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Dates Every Marketer Needs to Know in 2021: Where to Focus Q1, Q2, Q3, and Q4

The business world undeniably runs on quarters, with most teams and organizations setting goals for each three-month period throughout the year. While many marketers also set goals on a quarterly basis, it’s often assumed that marketing doesn’t quite shift throughout the year like other disciplines might. For example, many marketing efforts run consistently throughout the year or have long-term implications, like SEO strategies or social media content plans.

While you don’t have to uproot these long-term efforts just to match the quarter system, the quarter system does lend a useful structure and cadence to marketing. So, here’s our breakdown of the year from a marketing perspective. We’ll go through Q1, Q2, Q3, and Q4 and highlight the unique elements of each period for marketers to take advantage of this year.

Let’s start at the beginning with Q1.

Marketing Strategy for Q1

For the uninitiated, Q1 consists of the months of January, February, and March. It’s the start of the year, which means that it’s when many companies are setting new goals or committing to new quotas. It’s also when many brands pivot their strategies slightly to take into consideration what worked—and what didn’t work—last year.

If you don’t already implement last year’s learnings in Q1, that’s a great place to start. Take stock of your marketing tactics from the previous year, evaluate how each performed according to your goals and KPIs, and note anything you want to leave behind for the new year. Then, think about what you might replace your underperforming efforts with. (Our guide for setting and spending your marketing budget each year can help—here’s 2021’s version.)

If you have room in the budget to start something new, brainstorm your options. Take a look at the latest trends and assess their value in your strategy. Consider taking on an irregular project, like updating your website or developing new brand materials. Or, invest more heavily in something that’s already working well. Then, craft your new year’s plan accordingly.

While brands enjoy this clean slate at the beginning of the year to try something new, consumers do, too. Q1 is the time for New Year’s Resolutions, which often lends itself to a big sales boost for brands that can align themselves with wellness and self-improvement. If that applies to your brand, consider how you can reach your prospective customers when they’re planning for their new and improved year.

Other key events that take place in Q1:

  • The beginning of tax season, for those who get it out of the way early. For B2C brands, this may mean that prospective customers have an influx of cash in February and March from tax refunds.
  • Super Bowl Sunday! This is an especially important moment for advertising, so plan ahead if you want to get in on the action. It’s a great time to distribute video content (after all, Super Bowl ads are famous for a reason) or get creative with other out-of-the-box marketing tactics.
  • Valentine’s Day. Whether you love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day is a consumer holiday, and it opens up opportunities to get creative with your products. Consumers are shopping for spouses and significant others, but they’re also shopping for themselves, their families and friends, and even their pets. And definitely don’t ignore the single crowd—they’re shopping too!
  • President’s Day, a common “sale” holiday. If you want to have a big Q1 sale, President’s Day Weekend is often a great time to do it. Consumers will be expecting discounts at this time, however, which may mean slower sales in the weeks leading up to the holiday.
  • Spring product line releases. Fashion, jewelry, and interior design brands will most clearly align with this trend, but consider whether your product or service can line up with the anticipation of spring.
  • Spring break for most students. March is typically the month of spring break for students of all ages, which often means travel. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to connect with these consumers.

Marketing Strategy for Q2

Q2 (April, May, and June) brings warmer temperatures, the end of the school year, and the beginning of wedding and travel seasons for many consumers. For brands, it’s also an opportunity to sell products and experiences that bring people out of their homes after cold winters.

Another consideration: Q3 is the peak of summer and Q4 is holiday season, so companies with a B2B sales strategy may want to double down on selling efforts in Q2. Decision-making may be slower in Q3 and Q4 as employees use PTO throughout the summer and then settle in for the holidays. While you can definitely still close deals in Q3 and Q4, the process may be quicker and easier when the bulk of the decision is made in Q2.

Other key events that take place in Q2:

  • The end of tax season, for those who just barely beat the deadline. Again, this may mean that prospective customers have an influx of cash from tax refunds.
  • Memorial Day Weekend, another common “sale” weekend. As with President’s Day, you may be able to capitalize on the consumer spending by drawing in additional sales, but as consumers will be expecting discounts, you may see a drop in sales in the days and weeks leading up to the holiday.
  • The beginning of summer! Consumers may be making travel plans, buying warm weather clothes, and spending more time outside with the longer daylight hours. Parents may also be thinking about activities, camps, and other options for keeping kids entertained and active while school is out. If you have a solution for these customers, make sure to promote it!

