13 ways to develop an organic marketing strategy

While businesses can (and do) spend a ton of money on marketing to see results, they don’t necessarily need to. With some creativity and clever strategizing in the marketing department, a company can see similar results doing it all on its own.

The Business Journals

Developing an effective organic marketing strategy on a low budget isn’t exactly a piece of cake, but it is possible. Here, 13 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share some key ways to do so.

1. Interview your executives and clients.
Interview your executives and clients (together if possible). Interviews are a quick and scalable way to generate deep thought leadership content. Include your clients and prospective clients to get a two-for-one deal that promotes you both. Integrate social media postings of the published interviews into your and your clients’ platforms for a simple social media campaign with expanded reach. – Ryan Blanch, Repute PR + Law

2. Help current clients with their needs.
Focus on customer service! There are millions of ways to bring in new clients, but customer service is by far the best and most productive strategy. By helping our current clients with their needs, we receive referrals. We feel that our clients are our best spokespersons. The key is to provide top-of-the-line service. – Arnold Garza, Houston Center Real Estate

3. Use measurable tools for assessment.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Focus is essential and having measurable tools to assess success. Public relations and customer relations are the two most affordable programs for early-stage companies. However, to drive social revenue, direct marketing also needs to be part of the program for growth. – Donna Michaels, LMGPR

4. Narrow your audience.
Narrow your audience and then narrow it again (and maybe one more time). Too often, businesses think their audience is “everyone,” which is the fastest way to have an audience of no one. Drill down. Today, you can market online based on gender, race, age, location and interests — the options are nearly infinite. Define exactly who you want to talk to and then go find them. – Sam Davidson, Batch

5. Set KPIs that matter, and keep up with them.
Set key performance indicators that matter and ones that you keep up with! Whether it is paid or organic, it is important that you identify what measurable number you want to focus on. If you’re not sure where to start, do a competitive analysis and see what your competitors have that you want! – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

6. Deliver an incredible customer experience.
Deliver an incredible customer experience. Deliver incredible results and your business will grow without marketing and advertising. Quality is still king, so there are always opportunities for new business because someone is always letting their client down! Deliver a world-class service and you will have more business than you can handle! – David Wescott, Transblue

7. Build meaningful, engaging experiences.
Build experiences that are highly meaningful and engaging, and be able to measure the responses. Give customers opportunities to embrace what you do and what you offer, encouraging them to also invite their communities to join them in supporting you. Conversely, be sure to embrace the community around you by using engagement strategies that leave a positive, lasting impression. – John Harris, Digital Environment LLC

8. Have a defined point of view.
Have a well-defined point of view you want to share. Create a strategy that provides for specific and consistent representation in various channels where your customers are. Create avenues for customers to provide input about what they would like to see and use those customer ideas publicly as you then see to meet those needs. Ask for testimonials and referrals, and use them to market the company. – Kimberly Janson, Janson Associates

9. Join industry-specific associations.
One of the most effective approaches to developing an organic marketing plan is to join industry-specific groups or trade associations. With insights gathered through active participation, an organization can build a targeted marketing plan that will reach prospective customers where they are likely to visit for content relating to their industry. – Quoc Nguyen, Arthur Lawrence, LLC.

10. Create informative content.
Creating high-quality, informative content focused on the right keywords can do miracles for driving organic traffic to your website. This has been the most cost-efficient strategy to generate leads for our company and it’s fully scalable. The key is consistency. Figure out the frequency at which you can post new content, whether it’s daily or weekly, and stick to it. – Peter Abualzolof, Mashvisor

11. Know your core audience well.
Knowing your core audience and segmentation. Also, knowing which customers convert the strongest and have the largest purchase history should be your main target to generate the most amount of ROI. You then can test at varying levels with other marketing channels and diversify the audience. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

12. Collaborate with a microinfluencer.
Collaborate with a budget-friendly microinfluencer with an authentic appreciation for your products or services to strengthen your online marketing strategy. Compared to the classic influencer with tons of followers, microinfluencers have smaller audiences, but can be equally persuasive among their niche audience. To start, look for a well-matched microinfluencer who is open to in-kind trade. – Lincoln Jacobe, 6 Pillars Marketing

13. Speak at events and write articles.
I’ve found the most powerful organic marketing strategy is public relations. PR provides authentic, credible and affordable awareness and perception-building. Speaking at industry events, writing articles for industry publications, submitting for awards and making yourself available to the media are all foundational PR strategies that move the needle. – Kent Lewis, Deksia

8 essential things to understand about consumer psychology

Every business needs customers to survive and thrive. Gaining a better understanding of consumers as individuals can help inform current and future business decisions.

