Today we’re talking about your marketing calendar and how creating a seasonal marketing plan can help you create a general timeline for your business.
Now, just to preface this. I’m not a huge fan of fully planning a yearly marketing calendar. I’ve done it. It was a waste of time because:
- things change (especially if you’re launching something new)
- we don’t know what could happen in the world within the next year (re: corona)
- creating a marketing plan too early can impact the health of your business.
It’s really that third one that will get you.
Don’t Create a Year Long Marketing Calendar
Creating a year long marketing calendar is a lot of time and energy that can change in a flash. Then, all of the sudden you’ve got to figure out how to rebuild your marketing Jenga tower. This always means a bunch of extra energy that you don’t have to recreate a plan you already built. That’s frustrating. It can cause resentment. And it throws up another barrier to content marketing that you seriously don’t need.
Having that calendar so far in advance also runs the risk of setting crazy deadlines that will suck the fun out of a project. Here’s an example:
You created a calendar for a new product launch in Mid-May. Come April 15th, you don’t have labels or a finished product yet but you need to start talking about something coming in your marketing.
So what do you do? You stress work. You create a bunch of content that might or might not be totally accurate, with a test product that isn’t the final, and branding that isn’t done. All while you’re pushing your developers to get it done faster. And why?
Because the marketing calendar you created said so. That’s not a sustainable marketing strategy.
Don’t do that. It’s not fun.
Instead, create a basic seasonal marketing plan for your business. This will allow you to wrap in your business plans, holidays you want to celebrate, potential launches, and any timing you need for creating assets for important times of the year.
How to Create a Seasonal Marketing Plan Instead
For purposes of building a seasonal marketing plan for your business, I’m going to suggest thinking about this in terms of a calendar year.
I know that for a lot of sustainable and herbal product based business owners, including myself, using a seasons-based calendar makes sense. However, your average audience (not to mention the tax man) functions based on the yearly calendar.
So we’re just going to think about our seasonal calendar in conjunction with business quarters because they’re roughly the same thing.
What to Think About for Each Season for Your Business
Q1 – Winter Season Marketing Calendar
Let’s start with the first part of the year. The Q1 dates are January 1 through March 31.
Best thing to do for your business the first quarter
Evaluate and plan. For most business to consumer brands, the beginning of Q1 is slow because people don’t typically make purchases just after the holiday season (unless they have gift cards). It’s really good to take January to regroup, look at your data from the past year and start thinking about your taxes.
If you’re planning on running upcoming sales or creating products, use the New Year, New You energy to put your ideas down on paper and get working. This quarter should also be dedicated to getting on track with your content marketing for the year. What kind of consistency can your business handle this year?
How to speak to your audience in Q1: focus on relationship management
Q1 is often a little weird for a lot of brands. They just came off sale season and the holidays. Which means your audience was dealing with TONS of emails and sales and urgency marketing. By the middle of January, it’s likely that their inbox has quieted back down to normal levels – so you want to be there. Showing up for your customers.
Send your content, and if you decide to have another sale sometime within Q1, communicate about it without adding urgency and stress.
Notable dates in Q1
Here are a few typical days to think about for your Q1 marketing calendar. Depending on where your audience is, I highly recommend checking out other holidays.
Jan 1 – first day of the year.
Feb 14 – Valentines’ Day.
March 8 – International Women’s Day.
Mar 21/22 – Spring Equinox.
Q2 – Spring Seasonal Marketing Plan
Dates for Q2 are April 1st – June 30th.
Second quarter business vibes
This is a great time of year to launch a new product, especially if it is helpful when it’s warm out.
It’s also tax season and that’s a big job that always takes more time than you plan for it. So if you know you have to do it yourself, don’t take on big projects or make promises in your marketing until your taxes are in.
Take a look at your data and see how well your audience has been responding to your relationship building efforts. What content did you create that people really seemed to enjoy?
How to speak to your audience in Q2: focus on them
In Q2, people are feeling a little restless and windy because the transition from winter to spring to summer is heavy these months. They want to feel warm and they want to be outside with lots of sunshine. Honor the way they feel. Empathize with them these months.
Focus on what your ideal customer is likely feeling throughout these months and push into any kind of relevant pain that your product can alleviate. This season is about making things easier and more fun for your audience, because that’s what they want after a long winter.
Notable dates in Q2
Some things to consider while planning your marketing calendar in this quarter.
The first Sunday after the first Full Moon after the Vernal Equinox – Easter Sunday.
April 15 – Tax Day.
