. This is sales.
To help you keep your account consistent, I think it’s useful to decide on the basic pattern you’re going to offer your followers:
Knowing this basic pattern will help you figure out your post frequency and keep your content consistent. And your audience will feel comfortable, knowing what to expect from you.
Before you get to brainstorming and scheduling your sales and awareness posts, make sure you have the general goals of your content figured out.
This will lead you back to thinking about your brand core: what matters to your business, what matters to your audience, and what issues you want to solve with your product or service.
Once you feel your brand vibe in your bones, map out the following:
Here’s a content map based on my experience creating campaigns for Startup Vitamins, the ecommerce store that led to its team founding Printful.
Startup Vitamins sells inspirational posters, mugs, stickers, and other merch for office workers, entrepreneurs, and anyone else who likes getting positive reminders to get out there and do their thing.
Here’s what mattered to Startup Vitamins as a business back then:
What mattered to the audience:
An issue we were trying to improve:
The more customers engage with your business, the more connected they stay with your brand, and the more likely they are to buy and recommend your products.
The channels we were posting on:
The metrics we were targeting to improve:
As for the sales events we were going for, these were the must-haves:
If there was time, we also ran campaigns for other fun, on-brand shopping events:
Following this example, use our ecommerce holiday calendar to pick the shopping events and national holidays that suit your audience:
Remember that any holiday campaign can work for your store as long as it’s targeted, well-meant, and thought-out.
At this point in the mental preview of your marketing calendar, you should have an idea of your:
When finding a spot for all these in your calendar, remember that a successful campaign takes time and effort.
For starters, it’s likely your audience follows you on several channels at the same time, so every channel has to contain slightly different content, copy, and visuals: even if it’s for the same campaign. Otherwise, customers can quickly become overwhelmed or bored.
However, don’t spread yourself too thin, and focus on the channels that work for you. No need to cover every channel out there!
Next, a good campaign needs to build like a story. You have to tell it long enough for your customers to hear about it, share it, and react to it.
Here’s a sample outline for what a week-long sales campaign might entail on a single channel:
So, to make sure everyone gets the message, it can take up to 3 weeks to get the most out of a week-long campaign. More complicated campaigns involving giveaways and collaborations may take longer.
In the Startup Vitamins example, we had 7 basic shopping holidays to cover.
With 52 weeks in a year, 3 weeks per campaign, and 7 sales campaigns to target, that boils down to 21 weeks of the calendar gone on essential promos alone, leaving 31 weeks for minor sales and brand awareness campaigns.
That’s the time for entertaining, inspiring, sharing, and caring.
Decide which of those you want to do and begin work on the awareness bit of your post pattern. You could decide, for example, that:
Once you have a pattern, it’ll be easier to come up with post ideas and you can save time by preparing campaigns in advance.
Sticking to your marketing calendar is great: for some of your channels, it’ll run like clockwork. For others, it’s better to keep an open mind.
My teammate Arta, Printful’s Social Media Team Lead, told me that scheduling-wise, some of your channels may be more fixed and others more flexible.
For example, at Printful, our Facebook account is a rather fixed channel. What’s planned on there rarely gets moved around too much.
Instagram, on the other hand, is a flexible account. Our marketing calendar serves as a guideline for the team, but Instagram dictates a few rules of its own.
Because Instagram is all about eye candy, sometimes Arta and the team adjust the schedule so the sequence of posts not only informs, but also looks good in the feed.
Social media scheduling apps like Later, Planoly, and Postoplan even have an Instagram preview feature to help you double-check that your posts still go together. If they don’t, you can rearrange any placement on the feed or calendar, and the app will reschedule the post automatically.
However, you don’t even need an app for that: you can make a 3 x 3 table in a Google Doc, post in the thumbnails of your upcoming posts, and play around with the order until you’re happy with it.
If rearranging your posts doesn’t help though, consider revisiting some of the posts and redoing their visuals.
To answer, follow this quick little exercise.
Think about the last few times you opened a social media account of a store or coffee shop to double-check they exist/are open.
How did it feel to see their last post was a month ago? Or six? On the flipside, how did it feel to see the last post was a day ago?
And there’s the answer: post as frequently as can, so your audience can be sure you’re a real, trust-worthy, followable business. It makes perfect sense: the more you give your customers that good stuff, the more they’re going to want it anyway.
According to Arta, the rule of thumb for all social media these days is: at least one quality post a day.
For both social media algorithms and content consumers, the more regular quality content, the better.
If you’re just starting out and time and resources are scarce, Arta suggests going for every other day and slowly working your way up to daily posts (and eventually more).
While you’re tweaking your content pattern, monitor your audience’s reactions. If you don’t see the engagement and reactions you’re looking for:
Keep experimenting until you see something that sticks. When it stops working or when you’ve reached the goal you’ve set, try something new!
You’ve almost reached the downloadable calendar and content archive templates.
Before you get to them, remember: the more useful you find your tools, the more you’re actually going to use them.
For both templates, choose a combo of fonts, font sizes, and colors that speaks to you.
Then, figure out how you’re going to label the content, both in the Sheets template and the Doc. It could look something like this:
In your content file, post all your content copy as well as previews for the corresponding visuals (no need to store the visual files on there, but it’s handy to paste in an image preview to get a better picture of past posts). This will prove super convenient for studying your patterns and recycling content: just hit Cmnd/Ctrl + F and search by keywords.
To keep both files close, I recommend leaving a URL to the Doc in the Sheets file and vice versa.
And that’s all I have to say about that. Download the files below, import them to Google Docs/Sheets, and you’re all set!
Best of luck creating your next marketing calendar, and let me know in the comments about any other tips you’d like to share with our readers!
Marianna Zvaigzne is the Head of Brand Language at Printful. With the help of her team, she’s pinning down what it means to “sound like Printful” and keeps Printful copywriters on their toes with animated editing sessions and writing workshops.