The Business Journals

It’s important to understand everything you can about your customers, but there are some essential things to focus on that drive deeper connections. Here, eight members of Business Journals Leadership Trust discuss what those things are and how they help.

1. Find out their interests/passions to offer value.
Understand that these are individuals that breathe air and have interests, passions, things they hate and things they love. Then, find out what they are and how you can offer value to them in terms of content and more. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

2. Watch what they do.
Watch what consumers do, not what they say. Consumers are notoriously bad at saying what they are willing to spend money on, but they often don’t really know what they want until they experience it. Build testing into your product to give consumers options and watch what they choose. Think of the adage, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” – Jeremy Brandt, 1-800-CashOffer

3. Note the breadth of their areas of concern.
Companies should learn what the biggest areas consumers are concerned about are because when you solve concerns or fears, you are creating stickiness with your customers. Additionally, noting the breadth of these issues will provide you with ideas on product extensions or new ways to meet current or future customer needs. – Kimberly Janson, Janson Associates

4. Understand why companies buy from you.
Understand why your companies buy from you. What is their “why” for working with you? What is your superpower? Identifying this and focusing on it in your business will help your business hit the goals you have in place. Business is about relationships, and the stronger the relationships the stronger the business. – David Wescott, Transblue

5. Create buyer personas of primary segments.
The most effective and efficient path to understanding your customers as individuals is to create buyer personas that consist of composite images of primary customer segments. With defined personas the entire company can rally behind, the next step is to dive deeper into their psychology. Consider what the problems are that you are solving, their symptoms and associated emotions. This is foundational marketing. – Kent Lewis, Deksia

6. Help them understand whole-life benefits.
A consumer needs to genuinely understand what the product benefits are, from a whole life perspective, and how it will positively impact them, society and the environment. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

7. Add or create value with every interaction.
Every customer interaction or touch point can only yield one of three results: maintain the status quo, destroy trust or create/add new value to the customers. Unfortunately, two of the above-mentioned approaches yield the same negative outcome. Develop a strategy to add/create value with every interaction. Value creation should be front and center with each interaction — no exception. – Quoc Nguyen, Arthur Lawrence, LLC.

8. Collect feedback from satisfied customers.
One of the basic principles of consumer psychology that many businesses fail to understand and apply is that customers are significantly more likely to trust other customers than anyone else when it comes to choosing whether or not to go with your product. Thus, businesses need to focus on collecting positive feedback from satisfied consumers to build brand awareness and new consumer trust. – Peter Abualzolof, Mashvisor

Despite the Bear Market, Younger Generations Should Embrace ‘Buy and Hold’ Strategies Crypto, Neobanks, NFTs

The economy is looking even more dire, and there are lessons
performance marketers can take away


Mesut Ugurlu/Getty Images

Most financial planners would steer their client away from get-rich-quick investment approaches and instead advocate for “buy and hold” strategies. In most cases, the latter involves finding reliable workhorses of the stock market and then hanging onto them for years or even decades.

Generations Y and Z have a different idea about how they want to build their assets. From cryptocurrency and bitcoin to NFTs and other digital assets, younger investors are forgoing blue chip stocks that their parents and grandparents used and taking bolder, riskier moves with their money.

Some of the shifts can be traced to the rise of “neobanks,” or those fin-tech firms offering up apps, software and other technologies that help streamline mobile and online banking. According to Forbes Advisor, neobanks—which specialize in checking and savings accounts—tend to be nimbler and more “transparent than their megabank counterparts, even though many of them partner with such institutions to insure their financial products.”

“The advancement of digital banking and the rise of neobanks is creating a new paradigm of how younger millennials and Gen Z want to interact with their finances and investments,” Nasdaq has pointed out, adding that the adoption rates for neobanking are high in the U.S.—a trend that’s supported the expansion of cryptocurrencies, digital assets, digital wallets and digital real estate.

