It’s the holiday season. Christmas is just around the corner. Everyone’s in a festive mood and thinking about fourth quarter profits. How far in advance do you think people planned all of this? When does marketing get into the holiday spirit? The answer really depends on your business’ size and the breadth of your marketing portfolio. No matter how small your company is, however, you should be planning further in advance than you may think. If you need to plan a marketing campaign feel free to try some of these scheduling tools and calendar guidelines to help your business.

Small Business Marketing Planning

If you’re a small business serving your local community you’re probably not thinking of holiday shopping until it’s too late. You may be thinking about Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or Local Saturday, a week or two in advance. Generally, this is when your local paper has hounded you for the last time that they only have a few ad spots left.
As a small business owner quite often you wear so many hats that you forget about marketing your company. But giving yourself a little padding will help you get better ad spots and often for a discount on busy advertising days.

What Tools Should You Use?

Google Calendar: If you don’t use Google, any calendaring system will help you plan at least a month in advance for all your upcoming marketing plans, major holidays.

HootSuite: This is a social media management and scheduling tool. There are others out there like it such as Buffer and TweetDeck. But for a small business the free version of HootSuite will do quite well.

Benchmark: Benchmark is an email marketing platform that, if you have less than 2,000 contacts costs nothing, and ties in nicely to your Google Analytics so you can track the success of a campaign to getting people back to your website.

A mixture of these free tools will help you stay ahead of yourself. Just like scheduling payroll or sending out invoices, any time you can plan ahead you won’t get caught at the last minute trying to make changes. It’s okay to be planned a month or more in advance. All of your marketing vendors will appreciate it, and you’ll have more time to make sure your messaging is perfect.

Large Small Business / Medium Business Marketing Planning

Medium sized businesses or even large small businesses should have a firmer grasp on timing and scheduling. But often times these are the most difficult sizes to do so. You’re competing with large companies for market share in your area. You’re also having to compete with smaller nimbler companies that threaten based on price and have local appeal.
Being well planned and scheduled months in advance can be difficult with a smaller marketing staff and budget than your large scale competitors. So what tools can your medium sized business use to not get caught running late on your marketing message?

What Tools Should You Use?

Percolate: This marketing planning tool is not inexpensive but it has a robust platform with a ton of content you can use. For a more budget conscious option CoSchedule has a lot of the same features at a lower cost.

PromoRepublic: This is a very cost effective social content scheduling tool that actually has a good amount of content that you can use as a part of your subscription. If you’re using a marketing automation tool like SharpSpring or HubSpot they also tie in together to help you see ROI for your social content.

SharpSpring: This marketing automation tool will help you stay on top of your opportunities, nurture leads through months long work flows and send your targeted content out to the right people. It’s an incredibly powerful tool that we use internally as well as for our client’s marketing automation.

Do Something – Anything

Even if all you do is start using a calendar to schedule things and don’t use any tools to help you manage them at least that’s something. So to break it down, here’s the rules:
Small business: Start planning marketing execution one month in advance at a minimum
Medium Business: Schedule three months in advance. Each quarter should be planned ahead of time to measure effectiveness in marketing year-over.
Large Business: Six months in advance. Your Christmas is in July. But, I’m guessing you already knew that.

The holidays are wonderful. The most wonderful time of the year for marketing and advertising. It’s when we get to see how one, three, or six months of work are helping to grow a business. Also, they’re a lot less stressful when you’ve had a plan.

Published 11/22/16 by Laura Lynch