It’s that time of year again when everyone’s minds turn to 2016 planning, and we get inundated with tools to help us plan out the perfect new year. Once the shock of no more sunshine for the next 6 months has warn off (well, it feels like that in the UK sometimes anyway!), I actually love this time of year for the chance to reflect on everything which I have done, and plan for the year ahead.
Now as a marketer, I am all too familiar with content calendars as a way to get organised with your blog, newsletter, social media and publicity campaigns. In some of the charities I used to work for our campaign planning consisted of these humongous, elaborate documents which ran to hundreds of pages, and were accompanied by a huge spreadsheet which to be honest made me go cross-eyed just thinking about it!
When I started my own business, I fell into the trap of thinking I needed the same elaborate planning systems to get my marketing on track. But you know what, I didn’t stick to it! Shocking I know, but when as a solopreneur you’re trying to juggle 101 things it’s really hard to keep on track with your own marketing and to stick to rigid deadlines.
I soon realised I needed a far more streamlined process, which would enable me to get my marketing organised whilst taking the pressure off during busy periods. I also wanted to develop a process which was quick and fun, because seriously do I want to spend hours in front of a dull spreadsheet when I could be out enjoying the Christmas festivities?!
Simple answer, NO!
So, I decided to put together a content calendar which is easy to use a quick to complete, and which I can dip into as and when I need it. And for those of you who want to get all your marketing organised without spending hours on the process, I’ve outlined my three step process below to get you started, and I’ve also included a fabulous freebie to make the process even easier:
Making a marketing content planner
Develop a Forward Plan
The first thing to start with is a forward plan. This is a simple year calendar where you note down all the important dates throughout the year for your business. I like to include industry events, national and international awareness days, new product launches, key public holidays – the list of what you can include is endless and the more work you put in at this stage, the easier your life will be as the year progresses. I start with a google search for my industry, and have a look back on big events from the previous year too. I use a spreadsheet which I have made into a year calendar, so that I can upload it to my Google docs and keep it updated wherever I am. You could just as easily use a printed wall calandar, pick the process which will work best for you! Think of the Forward Plan as a living document which you can add to as and when you hear about important dates.
Plan Your Month
The next step is to plan your month. For this, I like to use a pretty Printable which I pin to my notice-board. At the beginning of each month (or the end of the last one if I am feeling super-organised), I go back to my Forward Plan and start plugging in important dates for the month, so that I can build my marketing around them. This way you are always one step ahead, and will never miss out on a key date because you haven’t had time to find out what’s going on in your industry. At this stage, I also start thinking about when I want to write a blog and send my newsletter. I normally chose one main campaign for the month which fits in with an important event in my Forward Planner. When you’re just starting out, this is a great way to stay on track without getting overwhelmed, but remember your marketing can be fluid, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t have the time to send a newsletter every week – it’s better to send one quality newsletter a month which is totally in-line with your business priorities, than 4 rushed emails which might not hit the mark.
Plan your weekly content
This is where we get into the nitty-gritty of what to post, through which channels and when. I like to plan this weekly so that it doesn’t feel overwhelming. Again I use another Printable which I pin to my noticeboard next to the monthly calendar. On this I go through each day of the week and decide if I am going to send an email, write a blog, and post onto social media each day. I relate this back to the monthly plan so that everything is in sync, and ultimately it means I am always keeping up with everything I’ve plugged into the yearly Forward Plan, without having to spend hours in front of a dreaded spreadsheet! I really love this process because instead of looking at the whole year and panicking over everything I have to do, it enables me to break it down into manageable chunks, and I am much more likely to complete the tasks.
To get you started in this whole content planning process, I challenge you to sit down with your favorite cuppa, and plan out your content for the week ahead. Remember, you don’t have to do everything every day, but it’s a great idea to plan one piece of marketing for each week. And to help you get organised and make the process easier, I’m giving you a fabulous freebie, my own weekly planner printable. Enter your details below and I’ll send you the link to download your printable and get cracking. Once you’ve done that, I’d love you to let me know how you’re getting on in the comments below, and what one thing you have planned in for the week ahead!
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