Sales Funnels Shouldn’t Take Vacations: How to Take Advantage of the “Slow” B2B Summer Season
Summer is downtime. Summer is vacation. Summer is employees with kids struggling with childcare arrangements in the gap left between school and camp. Do your business customers really have the head to be focused on making major product or service purchases?
But let’s take a look at two major reasons as to why summertime often stays an active time for B2B. Then we’ll discuss strategy and tools to manage the summer season so that you can take a vacation without letting profits slip through your fingers.
The City Never Relaxes
Oh, sleeping we can still do. When we’re asleep, we’re off the grid. Period.
Not so when we’re “relaxing.”
When we’re enjoying time “off”, often our devices butt in. They come along on our vacations as guests and remind us that it would be a good idea if we retained some handle on what was going on at work.
Your average B2B client will come back from the tennis court or the pool, freshen up, sit down with an ice coffee… and her device. And if she’s in the market for a product or service like yours, there’s a good chance that some of your content is going to end up on her device screen, since she’s been putting off research and suddenly has time.
Even during the heart of vacation season, you have to assume that most of your audience is at least semi-active.
When is the “summer season,” again?
We all know that our colleagues on the other side of the Equator have a summer season that overlaps with the holiday season. When we’re “summering” in the USA, Europe, Asia or North Africa, businesses in Australia, South Africa and Southern South America are hard at work.
Even within one hemisphere, you’re still going to get variation from country to country when it comes to school summer vacation. In the USA, school vacation stretches for 10 weeks – from late May to early August or from late June to early September. In Singapore, it’s only four weeks – from late May to late June. The UK vacations from mid-July to early September.
Check out the variation in summer vacation length in Europe alone!
So before you let down your guard, check the vacations in the areas where your clients concentrate. You may be in a vacation-mindset – but are they?
Vacation-mindset also varies by culture. Americans tend to push themselves to work more even at the expense of vacation, relaxation and recharging, leading some employers to actually pay their employees to take their vacation days and use them as – surprise! A vacation!
Swedes and other Europeans don’t seem to have that hangup. They guard their 5 weeks paid vacation and throw themselves into it and out of work with gusto
So you can’t write off summer as a “dead season” when it comes to B2B. Does that mean YOU can’t take vacation? How do you manage both?
Lather, Rinse, Automate
Think of your marketing and sales funnel like a child. When your kids get old enough, it becomes feasible to go on vacation and leave them behind.
The more you can get your marketing and sales system to run independently of your management, the more you’ll be able to detach when you’re on vacation. It’s doing its thing, and you can do yours.
Plan and set up your fall campaigns in advance. Get the supporting content, social media and sales funnel ready so you can press GO before you leave on your vacation with a clean conscience. Oktopost is a great tool for B2B social engagement, campaign management and advance scheduling.
A marketing automation tool can be invaluable here, although you may need to check in from time to time to evaluate and optimize. Autonomous (self-optimizing) marketing tools, like CliClap, can do even more with even less management.
A self-optimizing tool is like an incredibly mature adolescent (do those exist?). You’ll be perfectly relaxed on your vacation, knowing your home is being well taken care of by your responsible teenager, and you’ll return to a well-stocked fridge, fresh sheets on your bed and dinner in the oven.
While the incredibly mature adolescent may be a fantasy, the self-optimizing marketing tool is not. Get it set up far enough in advance that you’ll be able to have peace of mind during your vacation, and come back to a bunch of new clients and a full list of new leads.
Don’t Drop the Ball
If your closing a client is any more complicated than a SaaS free trial, you can’t rely on your automated marketing alone. At some point a human will need to be involved.
If the humans in your company are taking vacations, set up a clear plan of who will be responsible for incoming leads and when. The ubiquitous Slack is a natural at keeping your team coordinated. Or you might want to spring for tools designed expressly for sales team coordination, such as DealHub or Enspark.
