Marketing teams often operate in chaos. Projects and tasks live in team members’ heads, in notebooks, on sticky notes, in emails, and on whiteboards. Managers struggle to keep track of campaigns and results, and it’s hard to know how one person’s work affects someone else’s progress.
Want to hit marketing and revenue goals? It’s near impossible to do so with such a fragmented, disorganized marketing setup.
There’s a solution: a single, centralized marketing calendar to rule everything.
Think: marketing campaigns, the creative work that fuels them, day-to-day tasks, dependencies, visual assets, edits, topic ideas, and beyond. All the work that needs to happen to see success—it all lives in this calendar.
With it, you’ll deliver better marketing projects and ship them faster. You’ll spend less time searching for the right piece of information, due date, or file, and more time creating the right content for your ideal audience.
A marketing calendar is a tool for planning and organizing your marketing projects in one place.
It’s a roadmap for all your marketing activities. It’s the single source of truth for all functions in the marketing team.
A marketing calendar answers questions like:
Ever heard of planning fallacy? Even if you don’t recognize the term, you’ve almost certainly experienced it: you underestimate the time it will take you to complete tasks, even though previous tasks have already taken you and the team longer than planned.
A marketing calendar neutralizes this challenge. By organizing all your marketing efforts in one place, you can use data from previous projects to fuel your planning for upcoming projects
Removing the stress and chaos from your content operations will pay off. Your team will create better deliverables, you’ll be more focused, and you’ll hit greater marketing and business goals.
Marketing calendars can take many shapes and formats. Here are a few to consider:
Your marketing calendar will give you an instant overview of ongoing campaigns, tasks that support them, deadlines, formats, and potential bottlenecks.
If you’re creating your first calendar, and aren’t ready to try a software-based solution, then you may want something simple and no-cost to get started. These four Excel-based templates will make it easy to set up a calendar your entire team can share and use:
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Best marketing calendars are based on powerful marketing strategies. This way, you can deliver the right message to the right people on the right channel, and bring traffic, leads, and revenue.
Here’s how to execute your marketing strategy with a content calendar.
How do the words “marketing strategy” make you feel?
Do you instantly imagine a long, dry document you throw into your drawer and never look at again? Or do you picture a daily action plan for you and the team, one you can iterate on if something changes?
The latter is the dream, but many teams get stuck with the overwhelming, 30-pages long strategy doc that gets outdated within weeks.
The better way forward is easier than you think, but it’s crucial to switch from over-strategizing to real-time action.
Garrett Moon, CoSchedule’s CEO, calls this a ‘results or die’ approach that’s typical for startups. Why startups? Because they’re doing everything they can to stay in business. They have to execute, embrace their failures and learn from the data, and keep executing.
Another downfall of overthinking your marketing strategy is the number of assumptions it requires you to make:
Marketing comes with assumptions: assume methods used to get the message out will work; assume there’s the right mix of email ads; assume messages are right; assume the timeline is correct. Ever realize how much you are guessing?
There’s an easier way. To start building and executing your strategy, you only need three building blocks:
This startup approach to your marketing plan—and calendar—also looks like this:
On a day-to-day basis, your minimum-viable marketing strategy will look like this:
Next step is to move your action items to your marketing calendar. But before you do that, you need to define which team member is in charge of which tasks and projects.
In other words: you can have the best marketing calendar in the world, but projects on it will only come to life if they’re someone’s responsibility.
Your roles will depend on your team size. Here’s a list you can start with if you have a small team:
If you’re aiming for a larger content marketing team, you may consider this structure:
Remember the option to hire in-house or work with external contractors for certain roles (like writing, graphic design, and video editing). In both cases, editorial guidelines will help you maintain high content standards.
Make everyone aware of the roles you’re building into the team and get on the same page about capacity.
Then, use the marketing calendar to manage projects, communicate, oversee workloads, and maintain an efficient workflow.
By using themes for your content, you’ll end up with virtually unlimited content ideas.
Content themes are larger groupings of the topics your business focuses on.
You can use them as placeholders in your marketing calendar and rotate them weekly, every two weeks, or monthly. They’re also a great starting point for brainstorming topics and ideas.
You can see examples of topic themes on our blog, listed as categories:
Whatever your industry or business model, content themes will work for you. Take these examples:
Your themes can also include content collaborations like podcasts, guest posts, interviews, expert quote roundups, case studies, and competitions.
Brainstorm a list of themes and use them to flesh out your marketing calendar with campaigns and recurring marketing activities. You can plan for as long ahead as you wish, but keep in mind that the more data you collect, the better your plan will be.
That’s why it’s valuable to plan for shorter periods upfront as it means you can easily tweak your plan based on how your content performed.
