Marketing should be done continually. But in this article, I’m focusing on figuring out when to put the business marketing pieces in place for a specific event or goal.
In a small organization, creating content is often a low priority. Unfortunately, that means it can be a last-minute venture, as well.
This is not a good strategy. In fact, this is what happens when you don’t have a strategy.
Well-intentioned people scramble at the last minute to promote an event they’ve known about for months. Why? They were too busy planning the actual event to put effort and time into promoting it.
Events can be overwhelming and the to-do list can be daunting. Getting everything done starts with looking at what you want to accomplish by your event date or go-live date or publication date.
Get over your fear and make a plan now!
How do you do it?
You can find tools online for making a marketing schedule or just use an Excel program. But first, you need to get into the mindset of working backward from your goal. This may seem counterintuitive, but it’s a useful skill that will help you allow enough time for what you need to accomplish.
Warning: it can be a shock to find out how early you need to get started!
Start with your event date
Don’t get rattled. There’s a process for this. Start with what you already know—your event date or go-live date or publication date. That’s the first thing to put on your schedule.
Now, take that date and work backward from it. If it’s an event, what’s the deadline for people to register? Let’s say it’s two weeks before your event. (Many people accept last-minute registrations, but let’s ignore that stress-inducing thought for now.)
You have now identified the time frame for your most intense promotion, which will likely be a month or two before the registration deadline. Depending on your audience and the size of your event, you may want to start promoting it a few months earlier.
I should note that many people tend to wait until the last minute to sign up for things. That could mean two weeks before a major event or two days before a small one. But don’t let that stop you from planning this out. Potential customers may need to hear about your event multiple times before signing up for it.
Decide which methods you will use for promotion
Social media is faster than print, but you still need a plan. When I promoted events as an employee for a non-profit organization, I wrote social media posts for every day of the promotional time frame. Every Monday, I would schedule the posts for that whole week. I had already written the posts in advance, so scheduling was easy.
Put your posting dates on your marketing schedule, then work backward to schedule your writing time for the posts. I like writing them all at once so I can keep track of what was said and how it was worded. This prevents duplication and makes each post unique.
If you are printing anything, you’ll need to allow for design and printing time. Mark down the deadlines for those after getting time estimates from those vendors.
That means checking with the printer to see how busy they will be at that time and how quickly they can print your job. Are you using special foil or die cuts? Those may add to the printing time.
Find out when the printer needs to receive your files. Then, add that to your schedule.
Allow time for others involved in creating content
Once you’ve figured out the printing schedule, you have to come up with a date earlier than that for turning materials over to a graphic designer. You have one, don’t you? (If you don’t, I can refer you to a good one!)
Ask her how much time she needs to create what you’ll need. Let’s say she tells you two weeks. Add three business days to that for reviews and tweaks.
Now you know when you need to have your content written for the designer. Oh, you’re not writing it yourself?
Then contact a writer (like me!) and get a time estimate from her like you did for the designer. Make an appointment to meet or call to get those ideas flowing. Allow yourself content review time for your boss(es).
Tip: Some people want to wait until the design phase to review content, but I don’t recommend it. You’ll save money and time by reviewing the content before it goes to a designer.
Review and expand your plan, adjusting as needed
Looking at your plan now, you should have deadlines for printing, design, social media posting and content creation. You can use the same process for any promotional methods you are using.
Mapping it all out will give you a visual picture of the busiest times, which means you can warn people now that you’ll be delegating some of those tasks in six weeks. Or you can move those tasks to a less-busy time in your marketing schedule, if possible.
The key is to start working on your marketing schedule early. That way, you can find out how long each part of the process is expected to take. Be sure to add in extra days if you can to allow for delays along the way.
I’ve often found delays happen in waiting to get the boss to review the content! Add extra time for that. If you don’t need it, you’ll be ahead of schedule. And that makes you look good.