Ensure that your sales funnel is always covered by at least one individual, even if it means that they just make contact to say that the person to speak to it on vacation and give a timeframe within which the inquiry can expect a follow-up.
Sometimes business really does slow down. If that happens to you, and you’re not leaving on vacation just yet, jump on this opportunity to take stock of your business assets and processes.
Drawing a blank? Here’s an action plan for you:
Revisit lead scoring
Even if you have a well-designed scoring model based on behavioral data, the actual funnel data you’ve collected since then can help you refine your model and make more accurate measures and predictions of lead readiness.
Here’s how to do it:
- Find all the opportunities won that came in some way through marketing.
- See if you can find some common behaviors in (e.g. what referring sources, which pages and content they visited, what actions they took on your site).
- When you find common behaviors, give those behaviors more weight in your scoring models and/or set up special nurturing campaigns specifically for these leads.
You might also want to look into advanced lead scoring and management solutions like Leadspace and Lattice Engine, both of which use artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies to scale your lead generation and sales.
Updated lead scoring model? Check! Onward to the database!
For many of us, the thought of sorting through the hundreds, thousands or more records in our database is overwhelming.
But letting those records accumulate unchecked could be costly. You end up paying your Marketing Automation provider or CRM for records that are no longer relevant. Your contacts change email addresses, and emails bounce and bring your sender score down.
Here’s how to fix the situation:
- Evaluate all non-customer entities that haven’t engaged with you (didn’t open emails, visit your site, attend an event etc.) in the past 4-6 months. Delete records for which there is no reasonable hope for future engagement and conversion.
- De-dupe contact records. This is especially likely if you have multiple employees and you don’t have a standardized way in which to enter records, leaving the path wide open for several records for the same entity.
- Make sure your data is valid and you aren’t missing critical bits of records.
There is so much to do in order to improve the website performance, and some activities require external assistance. Here are some basic checks you can perform to catch that “low-hanging fruit.”
- Look in Google Analytics for pages with high bounce rates and/or low conversions. Think about what you could add to or change in those pages (the content itself, CTAs, recommended resources) that could help your visitors continue their journey on your site.
- Identify 404 pages and delete them or fix the URL.
Content marketing success is rarely achieved through “set and forget.” It is key to measure what each piece of content is bringing you and planning how to leverage it better in the future.
With Google Analytics, you can build a dashboard that will let you see your content performance at a glance. Make sure you have goals defined within Analytics so that you can track the contribution of each content asset to conversions.
For visual evidence of your content’s performance, use Google’s Page Analytics Chrome Extension. View a page of your site when signed into your Analytics account and you’ll see an overlay with metrics for the page as well as click data for each of the links on the page.
Heatmaps can also provide clarity on how visitors interact with your content. Hotjar is a great tool for heatmaps and other visitor insight tools, and they offer both a forever free (but limited) plan and free trials for their other plans.
If some of your content resources are PDFs, we feel your pain. The fact that you lost the visitor trail once they entered a PDF drove us crazy for eons. It was a source of great satisfaction when we added to CliClap the functionality of following visitor engagement and interaction within a PDF. If PDFs are an important part of your content strategy, implement a solution that will help you track and optimize your PDFs.
Make Like a Swede and… Vacation!
The most important asset your company has is not a piece of content; it’s you. Give yourself regular maintenance. Take time to develop and upgrade yourself on the personal level.
It’s true; you don’t want to be too laid back about the summer or you’ll let potential clients and buyers slip through your fingers. Devices and mindset often keep B2B clients connected and thinking about work even when they’re on vacation. In addition, “summer vacation” encompasses such a wide range of time that inevitably a segment of your clients will be working hard during your “vacation season”.
Put in responsible preparation efforts. Automate, delegate and coordinate. Take advantage of pre-vacation time to do some housekeeping in your lead scoring, databases, website maintenance, content and other areas
Then let go! You deserve it.
Recommended Read: Is Your Facebook Engagement Working For You?