The holidays are a great time for friends, family, celebration ... and b-to-b marketing. According to Katie Hollar, marketing manager at online software database service Capterra Inc., lots of marketers back off on their marketing efforts in December, even though it's a perfect time to run a holiday-themed campaign. “When we talk to companies around the year-end and give advice about getting leads, we notice that a lot of companies lower their budgets in December,” Hollar said. “But we always encourage companies to advertise in December. It's great because you can get increased visibility compared to your competitors, who might not be advertising as much.” Capterra is in a good position to observe holiday marketing trends. Not only does the company run its own b-to-b marketing campaigns, hoping to attract both software vendors and companies looking for software into its database, it also helps advise client companies on their own marketing efforts. “Software tends to be a long buying cycle,” she said. “So it makes sense to run ads in Q4 because Q1 is such a strong buying time.” The idea behind effective holiday advertising is to keep it light and nonpushy. The end of the year is a good time, Hollar said, for thanking clients, sending out messages of appreciation, light-hearted and funny content, and raising visibility without a hard sales push. “People are thinking of other things,” she said. “Sometimes a simple thank-you to existing customers is a great way to score sales in the next year. And I think this isn't something people would mark as spam.” Examples of this kind of advertising include the HubSpot unicorn spoofing the “Twelve Days of Christmas” and Marketo's “Greeting Maker,” which allows people to easily make greeting cards with prompts like “I'd love to see my _______ make a scene at the holiday party.” There is a fine line in holiday advertising, said Adam Q. Holden-Bache, CEO of Mass Transmit, an email marketing company. You want to have fun—like the holiday-themed broker/agent “sledding” game he designed for a major insurance company—without crossing the line or offending any religious sensibilities. This means it's OK to produce games like online sled races or landing pages with snowball fights, but most marketers should steer clear of explicit religious language or any content that pokes fun at religious traditions that observe year-end holidays. Holden-Bache also said that holiday-themed campaigns aren't usually measured the same way as traditional marketing campaigns. Because they tend to be more light-hearted and less focused on strict lead generation, they don't need to be held to the same rigorous metrics. Instead, he recommended looking at such metrics as number of shares or length of duration rather than conversions. If you do decide to offer reduced prices or some other deal in a holiday marketing campaign, Capterra's Hollar said, “Be careful not to offend people who just signed up for your product, before the campaign began.” “The whole point is to provide a thank-you,” Holden-Bache said.