Seasonal sales slowdowns is an unfortunate but expected trait of the B2B market. Many companies believe that fighting this phenomenon is useless and even pointless. So, once or even twice a year, demand for products and services in B2B industry (and even in B2C) shows a decline of at least 40-60% (and up to 100% in some segments). In such a situation 3-5% of companies that have not prepared a financial soft cushion will usually go out of business. Despite the usual fluctuations of the Ukrainian market, a competent marketing specialist with an experienced team can completely prevent this situation. Classically, elements of PR, price adjustments and even means of staff motivating are used. But in our case we became more deeply involved with the client’s problems and took a course that was rational but away from the beaten path.
Good clothes open all doors…
We were contacted by the director of a company selling and installing boiler equipment, B2B and B2C. Expecting the usual (as it turned out) sales reduction in the period from November to February, the company suddenly (almost in the end of the low season) decided to sort out the profits decrease. After all, they needed to buy the raw materials for production at reduced prices for a warehouse, and there was no cash cushion either.
“We will definitely fail this project!”
It would seem that the goal was out of reach: to show sales growth by the 40-60% during what was just a very unfavorable period. But we did not give up just yet.
What did we get to work with from the client?
- A really competitive product.
- Almost a working sales department (more precisely, one specialist is a thoroughly learned woman who knows all about boilers, probably even more than their designers).
- A classic “corporate catalogue” website.
- An impressive YouTube channel.
- Willingness to work according to all the canons of marketing (well, almost).
That is all there was to it. So, we had to set goals and KPI for ourselves, conduct a brand new marketing analysis and develop a greenfield strategy. And with the clock ticking, it turned out to be a really titanic effort.
Where may the client be found?
The most difficult thing for a marketing specialist is not to implement the strategy, but to convince the owner of the business of its adequacy. And here one has to balance pleasing the customer with actually making changes. In this case…
- A very weak system of both accounting and automation of work (this is despite the fact that the client operates in the mixed “dealers-end consumer” segment. The only tool is a CRM system, and the one without any proper configuration and integration.
- A complex order processing system that “lost” customers who were on the verge of buying.
- Despite an advanced YouTube channel and the presence of a basic website, there was a complete lack of an e-marketing strategy (as well as working channels).
- Also, there were no correctly configured analytical tools.
If the first paragraphs are standard for the most companies, the last one surprised us, because the company’s management was fully convinced that Internet sales were practically nil. Social networks are only for the adolescents, they thought, confident that the audience of the company “is not there”. It would seem that management should know its target audience better than even the marketing specialists. But this case is very revealing of the facts… Although we were not happy to make the discovery.
“The same thing over and over!”
Yes, we started by analyzing the competitors, building a portrait of a target audience, developing a customer journey map.
Reference points we got:
In fact, this became the roadmap for us: what to do, in which direction to improve, and how to turn the change to practical applications, which means profit.
- Introduce SMM. Yes, this is the main sore point in connection with the commitments of the management.
- Targeted ads.
- Search advertising + Google Shopping
- Implementing a full SEO promotion
Why did we choose these tools? If it seems to you that we had picked what we knew best, you are mistaken…
A small rundown: according to the GfK Ukraine analytical agency, more than 20 million people are active Internet users in modern Ukraine. Of these, 36% regularly shop online.
This is the percentage for which we have the off-season sales shocks. We planned to make up the remaining sales volume with optimization and automation of business processes on all levels. And this paid off nicely, as we will now explain.
SEO as an integral part of networking
Understanding what to deal with comes only in the process of analysis. Yes, we did an SEO audit. And not only for our website, but also a full analysis of competitors’ SEO. As a result of the audit, a budget was drawn up, a plan has been prepared, and benchmarks have been outlined. The start of integrated keyword optimization had been scheduled 3 months before the start of the new season.
Google Shopping: value for money
Google Shopping is a classic tool for the on-line stores and on-line catalogues. But in the mixed niche of the middle price segment, it will not provide high indicator values. However, being affordable (the cost of a click is 4 times lower than with keyword advertising), this is an excellent tool still. It will make shopping more convenient for those customers who are willing and looking for the most comfortable option.
