Just like I only fully appreciated the value of a compass once I was lost in Yellowstone National Park with a dead phone, most businesses will only understand the value of a marketing calendar once they sorely need it.
Operations start out great, everyone is full of steam, and then nine projects into the hustle and bustle, you find that team members are lost trying to remember deadlines or find the right project links. And that's where a marketing calendar can make all the difference—keeping track of your project timelines, objectives, expectations, and so much more.
The following marketing calendar templates cater to specific business needs, serving as your team's marketing compass as your operation grows. And the best part? There are no bears lurking behind them.
Table of contents:
What is a marketing calendar?
A marketing calendar is a project management tool that outlines marketing initiatives over a defined timeline. It includes details that range from dates and deadlines to themes and campaign logistics.
Why use a marketing calendar?
Picture this: you're at the helm of a marketing team, juggling approximately 28 campaigns and respective deadlines, trying to create valuable, brand-consistent content for all of them. Your team is trying to stay organized and on-task, but relying on six-month-old emails, scheduled reminders, and Steve's "impressive" memory is only making things worse. Now everyone is confused, projects are overdue, and Steve is oddly quiet.
Without a marketing calendar, it would be difficult for your team to create campaigns that maintain a consistent brand message, meet deadlines, and accurately allocate resources to each project. Marketing efforts can then become reactive, responding to immediate needs or changes rather than proactively driving long-term strategy. More often than not, different teams may end up working on the same projects simultaneously, resulting in overlapping content, confusing promotions, and tedious "fix it" time that could be better utilized elsewhere.
With a marketing calendar, your team can outline marketing initiatives for better visibility and organization, keeping deadlines, links, themes, and notes defined for the entire organization to share.
What should a marketing calendar include?
For a compass to work, it needs... magnets, I think? I'm no compass manufacturer, but you get the picture—all the right components need to be there, or it'll just spin you around in circles. The same goes for a marketing calendar. Make sure yours contains the following details.
Start with the basics: the name or title of each project and each task. This way, your team has access to a clear reference point for what each entry in the calendar represents. Then, outline details like project ownership, themes, marketing channels, KPIs, and promotional plans.
Dates and timelines
It wouldn't be much of a calendar if it didn't include dates. Dates should include more than just each project's start and end (though obviously, without these, your projects would get lost in limbo). Outline milestones and checkpoints for that crystal clear view of where the project is within the pipeline.
Keep things simple and well organized. Are you tracking a social media campaign throughout the month? Great! Link those drafts and live posts so everyone can judge your work.
Include a link to each ongoing project's important documents to save time and make information more accessible. Make sure your team has access to these resources and confirm links work across the board, especially if any documents are password-protected.
This might seem like a small element, but it's essential for those pesky little details that may pertain to one project and not the rest. Notes can be as simple as reminders to review punctuation or as complex as major changes to the entire process.
Personally, I use notes to make sure my team knows what I've been working on between energy drinks and whether anything has changed in the meantime. It may seem minimal, but it can be an effective collaboration tool if you use it right.
While these elements make up the core of a marketing calendar, you can customize yours to include any other details your team needs to keep organized.
1. Editorial calendar template
Editorial calendars cater specifically to content creation and publication projects. Creators and businesses use them to outline a structured timeline for their content production.
Think of blog articles, press releases, and webpages that are created and updated on a regular basis. Using an editorial calendar helps track each project, coordinate efforts, and align content with overall marketing strategies.
2. Social media calendar template
This calendar caters specifically to content created for social media. The difference here is that it tracks the different platforms that content is intended for, as well as captions, hashtags, and whatever new feature is rolled out next.
Another detail is the specific time that content is scheduled to go live. Whereas blog posts and webpages can be a bit more flexible with timing, businesses tend to schedule their social media content to go live at specific times of the day, targeting their audience when they're most active on each platform. This practice maximizes visibility and ensures the content reaches as many members of the target audience as possible.
3. SEO strategy calendar template
This calendar helps track strategic timelines for SEO tasks and strategies. Any digital marketer knows the massive amount of data that goes into a single project. At its core, SEO requires a lot of research to be effective, and that information feeds multiple steps throughout the process.
Think of keywords, industry research, topics, outlines, and mountains of written content. Now imagine not having a tool to keep track of it all. Chaos wouldn't even begin to describe the outcome.
