The simplest reason to retain a virtual component to events even after the US reaches herd immunity: You can reach more people, and it’s easier for them to show up.
Previously, exclusively in-person conferences, even while providing strong experiences, were “almost inaccessible,” Hawthorne-Castro said.
Convenience has become a basic principle of retail and hospitality as digital techniques have taken hold, especially during the pandemic. Why should events be any different?
What’s more, once event providers make it easy, and possibly even cheaper, for attendees to join events, they get the opportunity to share their message with more people. And they may do so in a way that in-person events make less seamless (picture the corporate guy walking on stage to offer a brief message about the value of such and such company’s services). Virtual messaging can be more organic.
“It’s like a podcast situation,” Hawthorne-Castro said. “Podcasts can be powerful when there’s advertising within them.”
In the omnichannel era, the golden rule in commerce is to meet customers wherever they are. Hawthorne-Castro said this same personalization-focused mentality should drive events and that virtual components will help events rise to those standards.
Obviously, the first component to hybrid event personalization is letting people attend whether by plane or video conference. But virtual events can also be structured to offer a guest-tailored experience. One way to do this is by offering breakout rooms, or smaller virtual meetings open to attendees, alongside a main attraction, Hawthorne-Castro said.
All event attendees scroll through their phone at some point during a keynote presentation of no interest. Virtual events offer the ability to draw those event goers uninterested in the main attraction to smaller sessions.
This is also where sponsorships come in. Sponsors can run breakout sessions similar to the booths available at in-person conferences. This, too, could be an application where the accessibility and number of attendees at virtual conferences spurs a successful program.
New revenue streams
The dawn of virtual events spawned new revenue streams and content channels.
For example, a number of companies started subscription models, Hawthorne-Castro said. Subscriptions allow event providers to put content online and regularly engage potential attendees instead of luring them somewhere for a few days of interactions.
Not only could this bring in some revenue, but it could also drive stronger relationships with specific attendees. “You can even position it like being one of the first members of an organization,” Hawthorne-Castro said, adding that subscription providers could create tiers or special privileges for some subscribers.
As far as discovering extra channels is concerned, virtual content is also easily repurposable content. A recorded panel can be shared on social media or on a company’s website.
For these reasons and others, virtual events, or at least partially virtual events, will be a fixture of the business long beyond the dark days of COVID-19.
As the Covid-19 vaccine rollout continues and consumers resume life as normal, marketers say they expect events in the future to be a hybrid of in-person and virtual.
The pandemic rattled in-person events and shifted some of the industry’s biggest occasions, like the Consumer Electronics Show and the South by Southwest festival, to a virtual stage. In-person networking and conversations were replaced with Zoom panels, chatboxes and pre-recorded fireside chats. Meanwhile, other firms have experimented with virtual reality to offer attendees more than a video link.
And after last year’s pandemic postponed award events, the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity returns this year as Cannes Lions Live, a fully digital experience. The boondoggles, wining and dining typically done at one of the industry’s biggest events may look different this summer, although details on particulars have yet to be disclosed.
“The last purely in-person event ever to occur has already happened,” said Joe Davy, CEO of the event marketing company Banzai, which has worked with software companies like Red Hat and Egnyte. “Going forward, every virtual conference is going to be an online, offline and on-demand component.”
By the end of 2021, he predicts the industry will see an uptick in small in-person events with a focus on hybrid virtual events for bigger happenings. But “the world of either is behind us,” Davy said.
Given the pandemic is ongoing, Davy said heavily populated, in-person events come with a lot of logistics and safety concerns, but the need for human connection is still there. Meanwhile, digital events are more accessible, meaning marketers can reach more event-goers, but “it’s very hard to replicate or replace relationship building and connections.”
“Marketers have to think about how do they create really compelling [virtual] experiences that the audiences really want to get behind,” Davy said.
Earlier this year, the Sundance Film Festival took their event to the virtual landscape, working with Active Theory, a company that creatives digital experiences.
Using an in-house technology called Dreamwave, Active Theory was able to mimic the festival’s in-person experience with avatars for event-goers to move about the online world as they would in real life. There was also a chat feature that made for social interactions. Overall, the virtual festival was different, but considered a success, proving that virtual film festivals can be done well, according to IndieWire.
