Woman in hooded fur coat looking down at phone. Holiday lights in the background.

We’re used to thinking of seasonal bargains as something that happens in November with shoppers searching for deals on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. However, for marketers, the real opportunity comes slightly later in the season. When thoughts turn to hanging stockings by chimneys with care, those in the know are busy scooping up a different type of gift from Santa.

LinkedIn data shows that the holidays represent the most undervalued media opportunity of the year. It’s one that you can unwrap with an always-on strategy that keeps your campaigns running all the way through to 2021.

If there’s been a silver lining to 2020, it’s the fact that most businesses have never been more aware of the contribution that marketing makes to growth. However, repaying that faith, and securing marketing’s more prominent role across the business, has involved boxing clever with budget and doing more with less.

It’s also involved dealing with extra competition for attention. With the pivot away from in-person events and reduced reach for print and outdoor media, marketers of all types are doubling down on digital. The question we hear advertisers asking most often is: how do I stand out from the crowd?

What those marketers would really like for the holidays is a period of time when the competition shuts down, when the cost of reaching and engaging your audience reduces significantly, and when you can start to build a foundation for your return to growth strategy in 2021.

The really good news? That’s exactly what happens every holiday season – at least for marketers who follow an always-on strategy and keep their LinkedIn campaigns running

Standing out by staying always-on

I realize that this sounds counter-intuitive. We tend to assume that our audiences are too busy enjoying a well-earned break at this time of year to worry about checking social media feeds – and definitely too busy relaxing to start reading content or considering marketing messages.

However, the data on engagement, clicks and cost of advertising tells a very different story. It’s true that overall engagement on LinkedIn dips during the last two weeks of December and the start of January. After all, there’s a lot of cooking, feasting, family games and curling up in front of old movies to be done. However, just because the frequency of engagement reduces doesn’t mean that people aren’t engaging at all. When they take some time to catch up on their feed, they still pay attention and they still take action.

What really happens to LinkedIn audiences over the holidays

Data from Comscore has found that cross-platform activity on LinkedIn remains consistent throughout the year, busting the myth that professional audiences don’t engage with content during the holidays. Add in the fact that activity on LinkedIn has increased significantly during the pandemic and you have an audience in the habit of checking their feed who won’t break that habit when the decorations go up. Conversations between connections on LinkedIn were up 55% year on year earlier this year – and content creation increased by 60%. Audiences are more engaged than ever, and they are likely to stay that way over the coming month.

Spreading good cheer throughout the funnel

The crucial difference is that, because so many marketers pause their campaigns over the holiday period, those audiences are more likely to see your ad, remember your ad – and respond to your ad. Reduced competition means that marketers who continue to advertise through to the New Year find themselves paying a lot less for the attention they capture and the demand they generate.

Between 16 December 2019 and 6 January 2020, overall engagement on LinkedIn dipped by 13% compared to the previous two months. However, click-through rates headed in the opposite direction fast, increasing by 25% over the same period. Audiences were relatively more likely to engage deeply, to follow-up on the ideas they encountered and to take action. Over the holidays, the quality of attention on LinkedIn intensifies.

This delivers a double end-of-year bonus to LinkedIn campaigns that keep running over the festive period. Not only do they continue to generate quality reach and engagement, they also find themselves paying less for that reach and engagement as others pause their campaigns and competition drops off. Last holiday season, the average cost per click (CPC) for campaigns running on LinkedIn dropped 15%. Cost per impression (CPM) dropped by the same amount while cost per lead (CPL) reduced by 22%. The good cheer spreads throughout the funnel.

For marketers planning how to drive growth on limited budgets, this holiday effect comes at just the right time. It’s able to support all of the key elements in a return to growth strategy – and give your campaigns a helpful push into 2021:

Build broader awareness and salience

Data from previous downturns shows that the brands able to maintain or increase their Share of Voice (SOV) recover more strongly and gain Share of Market (SOM) during the recovery period. With fewer competitive bids over the holidays, there’s an opportunity to translate your available budget into wider reach, increasing the range of buyers and influencers exposed to your ads.

Demonstrate relevance to buyers planning ahead

LinkedIn research has shown that 73% of B2B decision-makers research products during the evening, and 51% do so at weekends. This indicates why the holidays can be such a crucial one for decision-makers planning for an unpredictable year ahead. The break from daily Zoom calls and virtual meetings offers a valuable opportunity to recharge – but also a breathing space for working out what businesses need to function effectively in a changed environment. Bringing out the relevance of your solutions to different segments and buyer personas helps to make that time worthwhile

Generate qualified leads for sales

Sales have never been more aware of the value of properly qualified marketing leads than they are today. Strong click-through rates and lower CPLs over the holidays provide a great opportunity to explore valuable new sources of demand, generate relevant leads and start nurturing those leads. Retargeting on the basis of engagement with LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms or video views can give you a pool of multi-touch, qualified leads. And that can help your sales colleagues really hit the ground running next year.

This holiday season will feel different – but also more important than ever. It’s an opportunity to recharge but also to take stock and to start looking ahead. Keeping campaigns running makes your business a part of that process – and that’s something that audiences, your sales team and your CFO will respond to.

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