If you scroll even briefly on Twitter, you’ll see tons of marketers offering their free content calendar template. Are they worth it? Does it make sense to download and use one of these templates, or should you invest in professional software?
If you are like most marketers, content marketing has moved beyond a niche idea into the mainstream. Yet while B2B marketers are hiring more people and producing more content, only one third of them feel their use of content marketing technology is above an intermediate level. And one third of B2B marketers think their content management efforts are poor. Clearly, marketers have some work to do in using marketing technology to improve their content management.
Better management certainly drives better outcomes, and a content calendar is an excellent content management framework. Any solution is better than no solution, but before you make the leap into a free content calendar template, consider the following:
Whose Content Calendar Template is it, Anyway?
A free template was designed with one person in mind: the creator. It may work perfectly for them, but it might not work for you. Make sure you can configure your categories, move things around, add and change projects with ease, and do all of the things that are important to you in a content marketing calendar, including collaborating with your team and tracking analytics.
Most free editorial calendar templates use Excel or other spreadsheet technology. These are … not great for any kind of interactive planning. You can’t drag and drop projects and you can’t easily add rows and columns without messing up the structure. Professional content management software is designed to make your life easier, not harder. That might be worth the investment for you.
Team Tools Rule.
Free templates can be difficult to share with your team. If it’s important for you to invite collaborators to view and work in your content calendar, to assign projects to collaborators, and to provide a platform for content marketing, then you might want to consider a professional solution designed to keep your team organized.
Analytics & Integrations.
Not all content calendar templates come with features that track analytics, but PlanItPDQ has invested in creating them. This is not something you’re going to find in a free content calendar template, so if it you want to track page views, video views, email opens, and other custom stats, you’ll need to think about investing in a professional editorial calendar solution.
What If …
Sometimes things crash. We’ve all lost important documents because we didn’t have a backup. Professional SaaS solutions store your data in the cloud. Free templates don’t. And, unlike some tools, PlanItPDQ enables you to download your editorial calendar as a .csv file so you can have a backup on your desktop, too.
The End of the Year Isn’t the End of Your Marketing.
Most free templates end when the year ends. You have to start from scratch every year. If you like to look back and see what has worked for you, then you need a scrolling timeline. You can look back through your history, scroll ahead to the new year, and keep all of your work on one calendar.
User Experience Matters.
Professional software companies invest in user experience consultants and make continual updates to reflect ease of use and other factors. For example, some people work best visualizing a calendar, others like a list. With a free template, you are stuck with whatever view you have. With PlanItPDQ, you can easily click to see the view you prefer. Professional software developers take feature requests and product ideas, and implement those that have the most benefit or the most traction. Free content calendar templates provide you with a one-shot deal that will not improve over time. This might not be a problem for you, but caveat emptor.
Hey, Free is Free!
If budget is a huge issue for you, then a free content calendar template can be an excellent way to get started with content management. We want you to be organized! But remember…
Your Time is Not Free.
There is no magical content calendar template that will generate the perfect mix of topic ideas, timing, and channels. The thought and strategy behind your content calendar cannot be automated (so sorry if we are the ones to break this to you!) Take some care to choose a calendar that you think will work for you for a while. You don’t want to invest the time in setting up your editorial calendar, populating it with ideas, and maintaining it every week only to find you have to start all over again once you hit a wall for functionality, or find a solution is too complex. Look closely at what you want, what you don’t need, and what you will actually use before making your selection.
We are all for organization and content management! We want you to succeed! So if a free content calendar template is what works for you, then by all means don’t wait to get started. (And here are some reasons to start your content marketing organization today…)
If you’re ready for a professional content calendar solution, we’re here for you. Start your PlanItPDQ account today, take advantage of our insight and how-to resources, and get organized. You can do it – and we can help.