Marketing Strategy for Q3

Ah, Q3. The months of July, August, and September include the peak of summer and back-to-school season for families and students. It’s a time for travel, the height of wedding season, and, ultimately, a return to routine when the school year begins.

As we mentioned earlier, one shift that takes place in Q3 is that many employees begin to use PTO more frequently, beginning now and continuing through the end of the year. For some teams, this may mean that purchase decisions for B2B products and services are more difficult to lock down.

B2C companies, for their part, often see an uptick in spending in Q3 as consumers purchase vacation gear or wedding presents for loved ones. The increase in daylight hours can also affect spending, leading people (especially in colder climates) who holed up for the winter months to spend more time (and money) out of their houses.

It’s a great time for spending on outdoor events, date night meals and activities, and other excuses to get out of the house to take advantage of the warmer weather and longer days.

Other key events that take place in Q3:

  • The Fourth of July, another “sale” holiday weekend. The same considerations apply: It’s a great time to run a sale and capture an uptick in customer transactions, but you may notice slower sales in the days and weeks beforehand.
  • Back to School sales and product lines for kids and parents. Back to School season in August and September can sometimes feel a bit like a mini-New Year’s Resolution season. It’s a time that emphasizes self-improvement, organization, and a return to routine and structure. If your brand has anything to do with these themes, it’s a great time to lean into them.

Marketing Strategy for Q4

Time to wrap up the year with Q4, or the months of October, November, and December. Q4 is traditionally associated with a ton of consumer spending, as it aligns with the holiday season and vast amounts of gift-giving. While B2C brands will get the bulk of this business, B2B brands may be able to take advantage of a few key benefits.

First, companies may have leftover money in the budget to allocate during Q4—money that they might be actively looking to spend. This can be a great time to convince teams to take on irregular projects like a website update or software upgrade.

Also, while some teams won’t entertain B2B sales during this time because of holiday interruptions, other teams will have lighter workloads than usual and may have more time available to learn about product or service offerings.

For B2C brands, the opportunities to reach customers are virtually endless. Marketers often align sales with this time of year, especially Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but it’s also a great time to focus on building an authentic relationship with your audience and leaning into themes of love, appreciation, and connection.

Other key events that take place in Q4:

  • Halloween. This holiday typically correlates most closely with a spike in costumes and candy sales, but other brands can capitalize on the spooky sentiment.
  • Thanksgiving and Black Friday. The consumer-favorite long weekend for gratitude… and shopping. The difference with this iconic sale weekend (and month, really) compared to the sales in other quarters is that this time, consumers are shopping for all their loved ones at once. Consider how your products or services might serve as gifts, then make sure that connection is clear to your customers.
  • December holidays, including Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. Many consumers will be spending time with loved ones during these festivities, and most will also be exchanging gifts. While you may be tempted to focus on selling products during these months, don’t forget that it’s also a great time to connect with your audience and foster feelings of togetherness.
  • New Year’s Eve and preparation for New Year’s Resolutions. Because many New Year’s Resolutions are decided in advance, consumer spending for workout gear and other self-improvement items goes up in December. If you wait until January to begin speaking to this crowd, you might be too late!

Closing Thoughts

As you can see, each quarter presents its own opportunities and challenges for marketers. However, you’re much more likely to be able to capitalize on the benefits and mitigate the downsides if you’ve planned in advance.

Keep in mind that if you don’t start planning for each quarter until it begins, you’ll be behind and have a hard time creating the campaigns, content, and other assets that you’ll need to execute on your strategy. This is doubly true wherever your plans include video—if you know your approach to coming quarters in advance, you’ll have time to work with production experts to make the perfect high-quality content before the new quarter rolls around.

Why does this matter? Your customers can almost always tell the difference between a campaign or tactic that was prepared in advance and thoughtfully executed, and one that was thrown together at the last minute without much forethought. We promise that you want to be in the former category!

So, use this guide to prepare for future quarters and get creative with the ways you engage with your audience. As you can see, there’s a lot going on throughout the year, and there are undoubtedly fun new ways to connect with your audience that you haven’t yet uncovered. Happy planning!