Online retail sales have astoundingly topped $4.9 trillion in the United States alone. Additionally, it is expected to grow by over 50% within the next four years.
In short, eCommerce businesses are booming. In addition, eCommerce is one of the easier ways to break into the business world for new entrepreneurs. Moreover, an eCommerce company can be operated from home with a much lower startup cost and overhead.
But, to separate yourself from the competition and drive eCommerce growth, you need a marketing calendar stat.
What is a Marketing Calendar?
In simplest terms, marketing calendars show what a business plans to do over a set period of time. This could be a quarter, a half year, or the entire calendar year.
Your marketing calendar often lists the campaigns you plan to run, promotions and sales you expect to have. You could also use it for product launches and holidays. Marketing calendars for large companies may include social media, editorial, and products. On the other hand, a marketing calendar for a small business may combine all marketing activities.
Why is a Marketing Calendar Important?
Having a marketing calendar lets you focus on the big picture issues instead of trying to solve them at the last minute. For example, if multiple campaigns run simultaneously, it may be easy to get disoriented. However, a marketing calendar ensures you have an organized and cohesive campaign.
Specifically, your marketing calendar will let you know when to post on social, when to send emails, etc. In addition, it allows you to keep track of when and where you launch and run campaigns. And, you’ll be able to coordinate your marketing strategies with an overview of your campaign.
Also, marketing calendars provide more creative and strategic campaigns. This gives you time to hire, outsource, and send products to influencers. And it’s possible to plan long-term collaborations.
You can also keep your brand consistent by using a digital marketing calendar. Having a marketing calendar is an excellent way to ensure you stay on top of every campaign. And, by being consistent with your marketing, your brand is easier to remember.
How to Plan a Marketing Calendar to Drive Sales for eCommerce
1. Decide where your calendar will be hosted.
The first step is deciding where you will set up your marketing calendar. You can use a paper calendar, but an online calendar is better.
For one, you can use a template to speed up the creation of your marketing calendar. This is especially true if you’re using Excel or Google Sheets.
Additionally, it is less likely to be lost or destroyed.
And most importantly, you can also share your calendar with others. For instance, to keep your sales and marketing teams on the same page, you would share this calendar with them. In addition to this, sharing calendars makes collaboration seamless. And, when you need to meet for brainstorming sessions or updates, online calendars can make scheduling a breeze.
2. Define your marketing calendar’s goals.
Once you’ve got your calendar, you need to define your marketing calendar’s objectives.
According to eCommerce expert Alex Greifeld, who’s been in the industry since 2011, it’s better to start big rather than small. To put that another way, instead of starting on step three of the recipe, determine what kind of meal you want to make.
“A lot of digital marketers and eCom practitioners skip right from a vague objective to tactics,” Alex writes in the No Best Practices newsletter. “We start the year with a sales target and then write up a list of optimizations or new technology that we think will get us there.”
“A general rule of thumb—if your strategy could be applied interchangeably to any business, it’s not actually a strategy,” Alex advises.
A well-designed marketing calendar based on your goals will make it much less likely that you will just throw random stuff at the wall and hope it sticks. As a result, you can allocate your money and time more effectively to make big moves when it’s time.
Consider these questions:
- Is there someone I’m partnering with?
- Are there any events or promotions planned already?
- What campaigns can be moved around, and which ones are fixed?
- How can I make room for new opportunities that may arise?
- How should I repeat the central messaging?
Answering the questions above can help you define your marketing calendar’s goals. And once you do, you can even use your calendar to track the progress of these goals.
3. Identify your marketing strategies.
Next, identify your marketing strategies to help you create a marketing calendar. After all, it’s essential to know what strategies you use to create a marketing calendar.
With that said, eCommerce marketing calendars typically include the following strategies:
- Content marketing. Content marketing focuses on developing and sharing compelling content with your audience. You can plan content types and when to post them with a digital marketing calendar.
- Email marketing. Marketing via email lets you send personalized emails to subscribers directly. Sending emails at the right time can help you reach your audience, from new product releases to sales.
- Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. An advertisement that appears above organic listings in search results is a PPC advertisement. It’s a good idea to put this strategy on your marketing calendar, so you can plan when to run ads for specific services or products.
- Social media marketing. This is when you make content and share it across your social channels. An online marketing calendar helps you schedule social media posts and coordinate them with other marketing efforts.
