Advertise in the Metaverse? It’s Complicated.

If the metaverse becomes a place where billions of real people interact and have expendable currencies, brands will leverage experiences to drive consumers down a purchase funnel, just as they do in the physical world. But how that ecosystem of brand/advertiser, media and consumer take shape is still in flux. Our SVP of Marketing Christian Jones has some things to consider when jumping in.

Advertise in the Metaverse? It’s Complicated.

If you’re confused about the metaverse — what it is, how it’s changing the way people interact with each other and brands, whether marketers can create value from metaverse ads, etc. — you’re not alone. The metaverse is still taking shape, and the long-term implications of ephemeral or persistent virtual worlds that can be accessed via augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), mixed reality (MR) or even a humble browser (via platforms like Decentraland or Roblox) are as yet unknown.

A recent article in Wired compared today’s discussions about the metaverse to people talking about the internet in the 1970s. The pieces of a new way to interact are coming together, and it has massive implications for society and enormous commercial potential, but we’re not sure what final form it will take. Personally, I think of the metaverse as “XR”, not as a catchall for AR, VR or MR but instead as “extended reality”. In the metaverse, we’ll interact as virtual extensions of ourselves in some form, human or otherwise.

Marketers are curious about the potential of the metaverse, and some are frantically trying to get up to speed due to fear of missing out. Since the metaverse is still taking shape, it makes sense for marketers to watch closely and understand the factors that may influence its direction. How might the metaverse emerge and what could it mean for brand building and marketing now and in the future?

Driving Virtual Consumers Down a Real Purchase Funnel

If the metaverse becomes a place where extensions of billions of real people interact and have expendable currency — whether via in-world crypto, tokens or offline official government currency accessible via digital wallets — brands will have an opportunity to use advertising and/or curated experiences to drive consumers down a purchase funnel, just as they do in the physical world. But how that ecosystem of brand/advertiser, media and consumer take shape in the metaverse is still in flux.

In the physical world, the mechanics of advertising are well known. We’re familiar with ad units by channel, and we can calculate how much those units or impressions will cost and factor in the value of an impression in terms of meeting critical KPIs. That’s not to suggest it’s simple — the real world ecosystem is fractured and constantly in flux, but it’s knowable, manageable and familiar too.

But in an entirely new world, how do we value a new set of ad units or XR engagements? Audiences are often anonymous, and demographics are potentially inscrutable. Is the person behind the avatar a 63-year-old professor or a high school sophomore? We don’t know, so how can a brand or advertiser measure value? Non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which provide proof of ownership of a digital asset, are forming the connecting bridge, for the moment at least.

NFTs function as a talisman for brands, a way to engage virtual audiences and confer status on NFT holders. Brands like Stella Artois, Papa John’s, Acura, the NBA and many others are experimenting with NFTs, some to promote products or provide product functionality, others to highlight good causes and support charitable work. AdAge keeps a continually updated list of how brands are using NFTs.

Another way brands connect with virtual consumers is by creating experiences on platforms like Roblox. At Nikeland on Roblox, one of the earlier, high-profile brand entries in 2021, users could dress their avatars in branded sneakers and apparel, play games and unlock sports superpowers. Branded virtual apparel as a digital commodity is a straightforward implementation. Gucci just upped their profile from Gucci Garden to Gucci Town – dropping virtual bags and apparel within limited-time windows to style your Roblox avatar. Other recent brand implementations include a McLaren F1 Racing experience and a Chipotle Burrito Builder event – the possibilities are staggering.

The Value Conundrum

As these examples illustrate, major brands are already betting on the metaverse, and their participation generally falls on one of two tracks. The first is brand integration, like the user experience strategy Nike, Gucci, Hyundai or Chipotle have pursued on Roblox. Users can interact with the brand, hopefully developing an affinity of lasting duration that extends to the brand’s products in the physical world.

The second track is to create NFTs and associated content, placing assets in virtual storefronts or other digital venues and marketplaces. This strategy requires finding a way to create scarcity because virtual land and digital content like NFTs are valuable in proportion to their perceived authenticity and ability to generate demand that exceeds supply. As Scott Galloway observed “credible scarcity and authenticity will unlock real value in digital markets”.