“With digital-only finances and tools, the realm of possibilities for investing extends beyond the physical,” Nasdaq also stated. It went on to say that mainstream consumer brands are also shifting brand equity into the digital world; Walmart is launching cryptocurrency and NFTs and Nike is creating shoe NFTs for the metaverse. “Other brands have rushed to claim space in the metaverse, even while the future of the metaverse remains unclear.”

They’re already digital-savvy

Credit the digital-savvy Gen Z and the younger end of the millennial generations with driving higher interest in electronic-based investment options. Already used to communicating on social, learning remotely and basing important decisions on virtual peer reviews, these consumers gravitate toward options that older generations didn’t have when they were in their 20s and 30s.

Take NFTs, for example. Used to indicate ownership or usage right of a unique asset—typically art, music or a video game item—”these tokens are built and managed on a blockchain, the same digital ledger technology system utilized by bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies,” as explained by The Motley Fool. Younger investors have taken to NFTs like a moth to a flame, so to speak.

According to YPulse, 13% of people aged 13 to 39 have purchased NFTs and 28% have bought cryptocurrencies, the latter of which further proves the Gen Z and millennial thirst for alternate, digital investment options. This research “found that between crypto, NFTs and digital land, more young people have made digital asset investments than have invested in stocks.”

“We also found that overall, young people don’t believe that they can build wealth the same way that previous generations did,” YPulse added, “making new avenues to making money more attractive to them.”

Time to sharpen your pencils

Right now, performance marketers should be watching the trends, sharpening their pencils and coming up with new ways to attract, serve and retain these digital-centric generations of consumers. Accepting cryptocurrencies as a payment option is one method to lean into this trend. There’s a massive digital opportunity for fin tech, banks, financial companies and other brands that can meet consumers where they are right now. It also opens up the opportunity for even more brands or influencers to be able to play in this space and leverage their hip and cool business approaches.

From exclusive branding opportunities to VIP offerings to specialized experiences, younger generations of consumers want it all. And while the boundaries may be down for marketers right now, the environment is evolving quickly, and companies are catching on. Keeping up and staying out in front of the digital metaverse requires effort, energy and resources, but the payoff can be significant for marketers that jump into the emerging space now.

10 practical things leaders can do to help team members avoid burnout

It’s not news to business leaders across the nation that the current labor market is tight. In a movement that’s been dubbed the “Great Resignation,” many professionals are leaving unsatisfying jobs or workplaces to seek a better fit, while others are willing to extend their job searches until they find the best work situation for their unique circumstances.

Finding and retaining talent is increasingly challenging for businesses, so it’s essential for leaders to take good care of the valued team members they already have. However, the very circumstances that are leading to labor shortages also contribute to added stress for workers and businesses that are already struggling. Many companies are short-staffed at the moment, which can lead to extra work, stress and fatigue for team members.

In these times, it’s essential to develop strategies to help your team members avoid burnout. Here, 10 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust discuss some practical things businesses can do to help team members stay on track, manage stress and continue to thrive in their roles.

1. Follow the Pareto principle.
Set clear goals and expectations about what is important, and have team members focus on those items that will have the most impact, following the Pareto principle (aka the 80/20 rule). This principle states that 20% of activity accounts for 80% of output, so be sure to prioritize (with the team’s input) the tasks, clients and outcomes that should be focused on, and let the others go. – Lisa Riley, Delta Business Advisors, LLC

2. Focus on your top priorities.
Learn to prioritize. As a business, especially a startup, you’ll always want to achieve more than is possible with the available resources. To stay focused and succeed, organize projects in order of priority for the business, and start from the top. Don’t try to work on all possible aspects of your business simultaneously, because your team will feel overwhelmed and not achieve anything concrete. – Peter Abualzolof, Mashvisor

3. Encourage the team to share their views.
Businesses should help team members avoid burnout during these busy and stressful times by creating an environment where they can share their views and options about schedules, workloads or projects in a judgment-free zone. – Emmanuel Eliason, Eliason Wealth Management

