13 smart ways businesses can leverage opportunities for growth during a market downturn

Market downturns are inevitable, but how a business leader chooses to navigate them is not. Some leaders view them as setbacks and “hunker down,” and others see them as opportunities to focus on new or different opportunities. Pivoting or expanding products and services can help a business not only survive a downturn but thrive — while failing to seek out new opportunities could lead to ultimate failure.

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With a little time and effort, business leaders will likely find there are plenty of ways to identify and embrace new opportunities for growth during a market downturn. Below, 13 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share some effective ideas.

1. Look for ways to help others succeed.
Evaluate your services and products and determine how they meet a need during the downturn. Perhaps you are saving clients money or allowing them to do something with fewer people. Position yourself to help others achieve success during a downturn and opportunities for growth will come. – Laura Doehle, Elevation Business Consulting

2. Use cash reserves to make investments.
If a business has cash reserves and can afford to make investments during a down market — whether in human capital, tools of the trade, talent acquisition or any other relevant tangible or intangible assets — it’s the perfect time to do so. Coming out of the down market, that business will have a leg up on the competition and can hit the ground running while others are dusting off cobwebs. – AJ Ansari, DSWi

3. Evaluate your competitors.
A market downturn, sadly, may be the best time to put a competitor out of their misery. They may be having trouble staffing or just be struggling, so find your competition and their clients and reach out. This may also be the perfect time to buy a competitor. Depending on how “ruthless” you want to be, this is a chance to remind folks that your business will continue to serve X, Y and Z. – Rodger Roeser, The Eisen Agency

4. Train and upskill current employees.
During a market downturn, a business must maintain a growth mindset while being mindful of its bottom line. One way to do this is to look internally and seek out opportunities to train and upskill current employees. By doing so, a business will create a loyal and agile workforce that is nimble and ready to act when presented with new opportunities. – Brantlee Underhill, Project Management Institute

5. Stay adaptable and flexible.
I started my first business during the recession in 2006 because I was young and naive. But since I didn’t back out and pushed through, I learned a very important lesson in the process. The businesses that manage to survive any crisis are not the most creative, most affordable or whatnot — they are the most adaptable. As long as you stay flexible, you will stay relevant. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

6. Expand your network.
Turn your efforts to networking and building up your book of contacts. You can find partnership opportunities, mutual referral opportunities and so much more. Also, it is a great opportunity to see how other people are dealing with the same situation that you are going through. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

7. Grow into new markets.
We’ll use this downturn to spread out and grow our business! We plan to stay on track with our current revenue level by growing into new markets, so when the economy returns, we’ll be loaded for exponential growth. When times are tough, the tough get going, and we ought to be working harder than ever during a market downturn so that when things come back, we’re stronger than before! – Preston Dunn, Discount Dumpster Rental

8. See if you can reposition your products and services.
When faced with a market downturn, businesses should look at their products and services and assess whether those products and services can be repositioned, perhaps to a different market segment or application. Naturally, this process should be done outside of a market downturn, but organizations typically focus on their current market and customers. – Quoc Nguyen, Arthur Lawrence, LLC.

9. Be the ‘rock’ in your market space.
Be the rock among other companies in your space for clients and employees. With strength and consistency, you can take market share and see more opportunities while others are riding the ups and downs. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

10. Research how your customers’ needs are changing.
Talk to your existing customers and understand how their priorities, needs and strategies are changing in response to the market downturn. Adapting your business to changing customer needs will help you keep current customers and attract new ones by providing a product that’s in demand in the new market. It is likely that others are facing the same reality as your existing customers. – Peter Abualzolof, Mashvisor

11. Talk to decision-makers about their challenges.
Whenever there is change, there is opportunity. Start by understanding the challenges the downturn has created in your market. What are companies struggling with? If you can be proactive about talking to decision makers about these issues and how your solutions address any them, they will want to talk to you. You need to adjust your messaging and process to take advantage. – Gary Braun, Pivotal Advisors, LLC

12. Communicate the realities of the downturn.
Whether it’s a real estate or stock market downturn, it always causes the news cycle to heat up and more negative news to float around. Increase your communication — with your staff, with clients and via social — and explain the reality as it relates to your industry. This will calm people’s fears and help them to see you’re still working on their behalf. – Shanna Tingom, Heritage Financial Strategies

13. Consider pivoting to prove brand value.
Understand your customer mix and the golden rule that 20% of your customers make up 80% of your revenue. Downturns can create opportunities to pivot and prove value (as a brand or service). Customers are more hyper-aware and conscious in times like these, making value judgments with each decision. How good is this product’s quality? How healthy is that food choice? Downturns amplify this behavior. – Scott Harkey, OH Partners

11 ways leaders can encourage employees to speak freely

Some professionals have no trouble speaking their minds in the workplace. However, there are others who may have some of the best ideas to contribute but are simply too nervous to speak up.

