Is there an alternative to a marketing calendar in Excel?

7 advantages of a marketing calendar tool over Excel

Peter Desmyttere
July 3, 2024
⏱ 10 min. read

Excel is the most widely used tool within marketing teams to visually create a marketing calendar. This sounds logical because Excel is easy to use and can be fully customised with a horizontal timeline and a vertical project structure, then within this setup coloured cubes for communication actions, marketing milestones or marketing campaigns. Excel as the ultimate marketing calendar tool then? “Yes, but … “ is always my answer. The right answer depends entirely on the simplicity (or complexity) of your marketing calendar, on the number of marketing calendars you need and on the number of marketers who need to work with the marketing calendar(s).

In this article, you will learn:

 

Scenarios where Excel is perfect for managing a marketing calendar

As outlined in my introduction: Excel is perfect for managing a marketing calendar, but with a few conditions. 

The first condition is that the calendar be relatively simple in design. This does not mean that the Excel should not be bulky, it does mean that it should not contain specific bells and whistles (as outlined later in this article). As a rule, a simple marketing calendar consists of:

  • a time line with weeks, months and years at the top horizontally
  • a listing of marketing projects left vertical
  • multiple coloured cubes (cells) that schedule communication actions, marketing milestones or marketing campaigns within the timeline and project structure

Is your only desire in terms of marketing calendar the above? Then Excel will get you started perfectly.

A second condition for comfortably building a marketing calendar in Excel is a limitation in terms of the number of calendars. Are you a marketing manager in an SME and do you need one overview (calendar) with all communication actions, marketing milestones or marketing campaigns? Then again, Excel is an excellent companion here.

The final prerequisite for trouble-free management of one or more marketing calendars in Excel is the number of marketers working on the calendar(s). Are you alone or is your marketing team limited to a handful of colleagues? Then - preferably within a cloud environment where you can work in an Excel with several colleagues simultaneously - Excel as a marketing calendar tool will suffice.

Example of a simple marketing calendar in Excel.

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What is the tipping point for replacing Excel as a marketing calendar with a specialised tool?

If you analyse the above briefly, you can immediately see where the tipping point for using Excel as a marketing calendar lies:

  • You want specific add-ons in the calendar with added value (e.g. filters, tags, link files, link tasks, ...)
  • You will manage quite an extensive marketing calendar that is split into several sub-calendars such as media calendar, content calendar, digital marketing calendar, event calendar, ...
  • Your team consists of several marketers who each have to work with the calendar on a daily basis

Do you recognise yourself in the list above? Then Excel as a marketing calendar application runs into its limits on any given day. The question then is not "Do we need an alternative to Excel as a marketing calendar?" but rather "When does an alternative to Excel as a marketing calendar intrude?".

When we started building Husky with our team in the year 2015, it was because in practice we saw so many marketers struggling with Excel in a challenging, diverse and multi-user marketing planning environment. We kept getting the same feedback back then:

  • We lost track of the overall marketing calendar in the multitude of Excels (lack of overview)
  • Because the marketing data is so spread across multiple Excels (usually each with a different structure and logic), we do not have sufficient insight into the specific calendars
  • Thanks to the above, it is almost impossible to give management or stakeholders a professional answer to the question 'What does the marketing calendar look like for the coming weeks?'

If the answer to the above 3 problem statements is "Yes, I recognise myself and our marketing team in that", then it is time to start looking at a specialised marketing calendar tool.

With our team of 4 marketers, we manage around 15 marketing calendars - impossible in Excel, comfortable in Husky.

 

7 advantages of a marketing calendar software over Excel

Perhaps the most common mistake made by marketers who often or daily deal with marketing planning and a marketing calendar: they keep using Excel as a tool for their calendar for too long. The result? A lack of overview due to a fragmentation of data in a multitude of Excels, poor communication within the team and errors because the data is not centralised.

So time to consider using a specialised marketing calendar tool like Husky. Husky offers - compared to Excel - some 7 tangible advantages:

  • you can manage multiple calendars in one central location
  • you can quickly and easily filter in one or more calendars
  • you can place tags in the calendar to customise filters
  • you can attach briefings and files to the calendar
  • you can chat within the marketing calendar and thus drastically reduce the number of e-mails
  • you can link tasks for yourself and colleagues to items in the calendar
  • you can easily share the calendar and report to management or stakeholders  

Does the above sound like music to your ears? Good. Below, I elaborate on each of the 7 benefits

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Manage different marketing calendars in 1 digital tool

As outlined above: perhaps the biggest drawback to using Excel as a marketing calendar in larger organisations is the fragmentation of Excel marketing calendars. If a collection of Excel calendars is used after a while, there is a real risk that no one has an overview of the planning.

