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Our team is keeping momentum with our August series on Q4 planning with today’s group post. There is no shortage of strategy areas that require attention in Q4, but what do we see folks wasting time or budget on? Where do you need not focus, at least until after what’s typically a critical season for most businesses? We’re here to provide some guidance and our thoughts.
For eCommerce clients, Q4 is often crucial for wrapping up the year on a strong note. While it is generally wise to push more budget into efforts that have historically worked well and generated strong ROAS for your business in Q4, a lot of the most popular channels can see large increases in cost during the holiday season as more advertisers enter the space to compete against your best holiday sales. This final quarter can be a great time to try some less traditional routes, like brand partnerships with influencers. And, as we learned after chatting with our friends at Hey Wanderer, it’s even better if you’ve run a few campaigns with those influencers throughout the year; then, when the holidays roll around, those audiences have already been introduced to your brand and products and may be more likely to purchase in the last quarter.
One of the biggest misconceptions I’ve seen my B2B clients make in Q4 is not adjusting expectations for the holiday season. For example, Facebook especially can be overrun with ecommerce-related ads in Q4, which drives up the costs for all advertisers. That competition will really impact your CPCs, CPAs and overall conversion rates. Thinking that your performance will remain the same during this quarter can be setting your marketing program up for failure. Instead, reviewing past Q4 data to find “normal” Q4 KPIs and benchmarks can help you find other ways to succeed.
For many B2B advertisers, Q4 can be a great time to work on longer-term projects like planning content calendars, creating new marketing funnels or building new landing pages. Taking the ‘slow season’ to revamp can help you to hit the ground running in Q1.
As the holiday season approaches in Q4, expect bids to become more competitive across the major ad platforms. For ecommerce clients, who typically see a sales spike during these times, we plan to either boost manual bids or switch to more aggressive automatic bidding options to make sure we maintain ad visibility. The increase we see in cost per click is typically offset by an increase in conversion rate during this time as consumers are more likely to purchase.
For B2B clients where holidays are not high sales volume times, we’ll often plan to reduce spend on the more competitive platforms or target more niche audiences so they aren’t as impacted by the increase in competition when they aren’t expected to see a corresponding increase in sales.
The biggest mistake I see eComm clients make is not starting their Q4 efforts early enough. What we saw last year will likely impact how consumers behave this year as well. We saw people shift to online shopping and start early. In some states shippers and carriers experienced severe delays, which impacted delivery times. I suspect that the consumer response to last year will be to start shopping even earlier to prevent not receiving items in time. With competition the highest, it is important that eComm clients reserve a hefty chunk of budget for Q4 and use promos to stand out amongst the competition. You have to make sure your prices are competitive if you want to translate to sales.
One of my favorite things about the fourth quarter of the year is all the holidays that fall in those months! Being in marketing/sales, there’s a tendency to poke fun at corny advertising and attempts brands make to pull in the tone of the holiday season. However, those are exactly the ads and campaigns that stick with us and get us talking, aren’t they? I’m a big fan of somewhat cheesy advertising, so ultimately it’s at least worth folding in themed campaigns for those of us who that might resonate with.
That said, the real misconception this exemplifies is the necessity to consider even small audiences and their change in tendencies around Q4 so you can be more certain you aren’t missing out on engagement opportunities (or leads or revenue).
For eCommerce clients, inventory and deliverability is key for Q4. With all the changes in availability for raw materials, finished product inventory has been greatly impacted in some industries. Those factors, combined with delayed overseas shipping times, could make product availability a key issue.
Advertisers will need to be sure that they don’t waste ad spend on items with low inventory, low replenishment potential or delayed shipping. Some products might get high purchase amounts, but consumers won’t want to wait on delayed delivery items and then brands will see a high return rate. This also hurts a brand’s reputation and can lead to poor online reviews down the road.
As a result, brands should highlight in-stock items, product availability and shipping times. They need to be on top of excluding items from shopping feeds, if unavailable, to be sure they aren’t wasting ad spend.
I work with several B2B clients, for whom Q4 often tends to become a quieter sales time as the holidays approach. It’s easy for brands to slip into the mindset of keeping ad campaigns at status quo and waiting to update creative, copy, CTAs, etc. until demand ramps back up in the new year.
However, assumptions can be dangerous when it comes to advertising. If people are searching relevant keywords, they’re still indicating interest in your product. If people matching your target demographic are logging onto LinkedIn, they’re still potentially in-market prospects.
B2B brands should take advantage of Q4 to continue testing in evergreen campaigns and not miss the mark on keeping new ad creative and copy in rotation. Even if customers aren’t directly in a “selling” mindset, you can still keep assets in front of them to get people into lead nurture sequences. Keep your brand top-of-mind, build email lists, grow retargeting segments, and use Q4 to ramp up for Q1.
Where have you seen an account stumble in Q4, or what misconceptions have you uncovered that we didn’t share? Leave us a comment below and let’s discuss!