Marketing campaigns are made up of many moving parts. Creating content is only part of the equation; managing projects, devising strategy, monitoring metrics, and understanding campaign data all come into play. Sounds like a lot, right? Just thinking about all the work can make you sweat—that’s the moment you need to create a content calendar.
Content calendars are a tool to help marketers plan, organize, and keep track of content. They also give you a bird’s eye view of your entire lead generation. That makes them incredibly helpful when clients or other team members want visibility on the production progress.
Content calendars also assign accountability. They help you keep track of WHO is responsible for WHAT. People are most productive when they know how to manage their time. Clarity around campaign deadlines, tasks, and deliverables clearly laid out makes managing the entire project much easier. As a bonus, communication between team members becomes easier, too.
The benefit of content calendars doesn’t stop at organizational management. They also enable you to see where you can improve on specific content metrics: audience views, creating conversions, or measuring campaign effectiveness. Content calendars can also help you:
- Avoid overwhelming your customers and clients with too much content too quickly
- Prevent burnout during content production (due to tight deadlines)
- Push back against unrealistic requests from clients or leadership
So now that you know why you need a content calendar, how do you build one?
How to Build an Effective Content Calendar
Step 1: Set Your Content Channels
The first step to building an effective content calendar is determining which channels you’ll be using. Will you be promoting your services via email? Social media? Purchasing Google search ads or via blog posts on your company website? Depending on your customer’s demographic and the type of message you’re trying to share, some of these channels will be more effective than the others.
Within each marketing channel are multiple different platforms to choose from (Instagram or Twitter? MailChimp or Drip?), but these details can be decided later. Don’t get bogged down by the tech. Putting the right marketing channels in place is more important.
Step 2: Measure, Test, and Monitor
Measuring, testing, and monitoring ensure you’re using marketing resources as effectively as possible. You can test any number of things, such as SEO keywords and email open rates, and use that information to guide future campaigns. For example, does your audience open more emails when the subject line is a question? If you make two posts with the exact same wording on Twitter, one with an emoji and one without, does it affect your click rates? But whatever you’re testing, make sure that you’re only adjusting one variable at a time to get clear results.
And we do mean ‘whatever’ you’re testing. For example, the Who, What, and Where of your content aren’t the only factors worth considering, so don’t forget about the When. Look at your content’s past performance and test posts on different days of the week to learn exactly when your audience is most receptive to your content. Monitor your content’s performance to make any necessary copy or strategy tweaks if the data isn’t showing the success rate you want to see.
Step 3: Set Placeholders
Set placeholders to help you visualize the layout of your marketing campaign and fine-tune your messaging. These placeholders are meant to be the framework of your campaign. Concentrate on building the framework instead of creating the actual content. Content creation will come later once you’ve mapped out your calendar, and by then, you’ll know how much time you have for production before the deadline.
Step 4: Plan Your Publication Timelines
Your marketing channels should support one another. For example: The same day you send out a marketing email, publish a social media post with the same message a few hours later.
What You DON’T Need to Build a Content Calendar
Now that you know how to build a content calendar, consider this pro-tip: you don’t need fancy task organizers or scheduling software to build an effective content calendar. The tech isn’t the point. The point is to build a framework that will help you identify the best way to make your marketing campaigns successful.
Your Content Calendar Model Should Be Repeatable
While your content can’t be completely recycled in an identical calendar every month, that doesn’t mean your calendar gets tossed into the trash at the end of each campaign.
An effective content calendar model should be an evergreen tool that you can pull inspiration from your past work for future marketing campaigns. You don’t want to have to build a new calendar from scratch for every new campaign; imagine how much extra work that would be.
Getting your content calendar to that point will take some trial and error, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t immediately get it right. Look at past content performance (data analytics will be your new best friend), learn what works, and create a method for future campaigns using these findings.
The hard work lies in first creating the calendar structure, but after that, just rinse and repeat.