The third and fourth quarters represent the busiest times of the year for many businesses. These two quarters represent the six months when deals must be closed, sales quotas must be met, and the results of marketing efforts must be analyzed so that a plan for the upcoming year can be created. During this big push it is easy for marketers to become overwhelmed as they try to analyze data results, while simultaneously pushing out new end of year marketing campaigns. Successfully finishing the year on a high note is made easier when you account for the following components.
5 Factors To Help You Plan Your End of Year Marketing
Just as a soccer team might need a pep talk heading into the second half of the game, so too will your marketing team need to be encouraged to have a strong finish to the year, regardless of the successes that you have already experienced. Before we dive into the five factors that you must remember in your third quarter push, we wanted to lead with a few words of wisdom to help you enter the right motivated and inspired mindset that is needed for success. “Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later” (Og Mandino).
#1. Check In With Your Team
Planning for strong third and fourth quarters starts by making sure that you and your team are on the same page. You should plan to have an all hands on deck meeting for your end of year marketing, as well as individual sessions so that you can best understand the mindset and capabilities of your team. Be sure to look for the following type of information:
- What ways can the customer experience be improved through future marketing efforts?
- What promotions or services should be offered in the fourth quarter and / or during the next year?
- Analyze quantitative customer behavior data, which can help you to adjust your marketing efforts for future success.
- Look at the customer response to marketing initiatives.
- Determine if there are certain purchase patterns that are indicative of more successful promotions.
Finally, you want to ask your team about their most successful marketing efforts during the first half of the year. As a follow up question you should ask what marketing efforts provided the best learning experiences? After all, your team can and should learn from successes as well as failures. In the words of Elon Musk, “failure is an option [here.] If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.”
#2. Plan For The Holiday Rush
According to the National Retail Federation, 2016 holiday retail sales in November and December increased by four percent to an unprecedented $658.3 billion. This increase in sales also represented a 12.6 percent increase over 2015 non-store sales to $122.9 billion. However, the holidays are not simply about increased retail sales. They are the time of year when customers feel most confident, are in the optimal buying mood, and (in some cases) have a budget that needs to be spent.
As you plan for your big third quarter and fourth quarter push, you need to adjust for the holiday rush that overtakes the entire globe. This means that you need to account for the following factors:
- The time needed to order, prepare, and mail gifts or cards to your vendors and customers.
- How you will manage inventory replenishment (as applicable).
- If you will be releasing a holiday specific promotion; and if so, when is the right time to send it out to your customers.
- When your employees, customers, and vendors are most likely to take a holiday vacation.
The moral of the story is clear, if you want to deliver successful marketing initiatives during the third quarter, then you need to plan ahead for the busy holiday season.
#3. Review Monthly Activity
In order to plan for the rush of the end of the year, you will need to first analyze your marketing data and conduct a good content audit to assess the performance trends of each month. As part of this review process your marketing team will have to work with the sales department to gain a better understanding of performance trends. For example, you need to thoroughly understand what short and long term marketing campaigns have resulted in increased sales and which have floundered by the wayside. The latter data should then be compared to previous years’ historical data for each month, to see if there are other underlying factors (such as a summer month where your clients are typically on vacation and not purchasing products or services). Once you have analyzed monthly data, your team should then work directly with sales to best determine what marketing efforts are needed to increase sales during the final quarters.
#4. Respect Your End Of Year Budget
Every company has a different approach to budgets. Some companies have the mentality that “if you haven’t spent it during this year, then you don’t need the same amount next year.” Other companies adopt a “rollover” mentality that gives departments the flexibility needed to use the budget as they see fit each year. No matter which mentality your company has, you need to review your end of year budget during the third quarter by asking the following questions:
- Did the marketing budget for the year to date achieve the established business goals?
- Would a larger marketing budget have helped you to capture more customers?
- Was the marketing budget properly divided between acquiring new customers and keeping existing ones happy?
- Are there better technologies or resources that would have helped to further optimize your marketing processes?
By answering the above types of questions you can more easily assess the true value of your marketing efforts to date, while simultaneously having a clearer picture for the upcoming year.
#5. Plan Beyond December 31, 2017
For many departments December 31st marks the end of one year, so that a fresh slate can begin on January 1st. However, while marketing does follow the calendar year, efforts that began before December 31st don’t magically restart on January 1st. As you plan for your third and fourth quarter push, you need to take into account your plan for the upcoming year.
- What marketing campaigns are long-term and will continue in the first quarter of the new year?
- Are there immediate changes that need to be made to your online content strategies?
- Do you have a set publishing schedule that will take you through the busy holiday season and into the next year?
- Do you have the marketing content needed to make it through the third and fourth quarters without stretching your team to the breaking point?
As you can see through the above types of questions, the end of the year is the time for you to not only review your marketing calendar, but to plan ahead so that you can start the new year off on the right foot. While the end of the year might seem like a conclusion to some departments, in an era where a consistent publishing schedule is paramount to user engagement, marketing departments must always be prepared to deliver a continuous stream of high quality content.
Finish Quarters Three And Four With Strong End of Year Marketing
In the words of the great Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” By keeping the above five factors in mind, you can successfully plan for a strong third and fourth quarter, while simultaneously thinking ahead to the upcoming year.