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Leaders should encourage all their employees to speak freely, but sometimes special emphasis needs to be put on the ones who are too timid or introverted. Here, 11 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust discuss the best ways for leaders to encourage employees to be less afraid to speak freely.

1. Practice transparent, honest communication.
An employee that is afraid to speak up is often the result of the actions of someone in a position of authority. Transparent and honest communication from people in upper-level positions empowers effective communication. People who are in positions of authority must learn to listen actively. Do not just try to think of the next thing to say — listen, digest and then respond. – Lane Conner, Fuzse

2. Create a safe space for introverts to talk.
Different personalities want to share ideas differently. Extroverts can sometimes overpower a room without knowing it, so I make sure that I create a safe space where introverts can come to me and openly discuss anything they care to share in a private setting. I reassure everyone and involve them in planning things so they feel encouraged by sharing their ideas and making them come to life. – Messina Truttman, Beck Flavors

3. Be approachable, appreciative, act on input.
If employees are afraid to speak freely, it may be a symptom of another problem. The corporate culture may allow or encourage intimidation, or leadership may not be approachable or too judgmental. To encourage active input from employees, leaders must: 1. Be approachable and truly interested; 2. Be appreciative of employee input; 3. Act on meaningful input where warranted. – Doug Kinsey, Artifex Financial Group

4. Reward innovation and try something new.
Elon Musk once said that the biggest problem in many organizations is that they encourage playing it safe. The risk often means making mistakes, and mistakes are often punished. Think about how you can reward innovation and try something new, even if it means messing something up at some point. It has to be a part of your company culture. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

5. Create a safe culture and value diversity.
Create a safe culture and environment that values the diversity of thinking that every single person brings to the table. If employees are connected to the values and purpose of a business, and they understand the importance of their role, then they also respect the contributions of others as everyone is aligned. Then curiosity and conversation grow, and great ideas will flow. – Joanna Swash, Moneypenny

6. Actively listen and be consistent.
Listen when they talk and be consistent. If you are pushing for “openness” as a team but fly off the handle at the smallest infringement, you remove the comfort level. Be moderate and listen. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

7. Ask questions to seek insight and experience.
Ask questions of the team to seek their insight and experience. When talking through an issue, let employees speak first and then replay what you hear. When a decision is made, explain the thought process and how their input shaped the decision. – Jason Comstock, Clarity Technology Solutions LLC

8. Show humility, humor, self-depreciation.
I think a big part of the process is showing traits of humility, humor and a healthy little dose of self-deprecation to get your team feeling comfortable. In brainstorming sessions, I also like throwing out a crazy, off-the-wall idea to help get the ball rolling and to disarm everyone. Showing authenticity and vulnerability helps build trust over time while also encouraging others to use their voices. – Scott Harkey, OH Partners

9. Discuss opportunities and challenges.
Have weekly meetings with your entire team where you discuss opportunities and challenges and allow employees the space to be able to present their thoughts and feedback on how to effectively overcome those challenges. They could bring some great ideas that weren’t thought of before. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

10. Invest time to interact with employees.
A reason why employees are afraid to speak freely is that they don’t know their leaders. Many leaders don’t invest enough time with their employees, and their interactions are typically an exchange between a leader asking an employee to perform a task. If leaders want employees to speak freely and care about the organization, they need to invest their time with employees. – Quoc Nguyen, Arthur Lawrence, LLC.

11. Hire a facilitator to establish relations.
Provide facilitation. Many employees are afraid to speak openly even when encouraged to do so because they fear the repercussions in case of saying something that the management does not agree with. An effective way to build a culture of “freedom of speech” is to hire a professional facilitator who helps establish the right environment and the necessary relations between managers and employees. – Peter Abualzolof, Mashvisor

10 tips to help business leaders anticipate roadblocks (and overcome them)

Sometimes when you’re running a business, obstacles and setbacks seem to appear out of nowhere. Certainly, a few years ago it’s unlikely anyone could have predicted the emergence and disruption of the Covid pandemic. However, through a combination of lived experience and study, leaders can anticipate and prepare for many common business roadblocks, making challenges much easier to overcome.

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Since it’s inevitable that every business will face occasional setbacks of one kind or another, it’s wise to draw on the combined wisdom of seasoned industry leaders to prepare and plan. Here, 10 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share their tips to help fellow leaders anticipate roadblocks and overcome them.

