As we barrel toward the end of the year, it’s prime time for marketing “specials”.
Whether or not year-end sales targets still need to be hit, senior leaders ride their marketing and sales teams hard to squeeze every drop they can from this year’s funnel.
As with any end-of-quarter push, there is usually an opportunity to hustle a few in-progress opportunities across the finish line.
Sadly, on the marketing side of the house, it tends to waste a lot more resources than it generates in revenue uplift.
Here are five end-of-year fallacies that lead to disappointment and should be avoided.
One of the most popular justifications for the end-of-year push is that buyers have budget to burn.
In other words, they have approval to spend money in the current fiscal year that won’t necessarily be carried forward into the new year.
Use it or lose it.
Except that buyers aren’t necessarily incentivized to "use it".
And, in some cases, their fiscal year doesn’t align with the calendar year.
The days of buyers embarking on a spending spree in mid-December, to “use up” surplus budget, are a thing of the past.
More importantly, their buying decision is seldom hanging on budget availability.
Whatever else they’ve been waiting to see before signing the purchase order will still give them pause, even if the money is burning a hole in their bank account.
So, don't waste your time creating messaging that targets using up unspent budget.
Does sale pricing work?
Sure, it does—if your customer’s primary decision criterion is price.
Which, unless you’re selling into a commodity market, is rarely the case.
When you offer a seasonal discount, you’ve probably just left that money on the table
B2B buyers make their purchase decisions based on an array of factors, including—but by no means dominated by—price.
If you see an uptick in sales when you offer a seasonal discount, you’ve probably just left that money on the table. Your buyer was already sold on the idea and would have purchased anyway, at the original price point.
A better type of holiday special is one that nudges the buyer to spend more than they were otherwise contemplating.
This might include special bundles that wrapper additional products or services around the solution they would normally purchase—at a higher but attractive price.
Another angle might be extended payment terms.
Buy-now-pay-later schemes are everywhere in B2C these days, which means B2B buyers are looking for them in the B2B environment, too.
This is the inverse of the “budget to burn” fallacy. Rather than having surplus capital in this year’s budget, buyers might be willing to pre-commit some of next year’s spend, in return for favorable terms and service.
Do you pay attention to Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals? (and all the other supposedly time-specific offers)
Smart buyers don’t.
They know that whatever eye-catching offers you make are likely to be extended, then repeated on the next “special” occasion, and can ultimately be accessed at any time through diligent negotiation.
If anything, time-limited offers merely signal to the buyer what deal you’re willing to cut, if pushed.
There is a psychological benefit to creating a perception of scarcity—but it only works when the scarcity is real.
Offer something that you will only make available fora few days, once or twice per year.
And remember, price is seldom a critical factor, so don’t give your solution away without getting something meaningful in return.
Is there value in cranking up your online presence over the holidays?
Or, should you dial it back or shut it down completely?
The dominant school of thought among B2B marketers is that corporate buyers spend less time online—and much less time on B2B social media—over the holidays, so it’s better to save the money.
I’m not sure this is universally true.
You must understand when your target audience is online
While the LinkedIn network, for example, is quieter overall on weekends, that can be a great time to find niche audiences online—including B2B executives spending time online while not being pulled in fifty other directions.
The same holds true for the holidays.
The only universal truth I can point to is that you must understand when your target audience is online.
Experimentation and observation are critical.
If maintaining your regular publication cadence shows a measurable drop in engagement and effectiveness, then yes, dial it back.
However, you might get a surprise to the upside—in which case, crank it up!
The last fallacy that I want to recognize here is that everyone is celebrating the same things at the same time.
In today’s global, multi-cultural business environment, your target audience will not be a monoculture. It will reflect the societies from which it is drawn.
The companies to which you sell might be headquartered in predominantly Judeo-Christian countries but, even there, a significant proportion of the population won’t be celebrating Channukah or Christmas.
Be mindful of diversity when you publish holiday greetings and write holiday-related articles
With B2B buyers increasingly operating online and working remotely, they inevitably represent myriad cultures and traditions.
They won’t even be experiencing the same seasons.
Be mindful of this diversity when you publish holiday greetings and write holiday-related articles.
Whether your company chooses to recognize a particular set of traditions, attempts to be inclusive of many, or opts to avoid traditional specifics in favor of more generic "happy holidays" messaging, be intentional in how your messages are written.
Simply adding “to all those who are celebrating…” when putting out a tradition-specific message signals to those from other backgrounds and beliefs that you value them, too.
For traditionalists, this can sound like a “no good deed goes unpunished” situation that seeks to restrict them from expressing their beliefs.
Be that as it may, as marketers we have a responsibility to publish content that resonates with as many of our target audience members as we can.
So, with those pitfalls squarely addressed, what’s the best way to take advantage of the holidays in a B2B marketing context?
In short, do what you should be doing all year round: align your thinking with the needs and wants of your customer.
If your customers are predominantly shutting down for the holidays, follow their lead and take a break in your publication cadence.
If they are active online, keep on publishing.
If the markets you serve exhibit strong seasonality, lean in and market accordingly.
If they don’t, resist the temptation to mimic the B2C world of specials and end-of-year deals.
Finally, ask yourself whether your audience will thank you for adding another end-of-year special to their social media feed or email inbox.
If what you’re offering them is truly special—and only available at year’s end—perhaps they will.
Otherwise, save your special deal for a time when it will stand out from the crowd and just wish those who are celebrating a happy and relaxing holiday season.
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Image credits: Adobe Stock