So, the question remains: what is the value of a potential customer interacting with an avatar brand representative in your virtual apparel showroom? What’s the value of out-of-home signage for your virtual showroom if placed on a plot of land adjacent to Snoop Dogg’s virtual plot? How much will it cost to design and build a truly immersive virtual brand environment, and what’s the return on that investment?

The truth is, we just don’t know yet. It’s not a coincidence that most of the brands now active in the metaverse are there to drive awareness rather than conversions, at least so far. The metaverse may develop in unexpected ways, so for marketers who want to get their digital feet wet, now is a good time to watch closely, drop into some virtual worlds and interact with whoever is there now. Just like traveling to a new country in the physical world, take some time to observe with an open mind and respect the local customs of that corner of the metaverse. It’s complicated, but then again, isn’t any new world?

Are You Using Social Media to Inspire Younger Buyers?

Millennials and Gen Z are increasingly turning to social networks for advice.
Here’s how performance marketers can leverage this trend.


Performance marketers looking to capture the tech-savvy market have to consider speed, efficiency and social change.
We Are/Getty Images

Whether they’re following accounts that inspire them, perusing videos, researching products or connecting with their favorite brands, the younger generations of American consumers are clearly influenced by social media. More of them also want to become influencers, start their own businesses and get involved in new hobbies.

Millennials and Gen Z will often go first to social media platforms like TikTok, Pinterest and Instagram to learn and get advice before making a purchase or taking on a project. With millennials standing to inherit more than $68 trillion from baby boomer and early Gen X parents by the year 2030—setting them up to potentially be the wealthiest generation in U.S. history—and Gen Z projected to hit $33 trillion in income by 2030, performance marketers should be paying attention to these trends.

Here’s how performance marketers can leverage this trend in a responsible, deliberate manner.

Stepping up their games

Social media companies are clearly aware of these trends and are finding new ways to optimize their platforms. In February, for example, TikTok launched a new feature called Collections, which allows users to organize their favorite videos into folders (Instagram implemented a similar feature in 2019.)

The Collections feature allows users to save recommendations and sort them into useful categories, making it easier for them to quickly return to ideas and recommendations.

TikTok’s core offering feeds millennials’ and Gen Z’s desire for inspiration. Upon pulling up a video, users can instantly see what a restaurant looks like inside and who’s recommending it. “It allows for maximum vibe reconnaissance,” Mashable points out. “And if someone made a TikTok on it, and it came up on your FYP [For You Page], chances are it’s something you’ll actually enjoy and the information is up to date.”

4 tips for Success

Performance marketers looking to capture the tech-savvy market that’s turning to social media for inspiration can’t just advertise and sell products. They also have to consider speed, efficiency and social change versus just spending time polishing up their marketing messages. And knowing that Gen Z are all under 25 years old—and as young as 10—positively influencing behaviors is also important.

Here are four tips for success:

  • Step up the pace. Your Gen Z customers are used to a fast pace, so get onboard with it. They also have shorter attention spans and tend to be highly influenced by what they see and interact with on social media.
  • Know your platforms. According to a recent YPulse, Ad/Marketing Effectiveness report, TikTok (27%) is the top place Gen Z is seeing ads that influence them to make a purchase. That’s followed by YouTube (17%) and Instagram (13%). Millennials, on the other hand, respond best to Facebook (16%), YouTube (15%), Instagram (14%) and TikTok (9%) ads.
  • Support social change. Gen Z and millennials both care about making a difference and leaving a smaller footprint on Mother Earth. They’re also involved with social causes and tend to look favorably upon organizations that put an effort into environmental, social and governance (ESG) causes.
  • Be authentic. Younger consumers can see right through the glitz, glamour and overpolished marketing messages. And when they’re getting their information from friends, connections and influencers, it’s not hard to figure out which brands do and don’t deserve their hard-earned dollars.

7 common social media faux pas committed by businesses (and what to do instead)

Nearly every business has at least one social media account these days — most have several. With the variety of platforms catered to a wide range of audiences, social media can be an essential and effective marketing tool for a business of any size. However, a social media slip-up can cause quick and lasting damage to a brand or business.

The Business Journals

There are several common social media faux pas committed by businesses; smart leaders should learn about and from these mistakes to avoid making them themselves. Below, seven members of Business Journals Leadership Trust discuss some of the most common social media slip-ups committed by businesses today (and what you should do instead).