1. Dig into your data and shared learnings.
For us, it is about using your data and shared learnings to truly understand. With better data insights you get to know your clients better, which helps you identify and fix issues before they become a problem, thereby increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty. Help them make better business decisions and you are doing the same — planning, predicting and supporting an agile and sustainable future. – Joanna Swash, Moneypenny

2. Use ‘what if’ scenario planning.
A strategy that I often use is scenario planning. We ask “what if” questions, document the responses, develop remediation strategies and assign an impact and probability score. Each answer will likely yield several follow-up questions. It is not necessary to go beyond three levels with this approach. Keep in mind that the goal is to create mini contingency plans. – Quoc Nguyen, Arthur Lawrence, LLC

3. Keep close tabs on your finances.
Know your financials. You should first look at the balance sheet, your liabilities and your assets. If your assets are greater than your liabilities, you’re in good shape, and if obstacles arise, you know you will have the cash flow to manage the situation. As it’s often said, “Cash is king.” – David Wescott, Transblue

4. Maintain working capital and tight procedures.
Roadblocks will always appear, and some will be out of nowhere. The best way to weather any storm or obstacle, especially in business, is to ensure you have enough working capital to get through any period. Also, ensure that your operating procedures are tight so you can pivot at any moment. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

5. Learn from past problems.
Learn from the past. Some have argued that we humans learn from positive experiences but not from past mistakes. This is not true in the business world. There is so much one can learn from how things went wrong before. As a leader, you are responsible for ensuring that lessons are learned and applied to not only prevent old problems from resurfacing but also to be better prepared to face new ones. – Peter Abualzolof, Mashvisor

6. Closely watch your clients and competitors.
There’s a well-known saying: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. In the corporate world, this translates to clients and competitors. Always watch the obstacles your clients and competitors face, and then formulate your strategies for overcoming roadblocks. Tap into what’s happening around you and anticipate roadblocks for smart preparation of further strategies. – Sanjay Jupudi, Qentelli

7. Listen to your intuition and to those you trust.
Listen to your gut, and do your best to “hear” the warning signs from those you trust. It’s been rare that something has gone wrong in my business where there wasn’t a red flag raised, either by my own intuition or by those I trust. My parents, my husband and my trusted employees all have great input that should not be discounted! – Shanna Tingom, Heritage Financial Strategies

8. Always have a backup plan.
Always have a plan B, and expect the unexpected. Now, that doesn’t mean living your life on pins and needles, but understand that you need to have backup plans. Losing a major client and having your team walk out are just two game-changing situations that you need to prepare for in advance in case they happen. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

9. Be prepared to pivot.
Be agile and prepared to pivot. Get creative and uncomfortable. Overthink and overplan. Covid was a game changer for us. We had to remain relevant to our clients when state and local governments were not meeting. We developed a report on what states were doing in response to Covid and brought in additional revenue by selling it to non-clients. It taught us to be responsive to the new landscape. – Stephanie Reich, Stateside Associates

10. Create space to think.
Read, slow down and create space for yourself to think. A lot of the execs I know are so busy that they just react to whatever the next crisis is. A problem happens, they act, solve it and then put their head back down to focus on what they were doing. The really good ones have a higher-level view of the playing field because they take time to noodle through the various scenarios and have a plan when issues arise. – Rob Erickson, Massive Mission

5 ways to leverage behavioral targeting to increase customer engagement

Behavioral targeting can be a critical factor in increasing customer engagement. When you’re able to gain a keen understanding of what people are doing on your website, app or with your campaigns, you can use that information to determine which messages and advertisements will resonate the best with them. When messages and advertisements are personalized, customers will be more compelled to engage with them.

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From analyzing regular audits to focusing on retargeting, there are a few different strategies that entrepreneurs and businesses can use to leverage behavioral targeting to increase customer engagement with their products or services. Here, five members of Business Journals Leadership Trust discuss the most effective ones and what makes them so effective.

