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Experienced marketers know that successful campaigns aren’t just about great ideas. More than creativity, teams need systems, processes, and tools to execute them.
Great teams are able to muster effective messaging, impeccable project management, and ruthless resource management.
Focus and synergy in messaging are vital in integrated marketing communication plans. Each touchpoint should be strategically positioned to support your strategy.
To meet your intended timings, you’ll need good project management. Deliverables have to be finished on time and relationships with your stakeholders need to be maintained.
Finally, resources power everything. Whether they’re financial resources, informational resources, manpower resources, etc, they need to be available when they’re needed so that your teams can continue their work without interruption.
To stay on top of all these, you’ll want to use a marketing timeline.
A marketing timeline is a tool that allows you to list your marketing activities and the points in time at which you plan to conceptualize, produce, and release them.
Marketing campaigns are usually composed of several initiatives: social media campaigns, content marketing plans, website updates, events, etc. Your marketing timeline will be a consolidation of your efforts along with when they’ll be worked on.
You can opt to create separate marketing timelines for each channel. So for one campaign, you may opt to have a digital marketing timeline, event timeline, and content timeline available if these are your key channels. However, it’s advisable to also make a timeline where they’re all visible. This will allow you to inspect how each channel can work together.
Laying your plans down on a marketing campaign timeline helps you, your team, and your clients, keep track of what needs to be done and when.
Marketing boomed during the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries. With several innovations and the rise of mass production, consumers started to purchase more products and businesses have started to compete to gain more profit.
The craft evolved gradually as new strategies, approaches, and channels were introduced. From newspapers to television, and now, through social media, PR, events, and more.
Project management, on the other hand, has been present for as long as humans took on collaborative group endeavors such as The Great Pyramid of Giza in 2570 BC.
While there are no clear records of when marketing professionals started to incorporate project management tools and methods in executing campaigns, it’s safe to assume that this was during the mid-1980s when project management tools were made more accessible.
Quarterly and annual are the most common marketing plan formats. These time frames allow you to plan and strategize around realistic goals. Actionable plans are good for morale and decision-making.
At the same time, quarterly and annual are long enough time periods to observe trends and maximize them.
Instead of picking one or the other, you may opt to use them both: start with annual and break them down into quarterly for shorter-term goals that support your long-term objectives.
The format we’d most recommend for your marketing timeline is a Gantt chart. A Gantt chart is a horizontal bar graph where you can outline your initiatives and plot when activities start and end.
At a glance, a Gantt chart gives you an idea of what your team will be doing at any point in time. This allows you to synchronize your efforts and spot possible issues you can preempt.
Your chart can be as simple or as sophisticated as you want it to be. You can also opt to do it manually using free tools such as Google Sheets. However, if you want the utmost flexibility, it’s recommended to use project management software such as Workamajig.
Using a calendar format can feel no different than writing down your to-dos on your calendar or planner. During day-to-day operations, this can be easier to follow. However, It can make it difficult to gauge resources and assignments.
Here’s a marketing timeline example (specifically for social posts) in the calendar form:
While you can use this independently, it’s also an option to use this alongside your Gantt chart. For example, instead of sharing your whole Gantt chart with your stakeholder who wants to see your social media postings for the month, you can instead plot them on a calendar for easier visualization.
Your marketing timeline on a table is a straightforward list of campaigns or projects and their corresponding dates and durations.
Here’s a marketing timeline example in a table form:
Back To School Sale
Sept 10-11, 2022
Oct 31, 2022
Nov 24, 2022
December 11-18, 2022
A marketing timeline table is more compact than the calendar and the Gantt chart. It’s a good tool to give stakeholders a bird's eye view of your team’s initiatives. You also have an option to add columns for persons in charge, due date, dependencies, etc.
Information here is easy to absorb. However, the amount of data it can communicate is also limited. It’ll take an extra mental step for you to see overlapping efforts if any.
Before you can start laying out your plan on a marketing timeline, you have to first have it down pat.
Start by doing a situational analysis. From there, build your strategy. Is there a specific type of messaging that you want to go for? A new market segment you want to target? A new demand you want to create? Once you’ve determined your strategy, you can start laying down your plans.
Consider trends that may be relevant to your target audience. Pick the channels that will make the most impact, especially if you have a limited budget. For example, if you’re targeting Gen Z, your plan might include establishing your brand’s presence on Tiktok. For a B2B audience, maybe work on more blog posts.
With your campaign plans in place, that’s when you can start plotting them on your marketing campaign timeline.
We already discussed the formats you can choose from in the previous section. Pick between quarterly, annual, or both!
It’s advisable to use a Gantt chart. But when sending reports to specific stakeholders, consider them as calendars and tables as applies.
You can create your marketing timeline in many ways. Doing it from scratch is the most straightforward. This way, you can customize every part of it.
However, if you’re pressed for time, the two other options you can consider are using a marketing timeline template or using project management software for agencies like Workamajig.
At the end of the day, the “right” format will be determined by what you need and what your team and stakeholders will respond to the most.
As you plot your plans on your marketing campaign timeline, you’ll realize that you’ll have to make adjustments along the way.
When you’re brainstorming, it’s common to have ideas filled to the brim. But as you start laying them down on your marketing timeline, you start to be confronted with the reality of constraints – especially time.
When this happens, don’t panic. This is normal. And it’s better that you confront them now rather than after you’ve already committed all the initiatives to your client.
Another reason you’d want to adjust your plans is to synergize your channels. For example, if you’re doing an integrated marketing approach, you may find that launching your new product teaser on the same week as your key influencer’s birthday can give you the opportunity to work on a birthday giveaway contest initiative. This can justify rescheduling your product teaser release to a different date.
Maximizing timings and releases is another way to increase the effectiveness of your communications. Welcome these changes and use them to your advantage.
Getting new information during execution is a normal part of project and campaign management.
Internal information can be related to your team’s capacity and availability of resources. External information can be the market’s response and trending topics that can add (or remove) marketing opportunities for your team.
For example, you can capitalize on the sudden blowup of an influencer who is a proud user of your product. At the same time, it may be wise to consider putting promotional posts on hold in the case of a grave national tragedy to avoid looking tone-deaf and apathetic.
It’s good practice to be receptive to new information. In fact, it’s advisable to evaluate efforts after each run to see what parts work, don’t work, and what you can improve. Constantly learn about your audience. What makes them tick? What excites them?
As you learn new things, embrace agility and be sure your marketing timeline is flexible as well. Using project management software such as Workamajig can help you stay ready to respond to new changes and challenges.
Plotting your digital marketing plan on a timeline helps you keep track of your team’s efforts, plan for resources, and ensure an effective integrated marketing plan.
While creativity has a lot to do with the success of marketing campaigns, a massive part of it is the systematic planning, project management, resource management, and execution. Beneath the madness, there’s a method that holds them all together.
Use a marketing timeline to stay on top of the execution of your marketing campaigns and ensure the success of your plans.