According to Active Theory co-founder Nick Mountford, the company has seen an increased interest in its Dreamwave product as more marketers look for ways to customize their virtual events.
However, he does believe that as the pandemic lets up, in-person events will return but with companies like his own providing the customized digital component that makes up the hybrid experience.
“The person that can go to a digital event is not necessarily the same person that can go to a physical event,” he said. “And both of those people could be a valuable customer for the brand.”
“Events are absolutely changing, from formatting to guest lists, as a result of the pandemic, but our need for human interaction won’t change,” Hawthorne-Castro said in an email. “The forum may shift, and we may need to get creative, but at the end of the day, marketers should still prioritize connection and communication.”
The advertising and marketing world is chock-full of events claiming to be unmissable. As agency owners and professionals know, the buzz alone that surrounds some industry conferences is enough to lead scores of people to flock to them every year. How can you tell which ones are worth not only the hype, but also the expense?
Here, 10 members of Forbes Agency Council share their top picks for can’t-miss conferences in the agency world. These genuinely impactful events provide so much value and networking potential, no serious professional can afford to miss out.
1. 10X Growth Conference
The 10X Growth Conference hosted by Grant Cardone is a must-attend for agency owners and professionals. It’s a great event to attend if you’re looking to stay ahead of the trends, make powerful connections and stay motivated to produce results. – Jonathan Durante, Expandify Marketing Inc
2. Adobe Summit
Adobe Summit is one of my favorite conferences in our industry. Adobe’s emphasis on digital experiences is leading the industry, turning insights into easy-to-understand information that leads to better managerial decision making. – Ahmad Kareh, Twistlab Marketing
3. Build A Better Agency Summit
An important conference is the Build a Better Agency Summit. The entire focus is on helping agency owners and key managers learn how to better manage and plan for the growth trajectory of their business. It covers topics such as financial management, staffing challenges and the sales process specific to advertising agencies. Plus, it creates a safe place for agency owners to collaborate and help one another through challenges. – Korena Keys, KeyMedia Solutions
4. Consumer Electronics Show
In terms of global trends, the CES is a great show to attend to get a view of the overall landscape of current and emerging products and technologies. This conference facilitates forward-thinking so that agency professionals can be on top of upcoming trends. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC
5. Content Marketing World
I love Content Marketing World in Cleveland, Ohio. I learned all about the power of positioning yourself as an authority and growing your audience by attending this amazing conference. I am waiting until after the pandemic to go again so that I can network fully without a mask on my face! – Nancy Marshall, Marshall Communications
INBOUND, HubSpot’s annual conference, is a must-attend event for agency owners and marketing professionals. This conference brings together a wide variety of speakers who provide insights on all things related to marketing, sales, leadership, agency management and more. There are tracks of sessions for everyone, and compared to any other throughout the year, I feel I get the most out of this conference. – Elyse Flynn Meyer, Prism Global Marketing Solutions
7. SMX East
SMX East offers news and exhibits on the latest and greatest in the search industry. There is no shortage of live demos, seminars from well-known search rockstars within the industry or vendors offering new and exciting tools to be discovered. – Larry Gurreri, Sosemo LLC
8. Social Media Marketing World
One of my favorites is Social Media Marketing World because it covers pretty much every kind of social media. In addition to that, it also covers all of the different rules you need to consider as you plan out your strategy for the next year. These are all very critical things to know as you are planning the coming year. – Jon James, Ignited Results
9. South By Southwest
We’ve found the best conference for agencies is SXSW. It can be used as a way to plan bigger events and connect with clients by inviting them to join you. Until last year, we had some pretty incredible events over barbecue with our clients. The content is great, but the city and mindset are what set it apart as a place to build stronger connections with teams, partners and clients. – Jackson Murphy, Pound & Grain
That’s a really tough one. I’ve made some of my best connections and gotten ideas at conferences that have nothing to do with the marketing industry, so I believe in attending conferences in the verticals that you market to. This way, you also know what trends are having an impact on that industry. I also love Collision, which is packed full of intriguing and thought-provoking speakers. – Nancy A Shenker, theONswitch
In agency-client relationships, the client plays an important role in helping to develop successful marketing campaigns for their brand.
