Marketing calendar: How to build one + why it’s important

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Marketing often feels like herding cats, doesn’t it?

It feels that way to company leadership, and often it feels that way to many of the people working in your marketing department.

Marketing has become a broad discipline in just about every modern business, responsible for a dizzying array of tasks, campaigns, and deliverables. And in an environment like this, it’s no surprise that tasks and deliverables start falling through the cracks.

Marketing calendars are one tool many businesses use to organize and make sense of their various marketing responsibilities. Below, we’ll show you what a marketing calendar is, why you need one, and how to build one — plus how Teamwork can help you do it better and with seamless integration with your other project management efforts.

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What is a marketing calendar?

A marketing calendar is a calendar that displays all marketing activities, initiatives, and events for an upcoming period of time, usually a quarter or an entire year. It serves as a centralized single source of truth where all marketing employees, vendors, leaders, and stakeholders can get an at-a-glance view of what marketing is responsible for over the coming months.

The marketing calendar relates closely to a company’s marketing plan and strategy: It organizes and displays the real-world details and dates for the activities called for in the strategy and plan, along with supplementary activities that support the primary ones.

(Speaking of marketing plans, check out Teamwork’s powerful marketing plan template, a fantastic tool for succeeding with the crucial step just prior to building out a marketing calendar.)

A typical high-level marketing plan could include information about seasons and holidays, social media campaigns, blog publish dates, the activities surrounding a new product launch, and anything else relevant to major marketing milestones at a company.

The importance of a marketing calendar

Businesses use marketing calendars to keep the details straight on the many wide-ranging marketing tasks and projects. Most marketing teams are responsible for numerous, highly varied tasks, from short-form, short-range tasks like writing and posting tweets to massive, yearlong advertising campaigns and even planned live events.

With so many details to keep straight, it’s easy for marketing tasks to fall through the cracks. A central calendar keeps everyone on the same page: marketers, project management, designers, content writers, and anyone else in the workflow.

A marketing calendar is an integral part of an effective marketing workflow, since any meaningful workflow must include reliable, accurate start and end dates for projects and initiatives. It can also steer marketing teams toward greater success, better campaign performance, and stronger team organization by keeping team members informed and on track.

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What to look for in a marketing calendar

In decades past, a master marketing calendar usually looked like a large whiteboard or oversized paper calendar, with plenty of pencils, markers, and erasers cluttering it. But today, nearly every mature marketing team uses some kind of electronic calendar for their marketing calendar.

As you look for the right marketing calendar tool or platform, these are the top features or elements we recommend.

Integrates with other tools

Your marketing calendar shouldn’t exist in isolation. As other aspects of your project management and planning have gone digital, so should your marketing calendar. The best-case scenario is finding a single tool or platform that can handle all aspects of your planning and calendar needs — and we believe Teamwork is a great choice that does this beautifully.

If you do choose a standalone marketing calendar tool, make sure it integrates well with everything else you’re using to plan, manage, and execute projects. For example, if you’re using Google Calendar (and the rest of Google Workspace) for your general planning and productivity, make sure your marketing calendar tool can import, export, and sync with Google’s products. Some tools boast wide integrations, but those integrations are minimally functional and won’t accomplish what you’re looking for.

Offers customizable views

Sometimes, a traditional grid view is all you need from a marketing calendar, but not always. You may need a quarter-wide or yearlong view, or you may need to drill down into a specific week or day where many events are concentrated. You may even want to filter tasks by the responsible department or individual.

Good calendar solutions will allow you to customize views in all the ways that matter, giving you greater visibility at the micro and macro levels.

Tracks the performance of marketing campaigns

You might be accustomed to thinking of your marketing calendar as a standalone tool — perhaps something you built in Excel or an Outlook calendar. In this case, you probably don't think of the calendar itself as the place to track marketing campaign performance — because that isn’t what calendars do!

But hear us out: When your marketing calendar lives inside your broader project management and project tracking software suite, it’s instantly tied into performance tracking, analytics, and metrics — no configuration or integration required.

With the right content and email marketing tools, you can tie performance data to calendar data and vice versa, giving you greater project visibility and better insight you can actually use.

Easy to use and edit

Last, make sure your chosen marketing calendar solution is easy to use and simple to edit. Marketing schedules are chaotic and never set in stone, so you’ll be doing plenty of editing and realigning. Make sure the solution you choose makes this simple.

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Step-by-step guide for building a marketing calendar

We’ve covered what elements to look for in a platform or marketing calendar tool, but what about the data itself? How do organizations like yours actually build out marketing calendars that function well, serving up the right level of detail without drowning in it?

Follow this step-by-step guide to begin building a better marketing calendar today.

1) Organize your marketing data in a spreadsheet or tool

The first step toward a functioning marketing calendar is gathering and organizing the necessary data. You can use a spreadsheet like Excel or Google Sheets as well as other productivity tools (Microsoft Word, Google Docs, Microsoft Teams, Slack — whatever fits into your current workflows).

