Christmas and the New Year are times when B2B email marketers don’t get a lot of love. It’s easy to understand why: B2C is blowing up. The biggest sales, the most purchases. But business doesn’t just stop from December until mid-January. And neither should B2B marketing. So we’re redressing the balance. We’ll talk about how to take what many regard as a fallow period and turn it into a boom time now and an investment for later.
Whether you’re marketing to an individual, a small business or a huge multinational concern with millions of dollars hanging in the balance, one thing is certain. In the long term, it’s a relationship. And relationships are formed from contact. Don’t go all radio silence at Christmas and expect to find your leads just as warm after the snow melts!
You’ll never get a second chance to make a first impression. If you’re reaching out to a new lead, remember their personal email will be full of Christmas offers and January sales lead-ins, but their business email will actually be getting less traffic than usual at this time of year. Approach them through work with relevant content and consider looking them up on social media. (Facebook will let you upload email addresses and find which accounts they belong to, which will give you access to some staff; LinkedIn the rest.) The best thing you can offer a lot of your leads is a reminder that the whole world isn’t reindeer and elves: they still need to get stuff done, so let them know that you’re still there.
Are you a B2B marketer? Sure you’re not a P2P marketer? That’s what Sprout Content cofounder Debbie Williams says, anyway. Whatever marketing sphere you work in, it’s person to person. That’s why we go to such effort to get working email addresses and hit them with well-thought-out emails that our prospects and customers will actually open and read. If they come in from email@example.com, it feels like a marketing message. And even people who don’t have AdBlocker carry a mental equivalent that simply filters out ads most of the time. (Plus it’s that much more likely to get hived off into your spam folder.) What’s the opposite of ill-conceived, cookie-cutter emails?
2: Do They Care It’s Christmas?
One of the effects of living in a place that’s basically about 90% Santa Claus by weight as of December 20 is that it can make us forget: it’s not Christmas everywhere, and it’s not New Year’s a week later everywhere either. That gives us a couple of avenues to explore.
First, it’s not Christmas in India and China, or across most of the Middle East. There are Christian groups all over the world but the majority culture will decide when business slows down and the shops shut. So if you have sizable groups of clients in Japan or Malaysia, you have the opportunity to show some knowledge and respect for them by not getting all Christmassy when everyone else does. And you’ll often have the field to yourself: in India, they already did Diwali before December even starts. Now they want to get back to business, but everyone in Europe and America puts B2B on the back burner for six weeks. Buck the trend and reap the rewards of closer relationships and emptier inboxes!
(As a part of this point, remember it’s not Christmas for everyone in Western countries either. Don’t be the guy who sends the cringeworthy Kwanza email, but simply wishing people a happy New Year when it’s their New Year isn’t such a bad move.)
Just because it’s not Christmas doesn’t mean nothing’s happening. Everyone everywhere has festivals spread out throughout the year. Chinese New Year, the events of the Hindu and Islamic calendars, or Singles’ Day in China are good examples of this. Again, there are two opportunities bundled into this one. First, you can contact your connections and leads who are celebrating other festivals and acknowledge them, and give them business as usual when that’s what they’re doing. Second, you can talk about those festivals and the business opportunities they represent with your customers in the West. Singles’ Day is a good example: Alibaba, the Chinese Amazon, makes more sales that day than any other – this year it cleared $8bn in 10 hours. Wouldn’t some of your clients like to know how to get in on that?
3: B2B Email Design
The best message you can possibly deliver is going to do a big dull thud if poor email design means it’s never read. B2B emails need to be designed differently from B2C communications, for several reasons.
B2B customers require a longer life cycle. There are several reasons for this, including the fact that usually several people are involved in a B2B purchase decision, much more money is usually at stake, and the purpose of the product or service impinges on their business operations. B2B buyers are usually halfway or more along the sales process before they make contact with marketers. They require more midfunnel content, and they like solid, factual material more and pictures and immediately entertaining stuff a lot less. (Expect this to change as the digital-native generation brings their B2C expectations to work with them; dealing with a young B2B audience? Adjust accordingly.) Their decision is going to be a serious one and they want you to take that fact seriously.
That means more text and less pictures. B2C emails are image-powered (or even video-powered!). But many B2B clients are using Outlook, which will sabotage all your hard work by not rendering images – and not registering the email as opened as a result. Mobile is much less important for B2B, though. The detailed information that kills B2C interest dead is the lifeblood of B2B.
4: It’s an Opportunity
We’ve touched on this in places already, but let’s get right into it: Christmas is a B2B opportunity if you play it right. So is New Year. At these times, your competition is focussed on nailing its B2C marketing, leaving the field clear. Business activity falls – but the opportunity to reach out to people and service their needs now, or build the relationships that will flourish next year, is huge.
Many businesses plan by the calendar year, resulting in a ‘New Year’s Resolution’ effect. Businesses start the new year determined to correct their mistakes, the way people do. Only unlike swearing to actually go to the gym this year, businesses grit their teeth and determine to fix their organizational problems, nail content marketing, or replace unfit systems, tools and even office furniture. In other words, the beginning of the year is an ideal time to have spent the last month carefully positioning yourself and your organization as trusted advisors.
5: Get Personal
Christmas and New Year are emotional times. The end of the year’s approaching, people’s minds turn to family and friends, and they’re usually feeling both stressed about getting through it all and more relaxed because they know quitting time’s nearly here; it’s the Friday afternoon of the year.
All that means it’s a great time to reach out in a more personal way. It’s the P2P principle – this is a perfect time of year to remind your customers and leads that you’re a real human being. Remember to stay professional, but there’s considerable leeway within that.
It’s also a great time to personalize your brand. We tend to remember things when they’re ‘storified’ and forget facts without a narrative element to structure them, so making your brand into a story is the perfect way to move contacts from ‘I know that name’ to a feeling that they know your brand, understand what you’re about and (hopefully) it resonates with them. This works best if your brand’s story is cool or interesting. Apple and Microsoft are both gigantic, globe-spanning corporations – but at the heart of each is an underestimated young person who revolutionized the world basically from their garage. If you have a Steve Jobs or a Bill Gates at your place, tell their story – complete with all the people who told you it could never work! (Take the high road, though: don’t mention any names.)
Ultimately what we’re hoping for is the ‘ring Bob’ effect.
Where you’d like to be is where the local mechanic, or a trusted tradesperson like a builder or a plumber is. If you’ve found a good one of these, you’ll know they’re like gold dust, and it’s not just because you can trust them to do the job properly, not just stick it all back together with tape so they don’t have to tell you what it will cost to really fix it. Their real value is that you know you can trust their advice. When something goes wrong, no-one says ‘what shall we do?’ or starts Googling local contractors. You just ring Bob.
B2B marketers should aim to be in this coveted position with regard to their leads and customers. When a company has a need for something that’s in your space, you want them to pick up the phone and call… you. It’s never your company. Brands would love to have that level of personal loyalty, but we’re not really there right now; it’s a connection and a sense of trust that only really works between actual people. Establish it and build on it by approaching your B2B customers and leads with genuinely useful content that carries a personal spin, even if it’s only a slight alteration from your standard message.
And don’t forget to drop people a line from your personal email wishing them a happy Christmas and New Year!
Christmas and New Year see business communications trail off – but there’s no reason they have to. There are all kinds of ways that savvy B2B marketers can cut through the gazillions of January Sales emails and reach out to prospects and customers in an authentic and effective way; hopefully we’ve touched on the best, but if you’ve got one to share, tell us in the comments!