Most small business owners are short
on time. Therefore, I've organized this sample marketing calendar article into three
categories, with the understanding that it's okay if you don't
have a "monthly" marketing plan. What's more important, is
that you have an overall plan. I follow a bimonthly marketing calendar.
I prefer the 60-day flexibility. It gives me more time, while still
retaining continuity and visibility for my business.
I lead with a
sample quarterly marketing plan because it's the most realistic for
small business owners, particularly sole-proprietors who are frequently
caught up in the minutia of running a business.
Marketing Plan Strategy
marketing plan activities are suggestions. By no means is my 12-month
marketing plan template exhaustive. In fact, you'll need to add to it
based on your industry-related activities. There are many holidays
throughout the year that may be a natural tie-in with your products and
services, such as National Book Week in January, if you're an author or
editorial-related service, or American Heart Month in February, if you
sell health-related services or products, or Spa Week in April or
October if you're
marketing a salon or spa.
My 12-month promotional calendar
focuses on the major holidays, when most Americans have been trained to
spend extra money or participate in a ceremonial activity. Tie your
marketing promotions to a time when customers have their wallets out.
Thus, you're simply positioning your product or service as the perfect
gift or solution for the celebrated event. It's more affordable to
piggyback on a consumer habit, a.k.a. inspire prospects to purchase your
products when they're preparing to purchase something.
You can never be too early in preparing your marketing campaigns. For
example, in order for the typical small business to prepare for a
Valentine's Day direct mail campaign, you'll need to get most of
your materials printed and ready to go by the third week in January and
in the mailstream by the last week in January, certainly no later than
the first week in February. I recommend you plan at least two months in
advance. Of course, the more involved the campaign, the more lead time.
What's more, some advertising vehicles have extensive lead times,
specifically print magazines that need your camera-ready artwork
approximately 6 weeks before publication, (if you're pitching a story
idea, then up to 6 months ahead of time for editorial deadlines.)
Newspaper inserts also require a reservation approximately 6-8 weeks
Keep an eye on Amazon, Target and other
large retailers. When their seasonal or
holiday advertising starts, yours should too.
Angle, a.k.a. Your Hook
Your promotional hook is the key to
distinguishing your business from your competition. People are going to
buy gifts at Christmas. But what makes your service or product so
interesting, that shoppers should hand over their money to you instead
of the myriad of other websites and offline stores? Find a creative
answer that appeals to your target audience and you'll grow your
Sample Marketing Calendar
The following 13 strategies will keep the phone ringing for most
small businesses. Also, if you are launching a new business, you'll find
starting a new business resource helpful.
Mail a minimum of
1,000 direct mail pieces, ideally a
postcard, to your target audience. Direct mail continues to be
one of my favorite forms of advertising because you can buy the “exact” name and
title of your target audience; therefore, there’s hardly any waste.
And, when compared to all the clutter within social media channels
-- direct mail is still one of the sure ways your message can be
seen. Yes, it's more of an investment compared to social media;
however, your message is visible and if you're on target, e.g.,
marketing to the correct audience with a useful message, then your
marketing piece has a longer shelf-life.
3 DIRECT MAIL RESOURCES:
All created by Renowned Marketing Consultant &
Author, Marcia Yudkin. She
has written hundreds of sales letter and postcard
campaigns and is a highly-skilled wordsmith.
Secrets of Mouthwatering Marketing Copy
-- A comprehensive manual describing powerful copywriting
techniques that describes principles for crafting text that forms a
bond with readers, earns their trust and causes orders to pour in.
Six Weeks to Masterful Copywriting
-- A self-study course that helps to improve your writing skills,
dramatically. It includes assignments and insightful discussions
that guide you through the most critical aspects of persuasive
The Mighty Postcard Marketing Course
-- A home-study course that covers postcard strategy and making
profits, mailing lists, production, delivery, as well as design and
copy. There are also case studies that illustrate successful
postcard marketing tactics for a range of industries and purposes.
Google Offers, Eversave,
Amazon Local or another emailed daily coupon offer. Generally
speaking, there are no upfront costs. Still, you must discount your
products and services deeply in order to pull in business. However,
there are so many of these daily deal companies, I suspect many will
go out of business during the next few years. Only a couple will
survive all the competition.
My vote goes to Google Offers and Amazon Local, simply because
they're such powerhouses. Still, if there are no upfront costs and
you can offer a steep discount to pull in new customers, then do it.
Keep in mind that your goal should be to wow
this customer, and, therefore, retain them for life. What's more,
for geographically-based businesses, most daily coupon companies
isolate your message delivery to the zip code. Almost any small
business will benefit from daily coupon offers.
public speaking opportunities. If you are comfortable talking in
front of people about your expertise, then I highly recommend public
speaking as an effective and low-cost way to generate new business.