1. Trying to follow every trend and fad
If you’re trying to follow every trend and fad on social media, you may find that you’ve only diluted your core message and weakened your connection with your target audience. As with marketing in any form, try to resist the temptation to be everything to everyone. Instead, stick to messages that align well with your brand and customers. Share your expertise with passion, and be authentic. – Lincoln Jacobe, 6 Pillars Marketing

2. Not reframing your approach during a crisis
In a national or global crisis, it is important to consider whether you should “pause” your social media posts or reframe how you are engaging online to reflect the serious nature of the matter. Companies that fail to do so appear “tone-deaf” and without compassion. This can be exacerbated if the social media content is automatically scheduled in advance and a manager “forgets” to turn it off. – Hinda Mitchell, Inspire PR Group

3. Failing to stay on message
Staying on message is important. It is easy to get into the habit of posting something — anything. Make sure your messaging resonates with your clients, and try to make it fun or different; we have become immune to traditional online advertisements. – Jared Knisley, Fizen Technology

4. Ignoring or deleting negative feedback
A business ignoring negative feedback and/or deleting the content from its profiles is a common mistake. This tone-deaf and frankly weak approach throws gasoline on the fire — it doesn’t put it out. Deal with these comments head-on in a collaborative function. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

5. Failing to be cautious
Social media is polarizing nowadays. Companies should be cautious about what they share on social media, since it can “cut off” prospective customers. Instead, companies should stick to their core messages (that is, the services/products they provide, value to customers, benefits case and so on), modifying those messages to fit the intended audiences as well as the targeted social media platform. – Quoc Nguyen, Arthur Lawrence, LLC

6. Focusing on fleeting mass media topics
With social media, focus on your brand and the specific benefits to the consumer and their lifestyle. Try to steer clear of any current mass media topics, as they are fleeting and have nothing to do with your brand’s effectiveness. It would just be social commentary, which is unneeded. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

7. Disconnecting from the community
Being disconnected from the community and what concerns them is a major faux pas. Too often, brands are so busy implementing their long-term strategies that they forget to react to recent events or major developments that concern their target audience. Such negligence can cost brands dearly, as it might convey an image of carelessness and apathy toward major issues that are important to their users. – Peter Abualzolof, Mashvisor

12 Ways To Capture Consumers’ Attention With A Back-To-School Campaign

As summer comes to a close and the new school year begins, back-to-school marketing campaigns are in full swing. From selling school supplies and college dorm furniture to promoting special deals on phones and travel, marketers work hard during this short but critical window of time to capture the attention of students and their parents.

Forbes Agency Council

To help marketers gain and retain the attention of this key demographic in the back-to-school season and beyond, 12 members of Forbes Agency Council share their best tips for advertisers and marketers who offer relevant products and services. Follow their advice to make your campaigns stand out from those of your competitors.

1. Leverage Influencers
There are many college- and school-focused creators, as well as parenting creators, who have the perfect audience, credibility and authority to promote products and services in that niche. Influencers bring amazing results because, for their audience, it feels like they are getting a recommendation from a friend. – Anastasia Cecchetto, Ace Influencers

2. Optimize Your Content And Messages
Creativity is the No. 1 variable in advertising performance. Optimizing your content and messaging to be aligned with back-to-school and the products and services you sell will drive the most relevant clicks. Brands need to ensure cross-channel content is aligned across media, email and the Web, and they need to start early enough to have 20 to 40 days of campaign messaging in the market to drive enough reach. – Tucker Matheson, Markacy

3. Incentivize UGC With Email And SMS Options
Email marketing and SMS marketing options incentivize students to share their own experiences with products and services; you can then use that user-generated content in campaigns to create more buzz around the product or service. Parents and students want an experience—create an option that provides both a financial incentive for the consumer and content for the brand. – Vix Reitano, Agency 6B

4. Utilize Social Media
Back-to-school is an overlooked retail opportunity, as it’s hard to get people focused on it until they’re actually in-store doing last-minute shopping. The real opportunity is online (with a focus on social media) using paid videos on Instagram and paid and organic opportunities on Pinterest, not to mention audio—by advertising to on-the-go parents who are streaming or listening to podcasts during afternoon drop-off and pickup. – Scott Harkey, OH Partners

