Episode 37 - Create a Marketing Calendar for your Shopify Store

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Hey, Scott Austin here.  In this episode, I'm going to talk about creating a marketing calendar for your Shopify store.

So I'll start by explaining what a marketing calendar is.  A marketing calendar brings together all of your advertising, content, social marketing, sales, PR and promotional efforts under a cohesive plan based on the relevant holidays and events for your store.  It’s the playbook that will drive most of your marketing efforts each and every day.  By building out a plan in advance, you'll be taking the time to build a strategy which is more effective than just winging it as you go.  You'll also be doing some research during the planning that may give you some further insight in marketing events that you had not thought of before. 

Here are some stats that drive the point on how planning ahead improves effectiveness.

  • Marketers who document their strategies are 5 times more likely to succeed.
  • And generally, people who document their processes are 4 times more likely to succeed.

It is important for your store to build trust with customers and stay top of mind.  A marketing calendar helps you do this and gives you good, timely and relevant reasons to communicate with your audience other than saying what the newest or most popular products in your store are.

So here's the type of information you want in your marketing calendar.  I'll go into details on each one in a moment:

  1. A list of holidays and events.
  2. The dates for each event.
  3. What, if any, pricing strategies, like sales, will be used for the event.
  4. What content will be created for the event.
  5. What promotion will be done for the event.
  6. Who is responsible for each task.

 Let's dig into the list of holidays and events.

Your calendar should list out all of the holidays and events that your business will be marketing around for a full year.  The calendar will get updated each year.  Some holidays and events may be removed based on past performance.  Others can be added for non-annual events, for example, the World Cup or a Solar eclipse in your market.  You'll also need to update the dates each year.  For example, Black Friday is on a different date each year.

Now, the first decision you are going to have to make is what countries you are going to focus on.  Countries have different holidays and even different dates for the same holiday.  So you need to decide which countries you are going to consider when putting together your calendar.  I recommend starting small, say one country.  You can build on that in subsequent years.

A source I use for getting a list of Holidays is the website Time and Date which I'll include a link to in the show notes.  You can tell it what country you are interested in.  And you can tell it what level of detail you want.  For example, you can get a list of national holidays, regional holidays or observances.  Observances are things like Saint Patrick's Day in the US which is not an actual holiday but is a popular day nonetheless. 

Here is a list of events to consider when putting together your calendar:

  1. The national holidays.
  2. Smaller holidays like state holidays or observances.
  3. Seasonal promotions, like back to school, spring cleaning or Daylight Savings Time.
  4. Find all of the special days that are relevant to your business.  For example, if you sell sleepwear, then World Sleep Day may be something you want to build a promotion around.  You can find these by doing an internet search.  There's no calendar with them all.  But the website National Day Calendar has many of them and is linked to in the show notes.  Some of the more obscure ones can be a bit of fun for you and your audience.  For example, in 2012, I started a company named Porch.  And we found that August 8th is 'Sneak some zucchini into your neighbor's porch day'.  So we added that to our calendar and everyone had fun with it. 
  5. Product launches.  You should factor your product launches in your marketing calendar.
  6. Industry-related events.  For example, if you sell electronics, you may want to include the Consumer Electronics Show or CES in your calendar.
  7. Company milestones.  You may want to highlight the anniversary date of your company's founding each year.  Or if this year, you are going to have your 10 millionth sale, that milestone could go onto your calendar.
  8. Sporting Events.  Sports drives a lot of people and events like the Super Bowl, March Madness or the Kentucky Derby may be great additions for your calendar. 
  9. And lastly, you can also create your own events.  Back in 2007, I was running the Arcade business for Xbox, which was a downloadable games service.  And at that time, the two best games we had so far were going to come out around the same time.  So we made an event around it by getting two other great games and planning to launch all 4 them during our event.  We called it Summer of Arcade.  And it was so successful that it became an annual event.

Not every event in the list you put together needs to be supported in your calendar.  Some events may not be applicable for your business.  For example, if you sell Men's Ties, then having a promotion around Mother's Day is probably not a good idea.  And you only have so much bandwidth, so you can't support everything.

On the other hand, you may also want to get creative when you see some blanks in your calendar.  For example, a bedding company could build an event around National Health Day as good sleep is important for good health.

That said, you can go too far and not be aligned with your brand.  The week that I'm recording this episode, Lululemon just got some backlash for promoting an event around resisting capitalism.  I don't think I need to explain the irony of a $125 yoga pant company promoting anti-capitalism.

So, you should now have a list of desired events for your marketing calendar.

Let's dig into the dates for each event. 

In this case, I don't mean the date of the holiday or event, but I mean the promotional dates to be used for the campaign.  You need to know when to start your promotion, when to peak and when to stop.  For this, you can use the sales data from your store.  You can augment that with information from Google Trends, which I'll link to in the show notes.  Google Trends is a fantastic tool that shows you how search volumes for a keyword change across calendar dates.  For example, by looking at the search term 'Halloween costumes for kids', I see that search volume starts increasing in mid-August and peaks around the 10th of October.  It also falls off the cliff and back down to almost zero as soon as Halloween is over.  After seeing this data, I would want to make sure that my costume products were on the site no later than mid-August.  And my heaviest promotion and sales would be in the first half of October.

You need to come up with the right timeframe for each event in your calendar.  Some, like National Dog Day, may be as simple as one day.  While others, like holiday, may take months. 

Here's another example.  Prom dresses.  Prom dress searches, quickly start skyrocketing up in mid-December.  It peaks in March.  And stays strong all of the way through May.  So a company selling dresses would have a 6-month event on their calendar for prom.

