By the time back to school season rolls around, marketers should be able to safely assume that summer vacations are over for most of their customers and prospects, leaving them free to begin reaching out and nurturing demand for new products and services.
Well, at least for a few weeks.
A quick glance at the calendar shows that Thanksgiving is around the corner. In November, many Canadians may visit friends or relatives around “American” Thanksgiving (or just take off Black Friday to do some cross-border shopping). Before long, Christmas and New Year’s festivities will be on everyone’s minds.
In other words, there are going to be periods when vast numbers of business professionals will be inaccessible almost every month between now and 2018. That’s challenging for marketers in B2B organizations, who can’t necessarily capitalize on the spirit of the season to promote their company’s wares. On the other hand, pretending the holidays don’t exist could be offensive to customers and prospects who don’t want to be contacted close to a particular weekend or special day.
Instead, consider using tools such as Salesforce Marketing Cloud to plan campaigns strategically, in such a way that marketing efforts respect business professionals’ boundaries while keeping them informed about offerings they may need.
Many organizations invest considerable time and other resources into a piece of content that can educate and inspire their target audiences in a meaningful way. This could be a research report, a white paper on market trends, an eBook with tips from their peers or even a series of highly-polished tutorial videos.
Choosing how and when to serve up such content contains some risk when you factor in the holidays. What if you send an email linking to the asset when many people will have an out-of-office message? What if you send it just after a holiday but it becomes buried in other messages customers and prospects need to sift through upon their return?
Take a B2C example: When you send a gift through the mail to a loved one, you can consult the post office for insight into how early you need to be in order for it to arrive in time. Marketing automation offers a similar but even more powerful capability. By looking at historical data from previous years, you’ll be able to see typical levels of engagement with your content and make a better judgement call on the most likely period when a premium asset will be greeted with enthusiasm by your target.
Customers and prospects are more mobile than ever before. Even before they leave their offices for Thanksgiving or another event they may be in meetings, on site visits with their own customers or at an industry event. This, theoretically, makes it even more difficult to connect with them before or after a statutory holiday.
Marketing automation overcomes this barrier by allowing companies to reach customers wherever they happen to be. This could include push notifications or SMS marketing messages about a limited-time promotion or discount. Also consider group messages. Many accounts are made up of several key decision-makers — some of whom may be working even amid a particular holiday.
Nobody wants to be the company that crosses the line in terms of marketing a product or service when the rest of the world is decorating their homes or preparing a fancy meal for their families and friends. Historically, there’s been a big dividing line between what happens at work and what happens outside of it — that is, until the advent of social media.
Check the profiles of many people across the major social networking services, in fact, and you’ll probably see a mix of links they share about their company or industry, alongside jokes and other personal takes on the news or activities in their personal lives. That’s why the ability to listen, publish and engage directly with people on social through marketing automation is so helpful. It allows marketers to say the right thing at the right time and come across authentic, rather than invasive.
It happens to almost all of us: that gift from a friend or relative that was clearly purchased without any thought whatsoever. You know this because the gift is usually so generic that it doesn’t reflect any of your interests, and sometimes because you find out they bought the exact same thing for everyone else.
Marketing can come across like this too, and it can be especially galling when it arrives around the holiday season when customers and prospects are already too busy. That’s why the B2B companies that reap the greatest benefits from marketing automation build journeys that factor in data from how a member of their target audience has behaved online, from a CRM solution, social media or almost any other source to make each message more personalized. Much like getting a holiday gift that was obviously chosen specifically, being more one-on-one with customers and prospects will always yield better results.
Even if people are eager to enjoy some more downtime over the next holiday period, they know they’ll have lots of work waiting for them when they get back to the office. To that end, marketers not only send email messages with premium assets but stimulate ongoing awareness through advertising. Of course, holidays are also typically filled with consumer-related advertising, so you have to be strategic in order to stand out.
Marketing automation helps here too, by providing a way to import data from customer service applications, sales databases and other places to make online advertising more targeted and relevant. It also helps identify the channels where B2B ads will seem appropriate to display. Marketers can use the same technology to scale their campaigns to reach greater or fewer numbers of people depending on how the ads are performing.
The best part of all this? When B2B marketers get more strategic and tactical about how they engage with customers and prospects amid the many holidays taking place over the next few months, they’re better able to enjoy some downtime of their own.
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