1. Take an unbiased look at customers’ past actions.
The beauty of behavioral targeting is that it is unbiased and based on past actions. Focus groups and surveys capture intent or perception, but behavioral data is based on action. It’s the ultimate truth and therefore provides very accurate targeting. – Kent Lewis, Deksia

2. Consider the goal and action you want them to take.
Behavioral targeting can draw in your consumer to the brand engagement action you’d like your consumer to have with your brand. If the goal is for them to like a post, take advantage of a special offer or forward information to family and friends, your brand messaging can be dynamically served to your consumer with the action you want them to take, helping affect the behavioral action goal. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

3. Create behavior-based retargeting campaigns.
Using behavioral targeting in customized remarketing and retargeting is an efficient way to bring users back to your website and encourage them to interact with your product more meaningfully. Create retargeting campaigns based on customer behavior patterns to take them back to the part of your website or product they will most likely find useful and enjoy. – Peter Abualzolof, Mashvisor

4. Conduct a weekly social media engagement audit.
Do a weekly audit of the people that are engaging with your content on social media. Literally, click and review their profiles and see what is important to them. You will find out triggers of conversion that you may not have found through more automated research. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

5. Focus on your client to bring in the ‘right’ business.
Behavioral targeting ensures that you’re focused on your client. When you focus on your client, you have more success bringing on the “right” type of business for your brand. It is effective because you don’t bring on the wrong customers who actually can damage your business and put you out of business if you’re not careful. – David Wescott, Transblue

5 smart strategies for managing marketing analytics in a digital world

With today’s digital marketplace, businesses have never had so many options for getting their marketing messages in front of the public. Still, that doesn’t mean digital marketing is “easy.” As new platforms, tools and technology emerge, best practices in marketing change. Consumers are becoming more and more savvy to anything that smacks of a gimmick, and their expectations for meaningful, personalized outreach continue to rise.

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However, every audience is not the same, and meeting your target customers where they are and providing the unique information they need to know is essential to success. With all the options out there, it’s important for companies to not only keep up with the latest trends in marketing but also to carefully track which marketing methods, platforms and messages work best for them. And in this digital world, it’s not only the outreach methods that are changing — trends in marketing analytics are evolving as well.

Businesses looking to develop a well-rounded, accurate view of their marketing efforts need to blend old-school detail work with modern tech tools — all while being aware of the legal and ethical responsibilities that come with digital interactions with customers. Below, five industry leaders from Business Journals Leadership Trust share smart strategies to help you navigate modern marketing analytics.

1. Create target audience profiles.
Get to know your audience on a granular level, and do it by hand. Create samples of your target audience profiles, and then look through those profiles to see what they value, care about and love (and love to share). Doing it by hand as opposed to doing it via artificial intelligence is key. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

2. Assign different weights to different platforms.
True cross-channel media optimization continues to be more and more critical. Media platforms are shifting on a daily basis, and your marketing efforts must constantly add different weights to different platforms to meet your brand’s KPIs and acquisition goals. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

3. Expand your use of AI.
The next big trend is definitely expanding the use of artificial intelligence. As AI becomes more sophisticated, marketers will apply it more and more for things like a detailed analysis of customer behavior, predicting customer needs based on behavioral patterns, and targeted marketing messaging and campaigns. To prepare, businesses need to make sure they have agile marketing teams ready to adapt to any change. – Peter Abualzolof, Mashvisor

4. Integrate predictive analytics.
While digital marketing is maturing in some aspects, it is still an evolving discipline. I believe the next wave is integrating big data, predictive analytics and machine learning to target “what’s next” in a customer’s purchasing lifecycle. Doing so will allow organizations to predict a customer’s next purchases and influence and market to them even before they realize they have a specific need. – Quoc Nguyen, Arthur Lawrence, LLC

5. Stay up to date with changing laws.
The changing landscape of digital and data privacy laws will continue to challenge marketers. Understanding how to collect data in a compliant way in all the jurisdictions in which you do business, while still achieving relevance and personalization, will become even more of a balancing act. – Jen McClure, 2GO Advisory Group

7 simple ways to get more revenue from current customers

Many business owners and entrepreneurs believe that in order to grow revenue, they need to expand their business, products or services or grow their customer base. However, there are usually some untapped methods to get more revenue from current customers.

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Before launching new products or services or looking for new customers, there are some simple ways to tap into the ones you currently have. Below, seven members of Business Journals Leadership Trust discuss some of the simplest ways to get more revenue from current customers and why they’re effective.

1. Find complimentary services.
Find complementary services that can help you grow or reach your campaign goals. Never sell unnecessary upsells; keep them essential. By doing this, you will then continue to be considered a thought leader by them. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

2. Offer top-notch customer service.
In business, if cash is king, then revenue is queen. One simple way to get more revenue from current customers is to meet and exceed their expectations through top-notch products or services with executive customer service. This approach has a two-edged sword impact. First, customers are more likely to come back to buy more. Second, they will refer others, thus creating more revenue. – Emmanuel Eliason, Eliason Wealth Management

3. Match previous energy and passion.
Use the same energy and passion for delivering products or services used when pursuing customers. Delivery excellence is not simply meeting contract terms but going above and beyond contractual obligations. It may sound counterintuitive, but do not focus on the next thing you can sell. Instead, focus on creating and delivering the highest quality deliverable possible. – Quoc Nguyen, Arthur Lawrence, LLC.