5. Position Company Founders As Industry Experts
In public relations, position your brand’s founders and representatives as experts in the field of parenting, whether they are parents themselves or market to parents. Parents are looking for trustworthy and reliable brands that they can relate to. Also, it’s all about how you communicate your brand’s values and initiatives to the media. – Jessica Kopach, The JKO Agency

6. Highlight Convenience
Back-to-school shopping can be hectic. Leveraging new ad types can help push convenience messaging. For example, Google Shopping and local inventory ads have a new beta: pickup later. Advertisers can now enable pickup later in the attributes of their inventory feeds. Using this beta will help advertisers capture consumers’ attention while avoiding the back-to-school “rush hour.” – Donna Robinson, Collective Measures

7. Appeal To Consumers’ Emotions
Use visuals and content that appeal to emotions. Starting a new school year can be a stressful transition for both parents and students, so show why your offerings are the solution. Aim for content that is both visually appealing and informative. – Hannah Trivette, NUVEW Web Solutions

8. Begin As Soon As Possible
Start your back-to-school marketing campaign as early as possible, especially this year, as it’s the first school year for some kids to be back fully in person since 2020. Along with that comes excitement and retail demand. You can reach the students themselves through social media and use more traditional media outlets to reach the adults who are supporting their school transitions. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

9. Email A Promo Code To Existing Customers
For parents, your most cost-effective (and direct) approach is to email last year’s customers a back-to-school promo checkout code. For students, get their attention on all the biggest social media platforms, such as TikTok, Instagram and YouTube. Each of these methods will need different messaging and creative tones, but both lead to the same place: more back-to-school purchases! – Bernard May, National Positions

10. Incorporate The Latest Trends
Consider the latest trends and developments your customers care about and incorporate them into your marketing plan. Remember that people will spend more this year because more students are returning to full-time education, and including a hot trend will grab their attention. – Dmitrii Kustov, Regex SEO

11. Run TikTok Ads
We’re in unprecedented times. Our agency spent $100 last week on a test ad, which garnered 700 new followers in one day. ROI for website traffic is just as impressive. This is where students and parents alike are hanging out online. All ads need to be tailored to this 9:16 video experience. – Kelly Samuel, Snack Toronto

12. Highlight Price Comparisons
It’s all about the visuals and ensuring that your ads “stop the scroll” and your products are priced affordably. This year, parents are going to be looking for bargains and deals, so highlighting price comparisons will be key. – Dawn Sinkule, Digital Dawn

8 best launch strategies for a rebrand

Whether it’s time to upgrade your brand or change it completely because so many elements of the original aren’t working, sometimes rebranding is necessary. Once everything is in line, how you choose to launch the rebrand is critical for its success.

The Business JournalsPexels

A sloppy launch strategy will be ineffective at best, while the right strategy can set a rebrand up for success. Below, eight members of Business Journals Leadership Trust discuss what they believe are the best launch strategies for a rebrand and why.

1. Execute due diligence.
Make sure you execute enough due diligence to back up your approach before execution. I see many brands that jump right into the process without planning. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

2. Identify and build around the entrepreneurial reason.
The key to any successful rebrand strategy is that the focus is not on the rebrand itself. Rebranding falls flat when the intent comes across as superficial to the audience. You need to identify the entrepreneurial reason for the rebrand. Then, you can build a campaign around articulating that entrepreneurial moment to your audience and demonstrate how this company evolution is going to serve the audience. – Nathan Fisher, Mindshare Capture Consulting

3. Prepare rebranded assets for a synchronized transition.
Slowly rolling out a rebrand can confuse customers. Instead, prepare your rebranded marketing assets for a synchronized transition on launch day. This includes an updated website, social media, signage, business cards, online ads, uniforms, etc. Fully brief all employees about the value of the changes. Then, you are ready to spread the word with an exciting event and captivating advertising. – Lincoln Jacobe, 6 Pillars Marketing

4. Sponsor an event with merch and rebranded items.
For a big rebrand, go out with a splash and include experiential marketing where you sponsor an event with merchandise and physical rebranded items that get your items in the hands of the people. You can then take that content generated and push it out on various media platforms to drive further performance and engagement. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

5. Implement structural, operational changes first.
A company should not rebrand until it has implemented structural and operational changes to which the new brand can speak. Without these changes, rebranding is no different than putting lipsticks on a pig per se. Rebranding is not a marketing exercise. Rather, it is a strategic initiative that should be adopted at all levels of the organization prior to marketing showcasing it. – Quoc Nguyen, Arthur Lawrence, LLC.

