Q4 has arrived, and with it, buzz about the upcoming holiday season. For retail marketers, conventional wisdom says this is gametime. In fact, retailers average 30% of their yearly sales in these short few months.
But what about B2B? You might think putting time and budget into a B2B holiday campaign is a fool’s errand. After all, many of your leads are going to be out of office—or frantically wrapping things up before they go. Shouldn’t a generic email saying “thanks for a great year” suffice? It might, but with a bit more thought, you can benefit from the unique opportunities that this time of year has to offer. In this post, we’ll share what those opportunities are, then we’ll provide some ideas for how to get started on your most engaging and effective holiday campaign yet.
So, why is Q4 a magical time for B2B marketers?
Reason #1: It’s a chance to show your human side.
The first and most obvious reason to reach out during the holidays is the opportunity to showcase the human side of your brand. At the end of the day, you’re still marketing to humans, not abstract entities, and humans crave connection with other humans (especially at this time of year!)
Reason #2: It can be a vehicle for smart end-of-year positioning.
There are strategic reasons for holiday marketing, too. Just as B2C customers are looking at products and services with an eye toward gift giving, B2B buyers are creating budgets and planning what new tools and services they’ll implement in the upcoming year. To capture this opportunity, you want your brand to be visible during these months. This may not pay off right away, especially if key decision makers are out of office, but you’ll have positioned your brand as a valuable resource going into the new year.
Reason #3: There are opportunities for quick wins.
While being considered for next year’s budget might not mean an immediate sale, there are opportunities for that, too. Some buyers with leftover budget have a “use it or lose it” policy. This means they’ll be looking for ways to spend before the end of the year or risk their budget shrinking next year. Capturing these leads is a win-win—you solve a problem for them by providing them with an easy way to “use it,” and you make a sale.
But, not so fast…
While these are some great reasons to put your brand out there, it doesn’t mean blindly sending out content to everyone on your list. Knowing your audience and tailoring your message is as important as ever. If your clients are in an industry that gets extra busy at this time of year (ahem…retail), consider keeping it extra short and sweet, or waiting until after the new year to re-engage.
And being culturally sensitive and inclusive is especially crucial. For example, don’t wish non-US clients a happy Thanksgiving, or make assumptions about what religious holidays your audience might celebrate.
So, how do you create content that seizes the holiday moment, but doesn’t overwhelm your clients or rub them the wrong way? Here are some ideas to get started:
Keep it light
First, whatever content you produce should be less technical, and easy to skim through. Think about it: your audience is going to be busy making plans, attending holiday events, or trying to find a gift for their picky brother-in-law. Paradoxically, they’ll also have pockets of free time—on the couch between helpings of pie, or waiting to board their flight home. During these windows they’ll be scrolling through their devices, catching up on things. Since this might be short and possibly interrupted time, they won’t be in the right state of mind to absorb any detailed, technical content. Find a way to keep it simple, short, and fun. You could try peppering some holiday content into something you already have in the works to add a more lighthearted dimension. One idea might be a Q&A with the CEO that includes a few questions about their New Year’s resolution or their baking skills at the end.
Second, you’ll want to get in the holiday spirit by coming across as thoughtful and generous. If your business does any charitable work or donates to a good cause, this is a good time to highlight that. You could also give something away—perhaps an e-book, a white paper, or a video—something that would be useful to your audience. You’ll be helping them, and driving more engagement with the content at the same time. We used this strategy with our client Anyword, sending out a print calendar with holidays and special days relevant for the publishing industry (their target audience) to customers and leads.
Pause and reflect
This is also the time of year where it’s common to take stock of the past 12 months, and to think about goal-setting and visions for the next. In the US, the “dead” week between Christmas and New Years Eve is the perfect time to do this. You could capture the moment by highlighting some of the big wins your company saw this year, and use it as an opportunity to talk about any new products and services you’ll be offering in the upcoming months. It’s also a good time to reflect on what’s going on in the world and show your customers that you’re right there with them. This “Year in Search – 2020” video from Google does a good job expressing this sentiment, while showing you why the company’s services are more relevant than ever.
Don’t leave anyone out in the cold
As mentioned earlier, being inclusive is a must. To do this successfully, instead of wishing them a happy [insert holiday here], try highlighting what makes your team unique. Social media is a great place to do this. If your team is international, you could find a way to showcase traditions across cultures, perhaps a photo of your team partaking in one of those traditions together at a holiday event.
When should you start?
Our advice is to start planning early! Here in New York, the leaves have barely started turning but we know Q4 comes and goes especially fast. To get started, take a look at last year’s Q4—what did and didn’t work, and what you’d like to improve upon. Of course, when in doubt you can just send a simple “thank you for a great year” to your clients and partners. This is simple, inclusive, and to the point, but it should be considered a minimum.
By now, we hope you see why B2B holiday marketing is an opportunity you don’t want to miss, and that you have some ideas on how to get started!
The bottom line
Holiday marketing: it’s not just for B2C brands. Done smartly, B2B startups can seize holiday marketing as an opportunity for smart positioning, quick wins, and spreading cheer.