Tony Compton, Managing Director
It’s that time of year. Time when those who press on through the holidays are faced with getting the all-too-often Out of Office (OOO) email reply that informs us that another person has been out for the past couple of weeks, and won’t return until Monday, January 4, 2016.
But their well-intentioned automated reply does wish us the best for the holiday season, and for all of 2016. So there’s that.
I often wonder about those marketers (and their companies) who pretend that they’re winning an end-of-year business football game in the fourth quarter. They snap the corporate football, and kneel down from Thanksgiving in the USA, to the company holiday party, through New Year’s Eve, and into Monday, January 4, 2016 with little regard for the forthcoming appearance of their March 31, 2016 marketing report.
If you’re a marketer who is overindulging in the comforts of an elongated November, December, and January break, your Q1 2016 report will be a bust if you:
1. Shut it (way) down for the holidays.
Spending quality time with family and friends during the holidays is important and I’m all for taking well-deserved vacations, but the harsh reality is that we live in a new corporate world where the sun never sets on business. In the United States, the Thanksgiving holiday is losing ground to packed shopping malls – now open on that Thursday night. In downtown Chicago, judging by the full restaurants and stores, you’d never even know that Thanksgiving was a US holiday. My message to those complacent marketing paper pushers who shut it down for multiple weeks from late November or early December to January 4 is this: you’re now being outworked while you’re away. I understand how you may feel about that, but for those with an aged OOO email reply that tells the planet that you’ll check your mountain of messages upon your Monday, January 4th return, the world isn’t waiting for you. Not anymore. Those days are over.
2. Take your time ramping up in the New Year.
Starting on Monday, January 4, 2016, you repeatedly say “I’ve just returned from the holidays, and I’m just getting back up to speed.” While that may be true for the first hour of your first day back from the holidays, too many continually use that comeback when tapped on the shoulder to get the New Year’s ball rolling. Some prospects have used that phony reply as a way to buy time with sales people, but when marketers use that same response well into the month, it’s infuriating. I grew tired of hearing this years ago, usually from people who just shut it down for weeks during the holidays and were ill-prepared to meet the New Year with a running start. When I hear or read that line,
I take it as a stall technique and an effort to buy time – and waste it. For those marketers who enjoy strolling into the office with a steaming cup of New Year’s coffee and nurse it until they “get back up to speed” in late January, it’ll show on March 31.
3. Wait until after your January sales kickoff.
The calendar says Friday, January 1, 2016 is the first day of the New Year. But for you, Monday, January 4, 2016 is the first business day of the New Year. But wait, there’s more! Your annual sales kick-off isn’t until the third of fourth week of January. You rationalize that’s it’s best to wait until after that meeting to do anything meaningful in marketing. After all, it’s where the CEO will unveil plans to crush the competition, where the VP of Sales will share the new plan to make this year’s numbers, and it’s where you’ll meet the new additions to the business development team. The downside is that while you feel it’s best to ride out the month of January, it’s Q1 time lost. You won’t reap many Q1 rewards from hastily launched campaigns in February. And the well thought out campaigns launched in Q1 won’t start paying dividends until later in the year.
4. Encounter Q1 turnover.
It’s that time of the year when people are on the move, changing jobs. Especially now. Better economy, more opportunities. Problem is, you’re unprepared. New hires in sales, marketing, and service are guaranteed to require at least some portion of your time. And instead of spending time executing on activities which generate opportunities for an impressive Q1 report, you may find yourself interviewing, on-boarding, transitioning, and getting to know the work patterns of new colleagues. That’s a best-case scenario. There are plenty of worst-case scenarios which can leave a marketing mess on your hands when you have to clean up data, make sense out of inherited technologies, manage event logistics, and figure out incomprehensible budgets abandoned by predecessors who have moved on to new opportunities in 2016.
5. Are still compiling and cleaning your December 31st report.
Make that your January 5th report. Or your January 15th report. Since you’ve ramped it way down after your company’s holiday party, you have a month’s worth of work ahead of you for the first week of January, and It’s usually on or around January 11 that you realize that you need input from sales and many other colleagues to compile that meaningful report. The scramble is on gather the data you need. Sadly, business and life have moved on. Sales must close deals, now. Marketing must generate opportunities, now. There are those around you who depend on you to keep things moving forward in marketing. If you’re bogged down chasing last year’s numbers and report content instead of moving that Q1 2016 needle, you’ll become an afterthought to those working on new pursuits.
6. Think 90 days will last forever.
Planning for 2016 already started, long ago. And during the holiday season, you think that March 31 is some distant date in the future that will take its time getting here. Why worry? You’re not returning to the office until January 4, and you’ll deal with Q1 when you cross that bridge. Problem with that attitude is that January 4 quickly turns into January 15, which quickly turns into January 29. And after a short month of February, it’s March 1. Your Q1 game is essentially over.
7. Disregard important Q1 2016 dates.
In the United States, the Super Bowl has become something of an unofficial national holiday. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a national holiday. Hotly contested political primaries fill the early 2016 calendar in many US states, while the NCAA men’s basketball tournament preoccupies the business nation during the middle of March. Remember Valentine’s Day, and keep in mind that Spring Break can start for many students as early as the first week of March. (Numerous executives with high school and college age children plan family vacations around Spring Break.) Without proper planning, any or all of these events can and will chip away at your Q1 audience. And that’s just a small set of activities, predominately in the USA.
8. Are stuck in 2015.
Business storytelling was a hot topic throughout 2015. So was the introduction of new, live video streaming apps, and their radical impact on social media marketing. Don’t misunderstand, both remain critically important, but 2016 is set to quickly demand even more of you in these areas. The term “storytelling” remains vague, at best. For me, it conjures up visions of complacent marketers creating safe, highly-refined content which may or may not be visually appealing or compelling, let alone useful in any channel of communication. And it’s often missing a human component.
And at 2016’s poker table, I’ll see your incomplete business storytellers of 2015 and raise you an army of next-generation fanatics, able not only to tell passionate, solution-oriented stories, but do so across a number of traditional and non-traditional channels of customer interaction, including live, streaming video apps and platforms.
Finally, from an Investor’s Point of View
When a marketing report is compiled on March 31 and presented shortly thereafter, few investors will care about your enjoyable elongated holiday break. Sure, while inventors may vocally support the corporate allowance of time away allocated for the holidays, the Q1 reporting conversation will rapidly shift to results. Quantifiable results. Shutting marketing down to a standstill at any point throughout the year will now leave you vulnerable. And getting a slow start in 2016 will make things even worse.
Experienced marketers will know how to plan for Q1 well in advance of January 1, navigate through the holidays, enjoy earned vacation time, and jump start the New Year without missing a beat.
And even if your fiscal year doesn’t end on December 31, you can apply these end of calendar year thoughts as you plan for your next marketing report!