Certain clients, however, feel inclined to take the lead instead of allowing their marketing partners to do what they do best. Sometimes, they’ll ask for changes to be made to the copy, design, direction or other aspects of a project that, in the expert judgment of their agency, would likely damage the campaign.
To help marketers deal with this issue, a panel of Forbes Agency Council members shared tips for maintaining a healthy balance of client input in campaign development.
1. Talk Through Their Concerns
Learning to work together is core to the client-agency relationship and overall account success, but nothing happens overnight. Clients who trust the firms they work with tend to be more open to feedback than those who don’t and may lack confidence in the guidance being provided. Understanding why that is, talking through scenarios and bringing in third-party opinions would be most productive here. – Chi Zhao, Hokku PR
2. Run An A/B Test Campaign
When this happens, we run a campaign with the client’s recommendations as well as a campaign with our recommendations. This allows the client to see the results for both, and then we can make a more informed decision moving forward. In some cases, you just have to remind the client why they hired you in the first place. – Jason Wilson, Strategy, LLC
3. Explain Your Strategy
The most common reasons clients regularly try to make changes to the campaign are unclear goals or brand vision in the strategy development stage or a desperate desire to copy their competitors’ successful campaigns. In both cases, it’s crucial to speak to them and explain the advantages of the selected strategy. – Oganes Vagramovich Barsegyan, Digital Beverly Marketing Solutions
4. Be As Open As Possible
My one tip for dealing with clients who regularly try to make changes to aspects that, in our judgment, could damage the campaign is to be as open as possible. There have to be certain boundaries in order for us to create successful campaigns, but for the most part, small changes in design or copy will most likely not cause a significant difference in results. Add their creatives and begin to test. – Jonathan Durante, Expandify Marketing Inc
5. Weigh The Impact Of Client Input
There is give and take in every successful relationship. The client is the expert in their product or service, and the agency is the brand and messaging expert. When clients provide marketing direction, weigh the impact (positive or negative) on the campaign and provide expert recommendations for moving forward. If this is an ongoing issue, the agency decides which battles to fight and which to let go. – Patrick Nycz, NewPoint Marketing
6. Identify The Cause Of The Pushback
Do they think the campaign is off-brand, or is it that the business is developing into new, unfamiliar territory? If it’s the former, then the creative teams need to realign to make sure they fully understand the brand. If the latter is true, then walk the client through data and research that explains the “why” behind the “what” of your campaign strategy. – Christoph Kastenholz, Pulse Advertising
7. Explain How Your Process Is Proven And Tested
We make sure that our clients understand that there is a process to everything we do. It’s a proven and tested algorithm. While we welcome and encourage their ideas and suggestions, we can’t just randomly jump in and change what’s been agreed upon because every effort takes time to be measured. If you keep changing shoes on the go, you’ll never know which pair is the most comfortable. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS
8. Let Clients Define Goals, Not How To Get There
Keep them accountable for changing their goal if they also try to define how you are going to get there. If you hired a plumber, and your goal was to fix a leak, you would never tell him to use a different pipe upon his arrival. And if you did insist, the plumber would not be able to properly fix your leak. Clients can define their goal, and you can tell them how you’ll get there, but they can’t define both. – Lindsey Groepper, BLASTmedia
9. Duplicate Facebook Ad Campaigns And Let Them Tinker
We love it when clients are involved with our campaigns. It means they are trying to understand how the ads work. However, when it comes to Facebook ads, we often have a talk about how changes can wipe away all our data and learning from the algorithm, which will cost them higher ad prices. If they want to test something, we’ll duplicate the campaign and let them tinker in the new area. – Brian Meert, AdvertiseMint
10. Test Your Client’s Hypothesis
Despite my experience, I never pretend that I know what the results will be. What I insist on is testing the client’s hypothesis as well as our own to see what the results are. Because our clients understand their customers so well, we’re often pleasantly surprised at how well their recommendation works. Other times, they’re surprised by ours. Keep an open mind! – Douglas Karr, DK New Media
11. Take The Conversation Offline
Move the conversation to a phone or Zoom meeting. Often your expertise isn’t communicated in the same way through email or text. Take the conversation offline and reiterate that you are concerned about being able to produce the best work for your client. – Kelly Samuel, Snack Toronto
12. Showcase Your Expertise
