Content marketing is booming. Fully 73% of businesses plan to increase the amount of original content they generate this year, according to research by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs.
Therefore, it's more important than ever for marketing teams to have tools and systems in place to help them remain organized: If you increase content production without a plan for managing the process, your lofty aspirations will quickly turn into pipedreams.
A good starting point is a marketing calendar that lays out a plan of attack for the coming months. In all likelihood, you (or others in your department) have already created a document that serves this purpose. However, can you confidently say it actually boosts your team's productivity and helps everyone hit deadlines?
If you answered that question with anything other than an emphatic "Yes," keep reading.
What Does an Effective Marketing Calendar Look Like?
Unfortunately, a cobbled-together spreadsheet doesn't qualify as a high-quality calendar. Someone still needs to play quarterback and manually update the document, inform team members via email about upcoming tasks, and hold them accountable to deadlines. Way too much oversight is needed, and way too much room for error, not to mention wrangling team members can feel a lot like herding cats.
In other words, if your marketing calendar resembles a traditional spreadsheet, be prepared for a content-related nightmare.
Your marketing calendar should take care of every pesky detail for you. It should automatically send tasks and reminders to responsible parties as deadlines approach, eliminating cumbersome email threads and excess back-and-forth. Ultimately, it should allow you and your colleagues to work faster and smarter.
Furthermore, your calendar should serve as a centralized resource that every team member can access at any hour. It should lay out a detailed, easy-to-comprehend game plan for the coming months in clear terms, enabling the team to proactively plan ahead and avoid last-minute emergencies. Plus, it should be intuitive enough that everyone understands, with one glance, when content will publish.
Finally, your marketing calendar should set processes and expectations for every piece of content. All of that ensures team member accountability for every task so that your projects are completed on time, every time.
Three Must-Have Components
To maximize your marketing calendar's effectiveness, make sure the following three components are in place.
1. Holistic Buy-In
A marketing calendar can reach its full potential only if all stakeholders are on board with the idea. Before implementing a new system, it's pivotal to get buy-in from management.
Make your case using hard numbers. Some managers can be incredibly resistant to change, but nothing will get their attention better than money being thrown down the drain.
For example, measure the amount of time your team currently spends completing tasks that could be automated through a new and improved marketing calendar. Then, math out how much money the company wastes paying your colleagues to complete this unnecessary work. That dollar figure alone could do the trick.
As you prepare for your big meeting, consult this change management template. It will help you create a coherent, compelling presentation that explains the need for a brand-new marketing calendar.
2. A Commitment to Consistency
Consistency is a big key to content marketing success. According to one estimate, 51% of brands fail to publish on at least a weekly basis. Those companies are missing out on a substantial opportunity to collect data and generate leads.
In fact, regular blogging alone makes companies 13 times more likely to garner positive marketing ROI. All told, if you want to see results, you need consistent content output.
It should go without saying, though, that quality always trumps quantity. But the two aren't mutually exclusive. When you plan your content well in advance, you can deliver engaging, lead-generating materials as often as your audience demands. However, it's important to know your limits.
My company started off publishing three blog posts a week, but we cut back to two when we realized we were sacrificing quality for quantity. Surprisingly, rather than hurt our readership numbers, running longer-form content less frequently actually caused our subscriptions to spike. Eventually, we ramped back up to a three-per-month clip—but not until we had a clear plan in place for how we could do so sustainably.
3. Delegatable Workflows
On Day 1, a marketing calendar can tell you exactly when you're going to publish—but it will be up to you to identify how your team can hit the deadlines and goals you've set.
Work to establish clear workflows for every content type you produce. Break down each piece into easily delegatable tasks, and when you assign them out... ask each responsible party to estimate how long the task will take. Then, you can work backward from your publish dates to determine exactly how far in advance you'll need to begin projects in order to hit your deadlines.
As a best-practice, every task you send should include a clear description of what "done" looks like. It will help everyone understand what exactly is expected.
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Today, content marketing is king, and marketing departments need to be held accountable for creating and publishing content. Way too many brands struggle to do so on a regular basis—and they're missing a huge opportunity.
Embracing a marketing calendar will help your team plan its work and work its plan. It will keep everyone organized, on track, and consistent every step of the way. And, most important, it will drive attention toward your brand and boost your marketing ROI to new levels.