Something to consider here is who is making the purchase and for what purpose.  The big buckets for this are is this purchase a gift or is this purchase for the person buying it.  Mother's Day is typically a gift-giving event.  So you are going to need to be early with your messaging.  First, you are going to have to remind your audience when Mother's Day is this year.  And then remind what date they need to make their purchase by in order to get it delivered in time.  Most of your events will have multiple dates for shipping deadlines like 'Last day to order with Free Shipping' or 'last day to get it in time for the holiday'.

Let's dig into the pricing strategies.

As you know, price can be a useful lever in generating demand.  For example, most Black Friday sales are driven by drastic cuts in price.  So, you need to decide for each of the events, if you'll be doing something with pricing.  Now not every event has to use price.  I'll leave it to you to decide what is right for your business. 

For your event, you could have a time when there is a sale and another time when there is not a sale.  For example, many flower companies have great sales on Valentine's Day flowers in early January.  But come February, they are charging full-price.  And the last few days before Valentine's, they are charging a premium.

Also think about windowing access to sales.  For example, for Black Friday, you could give early access to the sale to your VIP customers, however, you define VIPs. 

Let's dig into What content will be created and what promotion will be done for each event.

You'll be generating a bunch of content for each of your events.  Some of this content will be on your Shopify store.  And other content will be promotional content used to drive traffic to your store.

When creating the onsite content, I recommend one of two routes.

The route you should use most of the time is a dedicated landing page for the event.  And when you make a landing page for an event, you should re-use the same page every year for SEO purposes.  Though you will of course update the content each year.  So if you are having a Back to School promotion, you'll build a landing page around that.  That landing page will be the hub for everything Back to School.  The content could include:

  1. Details about your sale.
  2. Key dates for Back to School
  3. Other relevant content, like appropriate blog articles.
  4. Buyers guides.  Buyer's guides are an important, yet often overlooked, part of merchandising.  With Buyer's Guides, you are helping your customers with their shopping experience.  Most stores will build their buyer's guides using collections.  And if you use dynamic collections, you'll easily reuse the same Buyer's Guides year over year.  Here are some examples of potential Back to School buyer's guides:
    1. Essentials for the Middle Schooler
    2. How to kit out your first dorm room
    3. Budget laptops
    4. Blue and khaki school uniforms
    5. Clothing that will last the whole year
    6. Shop school bags by price
    7. And the list could go on and on.

As I already said, most of the time, a landing page is the right destination for an event.  This is the case when the event should create a shopping experience.  And as you have a Shopify store, most of your events should be shopping experiences.

But there will be cases where it won't make sense for your event to lead to a shopping experience.  In those cases, you'll build out a blog article as the destination. 

As for where the event is promoted, you'll want to decide which of your touchpoints you'll use for each event.  The default should be all touchpoints.  But of course, that may be too much effort to pull off.  So for each of the events in your Marketing Calendar, you'll want to decide which channels to promote it on.  Channels include:

  1. Email
  2. Advertising
  3. Social media posts
  4. Press Releases
  5. Any other sources you have

And for each of the channels, you'll want to determine how many times you'll promote the event.  You'll want to promote your events multiple times per channel.  Here's an example of an email plan for a Father's Day event that includes a sale:

Email #1 - One week before the sale starts, this email announces the sale and reminds customers when Father's Day is this year.

Email #2 - goes out the day the sale goes live.

Email #3 - goes out a week later and talks about the most popular products or it could highlight items where inventory is getting low.

Email #4 goes out with one day left for standard shipping to get it in time.

Email #5 goes out with one day left for expedited shipping to get it in time.

Email #6 goes out after the shipping window has closed and focuses on gift cards.

For your promotions, you'll also want to decide if you will segment your audience.  A typical segment is country.  That way, you only promote your 4th of July event to Americans.  But you may have other segments by demographics or past purchase history.

Let's dig into the Who is responsible for each task.

Unless your team is just you, it's going to super important to be clear about who is doing what.  Most Shopify stores are smaller teams.  And I find that with smaller teams, it's even more important to clearly define who is doing what than it is with big teams.  And that’s because on big teams, roles are more clearly defined.  For example, there may be a dedicated person for email and another dedicated person for social.  While on small teams there's more overlap between people.

So that's the information that you will be putting into your marketing calendar.  What tools you use for this are going to depend on the size of your team and what tools you already have comfort with.  There are dedicated software solutions for marketing calendars.  But, as most Shopify stores don't have large marketing teams, I recommend building your Marketing calendar in a spreadsheet, like Excel or Google Sheets, or in an online document.

Now there are plenty of sources on the internet that will give you a template that you can use.  But most of these are also for larger teams.  So I recommend just creating your own to start with instead of trying to fit inside of someone else's template. 

Now if this sounds like a lot of work, that's because it is.  But you can break it down and take it a step at a time.  To start, just build out your calendar for Holiday.  Holiday, and by that I mean whatever you call that thing in late-December, is the most important event for most stores.  So planning that one out first can have a big impact on your bottom line.  And then each quarter, you can plan out the next 3 months.  At the end of the year, you'll have a full marketing calendar.  But it should be a living doc.  You should take what you learn and factor into the calendar, so that next year, you do better than this year. 

As always, start simple and evolve over time.  eCommerce is a marathon and constant evolution is how stores win in the marathon.

Thanks for listening.



Jade Puma is a certified Shopify Expert. If you need any help with your Shopify store, we can help.


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