4. Reallocate tasks and adjust timelines as needed.
Reallocate and re-timeline projects. When you’re short-staffed, you can’t expect to get everything done on the same timelines you originally planned or hoped. Spend time reallocating tasks or projects where possible, and adjust the remaining projects to more realistic timelines. Something has to give, and you don’t want it to be quality, so reduce what needs to be done to a reasonable level. – Laura Doehle, Elevation Business Consulting

5. Make sure you have the needed time and resources for new projects.
I begin by negotiating a reasonable schedule with the client. Often, businesses agree to unreasonable schedules just to win work. I then evaluate whether we have the right team for the project. Having the wrong team on a project results in inefficiencies, which in turn results in overwork. – Jerry Ramos, LJA Program Management, LLC

6. Bring on assistants for key staff members.
Hire assistants for your key staff members who are experiencing burnout. You can use sites such as Upwork to find virtual assistants who can help with the lower-level administrative tasks that your team just might be mired in. This support expands your team’s bandwidth and, in many cases, leads to the creation of more valuable employees. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

7. Batch tasks by similarity.
As much as we’d like to be, most of us are not good at multitasking. It’s just how the brain works. Instead, try to batch tasks by similarity. For example, schedule all sales calls in a row so you have three consecutive hours of doing the same thing and don’t have to shift focus back and forth. This simple change can reduce the stress of day-to-day work, and it also has a positive long-term effect. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

8. Recognize and reward your team for their great work.
Acknowledge the heavy load, and remember to recognize and reward your team for their great work. And have fun with it! Everyone needs something to smile about, which can help alleviate stress and limit burnout. – Rebecca Thorburn, Visible Impact

9. Pitch in as needed.
Acknowledge that work can come in quickly. Providing upper-level or management support on a campaign until it’s up and running can greatly help during a heavy workload period, which will smooth out over time. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

10. Proactively address mental health.
One way to help alleviate stress and burnout is to proactively address mental health issues. Providing outlets for employees to talk, share concerns or work through issues is paramount. Our company benefits include mental health consultation, for example. Helping employees stay organized and increase efficiency is also a potential fix. – Kent Lewis, Deksia

6 customer success metrics that can provide insight into marketing efforts

Creating a successful marketing strategy requires a combination of creativity and analysis. Marketing isn’t static, so metrics need to be constantly adjusted and analyzed.

The Business Journals

While all metrics provide some insight into marketing efforts, some are more valuable than others. Below, six members of Business Journals Leadership Trust discuss the customer success metrics that provide the most invaluable insights into marketing efforts.

1. Engagement.
We measure client satisfaction through both quantitative and qualitative metrics. While numbers never lie, neither does a client’s active engagement. It’s important to review how engaged clients are and continuously build a relationship that is not transactional. This balance of meeting both numbers and needs has proven to be invaluable. – Kathleen Lucente, Red Fan Communications

2. Customer retention rates, employee attrition.
We focus on customer retention rates along with employee attrition. Sharing these positive metrics with our target audience has provided immeasurable value. – Jared Knisley, Fizen Technology

3. Repeat business from existing clients.
Repeat business is an important metric. Every time you get a new assignment from an existing client, take it as a sign that you are doing things right. – Jerry Ramos, LJA Program Management, LLC

4. Returning customers, if and how soon.
A natural customer service metric is if and how soon someone becomes a returning customer because lifetime value is the key to any customer acquisition. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

5. Net client retention, net growth.
One difficult to measure but highly impactful success metric for us has been net client retention or net growth. Client retention is a leading and lagging indicator of revenue and business success. Net growth is an important metric to understand how effective your client services team is at building relationships, with a goal of more than 10% of growth across all accounts at our agency. – Kent Lewis, Deksia

6. Customer lifetime value, cost efficiency.
Customer lifetime value is key. One of the main factors in marketing is keeping the cost efficient, so you should know that your cost of acquisition for each marketing channel is below your customer lifetime value. Otherwise, you are just throwing money down the drain rather than growing your customer base and expanding your business in a profitable way. – Peter Abualzolof, Mashvisor

8 questions a manager should ask direct reports during reviews

While employees may look forward to reviews or scheduled one-on-ones to get advice from their manager, these conversations offer managers an opportunity to learn new things from their employees too. The best way to do this is to ask the right questions.

