End of the Year Secret Sales Weapons
The clock is running down.
Sales is pushing hard to meet their yearly targets, and they are looking for marketing to step up and help them finish strong. You (and several Starbucks Grandes) are their secret weapon when it comes time to crush their goals. It’s do or die, and the fate of the year is in your hands.
I wish that I could say this feeling, this weight on your shoulders, is uncommon for marketers like us. But it is not. The truth is – we know this situation all too well. To save the year, marketing teams are often pushed to launch programs that will close the gap between forecast and goal. Some of these programs are perfect, some are unproven, some are lucky, and others just downright awful.
Hindsight being 20/20, the obvious way to make the end of your year less stressful is to produce results consistently, and gain quality leads throughout the year. But when that crunch time comes around, how does a marketer balance urgency with the long-term goals of the business and the brand?
Let’s talk “fact or fallacy” when it comes to tackling your end-of-year goals, by identifying real strategies and tactics (common and uncommon) that will impact those critical final days.
Discounting is one of the first tactics to come across a marketer’s desk at the end of the year, but it can potentially cheapen your product or service if not executed properly. It effectively conditions your current and future clients to wait until the last minute to close deals, since they know you’ll be more flexible during the end of the year stretch. This can hinder long-term profits, impact your brand image, and lower your company’s perceived value at the same time.
Even so, discounts are a valid part of the sales process and can be a great incentive – when used appropriately. The best way to make both your boss and your prospects happy here is to segment your audience and focus on value, or work to upsell from their current position.
Incentivize the actions you want your prospects to take, but avoid belittling or cannibalizing your main offer where you can. Including an additional service at no additional cost (or at a reduced cost) gives the customer extra motivation and added urgency, while leaving the integrity of the main product offering intact.
Increase Outreach Frequency
All hands on deck! Man the battle stations! Don’t take no for an answer!
Another common request from sales, this tactic has the potential to tip on-the-fence leads towards a buying decision, but it can be a HUGE turnoff with a large portion of your prospects. Calls and emails coming in too frequently can be a nuisance and may turn neutral (or even slightly positive) relationships into negative ones. Don’t overlook the possible hit to your email sending reputation, either; too-high frequency is a common factor for having your email noted as spam by recipients. You have to ask yourself, are those few closed sales worth the hit to our company’s image?
The best way to appease your boss and increase your email frequency, without hurting your reputation, is to segment. You can safely increase the total number of communications you send out near the end of the year, as long as you don’t send every single one of them to every single prospect in your entire pool.
This way, you get the best of both worlds: your company increases the total volume of its marketing efforts, and prospects don’t feel like their inbox is being flooded with unwanted mail. This is a great opportunity to hit the sweet spot with potential customers; with segmentation, you can fine-tune offers to make them fit better for different populations, and create urgency by using the signals that matter most to each segment.
Review the Top of Your Funnel
Here’s an idea to shake things up: Take a look at your fresh inbound leads. It seems counterintuitive to review these leads when you’re nearing the end of the year, but identifying leads that may have short cycles can improve your win rates, and provides a way to work smart instead of hard.
Knowing your sales flow is a key component here, and identifying potentially quicker-moving leads can make the difference between hitting and missing your year. If they begin their engagement with you with advanced, later-stage content (case studies, vendor comparisons, etc.) then they may be close to sales-ready rather than top-of-funnel. Segment, target, and nurture these leads with the most specific content and outreach you have. This process will not only give your current year a better shot at closing, but it will also set you up for your next year as well.
Note: this method requires a close partnership with the sales department, and insight from some of the top sales people at your organization. You should be aligned with them already, but if you aren’t, now is a good time to break the ice by helping them close some sales.
Work the Middle
Often overlooked, the middle of your funnel can be bursting with potential deals ready for a sales conversation. Reviewing these leads for opportunities to reengage is a way to jump priority and make an immediate impact on the year you’re working hard to help close.
Target these leads with the strategy of recreating a sense of urgency, which may help propel them to the bottom of the funnel sooner. Your goal here is to remind them why they were interacting with you in the first place, and find the solution that they missed the first time around.
If they went dark last year because they ran out of budget, remind them how ready they were to buy then. They might have the budget this year, and be especially happy to have you reopen this discussion for them.
Take those stagnant or silent leads, and bring them solutions to their problems. The quicker and easier the solution, the more likely they will be to come out of hiding and enter into a sales conversation.
Just as account-based marketing (ABM) has developed in response to the increasing number of people involved in a buying decision, account-based advertising (ABA) has emerged as a tactic under that ABM umbrella. With ABA, you can buy display advertising that is served only to people at your named, target accounts. For example, if you’re marketing a technical engineering product to IBM, you might target multiple levels of responsibility, such as Advisory Software Engineer, Senior Technical Staff Member, VP of Software. These are the only people who will be shown your ads.
For an end-of-year strategy, focus on those accounts most likely to buy, as determined by industry, revenue, and/or named accounts. Then tighten that focus further: advertise to, and deliver content for, specific job titles and specific industries.
Don’t confine yourself to the C-suite. Advertising to a variety of employees outside the C-suite can have positive effects on buying decisions, as shown here in a study conducted by Millward Brown Digital. Twenty-four percent of non-CEO titles have final authority, and 25% have heavy influence. Account-based advertising lets you reach beyond your website and touch your targets personally.
Google/Millward Brown Digital, B2B Path to Purchase Study, 2014.
Although banner ads commonly get a bad rap, Google saw an increase in brand recall and intent by 15.8% and 9.4%, respectively from their use in their own ad programs. This swing has the power to keep your brand at the top of your prospect’s mind, which in turn can help increase their likelihood of purchasing your product or service. At the bottom of the funnel, these increases can mean the difference between a new customer and a lost lead.
Stay in Focus
As your buyer nears the purchase step, you’ll typically share the stage with one or two other competitors. You’ve already covered the differences in your product point by point, as well as your unique benefits. (If you haven’t made those differentiations clear – do it now.)
You want to ensure that you’re at the forefront of their mind during this decision-making time. Keep your brand in their view; keep from being overbearing by making your communications about their needs and concentrating on how your brand can serve them. A strategic market mix of tools like email and tactics like remarketing and tailored content distribution can help cement your brand’s value in the minds of your prospects, making you the thought leader and natural, correct choice in your space.
Jim Rohn said, “You plant in the spring, you harvest in the fall. No planting, no harvest.”
The best tools available to de-stress the end of the year are well-segmented and well-tested campaigns planned earlier in the year and deployed earlier (in the year, depending on your sales cycle). The short-fuse tactics discussed above can help mitigate time lost during the bulk of the year, but ultimately performing at a consistent level throughout the year is the best route to predictable, profitable, sustainable efforts across the board. With fewer migraines and much, much less stress.
Take the time now to align your marketing and sales departments. Share goals and metrics, and develop a collaborative process. Tap into sales’ knowledge of buyer behavior to inspire ever more-targeted campaigns. Next to sales, data attribution, segmentation, A/B testing, and regularly scheduled reviews will be your best friends throughout the year.
Set the tone now for a profitable year, quarter by quarter, and leave the scrambling to your competition as you leave them in the dust.