With this calendar, it's easy to keep track of each project, where it is in the process, and what comes next, as well as communicate a clear timeline of the entire strategy to teammates and clients.
4. Event marketing calendar template
This calendar is the extrovert's guide to events that the rest of us introverts would rather call in sick for. It can be used to track webinars, seminars, conferences, workshops, and mixers.
Unique details include the location where it will be taking place and the marketing tasks that lead up to the event. A few of these tasks will be of the party planning variety, which makes this calendar useful for individuals beyond your marketing team, such as event planners and HR.
The above template automatically updates with the current year. You can use the Event Overview tab to track all initiatives throughout the year, and each of the monthly tabs for a more precise calendar view.
5. Annual marketing strategy calendar template
This calendar provides a big-picture view of your marketing strategy, outlining goals and milestones for each month. Think of it as a roadmap to your company's success.
It outlines your marketing focus points, the key campaigns designed to achieve them, the content themes you're aiming for, and key milestones signaling that your marketing strategy is on the right track.
A great annual marketing strategy calendar should lay out the overarching strategy simply and concisely, outlining each month's focus and giving the entire marketing team a clear view of what's happening and what's yet to come.
6. Email marketing planner template
Goals and KPIs
As a writer, I have my own complicated relationship with email marketing. My work pre-email marketing planner was so teeth-grindingly infuriating that even looking at one is downright therapeutic. Trust me—this calendar will definitely help you avoid that stress.
The email marketing planner helps track each campaign, its email type, and the audience segment it's intended for. For example, a business could prepare a newsletter targeting email subscribers or an email reminder targeting cart abandoners.
You can do a lot through email marketing to convert leads and draw potential customers back in. A planner can help track and streamline these efforts.
7. Content marketing calendar template
On the surface, content marketing calendars and editorial calendars might sound like two different ways to say the same thing. But rest assured, there isn't a worldwide internet-based conspiracy to confuse you.
The differences lie in the scope and focus. An editorial calendar mainly caters to the creation and scheduling of editorial content, while a content marketing calendar takes a broader view, encompassing content creation, promotions, and initiatives beyond the "create, edit, publish" process. Content marketing calendars are also used for different types of content, including videos, eBooks, podcasts, and white papers, to name a few.
For example, while an editorial calendar would focus on content creation and production, a content marketing calendar would focus on its distribution and promotion across multiple marketing channels, plus key metrics.
How do I organize my marketing calendar?
The marketing calendar templates above contain all the data you'll need to ensure your marketing initiatives are detailed and organized. Paying close attention to these tasks is the name of the game. Here are a few bonus tips:
Define goals and objectives. Clearly outline how each campaign is supposed to go.
Identify your target audience. Study your audience, and you'll know how to reach them.
Choose the right calendar format. Use each calendar for its intended purpose.
Set realistic timeframes and deadlines. Don't be that manager. Be realistic, and your team will beat those deadlines.
List your key dates and events. Transcribe those sticky notes and keep track of the timelines.
Plan content and campaigns. It's best to plan them down to the exact date and time.
Assign responsibilities and track ownership. Make sure everyone knows who's responsible for each project.
Focus on promotion and distribution where applicable. Outline your marketing channels and be clear about each one.
Monitor and adjust. Nothing is set in stone, least of all volatile markets.
Use collaboration tools. Put notes, links, and everything in between to use.
Communicate and share. Cross-team visibility and collaboration are important.
Moving from a marketing template to a marketing app
Today, you pack the compass you got when you were 12 and thought you were outdoorsy, but tomorrow, you might decide to buy a fancy GPS that warns you of large trucks going 85 miles per hour in your vicinity.
That's all to say: marketing calendar templates are just a starting point.
As your business scales, you'll want something more powerful and flexible than a template. There's a software solution for everything these days, many of which are highly intuitive and much more efficient.
For example, the team at Zapier traded in their vintage compass for higher efficiency and ease of use by turning to Airtable for their editorial calendar needs. Airtable allows them to access the same data through different views, making it easier for each writer, editor, and contributor to see the project they're working on.
If you find you've outgrown these templates, look into software that can help you customize your calendars even more.
Streamline your strategy with marketing automation
It goes without saying that marketing campaigns can be overwhelming, especially when done manually from start to finish. Marketing automation is a digital marketer's best friend, and it continues to evolve with the emergence of software allowing teams to do everything from nurture leads to schedule initiatives down to the minute.
Learn more about how to automate your marketing processes.