What's more, once you've spoken in front of a group, you can then
schedule yourself to return year after year. I've written a detailed
and free article entitled,
Book More Speaking Engagements
- Simple & Effective Strategies to Secure Public Speaking
Opportunities & Grow Your Revenue.
My suggested strategies will help you book your next speaking
- Mail a note/postcard, etc. to your entire
customer base no less than every six months. You've worked hard to
acquire your customers. Hang onto them by touching them offline. You
and I know that a postcard takes a ton more effort and expense than
an email -- your customers understand this too! Thus, this extra
effort will reflect well on your business and distinguish you that
much more from your competition. What's more, your message will most
likely stand alone, since many businesses fail to implement direct
mail. A lost opportunity for them; more exposure for you!
Call 10 different
past customers every two/three weeks. Approximately one out of every
10 will need to do business with you again. What's more, most will
not be aware of all your services and products. Educate them. If
you're uncomfortable calling, email them instead. However, this is
far less personal. In today's electronic world, a phone call
distinguishes you from your competitors.
Distribute a news
brief to the media and don’t forget about TV!
Here are two great resources.
103 Sizzling Story Ideas from July through December
Former newspaper editor Joan Stewart and TV reporter Shawne Duperon
give you their best ideas to pitch to print and broadcast media in a
teleseminar format. They cover: back-to-school, Labor Day, summer
travel, Fourth of July, state fairs, Halloween and tons more. Don't
waste time wracking your brain for some original idea. Just listen
to these two people. They've heard it all before and have compiled
the best media pitches. I own a copy.
Simple 5-Part Formula for Delivering the Perfect Media Pitch
A webinar facilitated by PR Guru, Joan Stewart, she discusses more
than 27 story angles, the easiest way to get in front of a
journalist, how to follow up after you pitch, free ways to research
journalists, 6 important steps you must take if you're pitching via
email, and tons more.
Attend one target
audience related networking event. For example, if you're a human
resources consultant and you have medical recruiting experience,
then you may want to attend the local chapter meeting for the
National Nursing Director Association, i.e., a group where your
hiring decision-makers socialize. You're busy; therefore, only
attend events where your decision-maker or their influencers hang
Follow up with a
call or note to networking contacts from previous interactions. I
like mailing notes. No one does it anymore; helping me stand out.
Plus, it gets me away from my computer!
- If it's within your budget,
then I strongly suggest an ongoing campaign within a Val-Pak,
SuperCoups or something similar. Yes, you're stuffed inside
something with a bunch of other advertisers, but it's automated, for
very little money -- pushing fresh leads your way. Said another way,
a message is always out there about your business, in addition to
your website, Facebook Page, etc. If your products or services are
high-end, then these advertising vehicles are probably not the best
- Organize and
market an event, (either live or virtual) then submit the
details to online calendars such as WhoFish, Gary's Garage,
Craigslist, BackPage and CitySearch. Keep in mind that most online
calendars let you include your website URL, creating an inbound link
back to your website, a.k.a. increasing your website's popularity.
Why host an event? Event marketing opens up doors for small
businesses, including: giving your audience a chance to meet you
face-to-face and experience your business without the pressure of
walking in off the street and feeling like they have to buy
something, and it provides an excuse for you to distribute a news
brief to the media. Other than providing refreshments and special
offers, the act of hosting a live event can be virtually free, but
gain you exposure that you would not normally receive.
RESOURCE: Joan Stewart, a former newspaper editor, compiled a
list of 50+ websites to
promote live or virtual events. The list is in webinar replay
format and comes with a PDF that lists all the URLs. I own a
- Shop your business.
Go to your online store and buy something, or call your brick and
mortar and ask questions. Did you enjoy your shopping experience?
No. Then make it better. When you do, only add automated
improvements. This is particularly true when running a brick and
mortar. If you have an exuberant amount of tiny details that require
a lot of training and your receptionist quits every six months, your
solutions are not sustainable.
It's imperative that you shop your online store and/or visit all
your web pages every several months. At minimum, you'll almost
always find dead links, as well as new hurdles that your credit card
vendor may have imposed without your knowledge. You won't know
unless you buy something from yourself. I use my shopping cart no
less than once a quarter. If you're an affiliate for someone, do the
same thing. The vendor you sell for could have change vendors and,
therefore, all your links land on error codes.
- Expand your pricing. Always
have an extremely low entry price, then something higher, then even
higher and then out-of-this-world expensive. When a customer first
comes to you, be it online or walking into your shop, you have no
idea what this person is willing or able to spend. Offer varying
price points. For example, "Enjoy a $10 manicure for first-time
clients (gratuity not included)" or "Purchase an annual therapeutic
massage membership today for $800, saving you $40 each month."
Related to your overall pricing strategy is this report I wrote
how to increase prices without irritating customers.
the above marketing activities every quarter, your phone will ring.
