Having a calendar planned out far enough to provide a clear path to your goals, yet flexible enough to adjust for necessary changes based on results and feedback, is a valuable tool that reduces stress and improves workflows.
Here we are at the beginning of another year. Resolutions abound, shiny new planners are bought, waiting to be filled with amazing goals & steps for achieving those goals. January 1 is really just an arbitrary placeholder in the ongoing days of our lives, yet we approach it with the optimism and determination of a clean slate, a new beginning, a chance to “get it right.”
While it’s true that the date is arbitrary, it’s nonetheless a good idea to have these consistent “resets” and re-evaluations for our lives, our work, and other areas. Otherwise, we might become so caught up in the never-ending flow of work and life that we don’t stop to pause and reflect and re-adjust.
Break It & Roll It
Are you thinking about creating a marketing calendar for your business, or looking for a way to make your current calendar more efficient? This article will offer tips to create a calendar that helps you define your goals, break them into manageable pieces, and allow adjustments for unknown variables. Using the “funnel method” for goals and the “rolling calendar method” for maintenance provides clarity and flexibility. Read on for an explanation.
Pull It Together
It is important to consider not only the yearly calendar with its national holidays and events, but also your business’s internal calendar. It’s simple to merge the two into an overall plan, so don’t neglect one for the other. For example, if you have plans to develop a holiday campaign that will require a lot of staff phone support, but your internal calendar also requires your staff to be working on yearly budgets during the same period, both efforts will suffer. Balancing marketing efforts with available resources is important to achieving success without undue stress.
So, you’ve considered both the national calendar and your internal calendar. You’ve taken stock of resources and budget, and you have goals in mind that are ambitious but achievable. Excellent! Now what?
The Calendar Funnel: Wide to Narrow
First, start off at the yearly level. What are three-to-five MEASURABLE goals you have for the year? Give plenty of thought to these goals and tie them to the overall health, prosperity, and growth of your business as possible, because they will not change over the course of the year… if at all.
Second, determine quarterly objectives that will move you toward reaching those yearly goals. Again, these need to be measurable… specific, but not too detailed. Write them down and see if there are any obvious places on your calendar where they would fit nicely.
For example, if a yearly goal is to rid your inventory of at least 10,000 garden widgets by the end of the year, one objective toward accomplishing that would be to determine the best time and means for marketing your widgets. Will they sell best during spring quarter with a big campaign geared to gardeners, highlighting the widget's comfortable grip? Or will they sell best as stocking stuffers for the gardener in the family at Christmas because of their low price? Do you split your efforts and resources into two campaigns, or will you market the widgets all year long? Do you sell all you can at regular price the first half of the year and then mark them down the second half? It’s up to you to know your industry, audience, and resources to make the most informed decision. If you’re not sure, you need help with your marketing campaigns.
Third, now you’re really focusing more on details at the level of monthly projects. This is also where the rolling calendar method starts, which makes planning both flexible and manageable. Your quarterly objectives and yearly goals are your guideposts, but the monthly projects have specific details… start dates, resource assignments, deadlines, etc…. which is why you plan only a few months at a time. You MIGHT have some details you can fill in for later months, but only if you know these are necessary beyond three months (i.e. recurring tasks, ordering, etc.).
If you try to set concrete, detailed plans for twelve months out, you’ll find that too many unseen forces may derail your plans. Additionally, trying to envision and account for all the variables for a whole year is unwieldy from a time perspective. The more manageable you make this marketing calendar’s maintenance, the more likely you are to stick with it.
The Rolling Calendar
Let’s say you’ve decided to stretch your garden widget marketing efforts across the entire year. You sit down with your staff (or yourself) at the end of December/beginning of January to spell out the specifics and details of garden widget projects for January, February, March, and April. This initial meeting is the only time you’ll plan more than one month out at a time.
Then at the end of January, you will plan for March, April, and May. (The month immediately following your end-of-month meeting is off limits to major changes because there’s not enough time to shift priorities and deadlines without serious disruption.) Now, based on January’s results and feedback, you can adjust the project details for March and April, if necessary. Hopefully, if all has gone according to plan and results and feedback are on target, February, March, and April will remain unchanged. May’s plans can be created with greater insight from January’s results.
At the end of February, you will plan/adjust for April, May, and June, based on February’s results and feedback. And on and on throughout the year. (See illustration below.) This rolling method keeps your planning to a once-a-month meeting at the project level, keeps you looking three months ahead, and keeps your calendar flexible enough to account for variables, results, and feedback… all elements important to optimizing your efforts.
Weekly Actions & Daily Tasks
And finally, your staff should be having weekly meetings that determine the assignment of daily tasks to complete the projects. Hopefully, you have employees you can delegate to and trust to get the job done. Delegation keeps you focused on the big picture and out of the detail weeds, while still providing your staff with the tools they need, the responsibility they crave, and the authority to make decisions at that level.
Having a calendar planned out far enough to provide a clear path to your goals, yet flexible enough to adjust for necessary changes based on results and feedback, is a valuable tool that reduces stress and improves workflows. When everyone knows the goals, objectives, projects, and tasks, as well as understanding their place within the larger effort, your team will be pulling together in the same direction. This efficiency will maximize your chances of reaching your goals on schedule… or sooner.