Ready for the calm and clarity of a marketing calendar? Follow these five steps to get it.
Start by choosing your marketing calendar tool. Pick from printable calendars, spreadsheets, a Google Calendar, or a tool like CoSchedule.
For any option you choose, make sure it’s a team-wide decision and approach. If you use a spreadsheet, but your team is relying on a Google Calendar, both calendars will be outdated in no time.
That’s why we recommend a centralized, all-in-one marketing calendar. It brings all of your marketing projects together and is updated in real time—no outdated files and deadlines that fall through the cracks.
Grab our marketing calendar templates or sign up for a free 14-day trial of CoSchedule.
Brainstorming content ideas doesn’t have to be an overwhelming process. In just 30 minutes, you can generate powerful ideas for your campaign and topics.
The team at CoSchedule boiled it down to three simple steps:
This is a mighty brainstorming process because it gets everyone into a creative mode, forces them to consider what the audience wants from you, and leverages the power of the entire team.
The point is to not limit anyone, nor to get them to brainstorm their ideas out loud. They write them down on a sticky note so they can keep going without judgment.
When you have your list of highest-ranked ideas, note the problem that piece of content solves, as well as any potential headlines and angles.
There’s one more way to score your ideas (only the best ones from the previous step!)—purchase intent.
Users reveal a lot about their intent as they ask questions and look for answers. “Email marketing statistics” is a lot broader than “Mailchimp pricing,” and shows us how far from being ready to buy someone truly is.
Marcus Sheridan, a marketing author and speaker, recommends starting with content that generates sales. This is bottom of the funnel content, where customers care about the cost, problems, comparisons, reviews, and best options. Marcus calls these the Big 5.
“Essentially, we have every client rate their planned content (be it blog titles, videos, etc.) on a scale of 1-3. A “3” score means it’s “Buyer’s Content” and therefore marked as most urgent—moving it to the top of the calendar. If it’s a “1” grade, then we’ll wait to produce this content because it’s either a top of funnel question that a buyer may be asking or even an “outside of the funnel” question/subject—meaning that although it may be relevant to the business and buyer, it doesn’t necessarily represent someone who is seriously considering making a purchase right now.”
For each of your themes, use the brainstorming process from step 2 and list all your top ideas. Then follow Marcus’ advice and score your best ideas based on how close to the purchase they are.
This is where you populate your marketing calendar with the ideas you generated, ranked, and refined in the previous steps.
It’s the visual representation of your marketing strategy.
It’s entirely up to you to decide how far in advance you’ll plan your content for. If you plan for two weeks ahead, stick to your plan, and then plan the next two weeks, that’s better than planning for six months ahead and falling off track quickly.
Make this sustainable for you and your team members. Combine what you learned about your audience with what you can reasonably achieve with your team.
As Joe Pulizzi of Content Marketing Institute said more than a decade ago:
One thing is certain: if you don’t keep an editorial/marketing calendar, the content doesn’t get done.
Then, it’s time to get to work. With the calendar in place, the final step is to bring your marketing strategy to life.
Your marketing calendar will tell you and your team what to focus on each week and day, with details like:
This makes it easy for you to check in with your team regularly and make a game plan for the week—and tweak it if anything more urgent comes up.
Do you have questions about what your marketing calendar should and shouldn’t include, or the best type of marketing calendar you can choose?
We have answers.
Everything! If there’s a format or a channel that supports your marketing effort—and someone on the team is in charge of it—it goes on the marketing calendar.
This includes blog posts, ebooks, guest posts, white papers, podcasts, email newsletters, videos, limited-time promotions, holiday campaigns, and social media posts.
It’s best to start small, especially if you’ve never used a marketing calendar, but over time all of your projects will ideally be mapped out on the calendar.
Absolutely. Events involve many moving pieces, and a marketing calendar will help you keep them all on track in one central place.
You can, and should, manage all the content and marketing assets for the event in the calendar, too. This will keep all the materials for the event up to date and available for everyone involved in just a few clicks.
Software like CoSchedule will offer the most power and efficiency, with automation and workflow features built in.
You can see all your marketing projects together, share your progress with higher-ups, track your success, and reschedule projects with ease when plans change. You’ll see your team’s capacity at a glance, eliminate burnout, and make the most of everyone’s zone of genius.
Spreadsheets and other options are a solid way to get started, but remember some of their limitations for when your team grows.
You’re ready to build a marketing strategy and turn it into reality. No complicated setups or dusty strategy plans in your drawer—just an action plan you can start with as soon as this week!
If you want to give CoSchedule a try, don’t forget to grab your free trial and see what you can do with a powerful marketing calendar.