6. Ensure your new identity works for existing and new supporters.
With a rebrand, you want to ensure your new identity moves you forward to attract a new audience while allowing your existing supporters to also move forward with you. There needs to be an echo of who you once were within the new look and messaging so you don’t abandon loyal followers that have shaped you. – Ben Fant, Farmhouse Branding

7. Set the right mood a few weeks ahead of relaunch.
Start setting up the right mood a few weeks before you are ready to launch the rebranding. Inform your customers and target audience that something big is in the pipeline without being too specific. Build excitement and anticipation so that everyone eagerly awaits your reveal. Don’t forget to mention the exact date when the big reveal is coming so that you don’t make your audience weary. – Peter Abualzolof, Mashvisor

8. Attend a branding workshop for understanding.
It all starts with strategy. I love attending branding workshops to align, strategize and understand what’s authentically true about a brand aspirationally. What trends are resonating with target customers? How differentiated are you in the marketplace with competitors regarding products and positioning? What makes you great? What space can you own, and how does that tie into customer trends and beliefs? – Scott Harkey, OH Partners

16 Approaches Brands Can Take To Boost Engagement On TikTok

TikTok is the platform of choice for younger generations in 2022, and its influence and reach is only growing. With nearly every social platform making a shift toward featuring more video content, TikTok already offers the most popular features and functions, not to mention legions of global users, making it a great channel for branding and marketing.

Forbes Agency Council

While some brands rely on highly produced and polished video content to reach their ideal customers, those with a penchant for down-to-earth production styles and a bit of creativity can help new prospects discover their offerings with a well-planned TikTok content strategy. Below, members of Forbes Agency Council share their best advice for brands that hope to connect and boost engagement with target audiences on TikTok to ensure they take the most effective approach with their short-form video content.

1. Get In On The Trends And Have Fun
You have to have fun on TikTok—that’s why everyone’s there. Get in on the trends, do TikTok challenges and create content around popular music to start getting views. Even if you think your brand’s not “fun” enough to do any of that, behind-the-scenes TikToks that feature staff do very well. Some companies have earned millions of followers this way, reaching a whole new audience of brand advocates. – Nicky Senyard, Fintel Connect

2. Distill Your Message Down To Its Core
TikTok is a platform where users have very short attention spans. Distill your message down to its core, and tell an interesting story. Then, build on it and post as often as possible to grow your following. Don’t get discouraged if growth is slow at first, as every account started with few or no followers. Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. – David Kley, Web Design and Company

3. Use Hashtags To Follow TikTok Trends
Use hashtags as part of your marketing strategy on TikTok to follow trends. Follow TikTok trends regularly and be prepared to change your content to keep up with the latest crazes. However, remember that while you certainly need to follow trends, you shouldn’t forget about originality. – Dmitrii Kustov, Regex SEO

4. Grab Viewers’ Attention Quickly
Short video content should be fun, quick, engaging and quickly grab a viewer’s attention, especially since the attention spans of consumers have gotten shorter and shorter. You have one to three seconds to make a positive impression. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

5. Find Your Sweet Spot And Stick With It
Speak to your demographic, be real, find your sweet spot and stick with it. Don’t change your brand’s identity or values to gain followers just because you don’t see instant traction; change the way you speak and engage with your audience. Change the way you’re presenting and engaging and stick with it. Make it short, sweet and to the point, and always keep your audience wanting more. – Jessica Kopach, The JKO Agency

6. Keep Building Your List Of Ideas For Potential TikToks
Make sure that you create a long list of ideas about what you can film. TikTok thrives on consistency and frequency, yet I have seen many brands burn out quickly on ideas, then chalk it up to TikTok being a loser for them because their four videos didn’t land. Create a system to consistently come up with an endless list of ideas. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