At this early stage, include at least the following types of information:

  • All campaigns and activities listed in your marketing plan

  • High-level content strategy information

  • Data about existing marketing channels and the efforts funneling into each

  • Marketing goals

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2) Brainstorm campaign and content ideas

One of the ongoing challenges in marketing (especially in content marketing) is keeping up with the constant demand for new, quality content ideas. A crucial part of building out a marketing calendar is to dedicate some time to brainstorming new ideas for campaigns, content, and whatever else your department is responsible for. Therefore, it's important to have a content strategy in place.

Once you have the broad strokes of campaigns and activities you’re building a calendar for, start attaching content ideas to those elements.

3) Document essential dates and events in your calendar

With a rough outline of tasks and a good collection of content ideas ready to go, next up is roughing out the calendar or schedule itself. Start with your highest priority marketing initiatives and plan out essential dates (such as start and end dates, major milestones, deliverable dates, and so on). Repeat this process with your next most valuable projects, and continue doing so until all essential dates are established and documented.

4) Add valuable team members and stakeholders

Once you have a rough schedule in place, it’s time to add the contributing team members and stakeholders for each campaign or activity. 

This is where the process gets complicated. If you’re using a traditional calendar app, it can be hard to overlay complex tasks and multiple contributors in a way that generates any real value or meaning. But if you’re building your marketing calendar in a project management platform like Teamwork, this stage is just about as easy as possible.

Adding relevant personnel at this point will help you identify any problematic overlaps, constraints, or impossibilities on your marketing calendar (like having the same event planner in two states at once, or assigning 400% max workload to a writer or artist in a given week).

5) Apply a theme or customize calendar views

Depending on the platform or tool you’re using, you should have some options for customizing your calendar's appearance. You might choose to color-code entries based on campaign type or deliverable type, or you might find a theme that better surfaces the right level of detail. Settle on a visual format that works well for what you need your calendar to do.

6) Plan for marketing campaign frequency

Many elements of the typical marketing department’s responsibilities are cyclical: Black Friday happens every year (and so does Christmas), and sales or email marketing efforts are rarely one-and-done scenarios. (And why would they be, if marketers generally see a $36 return on every $1 they spend on email marketing campaigns?)

Good marketing calendar solutions will allow you to set certain predictable campaigns as recurring, auto-populating tasks and due dates at whatever frequency you choose.

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Types of marketing calendars

Not every marketing calendar looks the same or accomplishes exactly the same things. You might even need to have more than one if a single master calendar becomes too cluttered — or not detailed enough due to the volume of required entries.

These are the most common calendar types businesses like yours are using.

Content/editorial calendars

Your content calendar or editorial calendar keeps track of any content marketing efforts. Blog posts, social media posts, podcasts, videos, and other pieces of content that need to be regularly written, created, recorded, and (eventually) posted should live on this calendar.

If you’ve been doing content marketing for years, you know that this crucial discipline generates an absolute avalanche of content pieces and deliverables. A calendar brings some semblance of order to the chaos and helps keep individual employees on target.

If your business is just getting started with content marketing, it might seem overwhelming at first. But perhaps you’re just missing the right set of tools. A content calendar will help, but it isn’t the end-all solution. Here are 14 content marketing tools your agency needs to get started. Also, you can enhance your content strategy with tools such as podcast recording software to make things more interesting for your audience.

Make sure to include all types of social posts, which social media platforms each post is targeting, and broader content planning and strategy information — enough to orient team members, but not so much that they become overwhelmed.

Marketing campaign calendars

Individual campaigns targeting specific markets can be labor- and task-intensive. If your campaign is large enough, it might benefit from its own standalone calendar that outlines key dates for the campaign itself and for the target demographic.

Social media marketing calendar

Some organizations build social media marketing into their broader content plans, but the two are considerably different. Social media is full of short posts (many of which may link out to larger content pieces), while content marketing contains fewer but higher-value resources.

If your business (or your client’s business) is highly active on social media, a separate social media calendar can keep details straight without flooding your master calendar.

Looking for a better template for your social media marketing calendar? Teamwork’s social media calendar template will transform and simplify how you track your social campaigns.

Digital marketing calendar

Digital marketing calendars contain all projects and campaigns related to digital channels: paid search, affiliate and third-party content, email marketing, etc. For many firms, this is a growth area where additional organization can help — digital advertising is already a significant share of many companies’ ad spend, and it’s expected to more than double by 2026.

Integrated marketing calendar

An integrated marketing campaign works multiple marketing channels within a single campaign, including both digital and traditional marketing approaches. Tracking these campaigns can be complex since, in larger organizations, it involves teams that may be siloed from one another. A central integrated marketing calendar can break down those siloes and keep the campaign on track.

Check out Teamwork’s marketing calendar template today

Marketing may seem to thrive on chaos, but your business must control that chaos to succeed. Marketing calendars are one powerful way to rein in stray tasks and redirect confused team members, and the right platform makes all the difference.

Find out how Teamwork can bring organization and clarity to your marketing efforts. Start by checking out our social media calendartemplate today.

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