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How to ensure leads don't go cold this winter

22 November 2016
by Adam Oldfield

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Winter is a notoriously challenging period for marketers, for different reasons.

Yes, as we get closer to the Christmas holiday it can be a typically feel-good time for many people. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it is a time when they make business decisions and/or buy.

Why is that the case?

Whilst there are of course sector variations, B2B markets generally risk a lull in trade from November through to January.

Pre-Christmas, people often ease away from their ordinary working week as their diaries become cluttered with festive celebrations, children’s nativity plays, present shopping and the struggles of skeleton staff in the office. The list goes on.

It would be understandable to presume working life reverts to ‘business as usual’ in the New Year.

Yet it can take quite some time to reignite levels of interest in products or services that first seemed tempting several weeks before.

The B2C market is incredibly different of course. The challenge here is not that customers aren’t in a ‘buying state’, but that there is so much noise it becomes almost impossible to achieve cut-through.

Market competitiveness is unparalleled, with email traffic undoubtedly reaching annual peak levels. ROI is therefore difficult to attain.

But, as much as I hope the advice in my previous ‘reactivating dead leads’ blog was helpful, this needn’t be a time where you reach for such guidance.

Take the right action and it is possible to keep prospective customers engaged and ‘on the hook’ during the tough weeks surrounding Christmas. You can ensure your leads don’t go cold this winter!

How?

Let’s begin with the B2B marketing challenge.

Firstly you need to ensure close-working collaboration with your brand’s sales function. They must accurately and realistically attribute any leads they secure. If they’re mapped with the correct disposition code, marketers will be better placed to power relevant, automated communications to each, during this quiet time. Use of an intuitive marketing cloud with effective CRM integration is paramount here.

In many instances, the scenario isn’t that a lead cannot buy from you now.

It’s that they’re choosing not to engage at present. As a marketer, the goal should therefore be to reaffirm, with supportive messages, why now is a good time to buy. Continued, subtle and personalised reinforcement comms will help here.

If the sales team has advised that the timing genuinely isn’t right, the objective should be to keep the lead warm. This isn’t a case of prompting a particular action such as a call back – it is simply a matter of informing, engaging and reminding. That way, when the Christmas hype subsides, the lead has not reverted to an earlier – or perhaps unrecoverable – position in the funnel.

Concentrate on educational, advice-led or ‘inside information’ content for such activity.

In B2C markets, the focus should be on segmentation.

Personalisation

Personalisation is more important in this high-traffic period than at any other point in the calendar. So, do not succumb to the temptation of mass mail communications in the hope of picking up the odd basket fulfilment.

Consider the demographic of each individual customer, their purchase history and digital behaviour, and refine the communication accordingly. Once again, this is really only possible with intelligent marketing automation technology in place – the task to do this manually, would simply be too great.

Also, remember the role that other channels can play. Direct mail volumes also spike as Christmas approaches, but not to the same extent as email. So, if a DM is relevant and carefully-timed, this physical communication could be very well received indeed, as could SMS.

If email is your channel of choice, there are some best-practice tips to consider regardless of the space your brand operates in. At Christmas, the load for spam filters to handle increases significantly.

Faced with quadruple the amount of traffic to process, the only way they can cope is to let more emails through or increase the frequency with which they’re rejected. The latter scenario – ESPs becoming even more stringent than before – is most likely.

But this obstacle can be overcome. The key advice is to build up your email deliverability profile now, by gradually heightening the number of emails you send, rather than suddenly distributing large batches at once. Adopt intelligent throttling methodologies, sending small numbers as slowly as possible.

Begin with any urgent communications, of course, and prioritise already-engaged customer groups. Then, slot in less-engaged recipients over time, adhering to any optimised deliverability windows you are already aware of.

Also, remember that the more recipients open and click on your emails, the greater the chance you’ll reach other inboxes, because mail servers deem your campaigns relevant and authentic.

Meaningful interactions

So, where possible, use the pre-Christmas weeks to focus on meaningful interactions rather than sales. Think carefully about the type of content that is likely to attract an open and click, and give precedence to that. In essence, blend the power of technology with human creativity.

By following this advice you’ll hopefully find that however chilly winter gets, your leads won’t go cold.

If some people do become less engaged during these next couple of months, just make sure you keep analysing your data, so that you can prioritise who you ‘warm up’ first when normality resumes after the New Year.

 

Photo of Adam Oldfield
Adam Oldfield
Managing Director & Founder

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