The Business Journals

During employee reviews and meetings, managers can ask questions of their employees to gain insight into different perspectives of the company or to learn more about their team. Here, eight members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share the essential questions that managers should ask.

1. What makes the company an attractive place to work?
If the employee has been at the firm for a while, what makes them stay? What are we doing as a company to make this an attractive place to work? You can learn a lot from the positive aspects of your workplace. – Bruce Weber, Weber Group

2. Are there any doors I can open for you right now?
Ask if there are any roadblocks you can take out of their way or doors you can open for them right now. This question indicates your confidence in your direct report’s skills and that you are willing to empower them to do their best work. – Rebecca Thorburn, Visible Impact

3. How are you?
As a manager, your goal is to help people. To help people, you do need to have a relationship. Even though it is a professional relationship, it does need to be there. Take time to see how they are doing and how things are going in their personal lives. Asking questions to see how their life is going will provide a lot of answers on the “why” relating to work performance. Start with, “How are you?” – Zane Stevens, Protea Financial

4. What motivates you and your work?
It’s always great to find out what truly motivates someone to understand what they love about their work or what processes they think can be optimized to continue to strive for improvement. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

5. How can I help provide you tools, resources and training?
An essential question that managers should ask is, “How can I help you?” The manager is there to ensure the employees have all the tools, resources and training to deliver the required outcomes. Regularly asking how you can help them reaffirms you are there to help when the need arises. – Laura Doehle, Elevation Business Consulting

6. What ‘wins’ would you like me to acknowledge?
Beyond asking how you can be of service to your team, I’ve found asking a few personal questions helps build rapport and encourages the free flow of information. I’ve also asked about the “wins” they would like me or us to acknowledge as they are important in increasing confidence and appreciation for management. – Kent Lewis, Anvil Media, Inc.

7. What are you working on that you’re excited about?
It’s helpful to create space to reflect on their work and how they’re doing overall, beyond the status updates or challenges to discuss. This means asking things like, “What are you working on that you’re most excited about?” or “What is frustrating you lately?” to continue for both you and them to hone in on who they are, what is meaningful work to them and possible changes to consider. – Amy Marshall, Slalom

8. How do you rate job satisfaction?
One of the most revealing questions I ask is, “On a scale of one to 10, how would you rate your job satisfaction?” If the rating isn’t a 10, “What would make it a 10?” This provides actionable input for you as a manager. – Kimberly Lucas, Goldstone Partners

7 industry leaders’ tips for coping with supply chain issues

Headlines about ongoing supply chain issues are all over the media, and consumers are increasingly becoming used to seeing sparsely filled or even empty shelves in stores. But supply chain issues aren’t only hitting the retail sector; businesses across industries are struggling to maintain adequate supplies of the materials they need.

The Business Journals

A fast and easy answer to widespread supply chain issues isn’t likely to come soon. Still, there are several ways that businesses can adapt so they can continue to provide services to customers and clients. Below, seven members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share their best advice to help leaders cope with ongoing supply shortages and delivery slowdowns.

1. Be upfront with clients.
Be transparent! We’re all facing supply chain difficulties and running into backlog issues. The client will (or should) understand the challenges in the current market with supply. Where you get into hot water is when you aren’t upfront about these constraints and the customer is continuously disappointed by delays. You may have one the first deal, but you’ll never win another. – Colt Parsons, Insight

2. Look for new ways to serve customers.
Every crisis is the foundation for a new opportunity or service. It’s hard to get business partners to consider changes when things are rolling along. Supply chain issues create a perfect environment to secure the attention of senior leaders to propose meaningful change. – Dave Doherty, Digi-Key

3. Relay information from your suppliers to clients.
Prepare your team and your clients by diligently keeping in touch with your suppliers. In the construction and design industry, we are advising our clients to order things earlier than they would traditionally be needed to try to stay ahead of supply chain interruptions. When there are interruptions, we assess if there are alternative solutions that won’t compromise the final desired product. – Laret Casella, Casella Interiors

4. Ensure processes are optimized before a crisis hits.
The best way to weather any storm as a business — including one related to supply chain shortages — is to be prepared. Before a crisis hits, make sure that your processes are optimized and rely on the most essential inputs only. Establish relations with alternative suppliers and look for substitute inputs. Build a team that is capable of helping you find alternative solutions in case of a crisis. – Peter Abualzolof, Mashvisor

