If things have slowed down at your place of business, it’s a great time to gather everyone together and create a marketing calendar for 2010.
You can use a big paper calendar, a calendar markerboard, a paper planner, or a spreadsheet (I like the free template kindly shared by brandeo, but you might prefer to design your own). Then get your analytics for the past year or two on the screen and look for the patterns.
If you have seasonal variations, you need to make some decisions about how you want to deal with them. Some prefer to make hay while the sun shines and focus heavily on seasonal spikes. If that’s the best plan for you, then plan your promotions, PR pushes, and ads for the customer’s decision-making times.
You can identify these by checking the keywords in your analytics. If people start looking for election-themed bulletin board sets in September and you start selling a lot of them in late October, that gives you the window for promoting those items.
Then work backwards to the point where you have to do the work to make sure the promotions get done on time.
Other companies like to promote during the down times. If you’ve got as much business as you can handle at peak seasons, you can improve your bottom line significantly by reminding people of your existence during the low points. This may require diversification or at least a creative approach. If your lawn service dies off in winter, you might choose to add Christmas lighting services during your low season. If you’re a musician with a big season in spring weddings, 2010 might be the year to branch out into holiday parties, bar mitzvahs, or Oktoberfest venues.
But you might also be able to position your products differently for different seasons. A patio furniture maker on the northern border has an extreme seasonal pattern going on — enormous spring and summer traffic going down to almost nothing in the fall and winter. That’s reasonable and predictable. And yet they might be able to get a bump in the fall by pitching their replacement cushions and fire pits to tailgaters, and might even move some patio furniture as Christmas gifts.
Once you’ve established where you’d like to see some results, work backwards to the point where you need to begin working on the promotion and write in the planning session, assignment of the tasks involved, and deadlines for the steps. If any of your promotions will involve print or the mailing of physical objects, add extra lead time.
Be sure to make a space for recording your results, too. Previous years’ marketing calendars can provide useful data for future decision-making.
Your marketing calendar may change over the course of the year. However, it can give you a structure and help keep your marketing efforts on track.