Is there a place for Christmas in B2B marketing?
Christmas is always a big-ticket event in the B2C marketing world, but what about B2B? Emma Crofts shares some tips on making Christmas a part of the B2B world.
Campaigns are fronted by ads that range from sickly-sweet and sentimental (usually accompanied by a breathy acoustic rendition of a song that sounded better with electric guitars), through to product-focused glitz and celebrity-endorsed glamour. Love them or hate them, the Christmas advert is a seasonal B2C tradition - and a profitable one at that: John Lewis reportedly spend in excess of £1m on Christmas ad production but claims to produce £8 profit for every £1 spent. So it’s easy to see why it keeps on churning out those tear-jerkers.
But what about the B2B world? It’s a conundrum we revisit every 12 months, and trying to plan a Christmas campaign for business customers raises enough questions to send even the most seasoned marketer into a bit of a spin.
- Have we anything to gain from an end-of-year marketing push when our own audiences are generally winding down and turning off?
- And if so, how do we get the tone right; Is it possible to be jolly and professional?
- How much attention should we give to broader business strategies?
- Is it okay to admit that most of the team will be drunk/in a cheese coma/watching Love Actually on repeat for the next two weeks?
- And, most importantly, is there anything new to consider for Christmas 2019?
I personally believe there is a place for Christmas in our B2B marketing comms, as long as businesses recognise that the rules are a little - but not completely - different at this time of year. So, here are my suggestions for things businesses might want to consider before adding their merry voices to the festive din.
Understand the mood
For existing customers or hot prospects, Christmas is a great time to get in touch for no other reason than to spread a little happiness and remind them that you are really rather nice. While the mood may vary in industries with different seasonal vibes, I’m going to make the sweeping statement that people do not want to be sold to via their Christmas card. So avoid anything that feels like a promo or pitch; this is not the time for lead gen, but it is a brilliant time for brand building and a perfect time for nurturing relationships.
One important thing to remember this year is that for some businesses, 2019 has been a rocky road - so be sensitive to that and go for warmth and positivity without tipping over into the kind of jolly that could seem jarring. And with inboxes a little quieter than normal, your contacts may be more open to fun - so perhaps consider a serialised Christmas quiz with daily prizes to put you front of mind for the new year.
Personal yet professional
One of the best things about B2B marketing and the thing that makes it different to B2C (some would say superior) is that it’s essentially a relationship business. Niche audiences and smaller target groups make it possible for us to have a deeper insight into the individuals and teams we are marketing to than a B2C marketer can usually achieve. That’s why individualised B2B messages at Christmas make such perfect sense. This is the ideal time of year to ramp up the personalisation and be a little more emotive in B2B marketing. Just make sure what you’re saying still represents what your company stands for and don’t ditch the professionalism altogether. The perfect balance might be found by celebrating your combined achievements in an email or short video; your ‘best-bits’ from the year gone by. Keep it short and ‘light-touch’ with a fun element so that it becomes more shareable. (Include elves at your own discretion). It can then hopefully be something your contact is excited to pass on to colleagues, giving them a chance to showcase their achievements, while also highlighting your contribution.
Do it well
Even businesses that largely outsource PR and marketing often just whip something quick up in-house for Christmas, but your Christmas comms are just as visible and therefore just as important as any other customer or stakeholder comms. As your favourite auntie once said when you only peeled half the sprouts before running off to eat more chocolate: if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean you need to spend a small fortune: like the best presents, the best Christmas marketing is thoughtful rather than expensive. And more than anything, you just want to leave customers with a warm and fuzzy feeling - and save anything more strategic for 2020. Now, if you’ll excuse me… I’m off to get drunk, eat cheese and watch Love Actually.
B2B Marketing Autumn 2019
All the essential reading from the B2B marketing space, neatly collected into one handy download.