Companies fall within one of two classes: those that are prepared for year-end in September with marketing and content strategies and those that wait until the last minute and suffer economic surprises. Whether your company is B2B, or B2C, seasonality affects every business. The OND months, October-November-December, are peak months that may dictate just how ready you are to achieve your company goals for the year. Having a plan before these months may be the difference between a make or break year.
Analytics Now – Conversions Later
While B2C companies are preparing for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, B2B businesses should be looking at their overall content marketing goals. The planning phase traditionally held by advertising planners is now relevant for marketers as content marketing continues to consume more of the marketing budget. The SEO departments, traditionally reacting to Google algorithm changes, now must be part of the planning and strategic process. It pays to do analytics now and to understand what is converting prospects to customers. A good Q4 strategy identifies the keywords that rank well now and plans content for the future which includes these topics and keywords. If you don’t know what worked last year, you are going in blind to the most significant months of the year.
Long Term Goals/Daily Monitoring
End of July and early August is the time to put analytics and data pieces in place for OND and the rest of the year. How often goals are set may depend on the size of the company, or the type of market. Medium-sized companies of 20-500 employees may be setting targets based on end of year budgets. These companies may be planning to develop break through content or retargeting content to keep their brand at top of mind with their customers.
More mature companies in the consumer markets may be setting daily goals for OND, reacting to metrics and buying patterns of their target customer base. Whatever the size, successful companies are participating in daily monitoring of activity and reacting at a strategic level to plan at least 6 months in advance. Companies must be agile enough to respond to the changes in their customer’s buying habits as well as the evolutions in digital marketing, SEO, and advertising.
Organizations must constantly monitor the success of marketing plans and respond to challenges and obstacles along the way. During Q4, brands should be making the most of the smaller things- optimization, micro tests, and tweaks – to improve sales during peak season for shopping searches online.
Accelerators and Barriers
What happens in Q3 when a company finds themselves too far afield from Q4 goals? Is it too late? What can brands do to correct the course and end the year ahead of goals? Most companies face the dilemma of either sticking with the old plans and goals or creating new ones when Q3 is over and they realize they aren’t positioned for success in OND sales. Despite the late date, there are still things brands can do to make the year a profitable one.
For B2C companies, it’s time to focus on the accelerators. Accelerators are sales strategies that provide perks and privileges, including free shipping offers, discounts, gift wrapping, and credit card sales. In the B2B world, the same strategy works in a little different way. Look to what helps your customer to make the buying decision and provide some flexibility with the billing cycle, allowing customers to defer payment until the next fiscal year.
Accentuate the positive and remove the friction and barriers that reduce the quality of customer experience in the sales process. Buyers in the Q4 market are impatient. Market to them like they are people. Reduce friction by eliminating the need to join or sign up before making a purchase. Other strategies may include offering a social log-in, or adjusting shopping preferences based on the specific user. Whatever your strategy, get back to basics. Look at your sales funnel and identify problem areas. Consider your traffic, content, offers, and any technical issues. Get your house in order or leave money on the table.
Analytics, or the Absence of It
Even if you are a marketer who is not proficient with the finer points of analytics, there are some basic trends you can observe to help make short term strategic decisions. Study the trends of your brand by considering the shopping frequency, monetary value, and recency of buying trends. Use your analysis of shopping patterns to influence and streamline your content marketing efforts and target your content and promotion activities.
If you’re stuck analytically, think of yourself as a marketing scientist. Form a hypothesis about what you think your data will show. Then, perform analytics to confirm or contradict your initial opinion. After you have results from your research, amplify, amplify, amplify for the arrival of Q4.
Don’t Lose Sight of What’s Important
No matter what your target market, or the size of your company, planning early for Q4 is an important step toward long-term business success. In the B2C markets, companies may want to consider adding value to their product rather than dropping prices. Offering free shipping, gift wrapping, and extending a return policy are all strategies that build long-term customers that return after the Black Friday sales are over. In the B2B markets, bringing departments together to look at analysis and develop long range, strategic plans will be key to setting the next year’s budgets.
This is the time of year to be thoughtful. Take the time to sit back and look at the big picture. Consider what has had the biggest impact for your company and what content will attract the audience you want for the next fiscal year. Get everyone on board with the same goals and mandates and prioritize those strategies which provide the most value.