The Death of the Spreadsheet Marketing Calendar
Managing all your marketing activity without a marketing calendar is a bit like having a dozen balls in the air and trying to guess how fast each one is spinning while riding a unicycle on a tightrope and belting out show tunes.
To invoke another analogy, imagine perching on the bow of a boat and peering out into the dense, pea-soup fog that has enveloped you, trying to steer clear of rocks and other obstructions that rear up at you.
It’s stressful. But that lack of visibility is something with which most marketing teams struggle on a daily basis.
Why spreadsheets are the ersatz marketing calendar
Enter Excel: the marketing calendar you have when you don’t really have a marketing calendar.
Many of us have had the joy of feasibility planning for the year ahead while poring over tab upon tab of spreadsheet data showing when our brand should be in market with campaigns across every medium and channel we use.
Cross-referencing between channels is confusing. Entering information accurately is tricky. Changing that information is time-consuming. And woe betide the hapless marketing manager who makes a mistake.
All of a sudden your brand is on TV with a promotional campaign but no call centre support because they’re already booked to work on something else.
Or you’re running campaigns for separate products concurrently instead of consecutively, leaving you with nothing in-market for a month.
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The CMO perspective
Then there’s the CMO. He set the team’s strategy. He’s communicated the objectives. But he wants to know, as the year progresses, how closely your overall campaign mix reflects those values. You make an educated guess.
Then he comes into work one day after passing a bus shelter advertising campaign with your brand on it that he didn’t even know was about to launch. He looks at the most recent report you gave him – but then again, why bother? It was out of date even before he got it.
Or worse – your CEO is in town and sees your latest campaign in the airport terminal. “Why are we running these airport campaigns?” she asks the CMO. It might have helped if he’d known you were.
Most of the time you can manage more or less respectably. But at best, you only get visibility to a certain point. What does the campaign you’re scrutinising on paper actually look like? Who can recall the exact details?
How are you tracking against budget? That information’s contained in another spreadsheet somewhere. Or you can ask the finance department. That’s always fun.
If spreadsheets are used religiously they’re a great source of truth. But they’re only as good and as accurate as the data that gets entered.
And if you’re the one actually managing a campaign, the information you need to view is much more granular than what the CMO needs.
And what if you’re trying to be agile and make changes to your campaign on the fly? Doesn’t bear thinking about…
There are a number of good marketing calendars out there that offer a solution for a particular channel — social media, for instance.
But budgets and visibility across the entire marketing ecosystem are increasingly a CMO requirement, along with things like the ability to view creative.
And imagine when your calendar will capture your campaign results and become an optimised planning tool, even anticipating and taking into account your competitors’ activity and pre-empting or countering it.
All of that makes spreadsheets the calendar equivalent of the unicycle, which has no part to play in the already complex balancing act that is your marketing plan.