4. Ensure it’s love at first touch.
The best way to ensure the highest revenue per customer is to ensure they love your product or brand from the first touch. This will lead to a purchase with them becoming a repeat customer and drive lifetime value. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

5. Preserve service consistency.
As a service business, it is as simple as treating them well! Be consistent. Meet your deadlines and maintain accuracy. Their trust in you will grow and they will inevitably ask you to do more. – Zane Stevens, Protea Financial

6. Deliver incredible experiences.
Share best practices, deliver an incredible customer experience and give them a reason to want to do more business with you. You get what you put into it! – David Wescott, Transblue

7. Maintain regular communication.
The easiest way is to retain existing customers for as long as possible. To do that, you must maintain regular communication with them to ensure that your product is still adequately meeting their needs. In our ever-changing world, the needs of customers are also always changing, so you need to understand them well and ensure that your product evolves with these needs in mind. – Peter Abualzolof, Mashvisor

Want to Attract Younger Consumers? Just Be Yourself

To most effectively tap into Gen Z and millennials,
personalized and transparent communication is key

Adweek

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The consumer is more and more aware every day of marketing “hype” and language that is not authentic to the brand or corporate mission. Gen Z and millennials are acutely aware of this and will expect nothing less and can see through it all. This differs from their predecessors on many fronts. They’re digital natives who think greener, expect more from the companies that they buy from and love authenticity.

Currently aged 10-25 (for Gen Z) and 26-41 (for millennials), these consumers have a lot of buying power—and are accumulating even more—and a habit of aligning their purchase decisions with their own personal values. However, Gen Z and millennials are more aware of cost of living and finances and so they research and put a lot of thought into purchasing decisions to make sure it not only fits their personal needs, but also fulfills social and societal needs.

Gen Zers, in particular, are very intentional about those decisions; they think before they buy.

“Gen Z has let us know—loud and clear—that they are passionate about making a change and fighting for the values they believe in,” BigCommerce pointed out. This opens the doors of opportunity for performance marketers to share the mission and values of their brands.

“Or take it a step further and partner with a charity or cause your brand is passionate about,” the publication added. For example, it says one direct-to-consumer shoe manufacturer teamed up with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation to gift a pair of pink shoes to those impacted by the illness illustrates the company’s understanding of what younger consumers want from the brands they buy from.

More personalized ads, please

We all know personalization and micro targeting has become more and more prevalent, but it is a “must have” instead of a “nice to have” at this point for marketers. “While 57% of millennials and 43% of baby boomers said they liked personalized ads, a whopping 81% of those in Generation Z said the same,” in a study conducted by Unsupervised.

Gen Z is a huge user of social media, and that the medium as a whole has evolved quite a bit over the last few years. Snapchat, TikTok and Instagram are the main platforms where Gen Z spends its time, and TikTok ads are a good starting point for performance marketers looking to leverage this trend. In fact, all four social media platforms are good vehicles for reaching consumers of all ages.

Personalized ads are a great opportunity for companies that want to reach and engage with younger consumers and when done effectively, accurately link relevant social content to brands with the same values and end up with a completed sale.

Speaking with images instead of words

The emoji has taken on a whole new level of communication and there are even varying levels of enthusiasm within the emoji universe. If you didn’t know that the thumbs-up emoji was meant to denote passive aggressiveness, or that some people like to speak mostly in emojis on social media or when texting, then it’s time to listen a little harder to what younger consumers want, respond to and engage with. But don’t worry because you’ll be in good company; entire industry sectors are also trying to figure out what they need to do to get the attention and wallet share of more Gen Z customers.

The wine industry is a good example. According to the Wine Market Council, just 14% of Americans aged 21 to 30 drink wine on a weekly basis, and 11% drink it occasionally. Compare this to individuals who are aged 30 to 39, 20% of whom are weekly wine drinkers. Much like performance marketers are digging down deeper to determine how to attract and retain more Gen Z and millennials customers, this entire sector is doing the same.

“The wine industry still has work to do in order to attract younger generations in an increasingly competitive beverage alcohol landscape,” SevenFiftyDaily reported. “This will involve not only revisiting the lessons of the past, but [also] employing new tactics for each new generation as it reaches legal consumption age.”

