13 Steps to Create An Effective Promotional Calendar

How To Build Your Promotional Plan

For many businesses, building an effective promotional calendar is closely aligned with the budget process.

Based on my corporate experience, I recommend developing a promotional calendar as the basis for building your marketing budget and then revising your promotional plan once your budget is finalized. (BTW–Here’s how to create your sales budget and here are the costs marketers need to measure.)

  1. Determine appropriate calendar cycle. Your promotional offering may not be aligned with your accounting tracking. In the US, promotional calendars generally run from January through December while many European and Asian businesses start in April and conclude in March. Another popular option is the school year that starts in September. The important factor is that the calendar should make sense for your product offering.
  2. Incorporate seasonality as it relates to your offering. For most businesses this means Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. Determine what options make sense for your business.
  3. Add relevant annual events and holidays. Choose those events that resonate with your target market’s marketing persona and are appropriate for your product array. For example, creating a Valentine’s Day promotion for a business media entity doesn’t cut it as a romantic gift option.
  4. Assess past performance. Analyze the results from the prior year, the year-to-date and the budget. What trends do you see? Which promotions resonate best with customers? Don’t forget to document factors that could have influenced your sales such as major weather interruptions. Consider when you’ll include discounts versus discount pricing.
  5. Monitor your competitors. While you don’t want to have copycat advertising, determine what promotions they’re using and if you may be missing events that should be added to your plans? (Here’s some advice via the Godfather to track your competitors.)
  6. Create schedule of promotions. Name each promotion or event. Consider the timing of the event as well as your overall pricing to maximize profitability. For example, you don’t want to reduce prices at the beginning of a season. Instead you can give your best customers a sneak peak.
  7. Incorporate merchandise and related seasonal offerings. Create an aura around your new product. Include early bird options as well as mid-season additions to provide a fresher look for your products. Maximize your promotions by taking extra photographs for later discounting.
  8. Determine needs for appropriate content marketing. Based on your promotions and product offering, assess where you need content marketing to provide additional product support, show styling and answer customer questions. Think in terms of various platforms and content formats. This information should be incorporated into your editorial calendar. Alternatively, you can choose to use the Cliff Notes Version of an editorial calendar.
  9. Schedule appropriate related social media activity. As part of your promotions determine how you’ll present your content and merchandise on social media. Will you need additional content including photographs and video for social media? Can you create this at the same time that you’re developing your main promotion so that there’s limited additional cost? (Here’s how to hide your social media marketing budget.)
  10. Assess and incorporate lead time. Include promotion creation, scheduling and product. Make sure that you’ve allowed sufficient timing.
  11. Create backup plans (and where appropriate, rain dates.) You need a backup plan. What will you do if there’s reason you can’t have your promotion?
  12. Track results. As with any marketing, it’s critical to monitor your actual results against your budget and forecast.
  13. Modify promotions as needed. Continually reassess your promotional calendar to see whether you need to make changes. Where possible, have backup options in case something happens to one or more of your promotions. For example, in a past job, I would modify promotions and try to improve incentives with limited lead time.

While it’s optimal to have the best promotions cycle after cycle, this is often not feasible since things happen that are beyond your control.

By continually monitoring the effectiveness of your promotions-to-date, you’ll be able to change your promotional offering on the fly.

What else would you add to the promotional plan list and why?

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

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Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/napfisk/345168578/

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