6 Marketing Calendar Templates you’ll actually want to use
9th October 2020
Marketing calendars are great until they’re not.
We’ve all set out with the best intentions of putting everything that’s coming up this year or next into a marketing calendar.
Fast forward half a year and what’s happened to the calendar? It’s lying forgotten on your hard drive with half of what you’ve got planned for the year now totally irrelevant.
The issue here is not that your marketing calendar isn’t helpful (although that might be true too).
The issue is that you fundamentally don’t want to use your marketing calendar. You made the calendar because it was an important part of your marketing plan, and now you’ve completed the plan, your marketing calendar feels complete too.
Of course, that’s not how marketing calendars should work. Your marketing calendar should be a year-long reference on exactly what’s to come and when.
That’s a difficult thing to keep up-to-date, but it’s totally essential to managing your time effectively.
We’ve built an interactive marketing calendar template you can use to bring organization to your marketing efforts for free. Try it below.
Before we dive into the marketing calendar template, let’s quickly look at what we mean exactly.
A marketing calendar is a monthly plan of what the marketing department will be working on. It maps out what you’ll do and when onto an annual schedule. It’s specific enough to give an overview of how long projects will take, without going into the detail of what’s involved in the project.
Typically, your projects across the year will be split into campaigns - marketing initiatives that are grouped to share a common theme and together work towards a bigger objective.
Our marketing calendar template draws on this simple template but adds interactive elements to help you structure your objectives and campaigns in a more strategic way.
A marketing calendar helps you organize your marketing activities for the year ahead while you keep the most important parts of your strategy as the center of your focus.
- Objectives: What are the longer-term goals you’re trying to achieve?
- Channels: Which channels do you expect to work best for your business?
- Campaigns: How many campaigns do you need to launch to attract new leads?
Though a marketing calendar is a simple and everlasting part of your marketing toolkit, its importance becomes clearer when you try not to use one.
A marketing calendar means the difference between seeing a plan through to the end and hitting your targets vs getting stuck in the weeds with a list of priorities that aren’t tied to objectives.
Without a calendar, you’re more likely to miss deadlines and stumble through what you’re doing. Either that or your wall’s going to be a mess.
Our interactive marketing calendar template draws from the best of different templates we could find online to give you a place to plan how your marketing strategy stretches across the year and share it with your team.
We’ve put a lot of work in to make the calendar as accessible as possible to anyone that works in marketing.
But what does that mean in practice? If you’re Head of Marketing it’s a great place to show your team how your objectives will translate into campaigns: the interactive calendar has space for both.
If you’re new to marketing, you’ll find the calendar useful because you answer a couple of questions before you start. Your response to these questions provides custom recommendations for how you should structure your calendar.
First thing’s first. Every good marketing plan begins with clear, achievable objectives.
As the box at the top of the box in the Excel doc says, you’ll need to answer all the questions before you’re able to start using the calendar.
So add your answer to the first question, then the marketing channels you plan to use, and the campaigns you have planned.
Before you answer question 4 - how many weeks per year do you expect to spend on each campaign - you’ll need to complete questions 1-3 to automatically generate the list of campaigns to assign a number of weeks to go.
Once you’ve completed all the questions, you’ll see in the box above the table that your answers have been automatically loaded. All you need to do now is copy and paste the colored boxes into the schedule below, which is organized by channel and by week.
To copy the different channels into the spreadsheet, you just need to Copy each box (CTRL+C) and paste it into the schedule below by choosing ‘Paste Special’, then ‘Paste Values with Formatting’. That should copy the color and the text at the same time.
If your campaign will last more than one weeks, do the same for all other boxes that campaign will run across.
Every time you paste one of the boxes into the calendar, the numbers on the right of the colored boxes at the top of the page will countdown. When they get to zero, you’ll have run the campaign for the number of weeks you planned earlier.
A quick Google search will provide a huge number of marketing calendar templates for you to choose from.
But not all of them will match what you’re looking for, so we give a bit of context on how our favorites work, and how you can get the best from them.
The best marketing plan calendars allow you to focus on what will make a difference to your marketing efforts. They’ll be clear and easy to read, your team will instinctively understand what’s happening when - and most importantly - you’ll use them all year round.
They’ll be clear and easy to read, shareable with different people, and allow for straightforward evaluation.
Here we cover 6 of the best.
For anyone familiar with Google Sheets, and businesses that already use Google calendars, Search Engine Journal’s marketing calendar is a very simple way to get your marketing calendar on paper.
This marketing calendar has a great combination of clear structure and flexibility which makes it easy to use for, well, just about anyone who works in marketing.
You download their example sheet which includes a guide on how to use it. You’ll need to take out their examples and replace them with your own plans.
Start by saving your own version of the Google Sheet and reading the front sheet ‘how to’ guide.
Once you are familiar with the steps Search Engine Journal outline at the top of the Google Sheet, head to the sheet called ‘marketing calendar’.
This may look a little confusing at first but stick with it. The colors denote different elements of a campaign and are designed so that you can see, at a glance, the dates that a particular campaign element will run for.
This is a classic example of a Gantt chart, where several activities can be viewed in a schedule at the same time. It’s great as an overview of activities, but you’ll want to add details in a separate sheet or document.
Marketing veterans Hubspot are giving away a free download of their Excel-based marketing plan calendar.
