15 overlooked subjects and skills schools should teach before students enter the workforce

Educational institutions play a crucial role in helping students of all ages prepare for the world of work. In addition to the grounding they receive early on in both hard and soft skills, many choose to pursue higher education to help prepare them for a career in their chosen field of study. However, the world of work changes constantly and rapidly, and the curricula offered by educational institutions don’t always cover evolving trends.

The Business Journals

So what kind of knowledge should educational institutions offer to better prepare graduates for the new working world? We asked the members of Business Journals Leadership Trust about some often-overlooked subjects or skills that would help students as they enter the modern workforce. Here are the skills they believe students should hone while they’re still in school.

1. STEM subjects
The critical skills necessary for even basic 21st-century jobs and lifelong security involve some level of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) literacy. The pivotal, life-altering decision to advance those skills must be made in middle school; if you’ve waited until high school to engage student interest, you’ve waited too long. Schools should incorporate STEM activities in elementary school. – Paula Grisanti, National Stem Cell Foundation

2. Critical thinking
Today, information is at our fingertips. By using an intentional approach to critically think about things we see and hear, we are less susceptible to misinformation, stagnant personal growth and manipulation. More critical thinking leads to a more “common-sense,” thoughtful approach to solving problems. – Kenneth Croston, Electronic Locksmith, Inc.

3. Time management
Today’s students would be better prepared to enter the workforce if there was a class taught on time management. Being disciplined with your time is an important skill, as is developing ways to focus on those tasks that are high in priority in favor of those tasks that are lower in priority. – Anita Kiehl-Quarles, A. Quarles CPA, PLLC

4. Problem-solving
I believe educational institutions need to do a better job of teaching core problem-solving skills. My children come home with a lot of assignments that require rote memorization. In the business world, there are many problems and situations to solve that don’t have obvious solutions. The more practice students can get solving different problems, the better prepared they will be for the workforce. – Matt Rosen, Allata

5. Marketing
A hard skill all students should learn is marketing. No matter the industry, clients must be acquired, and who better to recruit new clients than your own family of employees? From a soft skill perspective, students must learn how to problem-solve. The employees who stand out the most to me are the ones who say, “We have this problem, but here is a solution I have come up with to fix it.” – Shannon Laine, HealthWorks! Kids’ Museum St. Louis

6. Business basics
I have a student in college now and an often-overlooked approach is real business scenarios that students can work through to show their creativity. There are wasted resources in areas and classes that will not impact a future employee or potential owner of a business. Fostering a true understanding of the core basics of business and not just the theories is often missed. – Phil Gibson, CatylystOne

7. Teamwork and collaboration
Work is all about collaboration with people, both in person and virtually. It’s important for educational institutions to foster teamwork and communication and to teach students how to set mutually agreed-upon team goals at the beginning of a project. An individualized approach to work will not take an employee far unless they are trained to be a team player first and then, eventually, a team leader. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

8. Written communication
Students should master communication skills, particularly in written form. The ability to convey information persuasively is an essential component of any business relationship. Whether you’re writing an introductory business letter, an informational email or intriguing website copy, the ability to employ proper grammar, syntax and punctuation is critical in creating effective written communication. – Robert Antes, TradeTrans Corp.

9. Public speaking
The Speech 101 class that I took in college had a big impact on me — in business, on stage, in church and in the boardroom. The challenge today is that many people have grown accustomed to virtual communication via texting or social posting. Gone are the experiences of a phone conversation or getting up in front of others and sharing thoughts. Get a leg up on your peers and take Speech 101. – Keith Woods, KB Woods Public Relations

10. Psychology
A basic psychology course — including current best thinking on personality typing and understanding the different preferences and skill sets of colleagues and teams — would help, as would a course on the history of how politics influences business. As global history repeats itself both politically and in our public health crisis, it’s important to learn from and not repeat mistakes of the past. – Cheryl Williams, Hudgins Williams Associates

11. Sales
Sales is something that needs a lot more focus in school. It has been 20 years since I was in business school, but we didn’t have a single class on sales. This has always struck me as odd. Sales is the lifeblood of any company, no matter the business. Even if somebody doesn’t directly work in sales, the skills learned from it will come in very handy when it comes to career advancement. – Ben Buzbee, Today’s RDH

12. Empathy
Empathy, often considered a soft skill, is key to success in the workforce. With different demographics all competing for similar positions, understanding where someone else is coming from can be a game-changer. – Rachel Namoff, Arapaho Asset Management

13. Coding
As the world evolves into a hybrid of technology blended with everything else, people who understand the basics of technology will find themselves at the top of the workforce. Coding will be as essential in the next 20 years as basic word processing programs became over the last 20 years. – Brock Berry, AdCellerant

14. Finance
Finance — both business and personal — should be taught to every student. Understanding how money is made by organizations and what you need to do to manage your personal finances are skills that will help you succeed in any career. – Laura Doehle, Elevation Business Consulting

15. Real-world experience
Real-life training and application of education is the missing link in many educational environments. As important as it is to hone your skills in time management, working with others, setting goals, achieving your benchmarks, etc., it is equally important to have real-world experience in your area of study so you know what lies ahead and you can be better prepared. – Merrill Stewart, Marketing & Business Solutions LLC

14 strategies to help you and your team combat burnout

Burnout can impact any professional if they don’t proactively work to address it. For most, vacations and time with family and friends are the go-to remedies, but with the current pandemic making such activities risky, many are feeling mental, physical and emotional exhaustion that far exceeds the usual workaday weariness.

The Business Journals

So how do you stay focused and inspired in today’s climate? We asked the members of Business Journals Leadership Trust how they are avoiding burnout and supporting their team members during this period of prolonged stress.

1. Shut down the office early on Fridays.
As long as we are on track, we shut the office down early on Fridays. We are also trying to take employees out for special lunches, and we encourage employees to find something engaging to get involved in outside work, such as running, biking, golf, etc. – Douglas Carter, Ironside Human Resources

2. Draw hard lines between work and life at home.
Work and life are co-existing in our homes unlike ever before. It’s always a challenge to disconnect, but it is imperative to draw some real lines of separation. In pre-pandemic times, I would turn off my technology twice each year for vacation. In April, I started turning off my technology every other weekend. – Lisa Levy, Lcubed Consulting Inc.