The bottom line is that creativity and effectively communicating to reach your target audience is not a new concept but the importance of keeping up with how Gen Z and millennials want to be communicated with is key for marketers and a successful and long-term brand relationship.

How CPG Brands are Evolving in 2022

 

This AIThority guest post is co-authored by Karla Crawford Kerr, VP of Marketing, and Cyndi McMaster, Director of Client Development, Hawthorne Advertising.

The consumer-packaged goods (CPG) industry is on an exciting and transitional path right now, especially when it comes to the marketing approach. Virtually everything about the category has changed, including the items classified as CPG, the way brands develop and bring products to market, and how consumers learn about and acquire CPG products.

The pandemic accelerated the shift to digital shopping channels, and a combination of greater availability of venture capital and affordable digital advertising options enabled emerging brands to use direct-to-consumer sales to remove barriers that had stood for decades — obstacles that once protected legacy brands’ share of the market and prevented new entrants from gaining traction.

It’s critical for marketers to understand how CPG is evolving so they can compete effectively as the landscape shifts.

Legacy brands had the advantage, but over the last decade, emerging direct-to-consumer brands like Dollar Shave Club, Warby Parker, and countless others flipped the go-to-market script, appealing to new generations of customers and driving growth through social commerce.

Karla Crawford Kerr, VP of Marketing

Karla Crawford Kerr
VP of Marketing

Cyndi McMaster, Director of Client Development

Cyndi McMaster
Director of Client Development

New Customers, Values and Buying Habits

How consumers buy CPG products has changed. For many it’s now become automatic to purchase everyday staples like laundry detergent, pet food, coffee, etc., through Amazon and other direct-to-consumer platforms which also make automatic reordering at the right frequency simple and easy. And more people are now ordering groceries and other supplies online for pickup or delivery. And when consumers do physically visit stores, they compare prices in real-time on their phones, which makes multichannel selling for CPG’s an absolute must.

The customer base has changed, too, as is the way consumers select and buy products.

Millennial and Gen Z customers are looking for products that meet their needs at a good price, but they also look for brands that share their values, like sustainability and corporate commitment to their employees and communities, because they want to feel good about their purchases.

At the same time, as higher prices put pressure on budgets and new choices proliferate, brand loyalty is weakening, especially for legacy brands.

Many shoppers are opting for store brands or are willing to give less well-known products a try if marketed in a way that appeals to, even mirrors, their values and who they are (vs what they should aspire to be). Newer brands that succinctly convey product benefits while communicating a strong mission can pick up today’s more socially conscious consumers, including companies like Girlfriend Collective, which makes quality clothing for all shapes and sizes from recycled materials.

Acquisitions, Incubators and Retooled Distribution Strategies

Another sea change in the CPG space is the way brands develop and distribute products.

Buying habits changed, so brands have had to shift distribution to meet consumers where their needs and preferences are in the moment of purchase, balancing convenience with the experience. Established CPG brands meet these challenges in different ways, with some opting to offer legacy products on multiple channels and others acquiring emerging brands to reach new consumers.

In some cases, legacy brands have shifted from funding in-house new product development to purchasing emerging brands that appeal to desired demographic groups to remain relevant in a changing marketplace. For example, the maker of Schick razors acquired direct-to-consumer razor brand Billie for $310 million late last year, and instead of folding the emerging brand into its legacy portfolio, the parent company is allowing Billie’s founders to continue running the successful business.

E-commerce Startup News: Promoted.ai Raises $6M to Transform E-Commerce Businesses using ML Infrastructure

Emerging brands recognize that product development and distribution have shifted too, and instead of focusing on scaling up for an IPO, some are looking to be acquired earlier as a means of expanding production and distribution capabilities. But the landscape is now flooded with new products and brands, there is heavy competition.

According to a recent McKinsey report, “Today, low barriers to entry have encouraged an explosion of DNB’s (digitally-native brands). However, DNBs (digitally native brands) that break through with outsize investor returns are rare. Over the past two decades, fewer than 0.5 percent of DNBs have reached $100 million in revenues. Investors face the challenge of sifting through concepts to determine which are worthy of the capital required to scale a business or buy into an existing company at high multiples.”.

In other cases, brands that were previously acquired by large CPG companies are finding they do better when the big enterprise divests and new owners invest more in product quality, innovation and marketing, as in the case with Bolthouse Farms, KRAVE PURE FOOD, and other brands.

Products and Messages that Break Through the Noise

One aspect of the CPG sector hasn’t changed: product quality still ultimately drives success or failure. The product must genuinely solve a problem and have attractive benefits and features. If it doesn’t, consumers will catch on eventually. But the way marketers communicate value has changed. Ads that are less polished and perceived as more authentic can appeal to the demographics CPG brands are most interested in targeting.