If it’s an ongoing issue, let them go. There isn’t much you can do for a client who doesn’t reasonably value your expertise except push words and pixels around on a page and waste their budget. But first, have you done enough to show that you are an expert? It may be too late for this relationship, but identifying how they lost faith could set your next relationship up to be much more successful. – Benjamin Collins, Laughing Samurai
13. Always Be Respectful Of All Client Feedback
Continue to remind them of the mutual goals of the campaign and the metrics they seek to achieve. Position any changes or creative direction coming from the agency as recommendations that are tailored to the client’s goals and KPIs to ensure mutual understanding and alignment. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC
14. Remind Them Of Your Responsibilities
I was told by a client that once a strategy was decided upon, her job was done. That is because copy and design are best left up to the experts; they have the responsibility to connect the audience to the brand promise on both emotional and logical levels. If your client is looking to make changes for the sake of changes, remind them of that. – Roger Hurni, Off Madison Ave
15. Express Appreciation For Their Input
Always appreciate your clients’ input because they play a crucial role in the outcome of your marketing campaigns. Be sure to take into account what they are saying, then show them how their ideas can be combined with your team’s skills and experience. Nobody wants their ideas to be shut down completely, but in this case, their ideas can be transformed into something that fits into your vision. – Adrian Falk, Believe Advertising & PR
Account-based marketing has become a big priority for B2B companies. It allows businesses to better understand and target consumers by personalizing outreach to their specific needs and priorities.
While the concept of ABM is not new, today’s emerging technologies allow businesses to gather richer data to improve their customer outreach efforts. Below, a panel of Forbes Agency Council members share ways they foresee the increase in ABM impacting their work and how agencies can stay ahead of the curve.
1. More Sophisticated Competition
The rise of ABM is predicated on deep audience and account insight, which can result in significant commercial gains. The race to obtain, manage and analyze data to drive commercially valuable insights, and then crucially, to turn those insights into clear marketing and sales actions will determine the winners and losers in the agency world. – Greg Salmon, Agent3
2. More Dedicated Resources
ABM is critical for companies wanting to create truly personalized buying experiences and deeper connections with customers and clients. Personalized marketing helps build trust and greatly improves the customer journey. The need for dedicated resources for ABM is here to stay because of the impact it has on engagement. – Seth Winterer, Digital Logic
3. More Tech-Enabled Results And Complexity
ABM is not new, but there has recently been a proliferation of supporting technology that provides more insight, personalization, efficiency and, in some cases, unnecessary complexity. Establish your goals first, then research where technology can (and should) be applied. Consider conducting ABM pilots where more work is manual. Then, if successful, onboard technology to scale. – Wendy Covey, TREW Marketing
4. A More Philosophical Approach
I’d say don’t rely on it as a tool that will solve all of your problems. In fact, you might need more than one tool to make ABM work, so treat it as a philosophy. ABM is understanding who you are targeting, who those key accounts are, the personas within those accounts and what will be the most effective way to get in front of them, explain to them your value and get them to become your customers. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS
5. More Personalized Content To Lead Prospects
It’s critical that your business audits your content and marketing initiatives to ensure that you have developed effective and personalized content for each stage of the buyer’s journey, including problem identification, solution exploration, requirements building, supplier selection, validation and consensus. The journey is predominantly self-service nowadays, so you must lead your prospects. – Douglas Karr, DK New Media
6. More Specialized Niches
Have a specialty and market openly for only that specialty. You can have multiple websites targeting different niches, but brands want to work with agencies that speak directly to their niche. – Kelly Samuel, Snack Toronto
7. More Investment In Data And Research
For SEO, we do a good amount of ABM already in our work. An increase would be as simple as further tailoring the services we offer to account for a more narrow field of interest, depending on the accounts in question. If agencies want to stay ahead, invest in research. Data collection is going to be more reliable than anything else, as long as you keep collecting and updating your research methods. – Dmitrii Kustov, Regex SEO
8. More Individualized Points Of Contact
ABM takes into account the long sales cycle of certain products or services. It focuses on individualized marketing for each account with the understanding that the client will reap the benefits of individualization and will see an increase in closed sales because of the increase in points of contact with consumers. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC
9. More Strategic And Data-Driven Targeting
Thanks to Covid-19 and the new norm of working remotely, marketers should use platforms such as LinkedIn to understand the composition of first-party datasets and target key decision makers, rather than a blanket, all-employee approach. Update your customer experience to collect first- and zero-party data frequently, and make sure both the marketing and sales teams keep an updated CRM to maximize potential. – Donna Robinson, Collective Measures
10. More Granular Understanding Of Customers
ABM has been around for a long time and known by many different terms. I don’t think it changes the keys to success for an agency: Know your client’s customers really well. Know your client’s business. Find ways to help them win in the marketplace. ABM is a fancy way of breaking down groups, divisions, etc. inside the client’s organization. It works, but don’t let that distract you from the core. – Michael McFadden, eAccountable
11. More Effective Audience Segmentation
With the rise of advanced targeting tools, ABM has become more popular because it focuses on the highest-value customers first. Utilizing custom audiences and building intent funnels with Facebook advertising is one of the easiest ways for businesses to begin. Build ads for each segment and bid accordingly so that your key messages are seen by your audience first. – Brian Meert, AdvertiseMint
12. More Customized Social Media Posts
ABM will change how we approach social media. What was previously posted for all types of audiences will need to be more customized for limited audiences, meeting prospects where they are in their buying journeys. This way, social media can lead to deeper conversations and successful sales conversions with a one-to-one approach, as opposed to a one-to-thousands approach. – Jodi Amendola, Amendola Communications
13. More Effective One-To-One Marketing
ABM isn’t new. It’s what previous generations of advertisers were waiting for: one-to-one marketing. Its biggest impact will be on effectiveness. If you aren’t already, start thinking of your campaigns and sales efforts on an individual level. Harness the power of technology to connect with your ideal prospects on an individual level and have targeted conversations with them. – Mary Ann O’Brien, OBI Creative
14. More Interactive Microtargeting
ABM strategies vary from prospect to prospect. The trend in marketing is microtargeting prospects as though they are your only prospect. It’s evolving rapidly and becoming the industry standard, as it offers a collaborative, cooperative and experiential approach to connecting with real people on the other end of your pipeline. It simulates real-world interactions through a sophisticated tech stack. – Terry Tateossian, Socialfix Media
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.
Some agency clients may think that an immediate bump in sales revenue is the only way to gauge the ROI of a marketing campaign. Of course, measuring the results of any campaign is more complex than simply tracking conversions.
While agency professionals might be focused on other positive aspects and developments, the real key to success lies in making sure the client understands the value of these less obvious metrics. But aside from increasing sales, what’s one method agencies can use to show clients the ROI of their work when it’s not apparent to the client?
Here, members of Forbes Agency Council discuss 15 unique methods of showing ROI to marketing and advertising clients that illuminate a far bigger picture than the number of sales.
1. Set Micro-Goals For SEO Campaigns
SEO inevitably becomes the least expensive acquisition channel for all businesses, but those results don’t come until you put in strong efforts early on and accept that you’ll see little return on those investments for weeks, or even months. It’s important to set micro-goals in these scenarios. We look at how many times a ranking occurs before we look at how many times a ranking gets clicked on. – Brent Payne, Loud Interactive, LLC
2. Track Clicks To Show Activity And Interest
Long-term partnerships often take time and don’t garner immediate growth for a client, but the revenue driven in the end is worth the wait. Setting expectations and early KPIs (other than ROI) can help the client focus on what’s important at the launch of a campaign. A good example of this is tracking clicks to show activity and interest before jumping into revenue. – Abby Campbell, Perform[cb] Agency
3. Study Customer Journey Analytics To Set Expected Timelines
Study the customer journey analytics closely for time dependencies to set client expectations. For example, unknown brands with high price points will see a much longer customer journey across a variety of touchpoints and devices. Pro tip: In Google Analytics, you can see this clearly in the Multi-Channel Funnels and Path Length reports to set a baseline for when to expect ROI on campaigns. – Jacob Cook, Tadpull
4. Measure Inbound Traffic, Queries And Social Media Engagement
