The Calendar is Your Bestie:
AKA Invest Some Time in Long Term Marketing Strategy
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At least once a week, someone asks me how I manage to “do it all.”
Check tasks off my to-do lists for multiple clients, to respond promptly to emails and return phone calls, to meet three major deadlines in a day, to make room for analyzing and learning from past campaigns, to eat food and get some sleep and still have dreams and goals for my business and for the work of my clients…
The answer to this question is fraught with complications. On the one hand, I can “do it all,” because I don’t do it all – I flake out on wine nights with friends or on dates with my boyfriend. I don’t call my mom back for a day or two. I sacrifice a little of my sanity to help a client out in a moment of need, even though I was really looking forward to a long walk with my dog. I stay up late. I get up early. I delegate every single task on my list that day to my amazing team of two so I can just make smoothies, hit the gym and journal.
I don’t do it all, and you can’t either, so let’s get that out of the way right now. We all need help.
I think what my friends and family and colleagues are really asking is: How do you stay on top of it all? How do you anticipate and plan for the many things you do? How do you stay organized?
I have always been a go-go-go kind of person, and I prefer that my days are full of purposeful activity with a little side of goal-crushing. Besides the many lovely people who help me accomplish my daily/weekly/monthly/yearly to-dos, there are a few super basic tools that also guide my productivity.
One of these basic tools is my absolute favorite to introduce to my clients. Frankly, it shouldn’t come as a shock when I pull back the velvet curtain on this one. It’s the calendar.
Unfortunately, it is all too often I see clients struggling to stay on top of major design, writing and fundraising projects, even when they’re annual recurring events! Or over-communicating with their fan base and followers during periods of high activity and ignoring them completely when there isn’t an upcoming function. Being caught by surprise by a flurry of grant deadlines and programmatic admin when they could have started chipping away at those tasks a few months prior.
Every time I see this, I’m so sad. Because this left-to-the-last-minute rush and panic can be avoided with one of the most analog, old-school tools of all time – a yearly calendar!!
Since I am the queen of mapping out projects, padding deadlines and prioritizing campaigns, I’m going to give you a little insight on how to plan ahead.
Don’t worry pen-and-paper friends or digital-only ninjas! You can build your calendars a variety of ways:
- huge wall calendars with big colorful markers
- task management software like Azendoo or Asana (you can even break projects into tasks in advance and assign them to your team)
- daily planner with start of month reminders you’ll carry around all day
- a shared Google doc or sheet with columns for every month and rows for every campaign
- a collaborative Evernote notebook that not only includes project components but budgets and goals
- your Google calendar. Or whatever calendar people use that’s not Google…
You get the point. Now, what should you do with your planning implement of choice?
Write a list of every major marketing campaign, fundraising project or event you have that recurs annually.
Any regular recurring marketing? Weekly emails? Bi-weekly blogging? Podcasts? Videos? Add them in. I recommend that you don’t include any daily tasks like social media engagement or you’ll be overwhelmed just looking at your calendar.
Think backwards from all your final deadlines to when you need to start each project, when you know there’ll be a big push (when the project will take all your time) and add buffer zones at the start and end of that timeframe. Now add those times to your master calendar!
Do you have any slower periods? Fill in the gaps with dream projects you never quite get to! Does the finished calendar scare you, because it’s way too full? Prioritize! Shift some projects to next year or eliminate some completely. Note when you might need more staff or support to get through busier intervals.
Campaigns and events are allowed to shift, but your priorities probably won’t. Staying on a timeline will help you achieve what’s most important.
It sounds simple, but you might need some help. Sometimes taking a step back from your business and seeing a typical year of activity is harder than it should be, because you’re preoccupied by all the things you should be doing but haven’t had time for. Or you don’t realize that another department is writing to the same audience each March, just as you’re feeding them weekly reports.
Work with a team. Take more time than you think should be necessary to do each step, sit with it and then re-assess. Or call me for help!
But do plan ahead, and refer back to your calendar frequently. Campaigns and events are allowed to shift, but your priorities probably won’t. Staying on a timeline will help you achieve what’s most important.
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I strategize, consult and manage digital marketing and communications for small businesses and creative entrepreneurs. I’m based in Brooklyn, because I have a thing for exposed brick, cozy, local coffee shops and the can’t stop, won’t stop energy of New York.
Because I work with small companies, I get the chance to really know my clients – what makes them tick and how and why they should stand out in a crowded marketplace. A lot of my clients have a smaller staff, a limited budget and are already stretched thin for time. This leads us to tailor marketing strategies and solutions to each company’s unique needs and actual capacity.