How to Make a Promotional Calendar

We’ve all faced the regret of a holiday or event rolling around, only to totally miss it or to half-ass it, whether it’s happened to you as a shop owner or just someone trying to be social. The struggle is real. But for Shop owners, this can mean missing important opportunities to boost your sales. Knowing how to make a promo calendar is a key part of efficiently planning out what holidays you want to plan promos and sales for, creating solid content, and knowing how to budget for everything from ads to ordering samples of your products for photos…and, of course, to avoid seller’s FOMO.

In this post, we’ll teach you how to put together a promo calendar (focusing mainly on the key holiday months), and at the end we’ve got a promo calendar template you can use to get started!

What is a Promo Calendar?

Creating a calendar for all your promotions is key to staying organized, and in turn staying organized is the key to running successful promotions!

There are three big things a promo calendar will help you with:

  • Keeping track of holidays and events to plan sales and promotions around.
  • Keeping track of and planning out upcoming sales and promotions so that you’re super prepared and can budget if need be.
  • Keeping track of your own events, like new product releases.

What Do You Put on a Promo Calendar?

Whether it’s a big sale, mini sale, promoting a new design or product to spread the word, or new product release, you should be doing something new every week to keep your shop fresh and to keep people checking back!

There are a few key things you should for sure include on your promo calendar (and I suggest color coding everything as well!):

  • Holidays (major, minor, and events)
  • Your promotions (duh!)
  • New product releases
  • Quarters
  • Social media ads and posts

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Above: a basic example of what you can make with the downloadable calendar template in this post! For this calendar, I used the example of a foodie-themed Artist Shop to show what kind of holiday promotions might go on for it. Purple represents promos, red represents sales & discounts, and green represents new product launches. The blocked out red areas represent big chunks of prime promotion and sale times for the holidays. Notice that specific social media schedules are not included – those will go in a separate social media calendar to keep things less crowded.

Holidays

You don’t have to do a sale or promotion for every holiday. If you have no spooky designs, doing a Halloween sale doesn’t make much sense. The key is making a big deal out of holidays and events that appeal to and are relevant to your brand and audience, and holidays where customers expect some kind of discount.

There are three categories of holidays and events you should be on the lookout for: Major holidays, minor holidays/events, and seasons.

MAJOR HOLIDAYS

The main players like Christmas, Halloween, Black Friday (kind of a holiday) and New Years are big money-makers for online shops, and are essentials for any promo calendar. These are good holidays to use perks like free shipping for.

MINOR/LOCALIZED/SILLY HOLIDAYS

This is a perfect example of a promotion you can do every day or every week. From Talk Like a Pirate Day to Coffee Day, there’s always a random holiday or theme happening (peruse some here, here, and here!) These are great for small promos and sales (ex. offer a discount on your Shop items on World Kindness Day (Nov. 13), or promote food designs on Fast Food Day (Nov. 16th)). There are a million of these; the key is figuring out which ones are relevant to your audience and Shop. Shops like the Badass Women on Tees Artist Shop might want to utilize Women’s Appreciation Month. Or for outdoorsy Shops like ND Tank’s, utilizing Take a Hike day on November 17th could be a perfect mini promo.

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A few examples of Threadless tweets that use fun holidays and trending events to promote a design.

Similarly, posting about certain events that your audience would appreciate or that you have relevant designs for; like comic conventions for the geeky audience, or big sporting events (*cough* Go Cubs!!) for the sports fandom.

If you use Google Analytics and find that you have a large audience in a certain part of the world, there are also lots of localized Holidays you can take advantage. Big Canadian crowd in your Shop? Try a Boxing Day sale!

SEASONS

Seasons provide a great opportunity to run sales on specific types of designs or apparel styles. For winter, lowering the prices of hoodies, long sleeves, sweatshirts, etc. for ‘bundle up’ sales makes more sense than running a sale on summer items, like tanks and towels.

But seasonal sales aren’t just about the leaves changing. The end of summer is a great time to also do back to school accessory sales (bags and pencil cases), dorm sales (home decor), and “first day back to school” sales (apparel). And the turning of the seasons from fall to winter are a great time to host early bird and last minute gift buying sales.