However, sales leads will do you no good if you lack follow-up. And
because you're so busy, you need an organized way to receive and
manage leads. At minimum, I recommend emailing your customers and
prospects once a month with either a promotion or educational
message, keeping your business top-of-mind so prospects can find you
when they're ready to do business with you.
Constant Contact. It's an easy-to-use, professional email
collecting and delivery service. It also provides statistics so you
can measure your marketing efforts, and it allows you and your
prospects to pick and choose from different lists/topics to join.
For example, if you're an accountant, when prospects join your
mailing list they could select from, "College Planning & Taxes" or
"Retirement Planning & Tax Reduction," and so on. This way, you have
a better understanding of what's on your prospect's mind, enabling
you to tailor your messages.
Weekly and/or Biweekly
Sample Marketing Calendar
The following weekly or
biweekly marketing activities are meant to be combined with the
above quarterly activities.
- Post, Tweet and/or Blog at
least once a week. Notice I said "or." It's extremely difficult
keeping up with your
Don't beat yourself up. Aim to update these social media activities
no less than once a week (ideally once a day) and you'll look like
an active business. If you can't keep up with these vehicles,
discontinue them or hire someone to help. Otherwise, the lack of
activity will make you look like you're out of business. Better to
not participate than to look closed.
Yes, everyone is talking about social media. Still, online marketing
tools come and go practically overnight.
RESOURCES: I recommend two resources that will help you keep
up with your content. Both were developed by Social Media Guru, Joan
Stewart. The first is
21 Ideas for Quick & Dirty Blog Posts When You Don’t Have Time to
Write and the second is
Twitter for Beginners. Both resources are webinar formats.
- Update one of your Web
pages. Your website needs to change in order for search engine
spiders to pay attention. One or two edits will not suffice. They
must be substantial changes. I'm frequently in and out of my home
page adding new material, since this is the page I want to rank the
highest with search engines. This may not be the case with you.
Perhaps you have a product or service page that's most important to
you. Adding new material to this page on a frequent basis will help.
Whenever I add/update a lot of new material to my website, I almost
always experience increased traffic and sales immediately after.
- Brainstorm every
organization that you are a member of and take advantage of all
inbound link opportunities available to you due to your
relationship, including from the organization's website,
e-Newsletters, Facebook Pages, etc. to yours. Only link with
high-ranking, professional businesses and other organizations. Your
goal is to constantly work at creating inbound links to your
website, increasing your site's popularity, which then increases
your search engine rankings.
Special Offer from Sharron: Linking building strategies are
in constant flux. It's imperative that you understand the latest
strategies and negative side affects of your activities. For $99,
you may pick my brain while we're on the phone for 45 minutes, about
current search engine optimization (SEO) strategies. I can also be
looking at your website in real-time, if you'd like. I will bring
you up to speed about what's going on right now. Keep in mind
that what worked last year is not working this year. Be careful how
you go about building inbound links.
and mention that you saw this special offer within my
Marketing Calendar Template article.
written a free, detailed article regarding
Optimizing Chamber of Commerce & Other Professional Membership SEO
Benefits. I've also written a special marketing report called:
Make Money While Sleeping:
Learn How to Increase Your Website's Popularity and Increase Sales.
Both resources describe how to increase your website's popularity
through search engine optimization strategies, which also includes
generating inbound links.
Help A Reporter.
A free resource for media leads distributed via
email approximately three times a day M-F (morning/lunchtime/late
afternoon). I start my day "quickly" scanning their morning email to
see if there is anything relevant to my business or my clients'
businesses. Help A Reporter puts you in touch with reporters who are looking
for sources to interview -- small business owners just like you! Besides the obvious benefits of publicity,
keep in mind that you stand a chance of gaining an inbound link to
your website from a possible high-ranking editorial website. A
high-ranking (quality) inbound link helps push your website up in
- Pursue current events and
weather-related publicity opportunities. The simplest form of
publicity to obtain is piggybacking your business to current
events and the weather. The latter is the easiest. If there is
horrendous weather outside your window, and your business is somehow
affected or is a solution, then you have an elevated chance of
getting in the news. Why? Because when weather turns treacherous, no
matter what type -- hurricane, blizzard, heat wave, drought ... the
media must cover it because it's news.
Almost all reporters
welcome weather-related story pitches. I was a reporter. I dreaded
writing the weather story for the front page. As a New Englander,
severe weather is not foreign to me, but having to generate a unique
angle for a snowstorm, time after time, quickly got old. This is
where you come in.
RESOURCES: Publicity Hound, Joan Stewart, has written an
excellent report (#37) about how to
tie your product or service to the weather.
I own a copy. I refer to it often when there's extreme weather. She's also
How to Piggyback Your Story Ideas onto Holidays (report #14) and
How to be the Local Angle to National Stories (report #35).
I subscribe to several advertising and marketing truths.
