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

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

The Business Journals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Business Journals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Business Journals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Business Journals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14 Expert Tips For Infusing Viral Elements Into A Campaign

The study of what makes something go viral online has been some of the most diligent research done in the early 21st century. Virality basically guarantees success when it comes to digital advertising and marketing, as it leads to more organic shares, deeper engagement and a wider reach.

Key to creating viral elements in campaigns is the fact that consumers gravitate toward unique, highly creative ads and marketing. Some companies use unexpected elements to go viral; others prefer to stir up controversy to grab attention and move their brand forward, which can carry significant risk.

Below, 14 experts from Forbes Agency Council explore how companies can safely attempt to go viral by infusing unconventional messaging and highly creative elements into their campaigns.

Forbes Agency Council

1. Make Sure It’s Grounded In Strategy

It must be grounded in strategy and brand-authentic. You owe it to the client who wants something big or provocative to ensure there’s a strong business case for doing so, or you waste your time and their money. Don’t be tone-deaf in a sad, scary time for many. Make sure your message is genuine and not opportunistic, or you will alienate customers and activate “cancel culture.” – Stephen Rosa, (add)ventures

2. Root It In The Core Message

The bold approach has to be rooted in the core message of the organization. Whether through controversy, crazy tactics, engaging a celebrity, etc., it has to drive home the point of the campaign and be meaningful, interesting and exciting for the target audience. – Nathan Miller, Miller Ink, Inc.

3. Always Stay On-Brand

Always be on-brand and stay consistent with your promise and values. Don’t use viral opportunities to establish your brand reputation. Instead, think of these agile tactics as a way to strengthen and reinforce what is already in action and evident in your products, services, company culture and social responsibility programs. – Carey Kirkpatrick, CKP

4. Study The Market’s Behavior

Going viral isn’t that simple. You have to study the market’s behavior and map out the customer journey so that you can target that moment when something can be effectively shared. “Attention-grabbing” content or “shock” content can only go so far if you want to ride the wave of a certain content trend. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

5. Make Sure It Aligns With Company Goals

Producing a campaign with unexpected or controversial elements just for the sake of grabbing attention will often work against a long-term brand position. My advice to companies wishing to engage in that would be to only attempt it if it would help their customers achieve their goals. More often than not, misalignment of an organization’s campaign with its brand promise will backfire. – Roger Hurni, Off Madison Ave

6. Ask About Their Risk Appetite First

Be careful what you ask for. Out of millions of clips on YouTube, only about one of them will go viral. At the same time, too many campaigns go viral for the wrong reasons, either for being badly executed or for being too controversial. So if your client asks you to make them go viral, ask them about their risk appetite first. Anyone can get famous, but not always for the right reasons. – Lars Voedisch, PRecious Communications

7. Make A Single And Simple Point

If you try hard to make something go viral, it never will. Tell an amazing story, frame it around a tight niche, tap into existing conversations with an interesting angle or play on “folk-isms.” Most important of all: Keep your message to a single, simple point. Do that, and there’s a good chance it will resonate with the audience and be shared (and possibly go viral). – Mike Boogaard, MOI Global

8. Play It Safe With Controversy

My No. 1 piece of advice would be that advertisers need to play it safe when attempting to be controversial. We live in a time when “cancel culture” is everywhere, and one wrong move can end a legacy of great moves. Remember, it takes years to build trust, but only moments to lose it. – Garrett Atkins, VIE Media

9. Lead With The Attention-Grabbing Elements

Make sure that the attention-grabbing and unexpected elements happen within the first five to seven seconds of a video because you may not get longer than that to grab someone’s attention and hold it. You can’t build up to it; you need to jump right in. – Spencer Hadelman, Advantage Marketing

10. Consider The Current Social Climate

Consider the current social climate and weigh the risks of your campaign. My top advice would be to avoid chasing viral content, as it is rarely engineered successfully. But if your client insists, make sure you don’t shoot yourself or your client in the foot with something that sends the wrong message. Trying too hard reeks of insincerity, which consumers will definitely pick up on. – Dmitrii Kustov, Regex SEO

11. Develop Talking Points And Responses

If you’re going to use marketing that is edgy or controversial, develop talking points and responses to potential objections in advance. Your take on the issue might not satisfy everyone, but it will show that the idea was considered from multiple perspectives and perhaps help clarify your intentions. – Hannah Trivette, NUVEW Web Solutions

12. Look At What Worked In The Past

Before you execute this type of disruptive strategy, look at what was successful in the past so that you don’t water down or blow the client’s old methods (which were proven to be successful) completely out of the water. You need to know where they came from before you can show them where they can go. Aiming to go viral can be a shortsighted campaign strategy. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

