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The Best B2B Holiday Marketing Campaigns You Didn’t Know About

As Americans dive headfirst into deep-fried turkeys and double helpings of pumpkin pie topped with homemade whipped cream this Thursday, marketers commence the annual Olympics of business promotion: end of year holiday marketing campaigns. Which brands will topple from their pedestals this season, and which are the new favorites?

You won’t find all these campaigns on the usual lists of the best holiday marketing alongside the usual, big-name contenders, which include Coca-Cola, Fedex, and Target. Because traditional retail brands remain the consistent favorites for holiday marketing, we excluded them from our list. While consumers were browsing Christmas tree lots and scrolling through results of Amazon pages, the targets of these marketing campaigns were balancing year-end cash flows and forecasting the next year’s revenue goals.

Our contenders had to creatively skirt budget constraints, invigorate disengaged audiences, and hurdle over concrete revenue goals simultaneously.

The Best Social Amplification: Zuora, 2011

At the end of 2011, subscription billing company Zuora was in rapid growth mode. As companies tend to do when they’re growing, Zuora ran a campaign to increase social media engagement. The campaign, #Zuoraforgood, ran during the 2011 holiday season. When users followed Zuora’s Twitter handle and tweeted their favorite charity with #zuoraforgood, Zuora donated $10 to the charity mentioned. While Zuora’s campaign shamelessly took advantage of peoples’ giving nature to amass a Twitter following, we have to commend them for the follow through. Zuora could have asked for Tweets in return for a chance to win a prize, but instead, they rewarded every Tweet. Despite the motivation behind Zuora’s generosity, their Twitter campaign, which was free to run and promote, made a much better use of Q4 marketing budget than a clever video or ad campaign.

The Best Paid Lead Generation: Capterra, 2012

Most marketers assume that business professionals stop searching for business software during the Holidays, which results in a PPC lull on bidding prices. At least, that’s the theory on which Capterra capitalized last holiday season. Capterra’s site traffic had a bad habit of declining every December, but instead of cutting back on PPC budget to reflect a consistent market trend, Capterra threw caution to the wind and did the unheard of: they increased their pay-per-click ad spend right when their predictable search patterns indicated traffic was about to drop off. As it turns out, software marketers had built a self-fulling prophecy; low search traffic was stemming from decreased marketing. Capterra saw the clear solution, and turned in the opposite direction. Because of their out-of-the-box thinking, they secured higher search placement at a lower price.

The Best Free Lead Generation: Hubspot, Current

Hubspot’s holiday stock photo download offers marketers a zip file containing 250 holiday-themed stock photos. Being the targets of their own products, Hubspot’s marketers have an intimate familiarity with their customers’ holidays wish lists, and they really nailed this campaign. Most corporate marketers would include a cache of appropriately-licensed, free-of-attribution-requirements photos to attach to blog articles and marketing emails on their Christmas lists. The folks at Hubspot understand the agony that goes into an incredibly unproductive three hours spent finding and editing a single photo for the cover page of a slideshare presentation, so they’re making their customers’ and prospects’ lives a little less stressful during a season that’s already overly-stressful. The campaign also stretches the holiday season from Halloween through New Year’s–maximizing the time frame of the campaign. And best of all, they’re generating leads in the process.

The Best Customer Engagement: Zendesk, 2011

Following a creative 2010 holiday campaign that failed to pick up steam (Merry Holidays, Please Hold), Zendesk concentrated their 2011 campaign with a single Happy Holidays video that’s both sincere and hilarious. Most of the best holiday videos look like Norton’s turkey mishap video: professional advertisements that come with professional budgets. Zendesk didn’t have the budget for an expensive holiday campaign, so they adopted an approach that lends itself to low budgets: comedic video. The majority of the video comes across as a comedy skit, and it’s genuinely funny. Zendesk finds the humor in customer support–an industry that could be very staid. They also show their customers–who are customer support managers–the high esteem in which they hold customer support by making the video as a thank you to their customers.

As consumers hone their abilities to see through the veneers of pretentious marketing, creative and engaging content will stand out. We can’t wait to see what this year’s holiday marketing season will bring.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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