Uh, Amanda, it’s July. I know. But I’ve always believed that Q4 starts in Q3 (and Q3 starts in Q2 and so on). If you are unfamiliar with the term Q4, I am referring to Quarter 4, or October through December of your calendar year. If you are like most businesses, then this is a particularly crucial and manic time for your business.
For whatever reason, as soon as pumpkin spice begins wafting through the air, so does the undeniable panic of holiday sales. Is there such a thing as a holiday-free promotional email sent in Q4? I’ve never seen one! So that’s why it’s so important to start thinking about your marketing strategy now, instead of when the glitter and lights of holiday decorations begin to blind you, and the pull of ten thousand social events begins overtaking your calendar.
Start at Q1 … the next one!
Okay, okay, I realize this might be starting to sound truly crazy, but when you are crafting a plan for Q4, I want you to first look ahead to Q1 of 2023. Why? Because the point of marketing is to see a future result. No one puts out an ad on day one and meets that ad’s full potential within twenty-four hours. That’s just not how marketing works.
Marketing is about the long game, so wouldn’t it make sense to know what game you are playing exactly? Look ahead to 2023 and take inventory of what you want to achieve in the coming year. For all intents and purposes, 2022 is on the downswing, so what do you really want to accomplish? What are you hoping your next year will look like?
If you’re a fitness company, then you are probably really looking at January (and the glorious New Year’s Resolution push) to boost your sales. If you are a Christmas store, then you might be looking at your plans for any surplus holiday merchandise. You get the idea. Different businesses will have different perspectives on what the new year brings, so you need to plan your Q4 strategies accordingly. The efforts you make in these last few months will directly affect the start of your 2023 success!
- What systems and processes do you want to streamline or automate?
- How do you want to improve your client experience?
- How many leads do you need, realistically, to make your sales goals?
- How can your business create new opportunities?
So, let’s work backward and start with where you want to see 2023. Need a little help? I suggest taking the time to analyze your business with SWOT and set some SMART goals. Check out the blog posts I have written about these two invaluable action plans.
Set yourself at least three goals for Q1 2023. Now, what can you do in the coming months to make that happen?
Schedule it all out
This one may take some time, but it is well worth it! The holidays are nothing if not chaotic. holiday parties, shopping, travel, dinners, more holiday parties—the to-do lists go on and on—so it’s easy to lose track of what and when you are doing things, especially for your business.
Sit down today, yes today, and look at the calendar for October, November, and December (preferably starting with New Year’s Eve and working backward). You may not have all the details of upcoming events, yet, but sorting through your calendar will give your mind a much-needed refresher of when and where events fall. Is Christmas on a Saturday? How will that affect sales? Does Thanksgiving fall a little early or late this year? How does that change things? It’s worth asking those types of questions now before you suddenly look at your calendar and realize you don’t have enough days or weeks left for your promotions to be effective.
Pro Tip: This is also the time I start planning the dates for my company parties and end-of-year evaluations. You want to get that on the calendar quickly so you can notify your team and plan accordingly. You aren’t the only one with a million social and work obligations at this time of year.
You also want to strategically plan your next planning session. (Yes, I schedule sessions to schedule sessions. Ha!) Because Q4 is so busy, you want to make sure you leave yourself ample time to look ahead into Q1. I usually try to do this in October (even sooner for you fitness studios and gyms), so I have a little extra time before all hell breaks loose during the holidays. Once November first rears its ugly head, I’ve pretty much declared all time lost, so I try to get any business-centric goals out of the way before then.
Embrace and analyze the 80/20 rule
If you are unfamiliar with the 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, it basically states that 80% of your results will come from only 20% of your efforts. In the sales and marketing sphere, that might look something like this:
- 80% of your profits come from 20% of your customers
- 80% of your product sales result from 20% of your inventory
- 80% of the work is achieved by 20% of the personnel
- 80% of sales come from 20% of your advertising
So, if you know what that 20% actual is, you can focus your efforts in those areas. Do you know where your results are coming from? Have you tried to track or analyze that? Now is the time to do this, so your holiday marketing efforts aren’t wasted in a sea of ineffectual Christmas specials.
Check your SEO and analytics. What keywords are being used? Which affiliates are sending the most traffic your way (and the most consistently)? Set up a heat map on your website. Which pages are drawing the most clicks and how can you optimize these pages? Which customers represent your 20% and how can you build a stronger relationship with them now? What value could you add for them, specifically?
Get creative, or at least more creative
- Savings So Good It’s Scary!
- Black Friday Sale!
- Cyber Monday Sale!
- 12 Days of Christmas Sale!
- New Year, New You!
If the email headlines got any more predictable, I’d scream! I’m not saying you should absolutely avoid these kinds of emails, after all, it is the holiday season, but don’t be afraid to get a little creative with your marketing strategy. Here are some of the non-traditional holidays I have enjoyed celebrating in my companies’ marketing efforts:
- October- or ROCKtober, as I call it
- Oct 3, Child Health Day
- November 6, Daylight Saving Time ends (can’t you just see an email: Fall Back! Fall Back! And surrender to these savings! Haha! But seriously, I hate you, Daylight Saving Time.)
- November 8, Election Day
- November 10, Return Day (in Delaware—wouldn’t this be a fun one to promote some good, old-fashioned customer appreciation or “we miss you” campaigns?)
- November 11, Veterans Day
- November 29, Giving Tuesday
- December 7, Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day
- December 15, Bill of Rights Day (You have the right to save big…)
And this list doesn’t even include the obscure holidays like National Mad Hatters Day (October 6), Curious Events Day (October 9), International Skeptics Day (October 13), Wear Something Gaudy Day (October 17), Chucky, The Notorious Killer Doll Day (October 25), etc. For a full list of some of the most hilarious holidays, check out this site.
And keep in mind that marketing doesn’t always mean selling. Sometimes marketing is just creating brand awareness or front-of-mind prominence.
Ever heard the excuse, “It’s just not in the budget this year” or “I just can’t afford it right now?” Sigh. This is a frequent (and easy) response for a lot of companies and people. What they are really saying is that your service or product just isn’t a priority for them. So, make it a priority.
This is the perfect time to circle back with anyone, customer or company, you courted in the first two quarters. How can you show them that they need you? How can you provide value? How can you solve their problems? Yes, it’s about selling, but it’s more about giving—creating solutions that will position your company in the right way at the right time to help them in the right way.
Proper marketing takes time and yes, a lot of trial and error. However, if you use that time to really look at what’s working (and what’s not) in your business and set yourself up for success, then scheduling and even predicting your Q4 should be significantly easier and more productive.
So, start diving into those Q4 and Q1 goals now. You’ll thank me later.
What do you have planned for the last quarter and beyond? Let me know in the comments!