3. Follow your natural biorhythms.
To combat burnout, I’ve been exercising and sleeping more, eating better, and taking more time for personal breaks during the workday. Conversely, I also follow my natural biorhythms and work later, earlier or on weekends when the mood strikes, since I get plenty of quality time with the family thanks to Covid-19. As a result, I’m more productive and inspired than before the pandemic. – Kent Lewis, Anvil Media, Inc.

4. Work from different places if possible.
I am someone who just cannot sit behind a desk all day — I have to be up and moving around. I work from varied places to feel better in these difficult times. We have offices in two different types of locations, and I make sure that I spend time in each of them accordingly. If I work from home, I make sure that I am not just sitting all day. A change in scenery is good for people. – Brandy McCombs, IBC

5. Prioritize self-care.
Self-care is the only way to avoid burnout right now. That means taking breaks from work, decompressing, finding ways to relax and rejuvenate on a personal level and giving yourself a break from time to time. We are all in incredibly stressful situations, whether we are working too many hours or trying to juggle everything at home. Without doing what you need to do to unwind, you will burn out. – Laura Doehle, Elevation Business Consulting

6. Set personal goals outside of work.
I’ve made it a point to set both small and large goals to give me a reason to put work down and pick something else up. This has ranged from setting aside time each day to read to working on larger personal projects. Having these goals provides both something to look forward to after (or before) work and the mental break to recharge. – David Kennedy, Corona Insights

7. Take a personal time out.
It is important to schedule time for me, especially when juggling clients, work, kids’ schedules and virtual school. I schedule 15-minute breaks, take a walk outside and regroup. Make sure you schedule these time outs—if it’s not on my calendar it doesn’t happen. – Merrill Stewart, Marketing & Business Solutions LLC

8. Use your paid time off.
Employees are struggling to find a release away from their professional environments in 2020. One strategy we have followed is to encourage our employees to utilize the paid time off they’ve accrued throughout the year. We do this by setting an example at the top. When our front-line employees see leadership taking time off from work, we send a clear message that PTO should be used, not forfeited. – Mark Zinman, Zinman & Company

9. Focus on critical items and delegate the rest.
It is natural for ambitious go-getters to try to do too much. Helping those individuals focus on critical items and delegate or defer the rest can prevent burnout. Creating a culture where peers recognize potential burnout situations and step in is especially important. – Samir Mokashi, Code Unlimited LLC

10. Remove any tasks that don’t bring results.
Exhaustion is a choice. Business owners often get so inundated by the work that they fail to stop and evaluate whether it actually brings any results. It’s even worse today because we’re getting bombarded by negative information more often than ever. My strategy is reevaluating the work that I’m doing and removing anything that doesn’t bring any result. And it’s always “rinse and repeat.” – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

11. Establish a daily routine.
Having a daily routine is very useful. As part of that routine, taking time for meditation, exercise and reading good books helps greatly. Turning off the news, taking time to be outside and staying connected via phone calls and FaceTime with friends and family during this time also helps a lot. Unplugging from work and taking one day a week off from technology is useful as well. – Jonathan Keyser, Keyser

12. Check in with your team regularly.
Weekly one-on-one meetings held at the same time and place are crucial to helping team members avoid burnout. Weekly meetings result in team success because they help to build a better relationship between the manager and the team member. It gives an outlet to share ideas and concerns while allowing you to be aware of their well-being, and it provides a forum to discuss obstacles, set priorities and address burnout before it occurs. – Scott Scully, Abstrakt Marketing Group

13. Try something new.
When you feel yourself getting stale, it’s time to mix things up. Take some time for personal reflection, and ask yourself, “What have I always wanted to do but haven’t?” Perhaps it’s playing the guitar, reading more or learning a new trade. As for myself, during the Covid-19 lockdown, I went to Cornell University online for a digital marketing certificate. – Keith Woods, KB Woods Public Relations

14. Focus on the positive.
To avoid burnout, it’s important to prioritize your health, happiness and well-being. Do what truly makes you happy, and don’t let negative messages overtake you or cause you to live in fear. Take time to be in nature, turn off the news and social media, and truly focus on the positive aspects of life. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

Bring your sales team the best leads with these 12 pipeline strategies

With good marketing strategies, you can attract plenty of leads to your business. However, it doesn’t matter how many you have if those leads are low-quality.

The Business Journals

A good sales development pipeline will ensure your sales team is only receiving the best leads. That’s why we asked a panel of Business Journals Leadership Trust members to share the most important aspects of a good sales development pipeline.

1. Relationship insights
Tools like LinkedIn and LinkedIn Sales Navigator are great for identifying relationships that could be “warmer” than a cold call. Further, it’s likely that useful relationship insights exist within your own client data. They may be accessible by leveraging artificial intelligence/machine learning tools that can deliver relationship information and even suggest the best next action based on data analysis. – Nichole Jordan, Grant Thornton LLP

2. The BANT method
The BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timing) method of lead generation is a good route to follow as long as you are not too rigid with it. You don’t want to interrogate potential customers — instead, use BANT to understand budget pressures, the decision-making hierarchy, the problem(s) they are trying to solve and if an event has escalated the need to act sooner rather than later. – AJ Brown, LeadsRx, Inc.

3. Lead source channels
Know your specific numbers. Track the source of all of your leads that turn into sales. Put more focus on where the good leads come from. Either avoid the sources of poor-quality leads or see how you can change the experience with the bad lead sources to improve the quality of leads. – Brian McCarthy, Birmingham Orthodontics

4. Qualification data
We use a qualifying client intake form and interview process. This way we can gauge the seriousness of the potential engagement and the budget they’ve allotted (or not) and identify any potential leadership culture elements that may impact our work with them. – Liz Wooten-Reschke, Connect For More

5. Messaging for each level of the sales funnel
As a marketer, I try to create advertising and messaging that speaks to each level of the sales funnel. Video case studies and client testimonials are amazing tools that can attract new leads at each of those stages. The sales team is trained on how to use those studies and testimonials to overcome misconceptions and provide proof of concept. Doing that increases the sales-close ratio. – Keith Woods, KB Woods Public Relations

6. Early fact-finding and validation
Early fact-finding and validation are critical. Too often you spend time working with a new prospect only to find they are not a good fit. Being transparent early on and getting past some of the common deal-breakers for your industry will save you from unwisely investing your time. – Jared Knisley, Fizen Technology

7. A realistic closing percentage
Determine a realistic closing percentage for any leads, along with the associated quantifiable revenue, to help you prioritize leads and assess the activity needed to generate the amount of new business you need to close. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

8. A defined ideal client
Targeting ideal clients in marketing is the hallmark of receiving the best leads. Any pipeline begins with defining who is being targeted, and it is essential to start with quality at the top. The sales will flow naturally and organically when the defined, specific work is nailed down with solving specific problems for specific clients. – Rachel Namoff, Arapaho Asset Management

9. A way to disqualify leads
Disqualifying leads rather than qualifying them is an eye-opening insight we learned from our friends at Sandler. When working to get new clients on board, your job is not to persuade someone that you’re good — that you’re good is a given. Your job is to determine if you can help that particular prospect. It’s a mental shift all business owners need to make these days. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

10. A scoring system
Scoring leads based on predetermined actions ensures you are doing three things well. First, scoring ensures sales spends time on solid leads based on predetermined criteria. Second, you can see who still needs nurturing, so marketing can take appropriate action. And third, scoring stops you from wasting time on people who are a poor fit, either by demographic or behavioral measures. – Linda Bishop, Thought Transformation

11. The right technology
In today’s market, the sales department needs to have technology working for them. Technology can automate lead development, initial contact, follow-up, lead scoring and ongoing drip marketing. By leveraging technology the sales department can spend time selling versus spending time on non-sales-related activities. Executed correctly, technology will increase leads, opportunities and sales. – Brock Berry, AdCellerant

12. A method for engaging existing clients
Engage your existing, long-term clients. First, they may have more work for you. Second, they may have people in their network who would value you the same way they do. – Brent Foley, TRIAD Architects

13 ways AI can boost your customer acquisition efforts

Artificial has many applications that can streamline business processes — one such application is using machine learning for customer acquisition. Not only can AI automate aspects of the acquisition process, but it can also use customer data to help determine your audience’s needs and preferences. This not only frees up valuable time for you and your team, but it also reduces overhead costs and improves overall conversion rates.

The Business Journals

If you’re looking to use artificial intelligence to bring in new customers, consider these 13 effective strategies recommended by the members of Business Journals Leadership Trust.

1. Providing a better user experience
Today’s customers live in an isolated digital world, with no personal touch. To increase customer acquisition and retention, firms need to swiftly strengthen customer engagement in their apps and websites. This can be done using an AI-based conversational voice UX solution to help drive community building, click-through ads, live chats, advances in the sales funnel and other revenue-generating activities. – Pradeep Anand, Seeta Resources

2. Scoring leads
If you are using a CRM, one of the best places to start is setting up a scoring system for leads. Let the system’s “intelligence” keep count of actions indicating interest and send alerts when a lead turns into a “hot lead” who’s ready for a call from sales. – Linda Bishop, Thought Transformation

3. Analyzing data for trends
At this stage of its development, AI is simply machine learning, or the ability to spot trends in data. To be effective, a business needs a system for collecting that data in a searchable format. Use a CRM to record when, where, how and what customers are buying. Even rudimentary analysis will usually reveal trends you’ve never considered. – John Dini, MPN Inc.

4. Defining your target market
An effective way to leverage artificial intelligence to acquire customers is to use it to clearly and systematically define your target market. Once you have a methodical way to identify who and what comprises your target customers, then artificial intelligence can be maximized by collating information to identify appropriate new customers who need your services and want your business. – Jack Smith, Fortuna BMC

5. Finding ‘ready’ buyers
Traditional advertising bombards prospects with messages whether they are in a buying cycle or not. The logic was that if they eventually wanted to buy, they would remember the message. With newer tech, AI allows sellers to specifically target buyers who are in a buying cycle by using intent data captured as prospects search for keywords or educational material around the seller’s product. – Angela Nadeau, CompuData Inc.

6. Anticipating customer needs
Companies can use data to analyze and anticipate customer needs, resulting in greater lifetime value. We recommend you approach artificial intelligence in a manner that is intelligent rather than artificial. By applying the concepts of prediction to your data — digitizing, aggregating and analyzing — companies can gain non-obvious insights that can help grow their revenues. – Robert Elfanbaum, Object Computing, Inc.

7. Confirming buying habits
Scrub existing data to develop and confirm buying habits. This will help you identify potential buyers, design a product with features that will meet customer needs and appear customized, and determine competitive pricing and optimal timing. The scrubbed data will allow your organization to be significantly more cost-effective and time-efficient in developing profitable new business. – Carlos Munguia, Amegy Bank

8. Focusing cold outreach
Artificial intelligence changed our approach to cold outreach. Rather than employing a “shotgun” style and scattering messages around the industry, we use AI targeting to laser-focus on the right business-to-business prospects. What’s most exciting is the behavior profiles we can project about future clients who are (as yet) unknown to us. Data intelligence and automation make swift work of audience building. – Lori Daugherty, IMCS

9. Streamlining recruitment processes
In the staffing and recruiting industry, we often say we serve two sets of customers: the employer and the candidate. We regularly use AI to interact with candidates during the recruiting process. Through simple campaigns, our virtual recruiters screen candidates and assist in setting them up for in-person interviews. It reduces costs and streamlines what could be a lengthy process. – John Lewin, Stivers Staffing Services

10. Calculating customer lifetime value
First, build in data capture as a foundational element of your software — otherwise, you’ll miss key customer insights. Second, calculate the customer lifetime value of existing customers. Finally, integrate that data with your CRM using an AI solution to predict which existing customers you risk losing as well as which new customers not only have the highest probability of acquisition but also the highest CLV. – Matthew Johnston, Design Interactive Inc.

11. Testing marketing efforts
It’s important to use AI to streamline customer acquisition. Develop your baseline — proven acquisition metrics — through strategic marketing, set those fields and then use AI/machine learning to make gains on current tactics. Develop a “test” portion of your marketing to see what enhancements can be added to the current plan, and continue testing and learning to identify the most effective tactics. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

12. Implementing chatbots
As a business automation company, we have implemented a wide variety of AI and RPA solutions. The one technology that builds connections with prospects is a chatbot. Having an effective chatbot approach integrated with AI and RPA in the back end helps prospects engage in initial discussions and then establish human contact to close the deal. – Raj Ganesan, The Business Labs

13. Attracting ideal clients
Every company has an ideal client for customer acquisition. Targeting marketing efforts to attract ideal clients is a great way to maximize the use of AI. In both online and offline initiatives, AI is a fantastic tool for speaking to ideal clients with resonance. – Rachel Namoff, Arapaho Asset Management

15 social media marketing myths you shouldn’t believe

With the abundance of available information about social media marketing, it can seem easy to research and master everything you need to know. However, the adage that you “shouldn’t believe everything you read” holds for social media: There are plenty of so-called facts and best practices out there that can set you back if you follow them.

The Business Journals Leadership Trust

 

Unless you’ve spent a lot of time studying and practicing social media marketing, it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction as a business owner. That’s why we asked members of Business Journals Leadership Trust what false or misleading information businesses need to watch out for. Here are some persistent myths you shouldn’t believe about social media marketing.

1. Social media is all about advertising.
As an early adopter of social media, our general goal has been “brand awareness.” We use social media to share the information we find informative and helpful for businesses, such as making decisions about business growth, the economy, our community, etc. Viewers of our company’s channels/posts can quickly see what we do and what I care about. – DeLea Becker, Beck-Reit Commercial Real Estate & Asset Management

2. You should aim to get something from your followers.
One myth is that you are on social media to get something from your customer (a sale, their contact information, etc.). The truth is that social media is here for you to give to your customers. That’s it. Your job is to build a community of giving. Be so generous with your information and resources that your customers enjoy your content. Bombarding them with asks is a recipe for losing readers. – Betsy Hauser, Tech Talent South

3. People who ‘Like’ your post are ready to buy.
How often have you “Liked” a product on Facebook but had no intention — at least not immediately — of buying it? Social media can prove to be a powerful vector to engage your fans and followers as well as attract new audiences, but it’s important to understand that reach and engagement do not necessarily translate into instantaneous transactions. – Jeremy Segal, Proozy

4. Jump on the bandwagon if you spot a trend.
I believe a big myth is your message should follow the masses. It seems too many people today are jumping on the bandwagon with trends instead of crafting an authentic message that reflects their business and its core values. – Timothy Flanagan Jr., MassMutual Carolinas

5. Give up if you don’t see results right away.
Social media marketing is very powerful, but it has a long tail. Many times, organizations attack social media and then, when it doesn’t immediately convert customers, go silent. It’s as if you closed the door and locked it. You have to stay in front of the audience to build trust over a long period. – Kimberly Lucas, Goldstone Partners

6. Posting more often means more engagement.
A common myth is that if I post more often it means more engagement. It’s about quality and consistency. The right message to the right audience goes much farther than frequency. And being consistent about connecting to your audience builds trust. – Merrill Stewart, Marketing & Business Solutions LLC

7. Platforms make it easy to start advertising.
Platforms will default to large audiences with low frequencies — they don’t want their users complaining about too much advertising. You will need to have a high frequency, which means a tightly defined audience. You will be fighting the platform as much as you are using it, and you will need to work for a good ROI. – Lara August, Robot Creative

8. Social media is free marketing.
It’s not free, and it requires commitment. Whether you’re spending actual dollars to promote posts or you’re dedicating staff time, effective social media campaigns will require a budget all their own. And since customers use it to interact, complain and share their experiences, you have to commit to monitoring and interacting. If you can’t commit the time and money, don’t expect real results. – Sam Davidson, Batch

9. It’s all about lead generation.
Don’t believe anyone who tells you social media marketing is about lead generation. It’s not. It’s about building trusting relationships with prospective buyers and other audiences. Ultimately those relationships can lead to sales, but if you don’t have the patience to do it right, you simply won’t be successful. – Scott Baradell, Idea Grove

10. If you build it, they will come.
One myth of social media marketing is that if you start a page, people will automatically flock to the page and the business. Businesses need to put energy into developing followers, creating content that their followers want to see and continuing to engage people on social media in a way that makes them want to continue to be part of the community. – Tashina Bailey, The Bar Method Portland

11. Social media isn’t necessary for a B2B business.
Whether you are B2C or B2B, the key is determining what social media platform to be on and investing in a regular presence that will engage users. Most B2C companies are on social media, but even B2B companies can use social media as a platform for thought leadership and connecting with like-minded professionals. – Aviva Ajmera, SoLVE KC

12. Any intern can handle it.
“It’s just social media”; “Any intern can handle it”; “A big following is a good following”; “All social channels are equal.” All of these statements are false. An effective social media marketing campaign starts with a strategy of building awareness and engagement among and with the target audience. That will dictate how to use each channel. Don’t spend time building followings where your audience isn’t. – Lee Caraher, Double Forte

13. Do what everyone else is doing.
The biggest myth is you’ve got to do exactly what someone else is doing. Too many businesses try to copy the strategies they see working for others. In reality, the best way to be successful on social media is to showcase your unique brand voice. And, most importantly, be social! It doesn’t matter how slick your videos and photos are if you aren’t responding to and engaging with customer comments. – Brittany Hodak, Brittany Hodak

14. Your customers aren’t on social media.
The biggest social media marketing myth that must be debunked is thinking that your customers aren’t on social media. This is especially common for B2B companies and unsexy industries like construction, heavy engineering and so on. Everyone uses social media these days — you just need to find your audience. Figuratively speaking, you won’t sell trenches on TikTok. Make a judgment call. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

15. Social media won’t lead to ROI.
Not all social media campaigns are created equal. One myth is that social media leads to impressions only and does not lead to direct sales or ROI. The fact of the matter is, any marketing tactic on any platform should have direct ROI. If it doesn’t, it is not effective and should be re-evaluated for better-performing platforms. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

Get to know job candidates with these 16 insightful questions

There’s more to every job candidate than just their résumé. While a list of skills provides useful insight into how well an applicant’s experiences match the position requirements, it won’t provide enough information to help you know whether that person is the right fit for your organization. A candidate who appears perfect on paper may not quite “click” with the rest of the team, while another candidate who lacks certain skills may show great potential to grow within the company.

The Business Journals

To inspire you to look beyond a candidate’s résumé or LinkedIn profile, 16 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share insightful questions they’ve asked in interviews and what they learned about applicants in the process.

1. ‘How did you enhance the culture in your previous work environment?’
I believe it is important to hire candidates who enhance a company’s culture. I like to ask candidates to share how they have contributed to and enhanced the culture of their previous work environments. Responses are raw, unrehearsed and sincere. – Brigg Bunker, Foulger-Pratt

2. ‘What are some ways you made an impact beyond your job description?’
This question allows you to focus less on requirements and more on potential outcomes. What makes someone an outstanding candidate isn’t always captured on paper or within checklists. Provide an opportunity for them to tell you a story, offer insights into their thought processes and reveal their mindset for impact. – Keri Higgins-Bigelow, livingHR, Inc.

3. ‘What are your long-term career goals?’
We like to know what a candidate is looking for in their career in the long term, even outside of the interview. The range of answers we’ve received has helped us see how we can help candidates achieve their personal career goals, regardless of the amount of time they may be with us. Likewise, depending on the answer, we’ll know if they are a team player for the short or long term and can plan accordingly. – Joseph Princz, Wrecking Ball

4. ‘How do you handle a recurring problem you can’t change?’
Sometimes there are issues that are out of their control. If an employee fixates on problems and can’t move beyond them, it can limit their ability to do the job. – Allison Kreiger Walsh, The Recovery Village

5. ‘What is your genius zone?’
I like talking about the “genius zone” — what they do uniquely that feels effortless and alive but is an obstacle for others. This is different than a zone of competence (what they are good at doing). Success is achieved if you can help someone get and stay in their genius zone. First, they need to be able to articulate what it is. Probing that with curiosity is fun. – Russell Benaroya, Stride

6. ‘What do you want to do next?’
One of my favorite interview questions to ask candidates is what they want to do after their time at our company. One of my jobs as a CEO is to empower the people who work for me. If I know the aspirations of an individual, we can help get them there while they’re here with us. – Blake Miller, Homebase.ai

7. ‘What has happened when you’ve been criticized?’
Since ours is a mentor/mentee relationship when starting new people, it’s imperative that they be coachable. Of course, every interviewee claims they are the poster person for coachability. The most insightful item we put on the table is: “Describe several situations in which you’ve been criticized and what happened.” Then, we listen for defensive versive receptive response patterns. – Greg Boucher, ThinkingAhead

8. ‘Tell me about a work task you found challenging.’
I ask the applicant to tell me a story about something they did at work that they found very challenging and whether they were proud of the outcome. The resulting anecdote frequently illustrates their organizational, interpersonal and problem-solving skills. – John Dini, MPN Inc.

9. ‘Describe the best job you ever had.’
I ask candidates to describe the best job they’ve had or the best team they’ve worked on. What made it the best? It gives me insight into how they collaborate, how they like to work, what challenges them and how they define work “success.” The answers are usually about the impact of the work/project itself as well as what they enjoyed about the experience. – Aviva Ajmera, SoLVE KC

10. ‘What do you know about this company?’
It’s always a good sign for me when a candidate has prepared an answer to this question. Good candidates will not only answer this question but also prepare suggestions or ideas that they think could contribute to your company goals. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

11. ‘What did you learn from your most recent failure?’
I want to know about a recent failure and what they learned from it. People fail because they try things they have not done before; they stretch themselves. I want to work with people who are not afraid of going to the edge of their comfort zone and learning something about themselves or the process that they can implement. – Priya Cloutier, Cloutier Arnold Jacobowitz PLLC

12. ‘How do you get customer/client buy-in?’
My favorite question to ask is, “How can you tell if a customer or client hasn’t bought into your proposed solution, and what do you typically do about it?” This question shows you their level of empathy and ability to read between the lines, as well as their problem resolution capacity — all in one question. – Courtney Folk, Textile Restorations

13. ‘What would you do in the following situation?
Ask a candidate to provide their ideas about a real-world business situation you are looking to solve. You’ll get to see what their approach would be to tackle the situation and come up with a strategic response. This insight is key to seeing how they think through things and how they would respond to you or the business on a daily basis. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

14. ‘What is the most significant constructive criticism you’ve received in a performance review?’
First, it’s a red flag if they say they’ve never received negative feedback or criticism. I also want to see how comfortable they are when talking about self-improvement. But most importantly, I want to know what they did to learn from and improve upon that criticism. It speaks to their humility. – Kedran Whitten, Brand825

15. ‘What is your Enneagram type?’
I enjoy seeing what number someone is on the Enneagram. It allows me to see the real person and understand how they relate to the world. I also look at the staff currently doing the job where I have a need and see where they fall on the Enneagram. It helps me know what number will best suit that role when interviewing. – Amber Duncan, Jackie

16. Try some silence.
Silence is actually an extremely effective tool when interviewing. People will tell you all sorts of things about themselves if given the silence to do so. After they’ve answered a question, sometimes I take my time making notes. Often applicants will feel compelled to fill the space with more about themselves. – Tashina Bailey, The Bar Method Portland

13 Essential Marketing Tips For Preparing Your Fall Campaigns

Seasonal marketing is one of the most natural elements to leverage in a campaign. Summer serves as a perfect example, but as summer starts winding down and we’re entering fall, some businesses are slow to change gears.

You need to adopt a different mindset when transitioning your marketing between summer and fall. At the end of the summer, you should take stock of your goals and set new ones for your fall marketing, while making sure your approach reflects current realities and challenges.

Forbes Agency Council

Thirteen experts from Forbes Agency Council discuss how a business can transition between the summer and fall advertising periods, and offer tips on how to make that transition more seamless.

1. Don’t Be Tone-Deaf

When it comes to marketing, particularly during our current global pandemic, one mistake a lot of companies make is they don’t pay attention to or address what people are dealing with. Instead, they simply push their marketing agenda, which is not a good look. – Drew Gerber, Wasabi Publicity, Inc.

2. Build Brand Awareness Early

Start building brand awareness earlier than you think. Brands look to quickly scale revenue in the fall. Strong response rates driven by enticing offers mean that brands can acquire more customers efficiently. It’s imperative that brands have large brand-aware audiences to enable success and drive the scale they’re looking for. – Samir Balwani, Methods & Metrics

3. Plan In Increments

Be agile. When it comes to your fall marketing efforts, plan in short increments of time so you can be nimble, allowing quick adaptation and optimization. We are hardly out of the woods with the pandemic, so having a contingency plan should we go back to lockdown is critical. – Laura Cole, Vivial

4. Leave Room For Ad-Hoc Messaging

Always leave room for ad-hoc moments and messaging. Today’s world is ever-changing, and you want to stay relevant at all times. Create values and a purpose that is long term/evergreen, play with seasonality, but also leave that wiggle room to tap into current conversations and culture. The social media landscape is perfect for that. – Maddie Raedts, IMA – Influencer Marketing Agency

5. Make Sure You Have The Bandwidth

Bandwidth, bandwidth, bandwidth! Customer experience is always important but with likely significant increases in online activity, be sure that your website can handle increased traffic and purchases, beef up customer service including plans to support customers from home (do your employees have access to the tech and high-speed internet?), and — as always — have your marketing plan laid out in advance. – Chris Graham, Graham Advisory Network Inc.

6. Approach Each Campaign Individually

Make sure to approach each campaign as its own entity, regardless of its seasonality. The time of year isn’t the only thing that changes from campaign to campaign, especially in the times that we are currently living through. Every changing circumstance needs to be in consideration during the preparation stage. – Dmitrii Kustov, Regex SEO

7. Plan Media In Advance

This fall will bring many changes such as a crowded political media marketplace and consumers who are navigating a nontraditional back-to-school season. Planning media in advance will be more important than ever to ensure you stay present in the consumer’s mind. As the marketing landscape continues to shift, businesses need to be agile to quickly adjust to a changing landscape and consumer needs. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

8. Adapt Your Purchasing Infrastructure

With COVID-19, consumer buying behaviors have changed dramatically. The mistake businesses may make is thinking that their customers will be purchasing from them in the same way and for the same reasons as before. One remedy is to adapt your purchasing infrastructure to be digitally focused based on specific customer behavioral patterns. – Roger Hurni, Off Madison Ave

9. Make Sure The Content Is Posted Early

If you plan to add seasonal content to your website, make sure it’s in place and indexable (meaning it can be found by Google) before starting your promotion. Manual indexing can take up to four weeks, and while it is possible to speed up the process by requesting indexing directly from Google, it still doesn’t guarantee new pages will show up immediately. – Hannah Trivette, NUVEW Web Solutions

10. Keep Up With Current Trends

Be cognizant of the trends that are currently happening in these unprecedented times and be prepared to pivot your fall campaigns a few times. What you may think will work one week could potentially change based on what is happening in the world. The “new normal” is changing and marketing needs to change with that. – Warren Jolly, AdQuadrant

11. Be Clear On Past Successes And Failures

Be clear on the successes and failures of the year before and revisit the audience they are targeting to measure changes in attitudes and behaviors, new technologies and competitive values. Things change and agencies need to be on top of and ahead of those changes so they can help their clients be ahead and in sync with the shifts so they will be relevant to their target audience. – Pat Fiore, FIORE

12. Remember Not All Audiences Are The Same

It’s important to remember that not all your audiences are the same. There are some people that don’t know much about your business and others that adore your brand. Create marketing that captures interest from new prospects and also campaigns that provide rewards for your most loyal customers. – Brian Meert, AdvertiseMint

13. Reconsider Your Back-To-School Campaign

Think carefully before running the traditional back-to-school-themed campaign creative which may no longer resonate with your customers. School will not look the same for anyone this year, and many parents are keeping their kids at home for virtual learning or homeschooling. Some brands have already embraced this shift with “back to learning” messaging instead of “back to school.” – Keri Witman, Clever Lucy

14 Guidelines For Adapting To The Abruptly Changing Marketing Industry

As COVID-19 shifts the way the world functions, it is also shifting how advertising and marketing assets are created and implemented. People are spending more time at home and their needs have changed. Marketing professionals must adapt to this new normal and deliver campaigns that speak to consumers’ current experiences.

AdAge Collective

The members of Ad Age Collective understand the importance of embracing these changes, not just now, but in the future as the industry evolves. We asked 14 of them to share how their field is pivoting in the long term, and how they plan to find success in this new landscape.

1. Understand new consumer habits.
Adaptability is more important than ever. The current pace of change requires brands to be fast and flexible. When you take the essential first step to understand new consumer habits, only then can you adapt your advertising to reach people in ways that will meet their needs. Advertisers need to stay focused on the customer, even as they change, and find media partners who can help them do that. – Cathy Oh, Samsung Ads

2. Embrace the creative renaissance.
On the downside, the ad industry remains exclusive and has not embraced AI or employment trends as quickly as it should. On the upside, now that the technology plumbing that was needed to connect disparate media and creative systems and teams is now largely done and millennials and Gen Z are joining the ranks, we have entered a fantastic creative renaissance! – Lana McGilvray, Purpose Worldwide

3. Use data insights as your North Star.
Unfortunately, leads are still the guiding light for a majority of companies today — but our buyers need more from us. As marketing evolves into the new normal, we’ll see more teams using data insights as their North Star to customer engagement. Marketers will start evaluating their pipeline and use critical buyer intent data to drive their revenue growth forward. – Latane Conant, 6sense

4. Know the unit economics of your capabilities.
Agencies have for years built out forward-looking capabilities on the guarantees of large AORs, often with new capabilities being loss leaders for a time. Given the month-to-month and quarter-to-quarter orientation of client spending in the current economy, agencies will need to understand the unit economics of specific capabilities and grow with an eye toward profitable near-term capabilities. – Moira Vetter, Modo Modo Agency

5. Seek out creatives who are authentic and multi-faceted.
The creative role is changing most. The required skill set has shifted radically. It used to be that the storytelling was done by folks with the craft and skills to make tiny movies called ads. Now a creative person needs to be a social detective, a spy in the house of data, a behavioral tactician and be willing to shed award-friendly artifice for authenticity, even when that’s not always pretty. – Scott Montgomery, Bradley and Montgomery (BaM)

6. Pay attention to changing media consumption habits.
The new landscape will be an evolving target as worldwide “staying at home” will evolve how we work and live life. When and how we consume media will change too. Success will be defined by keeping pace with this evolution, and messages that are more relevant and less disruptive will resonate. “Scream and tell” advertising to buy a visit may get ignored, but “content I want to know” will win. – Arjun Sen, ZenMango

7. Change your messaging and imagery to match changing daily life.
It’s essential to change your messaging and imagery to ensure it matches the massive shifts in customers’ everyday lives. There is a marketing opportunity to feature products that can help customers during this difficult, uncertain time. There’s a difference between fear-mongering and offering a product that will truly make someone’s day, week or life better, and customers know the difference. – Warren Jolly, adQuadrant

8. Be flexible.
Flexibility in how we service accounts, build teams, buy and/or engage media and diversify creatively will be much more critical as we move forward. The new normal is teaching us to strategically shift on a moment’s notice and to listen to all stakeholders all of the time. By building processes and teams that can flex and approaching creativity from all stakeholder points of view, we will find success. – Maggie O’Neill, Peppercomm

9. Get ready to change how you collect and use consumer data.
As privacy concerns grow, advertisers will find that collecting data and personalization will get harder. We need to be prepared with changes regarding the way we collect and use people’s data. It’s important to look into AI tools, especially around contextual intelligence so that we can place ads and target users based on the content of a page over how a user behaves. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

10. Market yourself through social messaging apps.
Social messaging apps will grow as advertising spread dips due to the lack of demand. This is a good time to advertise because you will get better rates on pay-per-click ads. As more people are feeling isolated from the mandatory shutdowns, they will turn to other resources to seek connection. See if you can conduct marketing with these apps to reach your audience remotely. – Duran Inci, Optimum7

11. Invest in content marketing and owned media.
Content marketing and owned media will continue to rise. It is getting easier and more important for brands to be able to produce and deliver their own content. This is especially true in B2B marketing where the value propositions can be more complicated or nuanced. – Dan Beltramo, Onclusive (formerly AirPR)

12. Rethink your product and service offerings for the modern world.
Product offerings need to be rethought (for instance, alcohol companies making sanitizer and clothing companies making masks) and brand marketing must become a concierge service connecting a consumer need with a viable solution in real time as needs continue to evolve. The most successful brands will co-create solutions with those who will use the product or service. – Holly Fearing, Filene Research Institute

13. Be agile, but thoughtful and calculated.
Adapting at every corner is critical at this point where things are changing every day. Don’t get stuck in any form of how we “used” to do things either in the workplace or media environment. Be agile and adapt quickly when appropriate, but continue to be thoughtful and calculated with decisions that will have a large impact on your brand. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

14. Go back to basics.
Advertising needs to return to the fundamentals. As the tools evolve at an increasingly rapid pace, coupled with a shift in brands bringing marketing roles in-house, agencies need to return to the fundamentals of how to generate long-term advertising success. This involves a return to psychology as the driving factor behind why people purchase one product over another. – Patrick Ward, Rootstrap

8 Game-changing Approaches For Solving A Marketing Plateau

When a company starts seeing its first successes in a marketing strategy, it feels exciting. Growth can be massive and exponential at the start, but over time, the massive numbers can start to taper off. The longer you hold onto any one marketing strategy or tactic, the less an audience might be engaged in your marketing.

AdAge

When this happens, the first instinct of marketing professionals is to look at where the existing strategy can be improved. The better approach might be to shake things up a bit and change tactics completely. Switching up your marketing has the benefit of taking your audience by surprise while remaining interesting to your existing customers. The approach you bring to the switch-up of tactics can make it much easier to get those numbers growing again.

These eight thought leaders from Ad Age Collective have experience with switching up marketing strategies when things get stale. We asked them about the most game-changing plans they’ve encountered in careers. Here’s what they had to tell us.

1. Diversify your presence.
Treat marketing activities with the same sound advice one gets from a financial adviser: diversify your investments. Marketing channels ebb and flow in popularity influenced by external factors. Establish a presence in digital, print, audio, video and real-time channels and watch your metrics daily so you can respond to spikes in preferences to be exactly where your audience is, and when. – Holly Fearing, Filene Research Institute

2. Test new messaging and creatives.
When we lose momentum, a game-changer for us is testing new messaging and creatives. Messages can get stale and creative trends change over time. Mixing up the creatives and messaging gives something new to excite existing audiences while potentially reaching new audiences. – Warren Jolly, adQuadrant

3. Explore testing into new audiences.
Explore testing into new audiences. Brands love to go after millennials, but women over 50 account for 27 percent of all consumer spending. Through customized creative and targeting via paid media channels, you can reach new, untapped customers to drive your business forward. – Kerry Curran, Catalyst

4. Look for tactics with a large audience.
Once you have plateaued in your marketing and have harvested all the “low-hanging fruit” per se, look for marketing tactics that have a very large audience. For example, consider offline channels, sponsorships or even influencers to boost your public persona and develop a larger identity for your brand. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

5. Automate your processes.
Automating your processes can be a game changer for marketing, especially when you plateau. There are always areas to improve, and to save on time and money. If you have the appropriate software collecting relevant data and analyzing it, then it saves time for the web developers and can offer new opportunities to review data. – Duran Inci, Optimum7

6. Create a flywheel or compound effect.
Try to create a flywheel or compound effect with your marketing. Many marketing activities don’t get more efficient with time, but those that do are game changers. Loyalty programs, user groups, search engine optimization (SEO), public relations and influencer marketing are all areas to consider but are not an exhaustive list of potential flywheel marketing initiatives. – Dan Beltramo, Onclusive (formerly AirPR)

7. Put yourself in your audiences’ shoes.
Put yourself in your audiences’ shoes and identify another area of their day-to-day lives you can be a part of. It may be simply marketing on a different channel or platform or looking to partner with like-minded brands that are important to your audience. If you have plateaued in one area, don’t abandon it. Keep that message going but identify that other point where the audience can find you. – Maggie O’Neill, Peppercomm

8. Go back to basics.
It may be counterintuitive, but I find that going back to basics can take you forward. Whenever I feel like my marketing efforts have become stale, it’s because I have over-complicated things. So, I go back to fundamentals. What do people want? What are their pain points? And then I listen to them on social media and frame content that answers their needs. Simple changes are all that’s needed. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

7 Engaging Ways to Advertise to Upcoming Generations on TikTok

In a post-COVID world, people are using content to fill their time and find daily satisfaction, thus creating a greater need for content creation. This gives marketers a real opportunity to reach their target demographic in an engaging way.

TikTok

If you are looking to market to the under-30 age group of Millennials, Gen Z, and upcoming Gen Alpha, then TikTok and its 800+ million worldwide active users is a great place to explore. TikTok has only been running ads for under two years, which means less oversaturation for marketers and lots of room for creativity in future ads.

Key TikTok Advertising Methods

TikTok has created a few different engaging advertising methods for marketers to choose from. Marketers partner with TikTok advertising reps directly to select the best options and ensure a smooth execution. The choices are:

  1. Top View and Takeover Ads: This is an ad that is displayed as soon as a user opens the app on the home “For You” page. It can be a photo or video, and has 100% share of voice.
  2. Hashtag Challenges: Brands can create a hashtag challenge that encourages users to follow an action, trend, dance, or something else that users can post on their feeds (and encourage their friends to do the same).
  3. Creator Marketplace: These are the content-creator royalty on TikTok. Brands can work with creators that have demographic-relevant followers to promote a brand or product on the creator’s page with custom videos.
  4. Branded Filters and Effects: These are branded 2D or 3D camera effects users can add while creating videos in a fun and interactive way.
  5. Infeed Video Ads: This is the widest, most direct advertising method on TikTok; it includes an in-feed video ad whose appearance is native to the platform.

Now that we know the TikTok advertising methods, let’s talk strategy. The platform is a unique world that brands must familiarize themselves with before entering. Since marketers are just becoming accustomed with this new advertising landscape, it’s easy for ads to look out of place or even worse, “cringy.” Here are seven engaging ways to advertise to the upcoming generations on TikTok:

1. Know the culture

Before advertising on the platform, take some time to understand the unique characteristics and the popularity of different voices and content types. Whether it be a prank, dance, sound bite, or skit, TikTok content that performs well is all about authenticity and having fun. Right now it’s truly about showing people’s everyday lives during this unusual year, making for very entertaining video content.

2. Be in with the trends – and start some of your own!

TikTok is very “in the moment” driven, and trends come and go. Get to know what’s trending and hop on! The platform is a community and everyone can join in on the fun — even brands. TikTok also offers brands the opportunity to create paid hashtag challenges, which is great for starting trends that audiences can participate in. Make sure your content is fun, engaging, and that it truly aligns with your brand’s message.

3. Follow the rules

TikTok is new to advertising, so many marketers are still getting familiar with its layout and best practices. It’s great to stand out from the masses, but standing out because of a mistake could have negative consequences. Know the guidelines of the vertical feed before creating and publishing. To up your engagement, make ads specifically tailored for TikTok; an ad taken off of a different social media platform and recycled for a new one can come off looking out of place on the feed, causing people to skip right past it.

4. Create content-like ads

TikTok offers in-feed video ads that can look like a post that users see on their For You pages. Other than a very small, opaque “Sponsored” button, everything else looks exactly the same. Use this to your advantage to create content similar to what people use TikTok for: sharing entertaining content with friends. Try creating a short, amusing video that intertwines with your brand or product messaging.

5. Tell a story

Storytelling is huge on TikTok, but you only have 60 seconds to do it. Ads should only be nine to 15 seconds anyway, so quickly tell your brand’s story in a way that catches a viewer’s attention. Create a scene with a few likable characters partaking in an action that will relate to your targeted demographic.

6. Include characters

The majority of the videos on TikTok, especially now, are at-home videos taken of individuals, their family members, or their close friends. Lean into that and do the same, with either a TikTok creator partnership engaging with your product/brand, or existing footage you have with people.

7. Be unique, but be quick to standout

Gen Z and Millennials love to try new products and test out new trends, so consider what you can offer to the content community, and how your brand or product can improve someone’s life. The goal is to make them stop and watch your 15-second ad while bringing value to their day, thus captivating them to click the “Learn More” button and engage with your brand further.

So what are you waiting for? If you don’t have TikTok downloaded, take a moment to get the app and start exploring the world and culture that awaits.