7. Create Fun, Engaging Content That Is Authentic To Your Brand
TikTok users want content that is fun and entertaining. Videos from brands should reflect this. Brands not only need to create content that is both original and engaging, but they also need to be authentic to their own brand culture and values. Identify a brand archetype (such as a jester), then deliver content aligned with the spirit and consistency of that brand archetype. – Katie Schibler Conn, KSA Marketing

8. Have A Strong Hook And Create An Open Loop
Have a strong hook and create an open loop so that you increase the odds of users sticking around for the whole video. When creating your content, three effective video approaches/topics that will increase watch time and shares are videos that break common beliefs, give people an aha!/lightbulb moment or share an inspirational story. As a result, TikTok will view you as an asset if you keep people watching. – Callum Roche, Roche Marketing Group

9. Test And Learn; Rinse And Repeat
Test and learn. Test and learn. Rinse and repeat. By noticing what works, you will learn what the best messaging and format are for the future. Also, note what’s not generating engagement or eyeballs, and do less of that. TikTok can be like a daily focus group for each piece of content you post, with audience members who will vote with their eyeballs and engagement. Pay attention and improve each day! – Nancy Marshall, Marshall Communications

10. Use TikTok’s Unique Elements To Maximize Reach
Use the elements that make TikTok unique to maximize your reach. For example, using audio clips that have already gone viral is a great way to get extra views. Remember that Gen-Z increasingly turns to TikTok for news and information, so another winning tactic for brands is to use the platform to educate consumers about their product with either behind-the-scenes footage or informational videos. – Danielle Wiley, Sway Group

11. Tell A Story And Post Often
In many ways, classic advertising offers the best TikTok advice: Tell a story and post often. Personal stories give a product or service a “face” and a human story, making it easier for audiences to connect with it through a screen. But tell a story to one person—don’t make a viewer feel as if they are part of a massive group. Then, post often. Successful TikTok accounts often post two or three times a day. – Lon Otremba, Bidtellect

12. Leverage Interactive Elements To Get Viewers Engaged
Ask a question for viewers to answer in the comments or by creating their own videos in response. TikTok works especially well when you create your own trends and challenges for others to perform on their own. For instance, create a sound for others to use in their videos to mimic yours. As a result, you’ll create a network. – Hannah Trivette, NUVEW Web Solutions

13. Do Your Research And Focus On Solutions And Inspiration
Understand what your audience is interested in and how your brand can align to that. It’s important to offer content that isn’t sales-focused but instead focuses on how your brand’s service or product solves a problem or inspires. Putting these elements together is a winning combination to boost engagement on TikTok. – Donna Robinson, Collective Measures

14. Don’t Try To Make Your TikToks ‘Too Perfect’
Show the real appeal of your company and who you really are in each of your videos. That kind of authenticity is not only perfect for TikTok, but it can also create the kind of emotional connection that turns viewers into repeat customers. – Danny Star, Website Depot

15. Give Your Audiences Something To Engage With
Can your audience do a duet with your content, click a link or (at the very least) consider your message? Your audience needs to have an actual reason to engage with the content. Start testing text overlays, posing questions and tagging people directly if you are responding to a question. This shows that you are paying attention to what your audience is saying. – Bernard May, National Positions

16. Be Real And Authentic
TikTok isn’t about a movie-quality production with amazing lighting and a professional score. It is about taking a video on your phone with some backlighting, getting your info out quickly and being entertaining. It doesn’t matter if you are participating in a trend or trying to sell something to the public; people won’t like it if you’re fake. – Jason Hall, FiveChannels Marketing

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

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

The Business Journals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11 ways leaders can encourage employees to speak freely

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

The Business Journals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How To Use Behavioral Targeting Without Third-Party Data

Behavioral targeting uses information about Web users to ensure ads are shown to the right consumers at the right time. With rules about third-party cookies changing dramatically and a growing emphasis on user privacy, the entire game has shifted for marketers, who can no longer rely on data provided by outside companies that have no direct relationship with their target audience.

Forbes Agency Council

Below, members of Forbes Agency Council weigh in on the question that’s on every marketer’s mind now: Without access to a key source of information they’ve long depended upon to inform their marketing strategies, what is the best compliant, non-creepy way for brands to create truly personalized experiences for prospects using behavioral targeting?

