It's the start of October, which means we're officially entering the home stretch of 2014. It's hard to imagine where the first 75% of the year went; it's been a blur on my end. I got to thinking: what should small businesses be looking to do better in the second half of the year? I thought I would ask my network of thought leaders, entrepreneurs, and strategists, and this is what they had to say:

Marketers need to stop focusing on doing social and start focusing on being social. And that means building relationship capital with customers and partners by enabling delightful experiences at every touchpoint, holistically, throughout the holidays. And for that the organization needs to break the silos and ensure full integration of all functions across the company (Marketing, Sales, Product Development, PR, etc.). So that no matter where your customers come from, you provide immediate, relevant, value-added experiences that leaves them breathless.

-Ekaterina Walter, Global Evangelist, Sprinklr; Author

My three-step guide for winning at digital in Q4:

1) Get on Ello. Brands should always go where they're explicitly not wanted.

2) Create a smartwatch app. One that looks good on square and round screens. Who knows which shape will win?

3) Whenever you create a deck, throw around words like "native," "programmatic" and "content marketing" because those are all the future of marketing. And if all of that fails, just do what you know how to do: look at your successes from the past quarter and build on those.

-David Berkowitz, Chief Marketing Officer, MRY

Don't think that just because you are a B2B marketer that you ramp down your social advertising during the holidays. On Thanksgiving Day last year, our CTR for Sponsored Updates was significantly higher than the prior Thursday. I believe the answer lies in mobile and because your customers and prospects can engage with content anywhere, at any time, and the holidays are no different.

Chances are you have unspent budget that if you don't use this year, you'll lose it next year. Take that extra budget and ramp up the advertising around your top performing content during the holidays instead of turning it down.

-Jason Miller, Senior Manager, Content Marketing, Marketing Solutions for LinkedIn

It's important to realize that we're straddling two eras--the new one, of targeted content marketing, and the old broadcast era. We make a mistake if we're too quick to write off the past. Legacy media still carry disproportionate power, and if we want to really thrive, we need to simultaneously plan for the future by creating valuable content, and recognize the value of the past.

-Dorie Clark, HBR/Forbes contributor; author of Reinventing You

In Q4, make sure you capitalize on the increased traffic to your site. Ensure you capture new email addresses or SMS opt-ins for new visitors and take advantage of re-marketing via display and email trigger programs.

-Annmarie Frank, VP, Omni-Channel Marketing at HSN

Pick your channels wisely. There are new apps and new social networks out there every day. Yes, you might want to jump on the new one right away and be the first--Snapchat or Ello, for example--but make sure it is the right platform for your brand, especially at a busy time of year. Also ensure that you have enough staff hours to add a new network. You want to master your prime social platform, and shouldn't take on another platform unless you're ready.

-Gabrielle Zigi, Director, Digital Marketing, Firebrand Group

Test, test, and test again! Make sure you determine what platform would be good for your business. If you run a restaurant, it might be Instagram or Pinterest. If you have a consulting firm, it might be Facebook or Twitter. But no matter what business you have, I urge everyone to blog on LinkedIn. There is so much potential with that platform.

-Sean Gardner, Forbes #1 Social Media Power Influencer & Digital Consultant, Keynote Speaker, Author, Huffington Post Columnist

Look to the art of storytelling. We've allowed ourselves to be seduced by the brevity of a tweet or text message and are forgetting the power of the story. As human beings, we long to be connected to others and storytelling has been our magnet and glue for centuries. Take time to go deeper and reach into the heart and soul of who you are and what you do.

Share that with others in your favorite social networks and on your site. Foster longer-lasting and more meaningful connections. Nobody ever said social media should be a quick hit or a quick fix. People crave--and will take time for--more if it has meaning.

-Aliza Sherman, Web Pioneer, Author, Public Speaker, Digital Marketer

How about you? I'm curious if you agree or disagree with any of the above. What's been your secret to Q4 success in the past? What new techniques will you be trying in Q4 this year?

Published on: Oct 7, 2014
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.