Does the media plug into a media calendar, the content into a content calendar, the digital planning into a digital marketing calendar and the events into an event calendar? Then it is impracticable to have a multimedia marketing policy where all actions or campaigns fit together nicely.

Husky Marketing Planner offers the solution thanks to its ability to use several calendars side by side and with each other. Below is an example where 4 marketing calendars are shown below each other. In Husky, you can add unlimited calendars. If you click on one marketing calendar, you can plan in it in more detail. If you click on 'Planning' at the top, you will see all the calendars below one another.

 

Filter your marketing calendar quickly and easily

Filters can be placed in Excel, but they are tailored to numbers. Not on but of planning data in a marketing environment. The drawback of using qualitative filters in Excels is that in an Excel marketing calendar, you always see all the data. You can hardly filter, if at all. 

In Husky, you can filter the entire marketing calendar by:

  • marketer or user of the calendar (e.g. show only the communication I am responsible for)
  • the project group (e.g. show only the events in one or more calendars)
  • the status (e.g. show all communications that are 'On hold')
  • tags (see next paragraph)

 

Using tags to build customised filters for your marketing calenda

Tags are labels that you place on one or more items in your calendar. They are (besides time and projects) a third dimension to look at a calendar. Some examples of tags:

  • a tag 'Facebook' on all Facebook dates in the different calendars (after filtering on the tag 'Facebook', the calendar only shows Facebook communications)
  • a product tag on all communications for a specific product (after filtering on the product tag, the calendar shows all communications referring to that specific product)
  • a supplier tag on all communication for a specific supplier (after filtering on the supplier tag, the calendar shows all communication relating to that specific supplier) => this allows you to show the supplier with a single click what communication you are carrying out

Clicking on the tag 'Online advertising' shows me all online advertising campaigns in one calendar, in a selection of marketing plans, or in all marketing calendars managed in Husky.

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Hang briefings and files on a marketing calendar

In Excel, it is not feasible to enrich a calendar with briefings or files. However, you can save a lot of time and avoid miscommunication within your team. Wouldn't it be useful to immediately attach the briefing to a media campaign in the marketing calendar, to attach the briefing for the content of a Facebook post or to attach the PDF with the design to the planning for a flyer?

The planning for this social media post immediately includes the briefings for the content.

The planning for this social media post immediately includes the image for the post.

 

A professional marketing calendar drastically reduces the number of emails among marketers

Marketers struggle with an overload of emails, I know from my years of experience in guiding marketing teams. For every status update or for every substantive marketing question, an e-mail is sent to one or more colleagues. Many replies later, the majority of the team has lost track and a lot of time is lost in looking up information in the long list of archived mails.

Wouldn't it be easy if - instead of sending an e-mail - you could start a chat or discussion in the calendar itself? You can do that in Husky. That way, the chat or discussion is attached to the specific calendar item (and not in a standalone email). Thanks to a clever system of notifications, you won't miss anything in Husky from discussions or chats that are relevant to you.

An example of a discussion between 2 colleagues about the layout of a press page. Instead of sending e-mails to each other, they had to discussion in the marketing calendar itself.

 

Integrate a task schedule with a marketing calendar? Yes, you can.

Marketing calendars in Excels are usually very clear to the person preparing or managing them, but completely illegible to colleagues who have to analyse the Excel. One reason for this is the fact that it is not always clear what in the Excel represents a campaign or action and what represents a to-do or task.

Suppose you schedule an e-news, a blog post or a social media post in the calendar: will you put the moment of publication in the calendar or will you also insert all tasks and task deadlines. If you only do the publication date, then you miss the milestones of the tasks. If you do both, you end up with an overcrowded calendar that becomes unreadable for external people. 

Husky offers the best of both options. You plan the publication date in Husky AND you attach the list of tasks (for yourself and/or your colleagues) to the calendar item.

To carry out the social media planning, 10 tasks were planned in this calendar. Of these, 5 tasks are still open and 5 tasks were completed.

 

Reporting your marketing calendar to management or stakeholders is a must

Do you occasionally get the question "What is on the communication schedule for the next 3 months within this project?" or "What did we communicate for product X or supplier Y in the last quarter?". Bet that in a larger marketing team, stress then sets in and a presentation with various screenshots from different marketing calendars has to be made?

In Husky, reporting is much easier. For that, there are 2 functions available:

  • you create a PDF report of the filtered marketing calendar
  • you give the person you need to report to access the marketing calendar in Husky with read access (i.e. cannot change anything)

 


Would you like to translate the fragmentation of marketing calendars within Excel into a clear and dynamic marketing calendar tool? Book a demo or free trial of Husky Marketing Planner today. You can quickly get started importing Excel data, assigning marketers to the different calendars and you will now manage them within a dynamic environment that will save you time and overview.

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