Emerging CPG brands demonstrated that influencers and social media can drive fast growth, even legacy CPG brands took note and invested in those channels too, demonstrating that campaigns on platforms like TikTok and Instagram can drive sales. And Amazon offers newer brands a quick and easier path to e-commerce. But these efforts should not be mistaken as a stand-alone marketing strategy.

Per Retail Dive, “A diversified marketing mix and the cost of customer acquisition are among the factors investors look for before contributing funding.” What’s needed for CPG’s to successfully launch and grow a brand is an omnichannel approach that expands past the initial customer base and loyalists- one that cuts through the noise of competitors and takes continuous analysis to identify consumer segments the brand hasn’t connected with yet or should be. Grove Collaborative has does a great job with content and messaging that successfully delivers a product’s uniqueness and value to customers in real, relatable terms while testing and expanding new media channels and platforms.

It’s an exciting time with limitless opportunities for CPG brands that embrace change.

Marketers are changing the world in a real sense, and brands that connect with marketers who have the right expertise can do more than just keep up as CPG evolves — they can drive that evolution forward.

Buckle Up, Media Planners: The 2022 Midterms Will Be Tough On Advertisers

George Leon, Chief Strategy OfficerOn TV & Video” is a column exploring opportunities and challenges in advanced TV and video.

Today’s column is written by George Leon, chief strategy officer at Hawthorne Advertising.

The midterm election season will be here before we know it. The 2018 election season disrupted formerly stable patterns. This year, the lack of stability might be even more pronounced.

A rare trifecta of factors influence the marketplace today: heightened political tension, a war in Europe and high inflation. We can add the pandemic to the mix, too. It has changed media consumption habits significantly, and the new habits are persisting.

Let’s take a look at the past impact of midterm elections on ad buying and planning and the current patterns that are emerging. Understanding these patterns can help media planners and buyers be as prepared as possible for the remainder of the year.

Advertising during a tumultuous 2018 and 2020

Midterm elections typically generate less enthusiasm and have significantly lower turnout than presidential year races. Through 2018, the midterm pattern was a bell curve with a peak in September-November. But the 2018 midterms were anything but typical.

According to the Pew Research Center, more people voted than in any midterm election year since 1978. The intense interest drove campaign ad demand, which in turn drove advertising rates 1,000% to 2,000% higher in the 2018 cycle.

Voter turnout rose even higher in 2020, with nearly two-thirds of eligible voters participating in a record-setting presidential election. Afterward, through the start of the new year, many viewers tuned out of the post-election coverage. CNN saw declines of 40% to 50% in some markets, while networks like Fox News and MSNBC saw less precipitous decreases.

For media planners and buyers, the bottom line was that the negative political discourse was reflected in a diminished consumer response to ads placed during that period. Buyers were paying more for placement and getting less bang for their buck.

2022 has been painful for advertisers — so far

The Virginia gubernatorial election and early Texas primaries provided a preview of what to expect in the months ahead. In Virginia, there was a sharp increase in the frequency of communication. And the negative tenor of the political ads affected consumers’ willingness to stick with programming during the commercial break to view nonpolitical ad content.

The bell curve pattern expanded, with political content airing earlier in the year. Buyers who expected the usual pattern encountered pricing and availability barriers earlier. They also got diminished returns because political ad content turned viewers off.

One of the biggest surprises from the fourth quarter of 2021 was the lack of a response rate rebound after elections concluded. There’s usually a lift when the political season wraps up, but there wasn’t one in the second half of Q4. After an initial rise, response rates hit a brick wall, likely due to low consumer confidence and spiraling inflationary pressures.

The growth of CTV and the death of cookies will shape this election season

What will the remainder of 2022 hold for media planners and buyers? Rates will likely double in the next few months, possibly followed by a dip. Then there may be an increase that lasts through the election and the rest of the year. Rate increases will likely match or even exceed the sharp increases from the 2018 midterms.

It’s important to factor in the shifts from linear to OTT/CTV inventory in the years leading up to the pandemic and high rates of adoption as it subsides. Frequency will be a major issue, and inventory will be affected profoundly. But OTT/CTV is highly targeted, so ad servers will focus on fit, meaning consumers won’t be inundated with bombastic content.

Marketers may also look to paid social as the shift away from linear TV continues, but the disappearance of third-party cookies is making it more difficult to drive awareness and conversion on channels like Facebook and Instagram.