5. Find out each client’s driving factors.
Driving factors vary for clients; some may prefer to wait things out while others will be willing to do whatever it takes, whether that’s paying a premium or waiting for the long haul. Find out what your client’s driving factors are first. Establish systems and relationships that allow you to address your client’s needs irrespective of where their goals and objectives fall. – Maleda Berhane, AR Spruce LLC

6. Always have alternate supply sources, and shop locally.
Specific products will fall victim to supply chain issues. That is why it’s important to be looking well in advance to problem-solve issues that come up. Source replacement products or locally sourced supplies that will not have the same issues. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

7. Consider what customers need versus what they want.
As you consider what you provide, consider what customers truly need versus what they want. Creative solutions are often met with grace during challenging times. Also, think: What else can you provide them? For example, if you provide a product, what adjacent services can you provide to help fortify the customer or fill a different need? Or if you provide a service, is there an alternative? – Kimberly Janson, Janson Associates

11 ways to help stakeholders overcome resistance to change

When a business rolls out new initiatives, buy-in from its stakeholders is essential to helping those initiatives succeed. However, people can sometimes be unwilling to try something new.
The Business Journals

This challenge provides leaders with an opportunity to help stakeholders overcome their resistance to change. Here, 11 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share their advice for leaders who are facing this challenge.

1. Use human-centered design thinking.
Use a human-centered design thinking approach. The best way to handle resistance is to prevent or lessen it. If these are truly stakeholders, they stand to win or lose as a result of this initiative. Getting clear on desired outcomes and how the stakeholders measure success is key. Resistance usually is a result of being dictated to versus being consulted, considered or co-created with. – Kim Baker, Vivid Performance Group

2. Communicate change in clear terms.
Effective leaders communicate change in clear and tangible terms, not just ideological perspectives, sharing each new initiative and how and when to measure success. Such communications must be concrete, honest and frequent. And if a new initiative doesn’t succeed, it is imperative to communicate openly with the rest of the team so that future experimentation is rewarded, not punished. – Daniel Serfaty, Aptima, Inc.

3. Ask a small beta team to try for 30 days.
Change is always hard. When I introduce a new idea that I know my team will resist, I ask a small beta team to try it for 30 days. If we scrap it after this beta test, it means we didn’t see the results we were looking for. Most of the time, I win champions for the change and then the rest of the team jumps on board. – Kimberly Lucas, Goldstone Partners

4. Get them to participate in ideation.
Buy-in doesn’t imply simply getting stakeholders’ endorsement and support once you have a new initiative to approve. It means getting stakeholders involved from the beginning of the process through the execution and promotion. If you get stakeholders to participate in the ideation, they will be as convinced of the need for change as you are and will be your best supporters. – Peter Abualzolof, Mashvisor

5. Make it clear how change is beneficial.
Find a way to help people buy into the change. Make it clear to those who are resistant how the change will benefit them. By highlighting potential benefits and instilling excitement in that group of people, they will be ready and willing for the change to occur, as the change will be seen as something that will bring value rather than a burden they have no control over. – Jack Smith, Fortuna Business Management Consulting

6. Discuss the pros and cons of change.
Present a comprehensive argument to stakeholders to discuss the pros and cons of moving forward with any new initiative. This will ensure that all sides are being heard and a path forward can be determined. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

7. Demonstrate the cost of passing on it.
The best way to make a change, or at least gain support for a new initiative, is to demonstrate how the cost of not implementing the initiative is more costly than actually embracing it. The challenge is to quantify how the current way is sucking resources and profits compared to the alternative. Incentivizing teams to implement changes typically helps as well. – Kent Lewis, Anvil Media, Inc.