April 22 – Earth Day.
2nd Sunday in May – Mother’s Day in the USA.
Last Monday in May – Memorial Day in the USA. This is a big sales day in the states.
3rd Sunday in June – Father’s Day in the USA.
June 20-21 – Summer Solstice.
Q3 – Summer Seasonal Marketing Plan
Dates for Q3 are July 1st – September 30th.
Q3 of your business is back in planning mode
In Q3, you should be planning for your Q4. As a business owner it’s time to shift your thoughts to the holiday season, because by the beginning of Q4, your audience will be choosing halloween costumes, planning Thanksgiving Feasts, and thinking about holiday gifts.
You’ve got to be on top of all the major stuff in Q4, especially if you have a small brand and you’re not going to put a ton of money into ads.
Q3 is the time to get serious about a potential product launch if you’re going to do it. And at this point, I would recommend launching either at the beginning of Q3 if you’ve got to push it out, or waiting until Late October/Early November to jump on the early holiday sales train.
Folks take a little hiatus for vacations and then back to school in August/September. So these can be slower months.
How to speak to your audience in Q3: focus on your value
Focus on the value you can bring to people with your content. You should always be able to communicate about this, but after Q2, where you focused on how you can alleviate pain, Q3 is where you can solidify their loyalty. This is the time to focus on longevity. People will come out of their summertime ready to make big life changes in the transition period of autumn.
Notable dates in Q3
These are the lazy days in the year. It’s hot and people are partying, laughing, and vacationing so there aren’t very many huge international holidays. Tap into what your audience cares about these months.
Last week of August/First of September – Back to School time.
First Monday in September – Labor Day.
Sept 21-22 – Fall Equinox.
Q4 – Autumn Seasonal Marketing Plan
Dates for Q2 are October 1st – December 31st.
Your Q4 brand focus
This is the time to be pretty focused on the here and now. You made your plan in Q3 – roll with it.
Launch the product, push the content, get your sales in front of people. It’s Q4 and it’s time to work it. For a lot of brands, this is the make it or break it quarter that will line up your next year.
This is also a good season to start sowing your seeds for what you’d like to see happen next year in your business.
By the end of October, you should have all your sales locked in, and by mid/late November you should have most of your sales content set up to go out. This leaves you December to plan on the fly if you need another sale – and it lets you start planning for the next year.
How to speak to your audience in Q4: sell
Sell. Sell. Sell. The pull of the holiday season is very difficult to ignore. Other brands make the marketing space really loud during these three months. So if you don’t sell yourself, your voice is going to get drowned out. You don’t need to vie for the attention of your audience in the same way as the brands around you. And you don’t need massive sales to make a profit (especially if you cultivated trust in the last quarter). You do, however, need to communicate about the holidays and stay relevant in the season. So I don’t recommend ignoring the holiday cheer.
Notable dates in Q4
Q4, especially at the end, is sort of one big celebratory season. So when you plan your calendar, make sure to plan according to how your customers celebrate.
Oct 31 – Halloween.
Fourth Thursday in November – Thanksgiving.
Weekend after Thanksgiving – Black Friday/Cyber Monday.
And basically all of December – For brands, December is a big gift buying, gift giving holiday month.
December 21-22 – Winter Solstice.
How to Build a Marketing Calendar with your Seasonal Marketing Plan
So I know that at the start of this article I told you not to build a year long marketing calendar. I’m sticking to that. I recommend creating day by day content calendars 4-6 weeks in advance.
Note that there are two quarters within the year that are great for planning (Q1 and Q3) and two that are great for selling (Q2 and Q4). I highly recommend utilizing those natural cycles throughout the year to your advantage as a brand.
You can totally create your seasonal marketing plan for the next 6 months. Think about the seasons and the set celebratory moments of the year like a skeletal framework for your brand’s marketing calendar.
So, if you’re entering Q3, you should have an idea of whether you’re going to be able to create a new product in time for a November launch – if you won’t have the time, don’t put energy into creating a new product, spend your time sharing your value with your audience. Put new product creation into the pipeline for the next Q1.
As a general rule, you don’t need to make big plans farther ahead than two quarters because every other 6 months you’ll get a moment to plan for the next 6 months. Believe me when I tell you that it’s easy to push off massive goals or brand shifts into “a year from now” and then lose track of it until it’s on top of you. That’s a recipe for stress (strecipe?).
If you want to wrap your head around this a little more, talk about your marketing calendar, or seasonal marketing plan, we’re here for it. Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.