Search engine advertising is more than just to “buy”.
When it comes to contextual advertising, everyone usually focuses only on commercial queries. Yet engaging the audience, in our experience, is possible using informative content. We already had a powerful video content tool from the get-go. Along with getting information like “how”, “which model to choose”, “how do they differ”, the client fell into the clutches of our company at different stages of the purchasing decision-making chain. In addition to a larger audience reach, we brought other features:
- Dynamic call tracking.
- Grouping the semantic kernel by the queries categories of both our client and its main competitors.
- Google Shopping product-centred advertisement.
- Attraction of audience through a keyword advertising.
- Dynamic search ads.
- PPC with development of animated banners;
- Dynamic and product-oriented remarketing.
- Video advertising.
Thus, working with various groups of queries, videos, expert content, and relying on the detailed “purchase path” of the buyer we had envisioned, we managed to set up a whole marketing system. We worked in such a way that the client could find our company and apply at different stages of the transaction, even without visiting the website.
Targeted advertising – working with “our” audience
The key problem of any targeted advertising is searching for targeted interests. How to pull the strings to be noticed? And we faced this problem. But experience and complete commitment to particulars of every client’s business gave us insight into all the hidden motives. Thus, we were able to accurately customize the product remarketing using feeds and targeted ads. In addition, we also captured “the random people” – a possible audience based on the target portrait according to common interests and related criteria.
SMM — is our Sisyphean toil
Traditionally customizing of social network advertising is a titanic work, but it turned out to be a trifling matter for us. But here we came up against the client’s conviction that its target audience is not there, and that competition sells elsewhere and we ought to go to the source etc. – the most difficult point in a relationship, and really a problem for many companies.
A little bit of statistics: in 2019 companies were estimated to have spent up to 40% of the advertising budget without any effect. And the inefficiency came not so much from the channels and instruments as in the portrait of the target audience.
The fault here is neither with the client himself, nor its target audience, but the market in general. The usual business scheme: to sell, no matter who the buyer is, thank you so much for visiting.
A well-configured CRM system could correct this course of events, together with detailed information about customers, plus it would help to have data on customer behavior at different stages of transactions. But here too, we had nothing to go on.
Of course, we provided the company with comprehensive recommendations for the future, and misunderstanding of a target audience, as it turned out, is not the only difficulty, but it is worthy of special regard.
Through persuasion, convincing, argumentation, requests and even threats (just kidding!), we did get an advertising social networks budget. And not for nothing, indeed.
Implementing everything simultaneously, we gradually got:
As can be seen from the analytics (yes, we also introduced a system, ta-da!), the main channel for attracting customers is precisely the social networks.
Multichannel (associated conversions) looked as follows (after 2 weeks):
But here there surfaced a problem that could simply destroy our work and several years’ worth of business for the client: total inability to control and capture every warm client.
Almost 42% of incoming calls (and, therefore, 42% of potential buyers and profits) have been simply lost, thanks to poor call tracking.
Despite this, we performed as follows:
Given the goal of 50 leads per month – this is at least a six-fold improvement!
To say that the customer was impressed does not do the company justice. They are ready to take a second firm to improve the marketing strategy and is now on the verge of starting an integrated SEO for the boiler business.
Seasonal sales declines: what you need to understand
When it comes to seasonal declines in profits, this is important and needs to be fought. And not with one-time promotions or temporary campaigns, but with a thorough analysis of the marketing strategy. For any, EVERY company, it is important to:
- Have comprehensive, well-configured analytics tools to understand the weaknesses of one’s marketing.
- Systems of business optimization and automation, in which all the information about customers will be complete.
- Offline conversion accounting systems (long live call tracking!).
In this company’s case, these points would have allowed them to avoid a number of problems from the very beginning:
- Misunderstandings about the target audience.
- Lack of accounting for applications, sales, pending transactions.
- Weaknesses in the sales department (staff shortages, incompetence … the list goes on and on).