By Brian Hansford, account director and marketing automation practice lead for Heinz Marketing

The fourth quarter of a fiscal year for any organization is typically strong in terms of sales and revenue generation. It doesn’t matter if the fiscal year follows a calendar year or a variation like Microsoft’s that ends in June.

The challenge for marketing and sales is clearing the funnel with the most qualified Q4 opportunities. Marketing should also look ahead to keeping a pipeline flowing into Q1 of the following fiscal year.

In an ideal world, Q4 activity should be part of an annual plan. And planning for the new fiscal year should be well under way. Sadly, many organizations operate with a sense of panic in the last fiscal quarter, when a sense of focused urgency is better.

So how can an organization work to nurture the best opportunities in the shortest period of time and clear the Q4 funnel? Here are four ideas to consider.

1. Focus on Accelerating Evaluation Cycles and Validating Purchase Decisions
Well-designed demand generation strategies should include ongoing lead nurturing campaigns. Prospects in the early awareness stage may not bring the accelerated sales for some B2B organizations in the fourth quarter. Of course this depends on the length of the buying/sales cycle.

The demand generation team should collaborate with the sales teams to focus efforts middle and bottom of the funnel where evaluations are well underway and purchase decisions are pending. High value content specifically focused for the stages helps accelerate and confirm decisions as the right ones to make. This leads to the second point….

2. Re-purpose & Re-use Existing Content
Q4 may not always be the best time to kick off major content development projects such as white papers, new development of flash demos, etc. However there may be existing high value content that can easily be re-purposed and re-used in multiple formats. For example, re-purpose, edit and reformat white paper content into blog posts, webcast, simple YouTube videos or Slideshare presentations. Don’t reinvent the wheel or kick off major content projects if the time, people, and money don’t allow for it.

3. Reporting and Analysis
The saying “if you can’t measure, you can’t manage” applies here. Proper reporting should be an ongoing practice but it is especially important in the fourth quarter. Demand generation teams and sales management can both benefit from increased reporting frequency in the fourth quarter. Reports from marketing automation and CRM systems can identify bottlenecks in forecasts and funnels.

Reporting also highlights performance issues with individual sales representatives and channel partners. (I do not mean to imply Big Brother monitoring. Reporting can identify positive opportunities for performance coaching and improvement.) Focus on the right data. Click-thrus and impressions are meaningless unless presented with an explicit direct correlation to how they impact revenue.

4. Chicago ‘Voting Style’ Communication – Early and Often
Poor communications leads to pain and problems. Marketing and sales need tight alignment in Q4. Align around the common goal of winning business! The marketing and demand generation teams should always prepare sales for upcoming promotions, campaigns, supporting content and tools. The communication should reflect up to minute reporting and analysis of funnel flow should be reported frequently as well as the sales forecast.

Don’t rely exclusively on email or portals for these communication sessions. Talk and meet in person! With the right frequency and duration, these sessions lead to problem-solving action and powerful collaboration. (And sales managers, don’t blow off these meetings without notice! Sorry to typecast, but I have to call that out because it happens a lot.)

Finish your fiscal year strong and make this a great Q4! Focus on the right areas of execution, analyze and communicate!