As a result, advertisers may decide to hold off on campaigns until the midterm period is over – if they can. Buyers who need to drive action around time-specific events like Medicare enrollment will need to maintain a presence during the midterms, but they’ll have to plan on paying more to place inventory that receives lower response rates.

Buckle up as you prepare for the rest of the year. Be aware that it will take more spending to maintain response rates, let alone increase them in the fourth quarter. The upcoming midterms will be a bumpy ride.

12 ways for managers to understand what stakeholders want

Every business has various stakeholders, from customers and investors to employees. Every group of stakeholders expects something different from the company, and it’s important to keep them all satisfied.

The Business Journals

The first step to satisfying stakeholders is understanding what they want. Here, 12 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust discuss how managers can get a better understanding of what internal and external stakeholders want.

1. Solicit feedback in a safe manner.
Solicit feedback in a manner that feels safe to internal and external stakeholders. Focus the questions to ensure that feedback is targeted. Open-ended or vague questions discourage interest in responding because it doesn’t support real change. Finally, be open and welcoming to the feedback by providing a post-feedback follow-up so that internal and external stakeholders know you value their time. – Chelsea Suttmann, Barulich Dugoni & Suttmann Law Group, Inc.

2. Hold sensitive info in confidence.
When it comes to understanding what internal and external stakeholders want, need and expect from the C-suite, there is no substitute for listening. However, just being present to listen alone is not enough. You have to hold sensitive information in confidence, make timely and transparent leadership decisions with feedback and be engaged authentically for the long haul. – Carrie Collins-Fadell, Brain Injury Alliance

3. Talk through expected results.
Talk through the job to be done or the expected results. Many times it’s difficult to articulate what internal and external stakeholders want, so doing this can be more effective in understanding the desired outcomes. – Jawad Shaikh, Avelead

4. Have authentic conversations.
Ask them! We spend so much time assuming the wants of our stakeholders when personally asking them can be so meaningful. Having authentic and transparent conversations moves relationships forward in a sustainable and positive manner. – Lelia Kramer, Saint Ursula Academy

5. Keep constant communication.
There is no shortcut, social media or survey-based answer here. Constant communication is the only method to understand other people better, whether in a business, personal, internal or external setting. The fact that it’s hard work and most people won’t do it will set you — and your company — apart for years to come. – Daniel Sweet, Sweetview Partners, Inc.

6. Spend time for honest feedback.
Spend time with team members/staff, clients and referral sources to solicit honest feedback. Start the conversation with kind words about how important the stakeholder’s viewpoint is and then ask for thoughts on what’s working, what needs improvement and if they see opportunities worthy of consideration. Consider offering some kind of small gift as a “thank you” for their valuable time. – Wendy Merrill, Affinity Consulting Group

7. Create thought-provoking questions.
Research of existing stakeholders and potential stakeholders is key, but don’t just ask the standard “ranking” questions on satisfaction. Create thought-provoking, open-ended questions, such as “How can we improve our relationship?” or “What’s one thing we could do differently?” Engage face-to-face when possible, as what is on a survey is rarely the same as what you get in a two-way conversation. – Hinda Mitchell, Inspire PR Group

8. Hold bi-weekly/monthly meetings.
We call it a management operating system. This is a regular cadence of one-on-ones and/or team meetings with stakeholders that impact each other. For instance, the sales and marketing teams should sit down on a bi-weekly or monthly basis to discuss what’s working or not. As soon as these regular meetings start to wane, then misalignment starts to creep in and conflict arises. – Gary Braun, Pivotal Advisors, LLC

9. Have regular metrics meetings.
Holding quarterly and yearly meetings where you agree on metrics, one-year and three-year goals are key to getting alignment across the board. It also ensures everyone has clear goals and action items. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

10. Identify who serves each stakeholder.
We conduct live or surrogate stakeholder analyses delving into who are the stakeholders, why each one needs this team to be aligned and how each stakeholder measures the team’s success. This exercise reveals a team’s purpose and sets the stage for shaping and strengthening the drivers of team effectiveness. – Kim Baker, Vivid Performance Group

11. Practice active listening.
Practice active listening, and take notes. Leaders take notes, listening and ensuring they have heard what their counterpart is talking about. If you focus on listening, you will understand what your stakeholders really want. – David Wescott, Transblue

12. Get ‘boots-on-the-ground’ experience.
If you want to keep your pulse on what’s happening, take a walk in their shoes. Getting a “boots-on-the-ground” experience with your stakeholders can help you understand what’s working and what needs help. – Kimberly Lucas, Goldstone Partners