8. Socialize big ideas before jumping in.
Bank of America taught me to socialize big ideas before heading into a larger meeting. Determine stakeholders’ concerns, figure out where they can add value, express the tremendous value they add and use their words to create the connectivity and feeling that it is their idea. Directly ask for their support as a favor in upcoming discussions and ask them to help lead the conversation to drive this change. – Kimberly Janson, Janson Associates

9. Involve them in the decision-making process.
Normally stakeholders from multiple departments are involved in the decision-making process, each coming with their own priorities of importance based on how they’re impacted. I make sure I’m doing my homework and am coming prepared to overcome any objections that might be shared by each member. This includes if accounting wants to know the cost to implement, sales needs to see how it impacts revenue, etc.. – Messina Truttman, Beck Flavors

10. Get stakeholders’ perspective on strategy.
Gain stakeholders’ perspectives when devising a strategy. Be prepared to provide examples of the challenge that lies ahead or of a solution that was successfully developed due to an initiative being rolled out. Also, encourage questions up front and make all affected parties aware that adjustments may occur along the way as the initiative takes better shape. – Carlos Munguia, Amegy Bank

11. Ask key questions about desired results.
Nobody likes to change if they think the current way of doing things is fine. That is human nature. Leaders need to discuss why the current way is not the most effective. This is not just telling but asking key questions about whether you are getting the desired results and whether there is room for improvement. Once people understand the why behind the change, they are much more likely to “buy in.” – Gary Braun, Pivotal Advisors, LLC

10 smart strategies for building a crisis-resistant enterprise

Leaders of businesses and organizations might easily be forgiven for feeling as though they’re in constant crisis mode these days. Lingering effects from the pandemic, inflation, supply chain issues and labor shortages are converging to make running a company a particularly challenging effort.

The Business Journals

While leaders can’t control everything that’s happening in the world and the economy, they can take steps that make their organizations stronger and more resilient. Here, 11 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share smart strategies for building a crisis-resistant enterprise that every leader would be wise to take.

1. Reframe a ‘crisis’ as a ‘challenge.’
Start by redefining “crisis.” If every challenge is a crisis, you and your team will constantly be faced with making decisions that seem like do-or-die decisions. That kind of thinking is burdensome, stressful and overwhelming. Reframe “crisis” to “challenge” and emphasize using solutions that solve the challenge and any similar issues in perpetuity. – Brock Berry, AdCellerant

2. Beware of knee-jerk reactions.
Decisions impacting the entire organization should be made by a committee of two to three people. Once a decision has been reached, don’t communicate/announce it right away. Allow it to simmer for 30 minutes, an hour or a day, depending on the urgency. This gives you time to account for previously unknown variables and adjust accordingly instead of backtracking. – AJ Ansari, DSWi

3. Build a lean, proactive team.
As a business leader, you should know that your enterprise is only as good as your team is. Thus, you should make sure to build a lean, high-performing, proactive team that will be your right hand both when handling a crisis and when preparing for growth. Running a business is not a one-man show. Start building a reliable, motivated team right now if you haven’t done so already. – Peter Abualzolof, Mashvisor

4. Strengthen senior leadership teams.
Strengthen senior leadership and senior management teams. For 99.9% of teams, this means hiring a consultant to diagnose the teams’ effectiveness and the factors driving those results. One study has found that only 21% of senior leadership teams are effective. For organizations in constant crisis mode, this endeavor, if done well, reveals aspects of senior teams that may be driving that state and how to shape and sharpen change capacity. – Kim Baker, Vivid Performance Group

5. Invest in employee recruitment, training and development.
This may sound trite, but I’ve found the best way to address a crisis is to avoid it. Invest enough in recruiting, training and employee development to confidently empower employees to identify and mitigate a potential crisis. Investing similarly in product development and customer experience (service and support) should eliminate all but the greatest crisis outliers. – Kent Lewis, Anvil Media, Inc.

6. Maintain a mindset of steadiness.
Every leader needs to understand that nothing is ever as good or as bad as it seems. This allows leaders — and, subsequently, their teams — to respond to dynamically changing environments by maintaining a mindset of steadiness. Through this thought process, nothing becomes a crisis; rather, it’s just the next step that needs to be taken. – Jack Smith, Fortuna Business Management Consulting

7. Create norms for daily tasks.
Work to create norms for the daily things that pull on you and pull you away from managing crises well. Make agreements on such details as how much email is OK and how many meetings are held, and push decision making down into the organization to create capacity. Also, reliance comes from experience. Experience builds judgment. Have a long-term play for developing judgment and perspective to enable resiliency. – Kimberly Janson, Janson Associates

8. Encourage and absorb feedback.
We know the importance of feedback loops; aircraft systems use them to maintain control and position in flight to stabilize for speed, wind direction and more. Similarly, the more feedback loops a company has internally and externally, the more stable it can be. Your organization can adapt with purpose by continuously encouraging and absorbing feedback about employees and the outside world. – Daniel Serfaty, Aptima, Inc.