I encourage you to ponder these as you develop your annual marketing and
seems too good to be true, than it is.
tells you they make millions of dollars doing XYZ and "so can you after
you buy this thing from me ..." I always assume it's untrue. I base my
assumption on one simple fact. If you're a millionaire, then way are you
working so hard to get me to buy your stuff? Why aren't you in the
Caribbean sipping a margarita?
salesperson tries to sell you something, e.g., a coupon book ad, radio
spot, banner ad at a "popular" website, etc. -- ask them to answer the
following questions in detail. If they can't and/or if their answers
don't match the desires of your target audience, then don't buy their
Remember, there will always be alternative
advertising vehicles and a new social media tool, app, etc. drummed up
at any moment. Don't get caught up in hype or be bullied, a.k.a. "You've
got to be there, your competition is." This is one of the lamest sales
pitches. I tell clients not to share the spotlight. Instead, go where
there is no competition. There are thousands and thousands of
advertising opportunities for your small business. It's perfectly fine
not to share space with your competition when you're advertising, in
fact, I encourage it!
Questions to Ask Advertising Sales Reps:
- Who is your target audience?
For example, who is your reader, listener, viewer, visitor, etc.?
- How many people will see or
hear my message? And how often?
- Share with me some of your
advertisers' success stories? Ideally you want actual statistics.
For example, if I buy an ad in your coupon book, approximately how
many of my coupons will be redeemed? If I buy your online banner ad,
how many click-throughs will I receive?
- Is there an extra fee for
you to create my ad? Why?
- Do I need to sign a
contract? May I cancel it at any time without a penalty?
- How will I measure the
effectiveness of your advertising vehicle?
- How long have you been
working at your company? How do you (salesperson) get paid?
- Who are your competitors?
Why is your company better?
- Is my competition
advertising with you? Who?
- What will you do with my
customers' information? For example, if you hand over your customer
list for a direct mail company to clean and then mail out a direct
mail piece for you, what assurances do you have that they won't use
your list for their personal use? [Yes, I'm a skeptic. I've seen
some interesting things in my 17+ years of marketing.]
Before Buying Any Advertising, Remember To:
- Google any potential
advertising vehicle. Go beyond their home page to see what else
shows up in your search. What are the advertiser's customers saying?
- Call some of their current
advertisers and ask if they like the vehicle.
- Check if they have any valid
testimonials at their website.
- Check to see what their
website's Google ranking is. If they really are a good advertising
vehicle, then others will link to their website, reflecting a 5+
- Check if there are any
Better Business Bureau complaints.
- Check online reviews at
Google, Yelp, etc. If most reviews are good, then the advertiser is
probably professional. Disregard any flagrant one-off negative
reviews. That reviewer is most likely a troll.
12-Month Marketing Plan Template - Promotional Calendar
12-month calendar is meant to be a guide. Be sure to add your industry's
unique celebrations. For example, small businesses selling products and
dog lovers might include National Pet Week on their May promotional
If you have very little time, then focus your marketing efforts on
Christmas, Halloween, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Easter and Father's
Day. These are the core "holidays" when U.S. shoppers spend the most
Thanksgiving is a high spending holiday; however, most purchases are
food related. If you're operating a restaurant or boutique food market,
then Thanksgiving, Valentine's Day and Christmas should be your primary
12-Month Marketing Plan Template - Promotional Calendar
Holiday Marketing Event
**Denotes Popular Gift-Giving Time**
New Year's Day, & proceeding two weeks
marketing messages the last week of December.
King, Jr. Day
Although not a
popular gift-giving time, this is a great time to spread a
marketing messages by the last week in January.**
St. Patrick's Day
1st Day of Spring
April Fools' Day
|Earth Day & Arbor
marketing messages approximately 3 weeks before.**
marketing messages approximately 3 weeks before.**
marketing messages approximately 3 weeks before.**
Day/4th of July
Back to School
Although not a
holiday, it's certainly a popular time to find wallets open and
increased spending, particularly by moms and teenagers. Start
your marketing messages late June/early July.
Christmas in July
Dog days of
Back to School
Back to School
messages continue through the first week of September.
Get ready to
launch your Christmas and Hanukkah marketing.
sale available at major retailers in late October for Christmas
and other popular December holidays.
be 1/4 completed. Launch your first holiday message
immediately after Halloween. This message will generally go to
your current customer base, offering them an exclusive
early-bird holiday special to expire in early November.
Small Business Saturday
American Express, then definitely participate in this "holiday."
advertising is in full swing
New Year's Eve
Launch New Year's
message late the second week in December.
is a Boston marketing consultant, writer and founder of Senter &
Associates, a marketing communications firm that helps small businesses
deploy low-cost online and offline marketing tactics. Senter is well
known for her free emailed monthly
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Disclosure: I'm an affiliate for
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