In the world of B2C, seasonality forms the bedrock of marketing and content calendars. Events like Black Friday, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Easter and Christmas – which seem to be celebrated earlier and for longer every year - are commercially critical times in the calendar. They offer lucrative opportunities for businesses to build their reputations and grab a slice of consumer spending at its peak.
But B2B businesses can find it difficult to adapt their marketing messages around these key events in an authentic and relevant way. And poor results from previous attempts can mean it’s difficult to secure budget and employee buy-in. Here's how to approach seasonal marketing campaigns as a B2B SME.
The concept of seasonality in marketing
Seasonal marketing is nothing new, but seasonality is an ever-evolving trend. What seasonal events mean to people and how they’re celebrated is in a constant state of flux.
So, while there is the predictability that comes with seasonal marketing planning (after all, these things happen every year without fail), there’s also the need to keep agile and creative to remain relevant and capture the audience’s attention. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as throwing in a few love hearts or snowflakes into your email newsletter.
While there will be many more, here’s a list of some of the biggest annual events to consider each season. Starting with Spring, there’s Easter and Mother’s Day. In Summer, it’s Father’s Day, the Summer Holidays and Back to School. Autumn sees Halloween, Bonfire Night and Black Friday. And in Winter there’s Christmas, New Year’s Celebrations and Valentine’s Day.
If those alone don’t fill your marketing calendar, then there’s a host of different awareness and appreciation events to pick from throughout the year which are growing in popularity. These include Earth Day, Veganuary, International Women’s and Men’s Days, and Stress Awareness Day. From a B2B perspective, many of these can more easily be tied to what your business does and allow you to communicate an authentic, relevant marketing message to new and existing customers.
What lessons can you learn from B2C strategies?
Just because you don’t sell or market directly to consumers doesn’t mean you can’t learn something from those who do. Forward planning to get ahead of the curve is essential to running a successful seasonal campaign, as is consistency in messaging across email, advertisements, webpage design and social media platforms.
B2C campaigns, particularly those launched in the lead up to Christmas, are also great examples of how seasonal marketing can be used as a tool for building brand values, affiliation and sentiment. It’s not just about selling more of something - these holidays also provide the perfect opportunity for you to build your brand image.
Creating successful B2B seasonal marketing campaigns
Here are nine clear steps to help you set up your first B2B seasonal marketing campaign:
1. Plan ahead
When the time comes to plan your marketing calendar for the year ahead, be sure to do your research thoroughly beforehand and map all the key events you find to help you forecast. And remember, don’t forget those smaller, more niche events aimed at driving awareness or celebrating a subject. Often this is where the opportunities lie for B2B brands.
2. Look for trends
Another useful activity in the planning stage is to take a look at trends in online searches for terms relating to what your business does and offers. Google Trends is a useful free tool to see how people’s online searches vary for different terms throughout the year. It can also be used to identify the quietest times of year to launch campaigns to boost enquiries and stand out from the competition.
3. Idea generation
As a rule, idea generation shouldn’t be confined to the marketing team. Organising a brainstorm with employees and senior management across departments can bring fresh perspectives into the marketing mix and help identify the problems that could be fixed through creative communication. It can also improve buy-in across the business and boost morale around a shared goal.
4. Stay focused
Be careful not to take on too much. Only launch large-scale seasonal campaigns around events that fit well with your business’s commercial goals. It’s best to focus your budget and resources around a handful and execute them well, rather than spread your team too thinly.
5. Keep it simple
Where you can’t naturally link a seasonal event to one of your products or services, don’t force it. Instead, communicating a simple message that will resonate on a personal level with your target audience is a worthwhile exercise. It could be a simple mailshot to your customers and partners ahead of the holidays - wishing them well will place you at the front of their minds the next time they need to review budgets or source a partner.
6. Think of conversion
Every marketing campaign must have a call to action. This could be to follow you on social media, pick up the phone, fill out a website enquiry form, or download a brochure. Think about how you can influence someone to take this action through your marketing in a subtle, but clear way.
7. Ensure your branding is consistent
Reflecting your latest marketing campaign in your web design is also important, ensuring consistency when a user lands on your page. Google also rewards websites that regularly refresh and improve their on-page content in the search engine rankings. Don’t go overkill here; you can link users to your seasonal campaign via your homepage with a banner or a slider.
8. Use social media
Leverage your campaign on social media too, particularly among your LinkedIn network. Social media is the perfect platform to react to events and adjust your marketing message quickly. It can also reinforce the messaging put out in more formal channels, like email or advertisements.
9. Track your results
A final thing to remember is to track your results so you can prove an ROI and make adjustments the next time you plan a seasonal marketing campaign. You’ll need key metrics to measure your success - such as monitoring direct traffic to a certain page on your website, tracking social media followers across platforms and engagement rates, or reviewing telephone and email enquiries, for example.
About the Author
Andy Woods is the Design Director of Rouge Media - a branding and web design agency. He's an experienced digital marketing problem solver, helping make the web work for B2B businesses for over 20 years (plus a little more). Andy specializes in the psychology of buying, and in creating materials that sell. He is a brand strategist, UI/UX designer, advertising copywriter and lead generation expert, helping marketeers solve the challenge of creating opportunities for sales teams to pick-up and close.