Your marketing calendar will be clear when you identify your marketing strategies. Moreover, your strategy should focus on a series of messages around a single central theme. Not only will this improve consistency, but it will also make planning the campaign a whole lot smoother.
Some suggestions would be:
- Content-driven campaigns. Focus your email and social content on a central theme.
- Giveaways and contests. Make a giveaway or a contest to get more emails or followers.
- Holiday campaigns. Send messages around a big, small, or obscure holiday.
- Product launches. Pre-launch content, such as emails and social media posts.
- Sales and promotions. Send prospective customers an email when existing inventory is on sale, or offer a discount code to encourage them to purchase.
4. Establish your target audience.
If you’re still hung up on the above, just know your target audience will help you determine your strategies. After all, to use your strategy effectively, you need to know who your target audience is. Your typical customer is your target audience if you don’t have one yet.
Consider who visits or buys from your store. These customers probably share the following characteristics:
- Socioeconomic status
- Buying habits
- Hobbies and interests
You’ll be able to determine who typically buys from your company if you define these characteristics. You’ll then be able to use strategies that help you get in touch with them.
5. Determine how long you’ll plan for.
Creating a marketing calendar a year in advance makes sense for some eCommerce businesses. For example, you may need that much time if you coordinate with multiple vendors on a large-scale event. Additionally, you get a better idea of what kind of campaigns you’ll be running long-term. And this also ensures that you’ll always be stocked up.
For instance, you might run two big promotions annually. You could have one during the holidays, specifically around Black Friday, and the other during the Fourth of July. Yearlong planning gives you the longest lead time, but it also has the most flexibility. Planning for events worldwide and cultural shifts or trends is hard, so you’ll have to leave a little wiggle room when things suddenly change.
However, you aren’t limited to creating a yearly marketing calendar. You can also create either a monthly or quarterly marketing calendar.
You have the most flexibility with planning one month at a time. This also allows you to create campaigns around trending topics or emerging trends more timely.
Planning for the future each month is a downside, as it can become cumbersome. Your most significant risk here is that you pivot to a tactical approach instead of one that is objective and strategic in nature.
In the middle is quarter planning. It gives you solid lead time while also allowing you to plan for unforeseen events.
The idea with this type of plan is to optimize your calendar and take stock four times a year. As a result, you can see how your campaigns performed and make timely adjustments.
Also, in my opinion, it’s pretty easy to map out and saves a ton of time.
- Quarter 1. Your calendar would for this quarter start on New Year’s Day. You could wrap this up on March 20 — the first day of Spring. In-between, there are holidays like Valentine’s Day.
- Quarter 2. For this quarter, you could run spring campaigns from the end of March to June.
- Quarter 3. Throughout this quarter, your efforts would be geared towards summer activities like the 4th and pool parties. In August, you could launch a back-to-school campaign.
- Quarter 4. This quarter is a whooper as it includes major holidays and events like Halloween, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and, of course, the holidays.
6. Identify critical milestones.
If you want to know how to plan a marketing calendar, you need to add important dates to the marketing calendar. Some of these important dates include:
- Holidays and days of observance.
- Milestones, such as new product launches, collections, or collaborations.
- Company events and special occasions.
Take advantage of these opportunities to connect with your community. Don’t forget to put one or all of these on your marketing calendar. Your customer will appreciate a more creative campaign if you launch that early on.
As an example, if the anniversary of your eCommerce store is in September, you could launch a marketing campaign giving your email subscribers a discount as a thank you.
7. Build in flexibility.
“The purpose of a marketing plan isn’t to create a step-by-step, never-fail manual,” writes Elise Dopson in a Shopify post. “It’s to have a roadmap to help you accomplish the best-case scenario, while also being realistic with your expectations and having backup plans if something doesn’t work.”
“Consumer trends shift, circumstances change, and initial experiments don’t always go as planned,” Elise adds.
A marketing calendar is no different than a great roadmap.
A marketing calendar is no different than a sales calendar. This is true when capitalizing on real-time events or having to pivot.
For example, you had mapped out a social media calendar for the summer quarter. In the middle of July, though, the campaign didn’t boost the sales you anticipated. As such, you need to learn from this and make the proper adjustments for future marketing calendars.
Image Credit: Karolina Grabowska; Pexels; Thank you!