As you’d expect from Hubspot, this calendar has more features for content marketers. However, it works pretty well for any marketer if you add non-content campaign types.
You’ll need to give Hubspot your email address in exchange for downloading the Excel file. Instead of covering the whole year, like the other calendars, they’re providing a one month template which they can copy for additional months and into separate tabs.
There isn’t a way of creating an overview of your entire marketing campaign on one sheet. If you want to do this, you’ll have to do it separately. Then go straight to the ‘Monthly Planning Calendar’ and plan out your content one month at a time.
You will probably want to use your own color-coding to make sense of the different types of content you might publish on different platforms.
Content marketers will find the ‘Content Repository’ tab useful. This gives a deeper look at specific pieces of content that you’ll be able to use this in conjunction with your monthly content plan.
Hootsuite’s social media calendar is a Google Sheets-based content marketing-style calendar that focuses on how you can promote your content - primarily through social channels.
Sure, it’s a pretty specific use case and won’t do a great job of capturing all the marketing activity you have going on, but it’s pretty helpful if you’re looking for a free tool to help you join up your content and social media efforts.
Hootsuite’s calendar is mainly for social media marketers and content marketers that want to align the different content types they plan to work on with the different social channels they plan to promote that content on.
Their calendar definitely isn’t for marketers looking for a place they can host an overall view of all their marketing activity. This calendar is much more operational than that.
Hootsuite’s calendar gives you the opportunity to align content types with social media channels. You can also add the copy for each social post you have planned if you want to go into that level of detail.
They recommend that you edit your own calendar whilst following the accompanying blog post. They also point out that if you want it to be interactive, perhaps posting content according to a schedule, you will need to use the full version of Hootsuite.
You then go ahead and populate the separate sections of the sheet.
Hootsuite suggests different types of content as appropriate for different social media platforms. Alternatively, you may want to add more content for specific channels. It’s worth considering what you want these categories to be before you start to populate the calendar.
This calendar does not assign who is responsible for different content.
CoSchedule provides an Excel spreadsheet-based content marketing calendar that you can customize.
Like the example from Hootsuite, this calendar is specifically for social media and content marketers. We’re guessing that those looking to put together an overall strategy may struggle with this content-specific format.
You simply download the Excel sheet from the link. The template is a simple spreadsheet format that helps you identify the sequence of your content campaigns and put them into action.
Usefully, CoSchedule’s Excel template starts by encouraging you to take an overview look at the year by assigning themes to each month.
Once you’ve established your themes, you can then begin populating the main template. You complete a new sheet for each month.
Here’s where you might want to look away if you’re not a content marketer.
A lot of the preparation for your campaigns is considered here. The template goes into some detail, asking for funnel stages, publish dates, and keywords, which wouldn’t be relevant to those working outside of content.
Unlike with Hootsuite’s calendar, you’ll also decide whose responsibility each element is.
However, it’s not clear what the different channels you could use. For example, you’d post something different to Facebook than you would on Linkedin, and that difference just isn’t captured here.
Convince and Convert offers a free marketing calendar that you can use to plan your strategy for upcoming months. As with some of the previous calendars, this calendar is focused more on content initiatives, but it’s really simple to add non-content campaigns in their place.
This calendar is for content marketers, particularly those working outside of social media channels. If you use a lot of other content channels, such as podcasts and TV, this could be the marketing calendar for you.
You’re able to download the marketing calendar in Excel and PDF formats, though we’d recommend using the Excel sheet, which allows more functionality. You’ll want to follow this blog when you use the calendar, because to be honest, the download as a standalone template doesn’t make much sense...
This is a very simple template to populate.
You’ll need to understand what ‘shows’ mean to Convince and Convert. These aren’t shows in regards to something to watch, that’s just the analogy the blog is making between different content types and how we like to consume them.
So regularly-scheduled shows would include social media, and one-time shows would be a white paper, for example. Feel free to move away from the calendar’s pure content focus and add channels and campaigns that aren’t related to content, e.g. paid search.
6. [ContentCal] (https://auth.contentcal.io/)
ContentCal is a social media and content marketing calendar that brings your team together in the same place to plan, approve and publish content.
By signing up you’ll automatically get a free 14-day trial. Create a new calendar, add your team, and start adding dates.
Start by creating a new calendar. We’d recommend starting with one calendar, but you can add more calendars for more campaigns or clients.
A wizard will walk you through each aspect of the calendar, including adding your social profiles (if you plan to use it to publish content directly from your calendar).
If you just want to plan for now, we’d recommend getting custom planning channels set up. These are marketing channels, such as your blog or podcast, which you plan to share content with. Here’s a quick tutorial of how to get these set up:
To add campaigns you’re planning, add a new campaign and set a brief. These campaigns will appear just above your calendar.
Once you’ve set up your complete marketing plan within ContentCal, you can start adding content, collaborating with your team on approvals, and putting campaigns live.
Here’s a video that goes into a bit more detail on the end-to-end process for setting up your ContentCal calendar as a marketing calendar.
A marketing calendar is a must-have tool for planning marketing campaigns and giving your team insight on what’s going on. Forward planning pays off when your campaigns are focused on users and results, with a healthy balance of channels and campaign types.
There are loads of free marketing calendar templates you can choose from, all that matters is that you find the right one for you.
To learn more about how to fill your content calendar with incredible posts, why not try a FREE course in the all-new ContentCal Academy led by industry experts? Sign up now!
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