Promotions

Marking where your promotions start and end will help you keep track of how long to keep sale prices going, how long to keep social media ads going, when you need to budget to order samples on time (even if you’re ordering them at base fee like you can do with Artist Shops) and do your lifestyle photography by, etc. Which is important when you have multiple going on on a weekly basis.

Promotions and sales should have a unique angle. Try coming up with a list of holidays that would most appeal to your audience, as well as themes you’d like to cover in each month – then from there, once you have your themes, you can get creative and plan promotions from those themes (Winter is Coming, Back to School, etc.). Use the holidays on your calendar as a guide for when to run promotions and how to theme them.

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Girrlscout previews her products on social media before they go up for sale to build hype. These beanies reached low stock levels in just a few hours.

New Product Releases

If a new product launches and no one sees a post about it, does it make a sale? The answers is probably not. When you have a new design or product or style launching in your Shop, planning a release date ahead of time allows you time to order samples to take photos of, post photos of those samples to build hype before the launch, and to build excitement and anticipation. Do new product and/or design releases regularly to keep people checking back with your shop to see what you’ve added. 

Quarters

You’ll see on the template that we’ve provided in this post that it divides the year up into four quarters that work like this:

Quarter 1 (Q1): January 1st – March 31st
Quarter 2 (Q2):
April 1st – June 30th
Quarter 3 (Q3):
July 1st – September 30th
Quarter 4 (Q4):
October 1st – December 31st 

For the major holiday sales, you’re going to be working with Q4, but you can see how dividing your calendar into quarters helps chunk out and organize when to run certain holiday-related and changing-of-the-seasons sales and promos.

Social Media Ads and Posts

Planning out your social media posts – content marketing on blog, tweets, FB posts, etc. – gives you more time to make them really solid and to get great photos for them. It’s worth it to make a separate calendar for planning all things social media to keep things from getting cluttered.

How Do You Use This Information?

Putting relevant holidays, events, etc. on your calendar will help you decide when to run sales, when to promote certain items, and will give you ample time to plan the creative content – from tweeting to reaching out to guest bloggers – to get the most out of them. This also helps you determine when to have those sales by knowing 1: when people will have their wallets out (Black Friday) and 2: when there will be a holiday you should take advantage of for a small sale or promo.

Plan out your sales

Studies have found that free shipping is ranked as super important to 86% of customers, second only to lower prices. But at the same rate, your customers can feel a little overwhelmed by too many of these offers. If you constantly have a sale or deal, the urgency to buy now and save won’t be as great. Planning when your customers wallets will be out (Black Friday for example) or relevant holidays that will appeal to your audience is way more beneficial than having constant sales. With Artist Shops, you don’t have to worry about paying out of pocket for printing new products, and you get your own stuff at the base fee, but planning out ordering your samples is essential for good lifestyle photography.

Allows Time to Plan Ads

If you’re going to plan out doing some paid marketing for your promotions and sales, even if it’s for cheap, having it on a calendar will help you budget and keep track of when it starts/ends. And if you’re doing a different promotion, product release, sale, etc. on a weekly basis, you’ll need to keep track of them to keep yourself from getting overloaded and the weekly happenings from getting disorganized.

Plan out your content marketing and social media posts

We all know that Twitter tends to be a stream of consciousness, Facebook tends to lead to giant rants, and tumblr is a great place to binge-post at 3 in the morning. But when it comes to planning your promos on social media, planning out exactly when and what you’re posting so that all you have to do is press “publish” is a lot less stressful and will yield better quality than scrambling to throw posts together. Planning your social media content ahead of time also gives you plenty of time to plan a photoshoot, order samples for that photoshoot, plan out creative copy for a gift guide blog post or lookbook – basically just to make it good solid content. 

Learn From Past Experiences

Learn from your promos. If a sale or promotion really bombed? Use it to figure out how to be better. Did a sale go particularly well? Use it as an example to keep up the success. Using Google Analytics to track activity on your site, and using UTM tracking codes to track what people are clicking are just two helpful ways of keeping track of what works and what needs work.

Get the promo calendar template and get started!

To use this 2016 holiday calendar template, click the above link, then click File -> Copy to start adding your own items!
Happy planning!

Sources:

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We’re an artist community built on the power of helping each other succeed — if you’re reading this and have tips of your own to share, please do so in the comments! Thank you!

Illustrations done by the amazing Katie Lukes

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