Q4 is over, and with it, the inevitable rush to execute and scale marketing programs designed to somehow, magically, help a company makes its Q4 and year-end numbers. Spoiler alert: no amount of Q4 spend – not even with intent data, ABM, conversational marketing (chat), content experience and any other bells and whistles you might have at your disposal – will enable you to suddenly make up for leads and opportunities that should have been developed weeks and months ago.

You can write off the Q4 Revenue Scramble as just “the way business works,” or you can start the new year by putting in place the kind of planning and foundational demand gen programs that will minimize, or even eliminate, the mad dash for the finish line 9-10 months later.

The cold hard reality is that successful B2B demand generation takes time. If, say, you’re marketing enterprise software and your typical sales cycle is 6-9 months, are there marketing tactics that will enable you to make your sales numbers if only executed in Q4? Chances are: not likely.

Here are 4 steps you can take starting NOW to eliminate headaches later in the year:

Define how many leads you need to hit your numbers.

Yes, I realize the traditional lead funnel has officially been declared outdated, but calculating how many raw inquiries it’s going to require to generate the number of MQLs, pipeline, deals and revenue to hit your 2020 targets is still a useful exercise. Here’s a free online calculator that makes the process easy, even if you don’t know your current conversion metrics.

If nothing else, knowing even approximately how many leads you need to generate to hit your goals will allow you to budget and scale your demand generation efforts appropriately, at a level that will minimize shortfalls later in the year.

Build foundational programs that scale easily.

Some demand generation programs scale more easily and quickly than others. Inbound, “always on” programs like content syndication, paid social advertising, and paid search (SEM) can be accelerated quickly with additional spend (within limits, of course) and, moreover, help create a building block of early-stage leads that can nurtured throughout the year to convert before year-end. Without those foundational programs already in place, and without the leads they generate, it’s much more difficult to design, launch and execute any kind of effective, new demand generation program in a tight window.

Don’t neglect the mid-funnel.

I have ceased to be surprised when, come Q4, companies believe they can somehow make their numbers by generating new, “hot” leads that will magically close in half the time it normally takes to strike a deal. But, yet, it happens. Whereas, the reality is that most Q4 deals originate with leads that were generated months earlier. That means two things: one, generate more leads earlier in the year. Two, invest in programs like lead nurturing, Webinars, and conversational marketing (chat), designed to get existing prospects to take the next step and engage with sales. You will not hit your targets on the back of new Q4 leads. Instead, generate those leads early in the year and put everything in place to see that they convert to revenue before year-end.

Start building your ABM program early.

Account-Based Marketing (ABM) has gained the reputation as a “cure all” for everything that ails B2B marketing. Indeed, for most companies, and as a complement to more traditional, funnel-based programs, ABM can generate larger opportunities that are more likely to close. Even so, that doesn’t therefore mean that you can decide on October 1 to “do ABM,” and expect to somehow create any kind of legitimate ABM strategy that delivers results by December 31.

Most such year-end ABM efforts inevitably distill down into some version of “ABM Lite” – that is, target account campaigns absent any of the kind of strategic planning, personalization, content assessment, buyer definition, and other groundwork that are the hallmarks of a successful ABM program.

The lesson? If 2020 is your year to “do ABM,” start early and invest the time to properly plan and design a true ABM strategy, one that is more likely to pay real dividends by year-end.

Thanks to Hana Jacover, Spear Group Account Director, for the inspiration for this post.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash