Consumers Are Checking Their Phones 60 Times a Day. Here’s How to Monetize These Micro-Moments

Scanning news headlines on a tablet before going to sleep. Using a mobile app to find an Italian restaurant with the highest number of 5-star reviews. Browsing this month’s best streaming videos.

For most of us, the brief activities described above have become habitual. Recognizing the trend, Google came up with the term “micro-moments” to describe the many times a day that people automatically grab their phones or tablets to watch a video, take an action or look up something. As society becomes truly “mobile-first,” these “micro-moments” are now intertwined with our daily lives.

Each micro-moment is an opportunity for brands
Whether consumers use mobile phones to look for a recipe on Allrecipes, search for a long-lost high school friend on Classmates or scroll through Zillow listings for a dream home, they are reflexively turning to their devices for answers and solutions.
The trend is common in the on-demand economy, where customers expect to have answers at their fingertips 24/7. “The powerful computers we carry in our pockets have trained us to expect brands to immediately deliver exactly what we’re looking for when we’re looking,” content director Joei Chan writes in Mention.
“With our increasing dependence on smartphones, the consumer journey has been fractured into hundreds of real-time, intent-driven micro-moments,” Chan continues. “Each one is a critical opportunity for brands to shape our decisions and preferences.”

Getting consumers to act
For marketers, micro-moments are an opportunity to get consumers to act when their expectations are high and their time is short. With over half of smartphone users discovering new companies or products when conducting searches online—and with brand awareness increasing by 46% when a company simply shows up in mobile search results—marketers have a lot of opportunities to maximize micro-moments.
For instance, a 20-something male watching a sports recap on his phone on YouTube may be persuaded to test drive the newest model of his favorite car brand. Or, a woman who goes online for help creating a top-knot hairstyle would probably be receptive to trying out a promising new hair product to keep that updo in place.
By using videos to put your brand in the middle of these moments, you can effectively address your customers’ needs and “help move them along [in] their decision journey,” Choi writes.
Micro-moments also help companies break out of the traditional linear sales funnel and present relevant content that aligns with those split seconds of time.
It’s important to remember to focus on creating an intuitive experience that guides customers to a frictionless purchase when developing video or other content. Use these micro-moments to tell your brand’s story, maximize these small flashes of time and improve your advertising return on investment.

Riding the ecommerce wave
With ecommerce sales expected to surpass $740 billion by 2023 in the U.S.—and 81% of shoppers researching products online before hitting “buy”—marketers can maximize micro-moments by simply listening to customers. For example, use social listening to ask simple questions in an Instagram story or on Twitter, or use a current event to grab your customer’s attention in the moment.
Younger consumers may be especially receptive to micro-moment marketing. “The question to ask is: ‘Would your Gen Z customer be interested in participating in a conversation with your brand about an ugly sweater?’” UNiDays asks. “If the answer is ‘yes,’ then perfect. Once you’ve found something that will resonate with Gen Z preferences, you can start a fun dialogue that might just convert to a sale.”
While disruptive and challenging, the global pandemic has also given marketers more opportunities to engage with their customers through micro-moments.
For example, with more people interacting, socializing and shopping online, the number of potential “touches” has undoubtedly grown exponentially since 2020. And with the average smartphone user checking his or her phone 63 times a day (even higher with Gen Z audiences), there are still a lot of untapped touchpoints to explore and monetize.

Does this growth strategy apply to my business? 10 questions to ask yourself

From seminars to books to online gurus, there’s no shortage of advice out there on growing your business. However, it’s important to recall that no two companies are identical in their circumstances, offerings and goals.

Not every growth strategy applies to every business, and taking a blanket approach without consideration may not work out the way you’d like it to. To determine if a growth tactic is a fit for your unique situation, ask yourself these 10 important questions, as recommended by the members of Business Journals Leadership Trust.

The Business Journals

1. ‘What is typical for our industry?’
First, be realistic about your business and others like it. What is typical for your industry? Not all businesses can scale — ask yourself if you even want to scale. While the internet has leveled the playing field for digital services and allowed companies in that sector to grow very fast, those that require physical labor may require a more creative structure and financial support if they’re prepared to scale. Think of companies such as Uber, Lyft and so on. – Jean-Paul Gedeon, JPG MEDIA

2. ‘How does this match up with our organization’s goals?’
Before adopting any major change, including a growth strategy, leadership needs to revisit the organization’s goals and priorities. When these are clearly identified and articulated, you can then test a potential growth strategy against them. Ask, “Will this strategy get us to where we want to go, or will it lead somewhere else?” Understanding your endpoint will help you build the roadmap to get there. – Daniel Serfaty, Aptima, Inc.

3. ‘What is our risk factor?’
One factor to assess when deciding if a particular growth strategy is applicable to your business is your risk factor. If you are comfortable with pushing all of your chips to the center and betting it all, you can likely go with a more aggressive strategy. If your risk tolerance is lower, a slower or more proven route may be the better strategy. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

4. ‘Will this impact our culture or change our brand identity?’
Be honest with yourself. What is the mission of your company? If you are the owner, what is the vision? “Success” may not be growth in revenue and employees — it may be about impact. How many organizations or lives can you help improve? Ask yourself, “Will growth impact our culture? Will growth change our brand identity?” Design your metrics and actions to support your goals, not others’ definition of success. – Aviva Ajmera, SoLVE KC

5. ‘Will it help diversify our business?’
Every business needs to grow, but not always for the same reasons. Some businesses are stagnant or may even be realizing declining revenues, while others are growing slowly in markets that are growing more quickly — and losing share. Most often businesses need growth to diversify and to avoid concentration. A good growth approach (such as horizon growth) can help you to define future opportunities. – Mark Coronna, Chief Outsiders

6. ‘Is it a challenge for us?’
We have stopped saying, “What if” — rather, we ask, “How does this challenge provide growth to another level?” We have to take risks, good or bad; a decision is needed to see how far we can go. We believe in pivots and always try to be a step ahead. Isn’t this what makes us who we are? – Gene Yoo, Resecurity, Inc.

7. ‘Does this strategy have elements that have supported past growth?’
If the strategy being considered has any elements that have supported growth in the past, it has a high likelihood of being successful. What has worked in the past will likely work in the future. Being crystal-clear about specifics for growth will give you the advantage to surgically analyze every opportunity. – Rachel Namoff, Arapaho Asset Management

8. ‘Do we have a clear offering and resources in place?’
Many businesses are trying to grow prematurely, and it’s a big mistake. To ensure consistent growth, you need to have the right people and enough resources to execute. You also need a clear product or service offering. Finally, you must have all the processes in place, functioning like clockwork. It doesn’t make sense to start growing if you haven’t covered those basics. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

9. ‘Can we fail fast?’
Set up a trial run and test it. Failure is not fatal, and when done well — and fast — it helps build the foundation for future success. Set up measurable tests and have the discipline to see them through and respond accordingly. Falling in love with one approach and not believing the data can be costly. – Jon Schram, The Purple Guys

10. ‘Does it align with my exit strategy?’
You’ll sell your business to a strategic buyer, a financial buyer, family, employees or partners. You might want to go public or close it down. If you don’t have an exit strategy, start there and work backward to see if your growth strategy fits the long-term exit strategy. – Josephine Firat, Firat Education

15 effective ways to keep your teams on track while they’re working from home

Many business leaders who shifted their teams to remote work at the start of the pandemic didn’t expect it to be a permanent change. Now, as more employers and employees are realizing the benefits of flexible work arrangements, it’s clear that, for many, working from home at least some of the time is here to stay. The problem is, it’s not always easy for leaders to stay on top of employees’ productivity when they’re not in the office.

The Business Journals

Leaders need to find ways to ensure their teams stay on track no matter where they’re working. Below, 15 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust offer their best advice to help you maintain employee productivity and oversight while they’re not physically in the office.

1. Develop clear objectives and accountability.
Leaders must make sure their teams have clear objectives, accountability and autonomy in delivering them, and the tools to help them move fast. And don’t forget the basics: Employees need fast internet and tech enablers to stay connected. – Kevin Neher, McKinsey & Company

2. Leverage a centralized task management system.
A centralized task management system is one way to ensure employees’ productivity while they’re working remotely. Leaders will be able to track who is doing what, how much they are doing and how they are performing. Having a centralized task management system gives leaders a better level of comfort seeing that work is being done and employees are staying on track. – Jack Smith, Fortuna Business Management Consulting

3. Take care of your employees’ well-being.
Ensuring that employees stay on track while working from home means taking care of the employee first. Address barriers to working from home such as technology, space and so on. Be aware that some may need more flexibility than others. People are also productive when they’re accountable, so check in with them more often to make sure everything is on track. Implement a system for visibility if you haven’t already. – Jay Feitlinger, StringCan Interactive

4. Have a tailored communication plan for each employee.
Leaders can help employees working from home stay on track through a strong communications plan that’s tailored for each person — their personality, their projects and their processes. Leaders should listen more, talk less and take notes during conversations. Encourage employees to ask questions. If a leader does not know the answer to a question, they can follow up later with the information. – Rolly Dessert, Academy Leadership

5. Set mutually agreed-upon goals.
Jointly agreeing on goals is the key. Dependable performers can be trusted to get the work done however and wherever they are. If you both track to jointly set goals, responsibilities and accountabilities, it works much more often than not. – Mark Coronna, Chief Outsiders

6. Hold team members accountable.
As a leader, it is your role to ensure your team members have clear expectations on what they need to focus on and what the outcome should be. It is a lot easier to stay on track at home with clear priorities. Hold your team members accountable for advancing those projects and achieving the required milestones. – Laura Doehle, Elevation Business Consulting

7. Hold a daily stand-up meeting.
We use agile development principles and have daily stand-ups. Every day starts with each team member stating what they completed yesterday, what they are doing today and if there’s anything that’s blocking their progress. This approach applies to any job function with clear action-oriented goals. It lets us track progress, hold each other accountable and address anything preventing progress to goals. – Matthew Johnston, Design Interactive Inc.

8. Track time spent on tasks.
Activity tracking allows leadership to have insight into how much time is spent on each task and/or a project as a whole. Simply analyzing how your team manages time is not only a smart way to create pricing and invoices, but it also helps you predict your team’s workloads and improve your business. – Scott Scully, Abstrakt Marketing Group

9. Set up cross-departmental support.
Evaluating the physical work delivered is very important with virtual work. If there is a slowdown in work or productivity, find projects in other departments in the company — those that may have an overflow of work — that the employee can support. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

10. Implement dashboards with clear key performance indicators.
Dashboards with clearly communicated and measured KPIs create freedom no matter where you are doing your work. It helps each team member know if they are winning and keeps all the teams and management in alignment on daily progress. The hard part is picking the right KPIs and then clearly communicating expectations. – Jon Schram, The Purple Guys

11. Encourage employees to block off their calendars for family obligations.
With many people balancing childcare and remote work today, our calendars are more important than ever. Rather than trying to do both at the same time, block off your calendar when you must attend to family. If you’re making up those hours in the evening, put those into your calendar as well. Your coworkers will appreciate seeing when you’re available and having your full attention when you are. – Daniel Serfaty, Aptima, Inc.

12. Set aside micromanagement.
Set a reasonable timeline with a clearly defined deadline and an expected output. The concept of a remote workforce has been around for decades. We all need to be mature about letting everyone do their jobs while focusing on management, not micromanagement. – Gene Yoo, Resecurity, Inc.

13. Overcommunicate about projects.
Communication is more important than ever. We make a point to overcommunicate so projects stay on task, deadlines are met and employees remain productive. We’ve implemented “virtual commutes” three times a week where employees use the 15 minutes before business hours to connect and go over actionable items they must accomplish. Meeting quickly and often allows employees to collaborate and raise red flags. – William Balderaz, Futurety

14. Use collaborative, cloud-based tools for full transparency.
My team of 10 has 30% working remotely and 70% in the office. We have an all-hands meeting at 9 a.m. each weekday. We are all connected via a WIP (Work In Progress) Google Sheet that shows all the projects we are each working on. Full transparency and accountability have been key in keeping us on track. Some days the only communication with our remote team is on our Zoom call. Stay connected. – Jean-Paul Gedeon, JPG MEDIA

15. Have iterative deadlines and reviews.
Iterative deadlines and reviews are a great way to ensure targets are being met. If there are goals that need to be reviewed along the way and these deadlines are clearly communicated, reviewed and discussed, it is easy to ensure team members are staying on track. – Rachel Namoff, Arapaho Asset Management

10 critical factors you can’t overlook in a shareholder or partnership agreement

The devil is often in the details when it comes to business arrangements, especially when you’re crafting a shareholder or partnership agreement. Every piece of information needs to be carefully discussed and agreed upon. Both sides have to believe the terms and conditions are mutually beneficial; otherwise, they may view it as unfair and grow to resent the agreement.

But how can you ensure all the details are squared away and thoroughly accounted for? Below, 10 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust discuss the factors that shouldn’t be overlooked when drafting a shareholder or partnership agreement.

The Business Journals

1. A provision for the divorce of a partner
I would have a provision for partners who get divorced that requires mandatory redemption and explicitly defines the valuation methodology. The last thing you want is a new partner who’s the ex-spouse of a current partner. If the partner owns less than 50%, I would require a written provision for a 40% haircut for lack of marketability and control. – Joseph Gordon, Gordon Asset Management, LLC

2. A ‘failed state’ analysis
You need to answer two questions: What are the possible reasons the partnership may fail, and how will you handle each situation? Also, discuss the specifics of your roles upfront — not just titles, but the actual work you will do. Agree upon the frequency of basic conversations on financials, employees, clients and anything else that is important to each of you. – Aviva Ajmera, SoLVE KC

3. A plan for the worst-case scenario
The shareholder or partnership agreement must account for unplanned developments. Financial obligations, labor division, sale decisions, market changes and even mortality must be considered when constructing the agreement. While it can be uncomfortable in a new partnership to discuss such matters, failure to do so can be destructive to your business. – Jeffrey Bartel, Hamptons Group, LLC

4. Share valuation
Consider the valuation part of the contract. If you have to execute the agreement, how will the shares be valued? It can quickly turn a simple agreement into something more complex and is something that should carefully be considered in the early stages. – Wesleyne Greer, Transformed Sales

5. Operational control
Avoid a 50/50 partnership if possible. Every company needs accountability, and there needs to be someone with operational control. As someone who started my company with a partner, I know that partners often have a different vision for the direction of the company, and a 50-50 split will result in no action being taken. Eventually, resentment builds, which often leads to a dissolution of the venture. – Matthew Halle, Lead2Growth

6. The desired result
What is the targeted result of the agreement? If the document is drafted with the result in mind, devilish details can be considered and constructed in a way that benefits the ultimate goal and all parties involved. – Rachel Namoff, Arapaho Asset Management

7. The buy-sell agreement
The buy-sell agreement is a document that identifies the value of the business and includes predefined milestones that are agreed upon by both parties. It allows you to not have to worry about things that you don’t want to think about while you’re still actively engaged in a partnership. You should begin with the end in mind. – Jack Smith, Fortuna Business Management Consulting

8. Net versus gross revenue calculations
Net versus gross revenue calculations can be a critical component within partnership agreements. These details could be overlooked if the agreement is not clear on how revenue is calculated. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

9. Disability coverage
Just a few of the details you need to include are rules and responsibilities, exit clauses, voting power, insurances, agreements, and corporate structure. What happens if one of you becomes disabled and cannot work? Do you have key man insurance to cover that, bring in a replacement and pay for both their salary and yours while you’re disabled? What if your partner wants to sell to someone else — is that allowed? – Jean-Paul Gedeon, JPG MEDIA

10. An exit strategy
Often when entering a partnership we focus on how things will go if everything goes to plan. Entrepreneurs are optimistic by nature. Consider how you will handle the partnership if things do not go according to plan. Exit strategies will give you confidence — you’ll know that while you’re going to work your hearts out, if things do not go according to plan you still have a pathway forward. – Jared Knisley, Fizen Technology

Seven essential steps for developing a smart resource plan for your business

Even the largest companies have limited resources. The careful allocation of those resources is vital for a business to reliably provide its goods or services to the market. From staff numbers to equipment purchases to budget dollars, business leaders must decide how to leverage finite resources wisely.

The Business Journals

This is often easier said than done, though, and resource planning can quickly become a challenge for any leader. To help, seven members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share how a leader can develop a well-functioning resource plan for their company.

1. First determine actual resource availability.
We often underestimate the actual level of effort by people who are doing their day jobs on top of projects. The key step is a validation of actual resource availability and time commitment. – Gene Yoo, Resecurity, Inc.

2. Catalog what’s needed for optimal performance.
Identify your most valuable resources and account for their distribution. It is difficult to develop a plan when you are unaware of the parts of the plan. Taking a moment to catalog what your business requires for optimal performance is key. – Rachel Namoff, Arapaho Asset Management

3. Follow a SWOT analysis with research.
Conduct a SWOT analysis. You can also look to industry publications and webinars on this topic — many people are willing to share what has worked and what has not worked in their businesses. I look toward other cities and even our local organizations for interviews with business owners who share successes and failures. You may be pleasantly surprised by how open people are with information nowadays. – Jean-Paul Gedeon, JPG MEDIA

4. Prioritize what will move you forward.
Look at goals and tasks from a business perspective first. Will it move your business or your client’s business forward? Prioritize resources and individual tasks with this in mind. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

5. Take a look at your current team’s workload.
Understanding how your existing team is utilized is crucial. Develop reports that show how your team members are currently utilized, where are they spending their time and who might have some bandwidth. Understanding resourcing needs and availability will be your first steps in developing a resource plan. – Jared Knisley, Fizen Technology

6. Measure results and adjust accordingly.
We are a service business, and time is one resource we can’t manufacture. Using our time wisely is more important now than ever before. Scheduling and budgeting activities are critical to making sure everything gets done. Measuring results and adjusting budgets as you move forward is critical to staying ahead of demand. Response time is the No. 1 factor contributing to customer satisfaction in our world. – Jon Schram, The Purple Guys

7. Commit to making changes as needed.
One step to developing a well-functioning resource plan is to be open to making revisions and to not be so focused on the pre-planning stage. No plan fully survives contact with the execution. The art of planning is vital to any business’s success and is important to prepare you for disaster. – Jack Smith, Fortuna Business Management Consulting

10 ways business leaders can make in-office work more appealing

At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, many businesses switched to remote work to protect their team members. While some initially struggled with the change, many companies and professionals have embraced the flexibility. Still, some leaders would prefer to bring their employees back into the office to take advantage of the culture-building and productivity-boosting aspects of in-office camaraderie.

However, employers may struggle to convince employees that a return to the office is the right move. Below, 10 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust offer tips for making in-office work more attractive and workable for employees who’ve become accustomed to working from home.

The Business Journals

1. Address their safety concerns.
Implement requirements for wearing masks. Hand-washing stations and temperature checks should be available upon arrival for both office visitors and employees. Introduce new supplies, technologies and capabilities throughout the office to ensure the minimal transmission of bacteria and viruses — for example, you might introduce no- or low-touch fixtures (faucets, door handles, buttons and so on) throughout the office. – Wesleyne Greer, Transformed Sales

2. Know and communicate the ‘why.’
As leaders, if we are asking our teams to return to the office when they believe it may not be necessary and prefer working at home, there should be a compelling and valuable reason. Don’t use the in-office time for the same work that can be done at home. Consider a hybrid of at-home and in-office work to maximize the benefits of each. – Natalie Ruiz, AnswerConnect

3. Capitalize on the factors they can’t get at home.
Consider the factors that you have in the workplace — factors that a worker won’t have at home — and capitalize on them. Covid-19 has proven that many people greatly prefer in-person interaction. Offer ways for employees to safely interact in a more relaxed setting. – Toshiyasu Abe, OPAS

4. Incentivize in-person collaboration sessions.
This is something we’re all thinking about. I think it will be important to give workers the flexibility to determine how often they come to the office. At the same time, we will want to take care to maximize the benefits of the times when we all do convene together. Incentivize ways to collaborate with coworkers — take lunch together and hold brainstorming sessions. – Jenn Kenning, Align Impact

5. Let employees weigh in on office design.
Encouraging employees to participate in the office design is key. Whether that involves flexible days/hours, great snack options, child care or updated office amenities, including the staff in the decision-making process is fundamental to buy-in. – Rachel Namoff, Arapaho Asset Management

6. Consider a flexible work model.
You may have employees who are very effective when working from home and others who are more effective when working in the office. Develop a results-focused culture — rather than fixating on the traditional office workplace model, consider what conditions will lead to employees being the most productive and effective according to their individual strengths. – Jared Knisley, Fizen Technology

7. Give them the best of both worlds.
There have been news stories showing that it’s not that employees don’t want to return to the office — what they want is to keep the flexibility they have now. It’s a good time to experiment with new hybrid models of work as we transition back to the office. Enabling employees to keep some of the flexibility of working from home as we bring back in-office operations could give staff and managers the best of both worlds. – Daniel Serfaty, Aptima, Inc.

8. Let your team members design their schedules.
There is a pride that comes from walking into an office and being part of a great organization. Still, more often than not, we waste so much time commuting, in meetings and so on that it can actually be counterproductive — and of course, there are distractions. The key is to make coming to work more flexible and to allow people to start building their own schedules. – Gene Yoo, Resecurity, Inc.

9. Include everyone in your decisions.
Include all of your people in the decision-making process. Ensure their voices are heard during this transition, or you are at risk of losing great talent. Ask, “What did you enjoy most, and least, about being remote? Would you prefer your schedule to be fully remote, a blend or mostly in the office with the occasional opportunity to work remotely? What has been most productive and least productive about remote work?” – Mike Sipple, Centennial Talent Strategy and Executive Search

10. Blend in-office work and social gatherings with remote work.
Blending in-office, collaborative work sessions and social gatherings with remote work creates a good balance and ensures people are still connected to each other and to the business’s goals. This also ensures that communication continues to flow throughout a company. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

15 ways to become a more transparent leader (and better inspire your team)

The role of a leader isn’t simply to drive profit and give orders to subordinates. A strong leader can inspire enthusiasm and loyalty in their teams, driving passion for the company’s product or service.

However, this inspiration can rarely grow in the dark; rather, a leader must make a point of working and communicating with transparency. To help, the members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share 15 concrete steps you can take to become a more transparent leader.

1. Get to know your staff as individuals.
Get to know your staff. Talk to them. Learn about their needs and desires regarding their careers. These are the individuals who are working hard every day to make your company successful. If they feel connected to you, they will usually feel like you are a transparent leader. – Karen Barbee, Renaissance Wellness Services, LLC

2. Share video messages.
During this time of remote work, I’ve added regular “Happy Friday” videos to my communication routine. Seeing my face and hearing my voice with an update on the week and specifics about what is happening has kept the team connected. It has helped to reinforce stability and consistency in a world that has been lacking both this last year. – Jon Schram, The Purple Guys

3. Create a safe space for sharing.
It’s important to create a safe space for employees to share about themselves. I like to share with my team, too, about the coaching and leadership development I’m doing. It’s a way to foster a culture of constant growth and vulnerability. – Jenn Kenning, Align Impact

4. Seek your team’s help with reaching specific goals.
Share your goals and your progress toward them. Succinctly and directly describe the information or help that you seek, and ask if the team can assist. Make sure your team members understand how they connect to your goals. This not only improves transparency but also makes a more direct connection between you and your team. – Matthew Johnston, Design Interactive Inc.

5. Discuss both business issues and personal milestones in regular meetings.
Within our monthly meetings, we very candidly discuss the health of the business. If there are problems, we talk about them during these meetings because it takes everyone to contribute. In these monthly meetings we also feature employee awards, new clients, birthdays and work anniversaries. Additionally, we hold quarterly meetings — we call these vision meetings, and they’re in a Q&A style. – Scott Scully, Abstrakt Marketing Group

6. Hold a debriefing session after major projects.
Gather input from all participants. Celebrate the successes and commit to making changes, if warranted, in the future. I feel that by doing this we all have the closure we need and are ready to tackle the next project that comes along. – Jim Lane, Lane Technology Solutions

7. Admit it when you fail.
From the outside, many corporate leaders seem as if they can do no wrong. Bring in the human emotion. The experience of sharing failure opens the connection between leadership and staff and encourages everyone to always strive for the best, knowing things may not always go to plan. People always see (or assume) success; they rarely get to know about what didn’t go according to plan. – Joseph Princz, Wrecking Ball

8. Share the whole truth.
Some senior management staff can’t seem to let go of the thought that star team members bail at the first indication of trouble. They are wrong. Do you know who actually bails on a struggling company? Star performers who feel misled, lied to or powerless to know what is really going on. Good leaders understand that. – Wesleyne Greer, Transformed Sales

9. Let people know who you really are.
There is a lot of talk about being vulnerable, which I translate to people really knowing who you are as a leader. Too often in business, we try to project an image of something we are not — or aren’t yet — and it comes across as either inauthentic or intimidating. If you are open with your employees on what challenges you and the company are facing, they will return the favor in kind. – Jared Knisley, Fizen Technology

10. Share the projects you’re working on.
I and all my team members share all of our projects via a shared document. We all know what each person is accountable for and what projects they’re working on. We are working partly remotely and partly in the office, so we have a 9 a.m. Zoom meeting each weekday. We go down our list of what we are working on to keep everybody in the loop on progress. – Jean-Paul Gedeon, JPG MEDIA

11. Respect your team’s competency and capabilities.
Sharing goals, progress and results with your team will allow them to better support the business’s success. Communication on how projects are progressing, whether verbal or through reports and a dashboard, lets the team know you trust them to move the business forward. – Laura Doehle, Elevation Business Consulting

12. Encourage cross-departmental meetings.
Invite team members from different departments to sit in on one another’s meetings. It showcases what everyone is working on and how their work plays a role in overall company goals. It also alleviates doubts about each other’s competency and shows support for different departments. This kind of interactivity not only creates camaraderie between silos but also eliminates companywide rumors and gossip. – Jeffrey Bartel, Hamptons Group, LLC

13. Discuss yearly or quarterly goals, then report on progress.
Transparency in sharing upfront goals for the year or quarter and reporting back on progress at the end of the timeline shows that the executive team is accountable. Further, it encourages employees to adopt that same behavior. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

14. Never sugarcoat the state of the company.
A step to becoming a more transparent leader is to not have secrets and to not sugarcoat the state of the organization. Keeping your employees informed and aware of your company’s situation will allow them to be well-prepared and not surprised by situations. This will make them more likely to be helpful problem-solvers. – Jack Smith, Fortuna Business Management Consulting

15. Share your calendars.
This may seem trivial, but my entire team shares all the details of their calendars with the entire team. We share when we are working out, going to the dentist or getting a manicure — it’s important for my team to see me as a real human and to see each other as spouses, friends and mothers. I expect my team to take care of themselves, and I lead by example. – Kimberly Lucas, Goldstone Partners

Seeing Is Believing: Why Visual Search Works

Gen Z and millennials have embraced this way of shopping, and it’s time brands did too

Instead of text-based searches and sifting through pages of results, visual search enables enhanced, modern interfaces that help curate and review buying options faster, which comes naturally to Gen Z and millennials. Thanks to the convergence of computer vision, machine learning and neuroscience, visual search is helping marketers meet these customers where they are by returning the most relevant search results based on similarities (e.g., color, style, shape, etc.)

With 90% of information processed by the human brain being visual, and that brain’s ability to identify images it’s viewed for as little as 13 milliseconds, brands using visual search are definitely onto something. These companies are not only feeding the new generations of shoppers’ craving for automation, they’re also opening the window for all generations to test the visual search waters.

The ‘easy’ button
Research shows that 62% of millennials are more interested in visual search capability than any other new technology, and that over 600 million visual searches are done on Pinterest every month. The process finds customers looking for products with a photo or other image versus keywords that are typically used in search engines. They can simply take a picture of the item, upload it to a visual search engine and be presented with the similar items available to purchase. It’s as easy as that.
For example, using an uploaded image of a blue prom dress, a visual search would enable someone to shop for an identical or similar dress online. And because visual search engines rely on neural networks that leverage machine learning, these engines are constantly expanding their fields of experience. As they become “smarter,” these search engines deliver more accurate, relevant results to shoppers.

From Pinterest to Bing to Amazon
Many online brands are successfully using visual search. Pinterest Lens allows customers to use their photo of an item to find out where to buy it or search for similar products, all while viewing ads for options for sale on other platforms; Google Lens recognizes objects and details via a camera; and Bing Visual Search allows consumers to search for specific elements within images (versus having to sort through a list of results) by clicking “visual search.”
Amazon has been in the visual search game since 2019, when it introduced StyleSnap. Shoppers click the camera icon in the upper right hand corner of their Amazon app, select the StyleSnap option, and then upload a photograph or screenshot of the desired outfit. StyleSnap presents recommendations for similar items on Amazon that match the look in the photo, factoring in parameters like brand, price range and customer reviews.

Putting visual search to work
For performance marketers, visual search provides a new channel for reaching Gen Z and millennial consumers who either don’t want to use text-based searches or are seeking new, automated ways to find stuff online. With these new highly visual consumers, and many search engines already offering visual search capabilities, this capability has become an opportunity that direct marketers can’t afford to ignore.
Consider this: Visual results are going to show up higher in a search engine’s rankings. That means your results appear faster, are seen more often and get better conversion rates than non-visual results. Younger generations of shoppers already love visual search, but it won’t be long before all consumers take to it and come to expect it. With 35% of marketers already planning to optimize their own websites for visual search, one can assume that number will only continue to grow in 2021.

As companies look for new ways to harness the attention of younger, tech-savvy shoppers, visual search may rise to the top as an effective way to align the creativity of the human brain with advanced technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence. And with visual search conversions providing 85% higher returns than textual search results, the more “visualized” your brand becomes, the more customers you’ll be able to attract and engage online.

15 business leaders share smart strategies for conducting a scenario analysis

After the events of 2020, every business leader is focused on being better prepared for the unexpected. One effective way to do this is to conduct a scenario analysis, a useful planning tool in which businesses create an action plan for the “what-ifs” they may encounter.

The Business Journals

Effective scenario analysis can help your organization evaluate the efficiency of current systems while also helping to mitigate against risk and minimize negative impact. Not sure where to begin? Follow this advice from the members of Business Journals Leadership Trust.

1. Study how you responded to difficult scenarios in the past year.
A good first step in conducting a scenario analysis is to evaluate the scenarios you faced over the past year and how you responded. Take the Covid-19 element out of the discussion and evaluate based on the factors it influenced, such as where you could work, how you could do the work and the change in demand for your product or service. What would you do differently, and what are the options for next time? – Laura Doehle, Elevation Business Consulting

2. Start with a SWOT analysis.
A simple SWOT analysis can be a good starting point. Be honest about your weaknesses and threats. Do you have a client concentration problem? Are you over-reliant on one supply partner? Have you failed to differentiate your brand or services? Imagine these weaknesses leading to unpleasant outcomes and then create mitigation — or better yet, plan to prevent the outcome. – Karen Albritton, Thinc Strategy, Inc.

3. Be honest about the future of your product or service.
Re-analyze whether your product or service has a future. In times like these, there is no use in being adventurous or dreamy; it’s time to be conservative. Take advantage of what people already know how to do and move forward. – Roberto Malpica, M&T Consulting Group

4. Review your largest revenue accounts.
Step one is to review your largest revenue accounts. If one, two or even three of them went away tomorrow, for whatever reason, how would you respond? Will you trim costs? If so, where? What is your plan to replace the revenue? How quickly can you make that happen? – Kimberly Lucas, Goldstone Partners

5. Diversify your customer acquisition processes.
The first step to making sure your business is ready for anything 2021 throws your way is to diversify the way you acquire customers. Have multiple front-end offers, multiple marketing channels and multiple entry points. This way if something is impacted you have more ways to generate new customers. Without new customers, you don’t have a business, so customer acquisition must be a priority. – Greg Rollett, Ambitious Media Group

6. Consider what you would do if one part of your business was shut down.
At the most basic level, most businesses have an operations side (e.g., the kitchen) and a service delivery channel (e.g., the dining room). Think about these two main areas of your business and assume one of them is shut down for various time frames (24 hours, 48 hours, two weeks and so on). What could you do to operate in those circumstances? Then assume the other side is closed and develop alternatives for it. – Ryan Morris, First State Bank

7. Don’t disregard the ‘unimaginable.’
Every business must spend more time picturing and thinking about the “unimaginable.” Organizations often rush through the threats when setting their short- and long-term strategies and creating their annual operating plans. The events of 2020 have taught us not to just “glance over” the unimaginable — your business could be open one day, following all the rules and regulations, and shut down the next through no fault of your own. – Mike Sipple, Centennial Talent Strategy and Executive Search

8. Look at the macro factors.
Always be cautiously aware of macro-environmental factors that can affect not only your business but also your clients’ businesses, and prepare in advance for any scenario. Make sure the core business and operations are stable and that employees feel that stability when there is uncertainty in the world around them. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

9. Ask these five questions.
I ask five questions when doing a scenario analysis. “Where am I at now? What do I want to happen? What will it take to make it happen? What barriers/blocks/challenges will I need to overcome? How will I overcome them?” Armed with these answers, I set the new course and move forward. – Linda Bishop, Thought Transformation

10. Account for possible circumstances beyond your control.
In times of crisis, companies must blend historical information with plausible outcomes to determine ramifications for all parts of an organization. Scenario plans give leaders breathing room to slow down and evaluate environmental, political and economic factors. Those prioritized factors are an important part of crisis scenarios. – Wesleyne Greer, Transformed Sales

11. Go in with a flexible mindset.
The first step is to ensure current clients’ needs are met. Maintaining the business of business comes first. The next step can be determined based on the depth of the unexpected. Can a derivation work or is a pivot required? As elaborate as what-ifs may be, having a flexible mindset and culture is key for any unexpected scenario. – Rachel Namoff, Arapaho Asset Management

12. Look ahead to where you’re going.
Action plans need to be flexible. I learned to drive at 15; now, in my 30s, I’ve evolved my technique, my skill, my braking time and so on. Action plans need to meet your team where they are and flex when needed to meet where you are going. If you do not have the time and commitment in your action planning to be flexible, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. – Crystal Lazar, Habitat for Humanity East & Central Pasco County

13. Attend industry webinars on this topic.
Industry organizations and the Small Business Administration have webinars that address this with examples shared by other business leaders. Log on to your local organization and you will find an abundance of resources and video interviews addressing these exact topics. Take what’s relevant and apply it to your business. There are more resources available now than ever before. – Jean-Paul Gedeon, JPG MEDIA

14. Identify who can do each of your company’s essential jobs.
Aside from keeping our business continuity plan current, it is critical to identify trusted team members who can do your job and the other essential jobs throughout the company. – Robert Antes, TradeTrans Corp.

15. Think outside the box.
When conducting a scenario analysis, you should be creative and be able to utilize out-of-the-box thinking. Come up with other scenarios that may impact your business. You should allow other concepts to exist so that you can expand your preparations to less-likely occurrences. – Jack Smith, Fortuna Business Management Consulting

14 trust-breaking mistakes that can damage your company’s brand

Companies that are transparent about their values and practices build long-term relationships with customers, employees and investors. Conversely, businesses that lose the trust of stakeholders can quickly fail — especially in today’s digital-first marketplace, where finding new options is easier and faster than ever before.

The Business Journals

Even business leaders with the best intentions may unwittingly engage in practices that undermine trust and damage their brand. To help your company avoid the same fate, the members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share 14 common trust-breaking mistakes they have seen businesses make and what should be done instead.

1. Not following through on promises
Businesses often make statements or promises but don’t follow through or keep the promise. To me, this is the biggest trust eroder. Don’t make promises you can’t keep, and don’t say you’ll do something that you later don’t do. And if you make a statement or promise, then, by all means, don’t break it. Keep your word. – Toshiyasu Abe, OPAS

2. Not addressing problems head-on
When a problem arises with a customer or client — which is inevitable — businesses that address it head-on, admit their mistake and remedy it will gain trust. With the abundance of review platforms online, such as Yelp, Google and Facebook, potential clients can get a feel of what it’s like to work with you and what to expect if something goes wrong. We love second chances. – Jean-Paul Gedeon, JPG MEDIA

3. Saying what your customer wants to hear
A common mistake that can lead to the erosion of trust at the very beginning of a customer relationship is overpromising. Business owners must ensure they aren’t simply saying what the customer wants to hear. If what’s being said in the marketplace isn’t reflecting what your business is executing day in and day out, your words don’t hold any weight and trust will be greatly diminished. – Stacy McCall, ServiceMaster by Stratos

4. Being afraid to grant trust
Don’t be afraid of intimacy and granting trust as a means of accelerating mutual understanding. It is this understanding that allows you to build and sustain trust. Once you have trust, you must honor and respect it, never compromising your integrity. A brand is how someone experiences your culture. Set and enforce standards, top to bottom, or you’ll suffer in the long run. – Craig Parisot, ATA, LLC

5. Not being open to client feedback
Caring about your customer and their opinion of your company matters. You must take the time to know your clients and care for them as individuals. Build the relationship so that they feel they can be honest with you. Be open to suggestions and listen to their recommendations. – Ana Rivero, Allied Property Group

6. Failing to communicate
You lose trust when you stop communicating and vanish from the frontlines. Today everyone has a voice, and when leaders and companies shy away from using that voice, they lose trust in the marketplace. Today’s leaders should stand tall, own up to mistakes and be transparent with their audience. Failure to do so means the market will move on to someone who is leading from the front. – Greg Rollett, Ambitious Media Group

7. Not being honest or transparent
People won’t trust you if you don’t show them trust. If you hold everything close to the vest, are evasive or leave key details out, people will see right through you. Business relationships, like personal relationships, require risk and the vulnerability that comes along with it. If you are taking on something with someone, it will never be successful if all parties can’t be 100% honest. – Brent Foley, TRIAD Architects

8. Ignoring negative comments
It’s upsetting to discover negative comments on digital channels, but ignoring them is a sure-fire way to completely lose customer confidence. If customers need service, promptly answer them. – Wesleyne Greer, Transformed Sales

9. Sharing ‘off-brand’ messaging
Ensure that all public messages — even social messages, which can be put together quickly — emulate the brand’s position. This position should be carefully crafted and aligned with the customer demographic. Don’t let the need for posting social media content encourage your creators to post “off-brand” messaging that will erode customer trust. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

10. Not considering the optics of your actions
Customers are human and slow to trust — and they can lose it instantly. A brand is valuable only if it is synonymous with the truth. Businesses often err by walking a thin reputational line. The optics of an action matter more than the action. If something looks wrong — even if it’s technically correct — it will hurt the business and the value of the brand. In short, avoid even a remote appearance of impropriety. – George Befeler, The Befeler Group

11. Trying to ‘fix’ things behind the scenes
Too often, businesses want to “fix the client problem” behind the scenes rather than just embracing reality and dealing with it. Clients are much more amenable if you are upfront and honest. In a world of short-burst communications, we have lost some of the skill of thoughtful communication. – Russell Benaroya, Stride

12. Not sharing progress reports
Poorly managing expectations is a fast track to eroding trust. Studies show that buyers’ monetary cost increases as information increases, suggesting that sellers might profit from the exchange of information and, indirectly, from trust. Continuous communication of progress toward the target will reinforce the customer’s or stakeholder’s interest and their trust in your company and brand to deliver. – Scott Young, PennComp Outsourced IT

13. Focusing on fees instead of client needs
Stop focusing on your bottom line instead of your clients. Take great care of clients and they will take care of you. Avoid the nickel-and-dime fees and focus on growing, helping and developing your clients and customers. – Carter Keith, 31,000 FT.

14. Failing to build internal trust
More than ever, the trust and authenticity of a brand must be right internally to be right externally. Consumers and stakeholders see right through this. Add in social media, and the word spreads like wildfire. – Keri Higgins-Bigelow, livingHR, Inc.