It is unlikely that clients will see an immediate increase in sales. A better way to measure the success of your marketing or communications campaign is to look at your analytics for an increase in inbound website traffic, queries and social media engagement. If you don’t see these increases within the first quarter, it’s time to reassess your tactics. – Valerie Chan, Plat4orm PR
5. Use Different Metrics Across Different Time Horizons
There are many metrics used to gauge the ROI of a campaign, and it’s important to look at these metrics across different time horizons. For instance, sales, engagement and impressions are great metrics to measure across both the short term and the long term; repeat purchases and increased LTV are great metrics for the medium and long term. – Michael McFadden, eAccountable
6. Focus On Upper And Mid-Funnel Outcomes
Focus on measurable outcomes throughout the upper and middle parts of the funnel. This could be video completions, PDF downloads/content consumption or lead/contact form submits. Measuring these actions and optimizing toward an efficient cost per action allows us to prove that our marketing efforts are working while also collecting an audience that can be retargeted for future, lower-funnel efforts. – Russ Williams, Archer Malmo
7. Show Clients Metric Tracking Data
Showing clients metric tracking data does the trick. Numbers are harder to argue with than vague ideas of what successful sales goals should be. One method we use is to show exactly where and how marketing efforts are impacting visibility, increasing traffic and spurring growth. Set up a comparison of industry standards for perspective, and then you can say, “Look here—these are your dollars at work.” – Dmitrii Kustov, Regex SEO
8. Review How Boosting Longer-Term Indicators Also Lifts Revenue
ROI in terms of increased sales or revenue is usually a key indicator of a successful campaign. Other, longer-term indicators of a successful campaign include increases in activity, engagement with consumers, responsiveness, impressions and overall brand sentiment lift. These metrics should eventually lead to revenue lift as well. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC
9. Think About Lifetime Value
In many instances, it actually makes sense to take a loss on a new customer or first-time purchase if you know the long-term value will be profitable for the business. Think of your loss leaders as “gateway” products that can bring you loyal customers willing to buy big-ticket items. – Donna Robinson, Collective Measures
10. Report Both Returns On Investment And Returns On Influence
There are two methods of reporting ROI to a client: as a return on investment and as a return on influence. Influence focuses on visibility, engagement and audience numbers. Investment is specifically targeting conversion-based metrics that you can track and tying them to the investment. Together, they tell the full story. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency
11. Prove Aspirational ROI With A Quarterly Survey
ROI can only exist in two categories; it’s either part of an objective or part of an aspiration. Objective measurement is easy because it’s tangible. An aspirational ROI is far more difficult to measure, as it requires understanding what behaviors need to happen over time that will lead you to that goal. One way to do that is to create a baseline survey and distribute it every quarter. – Roger Hurni, Off Madison Ave
12. Use Distinct Metrics Based On The Client’s Biggest Goals
It depends on what the client’s biggest issues and goals are. For example, if there is a negative brand perception, do pre- and post-campaign surveys to measure the change. If the goal is more leads, measure website traffic to landing pages used in email campaigns and paid digital. Sales cycles vary; in healthcare tech, for instance, they can often last 12 to 18 months, so ROI should be measured in other ways too. – Jodi Amendola, Amendola Communications
13. Measure The Incrementality Of Advertising
One important metric that clients overlook is incrementality, which is defined as the lift in your chosen KPI that can be attributed to advertising. Your true advertising ROI should reflect the amount spent on those who need it to convince them to buy, not what was spent on people who were already shoo-ins. That number might be lower, but it is a better indicator of how well your advertising is performing. – Jeremy Fain, Cognitiv
14. Give Clients Data They Can Use To Target More Specific Audiences
Not all ROI has to be measured with sales increases. Show clients consumer data such as page views, demographics, location, gender, age, interests, clicks and more. This is valuable information that companies can use to market to a more specific audience that already likes their brand. Data is a measurable ROI that may not necessarily be an increase in sales, but which can lead to it. – Tony Pec, Y Not You Media
15. Show The ROI Of Clients Maximizing Value For Their Customers
Many brands measure value gained from customers, but few put the same effort into maximizing value. As such, most organizations meet a fraction of customer needs and values. By exploring the link between customer performance indicators and customer lifetime value, companies can optimize how their brands help customers function and succeed while ultimately growing their bottom line. – Camille Nicita, Gongos, Inc.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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