Why You Need a Merchandise Marketing Calendar — and How to Create One

This is a post by Abby Heugel.

As a business owner, you know that you need to market your company and the products that you sell, but you often feel too busy (or overwhelmed) to go beyond the initial email and social media blast.

However, the benefit of marketing can’t be understated. The key is to have it organized in such a way that it outlines your marketing activities on a month-to-month basis, assuring that a steady stream of promotion keeps you front-of-mind with current customers while introducing your products to new ones.

That’s where a merchandise marketing calendar comes in, and here’s how you can — and should — use it.

What Is a Merchandise Marketing Calendar?

Simply put, a merchandise marketing calendar is a tool usually in the form of a spreadsheet that shows what marketing events, media campaigns, and merchandising efforts are happening when and where. It separates things month-by-month, taking away the pressure you might feel each day, wondering, “What should I be posting today?”

While it requires some initial investment in time and resources, it pays off in the long run. It’s not simply a calendar, but rather a tool for your whole team to align and plan for best results.

Who Needs To Use a Merchandise Marketing Calendar?

Short answer? Everyone.

Long answer? If you’re a retailer who sells products in a brick-and-mortar location, in a pop-up shop, or via an ecommerce store, you can benefit from a merchandise marketing calendar.

The benefit of knowing how and when you’ll introduce new items to the public is critical to keeping customers engaged and interested in what you can offer. Even if you don’t have something new launching each and every month, you can promote previously released products repurposed in a new way.

Not only does this introduce a “new” product to customers who haven’t seen it before, but showcasing them differently can result in selling inventory you might have been sitting on for a while. Create new displays, include new website copy, and add in whatever you want on your merchandising calendar.

Chances are that while new products are often the spotlight, a customer most likely won’t remember something you promoted a year ago.

Create an Overall Marketing Strategy

Before you create a marketing calendar, it’s important to decide on an overall marketing strategy. Some questions to ask yourself include:

  •      What is your estimated marketing budget for the entire year?
  •      Who is your target audience?
  •      How frequently will you promote your company?
  •      When is your peak demand? Factor in different times of the year, such as holidays or tourist season.
  •      What kind of media will you use? Consider not only email, but social media, videos, trade shows, etc.

Now that you have a good sense of how to market, you can plan when to market.

Creating Your Merchandise Marketing Calendar

When it comes to physically creating the calendar, you have a variety of options. Google and Microsoft both have online tools for creating calendars, and another option is SmartSheet which offers several marketing calendar templates you can adapt to fit your needs.

Regardless of which option you choose, your merchandise marketing calendar should include the items below.

Dates

If you’re using Google Sheets, you can break it down by including a new tab for each month of the year. Within each tab, you’ll want to organize information by date and day of the week in the first two columns. This will be the skeleton for your calendar that you will continuously build on.

Products

Now that you have the dates filled in, create a “Merchandise” column where you can list the merchandise or products you would like to market on a given date. While some people like to break down their merchandise marketing into daily campaigns, others will choose to focus on a specific product or collection each week or even a different detail each day. It all depends on your preference.

Management

Who will be in charge of managing this campaign? Be sure you have all staff that are expected to participate on the dates indicated on the calendar so that they can prepare and have knowledge about the new product or new marketing campaign.

You might even consider posting the marketing calendar for the month in the break room, along with discussing it in your monthly staff meetings so that everyone is on the same page — literally.

Campaign Ideas

Events like regular blog posts or email blasts will be the easiest campaigns to schedule. Planning when to create larger or more involved promotions is what takes some work. For most businesses, the holidays are the busiest — and most important — time for sales. Those campaigns have to be planned and coordinated months in advance, so the sooner you start thinking about them, the better.

Once you have the big events and the regular recurring blog posts or email blasts scheduled, it’s time to create your own holidays. Take a look at your marketing coverage and see where you can fill the gaps. Start checking social media holiday calendars online to brainstorm ideas for campaigns that are relevant to your business.

Use these “holidays” to build marketing campaigns that are sure to bring customers in. For example, if you sell coffee, National Coffee Day would be something you could use as an in-store holiday.

It really doesn’t even have to align with your niche. If you love puppies, celebrate National Puppy Day and reward people with a discount if they show you a picture of their puppy. The point is to create buzz and bring more traffic to your store. (And who doesn’t like puppies?)

Objectives

The ultimate objective — whether you run a brick-and-mortar, ecommerce, or both — is to turn your visitors into paying customers. But it’s important to track and measure the success of your marketing campaign, and that’s best done by setting a goal for each one.

Everyone’s specific goals will be different, but some objectives to consider are:

  • Expanding product distribution — in-store or online
  • Defining a brand’s mission
  • Upselling or cross-selling a specific product
  • Increasing repeat purchases by 10%
  • Promoting an event
  • Reducing back stock and inventory
  • Launching a new product or product line
  • Promoting a sale

Marketing and Publishing

With your objectives clearly defined and the decision on which products to market has been made, it’s time to use the next few columns in your merchandise marketing calendar to detail how you will create and share your content.

What form of publishing gives you the most return on investment? Which form do you have the most resources that you can dedicate to? While you can simply use one column as “social media,” it can help to break it down into the categories below:

  • In-store marketing (window displays, in-store displays, signage, fixtures, up-selling, cross-selling, employee engagement, etc.)   
  • Social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, LinkedIn)
  • Print (traditional media like magazines, posters, flyers, shopping bag inserts, etc.)
  • Online marketing (website updates, blog posts, paid ads, etc.)
  • Email Marketing

That might look like a lot, but each retailer will have a different level of commitment to each channel or method, so use what works best for you.

This ensures that everyone is on the same page with your marketing goals and that each person knows their role in the campaign.

How To Measure Performance

The last couple of columns should be dedicated to measuring results and performance. Was one particular promotion successful? Put it on next year’s calendar. Did another one completely tank? Try something different next time around. Depending on your goal for each campaign, this column may include notes and stats like percentage of repeat purchases, new email subscribers, or website conversion rates.

By having a detailed record of your marketing efforts, you have gained not only organization but tremendous insight that can be used year-to-year to increase the profitability of your business and the number of customers that you bring in.