9. Ensure that leaders have needed support.
Ensure that every leader is effective by giving them the right support to tackle the most important work. Take anything that can be off their plate so they can maintain focus and composure. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

10. Develop a culture of resilience.
In the business world, it’s not a matter of if a crisis will occur, but when. One key step is to develop a strong culture of resilience. This means creating an organizational culture that values learning from mistakes and encouraging employees to take calculated risks. It also means having clear policies and procedures in place so that employees know what to do in the event of a crisis. – Adam Toren, RaisingEmpoweredKids.com

9 high-level business metrics to track during pivotal points

Whether good or bad, every business goes through pivotal points throughout its lifetime. Pivotal points can occur due to growth, obstacles and other occurrences. It’s important to track certain aspects of the business during such points to ensure that everything is staying on track.

The Business Journals

While it’s always important to track high-level metrics, there are some specific ones that are crucial to keep an eye on during pivotal points. Here, nine members of Business Journals Leadership Trust discuss these specific high-level metrics and why it’s important to track them.

1. Related indicators and their ratio.
Identify two related performance indicators and track their ratio over time (i.e., track how they trend). For example, revenue by itself tells a portion of the story, as does expenses, but it’s better to track gross margins (in dollar amounts or as a percent) or profits. These are the basics. When you can do this, the next metric to track is customer acquisition cost today and over time. – AJ Ansari, DSWi

2. Employee satisfaction.
Employee satisfaction as it can be a proxy for several other metrics. Why? Because an unhappy team results in turnover, inefficiencies, quality issues and generally not being bought into your mission. Other metrics that can roll are workload capacity, work fragmentation and communication, to name a few. – Joseph Wynn, Seiso, LLC

3. Number of sales meetings.
The number of sales meetings that your team is having each week is in my opinion the most important metric a business can track. You should know how many meetings it takes in order to close a deal and work backward from there to set goals based on the number of deals you want to close each year. These meetings are the absolute building blocks of your business. – Courtney Folk, Textile Restorations

4. Degree of awareness.
Pivotal points are usually the result of a change imposed by external market forces or internal structure to improve organizational performance. For this change to succeed, a necessary precondition is that everyone involved is aware that the change is happening. Without it, there is no chance of success. Therefore, your key performance metric is the degree of awareness — how many people know? – Daniel Serfaty, Aptima, Inc.

5. Cash flow, cash reserve.
Cash flow and your cash reserve are critical items to keep a close eye on. Business investments and pivots can quickly eat up cash, and you need to make sure you have enough to keep the company healthy and running. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

6. Employee turnover.
Employee turnover is an indication of a company’s health, and this is particularly true for those employees who are on your list of regrettable losses. Top talent is the first to leave if they feel organizations are not being led well during pivotal points. Organizations are perfectly designed to produce the results they are producing. High-potential talent uses this as a metric on the health of the business. – Kimberly Janson, Janson Associates

7. Chargeability rate.
In my industry, chargeability has to be that metric, as it’s how we earn revenue. With low chargeability, you cannot grow or invest in your business. – Jerry Ramos, LJA Program Management, LLC

8. Churn rate.
No matter what your business is going through — whether it’s a circumstance experienced by the entire ecosystem or a factor specific to your company — you have to make sure that your customers still find value in your product and want to continue using it. Keeping track of your churn rate is the most efficient way to ensure that your product remains relevant to your customers’ needs. – Peter Abualzolof, Mashvisor

9. Customer-centric metrics.
During a pivotal point, tracking customer-centric metrics is critical for businesses. These metrics may include customer acquisition costs, customer retention rates and the percentage of repeat customers. The importance of customer-centric metrics is inexorable. Knowing your customer acquisition and customer retention costs gives you actionable insights for improving the business overall. – Sanjay Jupudi, Qentelli