1. Leverage Opportunities To Gather Zero- And First-Party Data
Usage of zero- and first-party data is only going to increase. Pre-customer, first-party data opportunities such as newsletters or gated content can build cohorts of prospects who have engaged at certain stages. Marketing can take them to personalized experiences to advance the journey, and tools such as Google Optimize can help dynamically personalize page content based on a user’s remarketing status. – Brian Walker, Statwax

2. Don’t Use Data Gathered Via Microphone
Limit the use of apps that use microphones to gather user data. Ads that use interested search data and browser history will come off as less creepy than ads using information picked up from apps that capture what the consumer is saying when their microphone is turned on. – Spencer Hadelman, Advantage Marketing

3. Use Keywords To Target Content Viewers With Contextual Ads
The future of targeting users without cookies will consist of targeting keywords through contextual-based advertising. Contextual ads are based on the content you are looking for instead of the actual user behaviors. For example, a beer company can target users viewing content on contextually because that demographic is more likely to enjoy beers while watching their favorite sports team. – Michelle Abdow, Market Mentors, LLC

4. Segment Landing Pages To Target Distinct Audience Lists
Audience list targeting can help to a great extent. Segment your landing pages so that each page attracts a distinct audience group. Create different audience lists for different landing pages and work on populating them. Once they are ready, target these lists with interest-specific marketing messages and calls to action for audiences in different phases of the funnel and different interest zones. – Ajay Prasad, GMR Web Team

5. Talk To Your Target Audience In Person
Actually meeting and talking to your target audience is so essential. Attending events and trade shows is the best way to do this and a great organic way to do some market research. Networking is so essential to get to know your demographics! Think behind the suits: Are they parents? Are they foodies? Are they single? A lot of the information you’re looking for cannot always be found online. – Jessica Kopach, The JKO Agency

6. Click On The Profiles Of Your Social Media Audience
Start taking a look through your social media audience and click on their profiles to review what they are posting and commenting about. This is you taking an honest interest in your audience, and what you may find in 30 minutes of clicking and scrolling could level up your campaign. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

7. Transparently Connect With Consumers On The Front End
Transparency about how we intend to manage or use information is the key to navigating this continually changing privacy landscape. Consumers want to have a say in how their information is being gathered and used; we can connect with our consumers on the front end instead of depending on back-end data to inform us of their needs and wants. – Russ Williams, Archer Malmo

8. Use Offline Conversion Tracking To Enrich Paid Media Campaigns
Using offline conversion tracking to enrich your paid media campaigns involves taking (converted) customer data from your CRM and essentially reinjecting this information back into your ads platform, such as Google Ads. This allows Google’s remarketing artificial intelligence to function that much better. However, you are only using the customer information that has already come to you voluntarily and ethically. – Bernard May, National Positions

9. Use Post-Purchase Surveys To Segment And Tag Customer Profiles
Post-purchase surveys work well to understand the customer profile. Through surveys, brands can connect with customers on the things that matter most to them and structure their messaging around those interests. Most email and SMS platforms will allow customer profiles to be tagged for deep message segmentation, and interests can be used for creative segmentation in paid media. – Justin Buckley, ATTN Agency

10. Map Out Remarketing Campaign Creatives By Buyer’s Stage
Having a well-mapped-out remarketing campaign is a great way to emphasize your message and provide a compliant, personalized experience. Showcasing different remarketing creatives, depending on where prospects are in the customer buying journey, can be very effective to share information about what you’re selling to them. – Adrian Falk, Believe Advertising & PR

11. Segment Based On Trends In Audience Interests
Brands can give consumers a personalized experience through general audience segmentation based on trends in their interests from a variety of brands that meet the criteria. An example of targeting that is potentially too invasive is if you’re talking about running shoes around voice search devices, such as your Alexa or Siri, and suddenly you’re served ads for running shoes without ever having done a browser search for one. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

12. Restrategize Using Data Collected By Your Web Analytics Tools
Behavioral data is collected using your company’s Web analytics tools, cookies, customers’ browsing history and IP addresses. Cookies will soon disappear, so it’s time to consider a different strategy. Fortunately, you have the data collected by your company’s Web analytics tools. In addition, you can consider targeted email campaigns or reviving traditional questionnaires. – Dmitrii Kustov, Regex SEO

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

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

The Business Journals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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