13. Ensure It Supports The Brand’s Future

Does this approach support the creed, mission and values of your company today as well as the future of your brand? Going viral, especially today, is a double-edged sword. If it works, it will likely be a “flash in the pan” in terms of attention. If it doesn’t work, the impact can linger for years. So don’t simply be controversial without weighing the risks. – Bernard May, National Positions

14. Keep It Above Board

Unexpected and attention-grabbing elements can be incorporated into a campaign to attract user attention, but this can be done above board without having to resort to any controversial or gray areas that might be risky for a brand to enter. If you question the controversial nature of a tactic or campaign, the viewer most certainly will, and it will be amplified. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

How To Keep Teams Communicating: 11 Proven Strategies

In addition to trust, clear communication is foundational to any professional team’s success. If its members have problems communicating with each other, it will not only reduce the team’s overall effectiveness, but could also damage morale, individual performance and even the bottom line.

As their manager, you can help pinpoint issues with a team’s communication, but it is up to the team members themselves to fix those problems. To ensure that the process of identifying and solving a team’s communication problems won’t devolve into a blame game or result in further miscommunication, focus on strengthening practical communication skills.

Below, 11 professionals from Forbes Agency Council look at the most effective ways to locate and fix the issues hindering communication between team members before they cause a ripple effect.

Forbes Agency Council

1. Get To The Root Issue

Communication challenges are not usually not personal in nature; they are just misunderstandings. So take the time to get to the root issue (e.g., missed deadlines and deliverables, misallocated timelines, etc.) and have each of the parties express their viewpoints. Then, put an accountability plan in place to resolve any challenges that might have risen to the surface. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

2. Be Consistent With Your Own Communication

Always be the first person to do a status check on each of your employees. There is definitely an inefficiency problem when people aren’t communicating. You have to look at the pain points of each person first, and then piece them all together to create a sustainable solution. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

3. Create A Safe And Trusting Environment

The foundation of company culture is trust and transparency. Without a safe environment, people will not open up. And opening up is crucial, as only addressing problems head-on will lead to productive solutions. There needs to be frequent communication, and we encourage non-task based conversations in an effort to strengthen team bonding. – Christoph Kastenholz, Pulse Advertising

4. Observe And Listen To Your Team

Observing and listening to your team is a great way to uncover areas that need improvement in their communication and determine preferred channels for communicating. Providing your team with a channel in which they feel comfortable openly communicating helps avoid a breakdown and promotes open communication. – Hannah Trivette, NUVEW Web Solutions

5. Align The Team’s Goals With Leadership’s

Poor communication means that team members are not aligned with leadership. Leaders must publish four to five annual goals for the team with key performance indicators and milestones to meet. They must get alignment from each team member at the start, and they need to check in each week to measure actual versus planned results. Direct discussions must occur when deliverables are dropped. A good leader will never accept low performance. – Michael Fox, Corberry Digital

6. Create And Share A Survey Or ‘Feedback Form’

Create a standard survey or a “feedback form,” and then share it with all members of your team. Make sure that the questions focus on perceived and witnessed issues (or ones that were reported in confidence), then do one-on-ones with all relevant team members over a short period of time. Pull people in quietly; don’t make a huge interoffice announcement. Show grace. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

7. Take Emotions Out Of It And Look At The Data

First things first: Take emotions out of it and look at the digital paper trail. Review emails, logged tasks, timestamps, etc. to see where things are actually slipping through the cracks according to the data. Then, have an honest heart-to-heart with all team members aimed at finding solutions, not pointing fingers. Show your team an example of the type of communication you expect. – Bernard May, National Positions

8. Have One-On-One Conversations To Identify Issues

Before you make assumptions, have a conversation with each of them individually and see if they can identify what the issues are. Often, if you ask them first, they can give you a clear picture of what’s going on from their perspective. Then, you can piece it all together and address it as you see fit. Regular team meetings will also help minimize communication breakdowns. – Skye Suttenfield, Seen Media Group

9. Understand What Motivates Each Individual

Effective managers provide their teams with all of the resources required to win in their roles. This includes the manager’s leadership, which can take many forms, including listening. Assuming that everyone wants to do a good job, understanding what motivates each individual may be vital to cultivating a team that’s motivated to work together. – Patrick Nycz, NewPoint Marketing

10. Determine What, Who And When For Accountability

What, who, when—those are the absolute keys to every action plan and discussion within my organization. What is the issue? Who is responsible for it? And when is it going to be taken care of? When you get to that level of accountability, you’ll find that things get completed. If everything is done in a gray area, it won’t. – Douglas Karr, Highbridge

11. Look For Signs Of Competing Goals

Poor communication among team members is often a sign of competing goals. Establishing a clear desired outcome and identifying each person’s part in getting to that outcome is critical. That needs to be followed up with a communication and process structure that clarifies the appropriate ways and times team members should contribute to and weigh in on the project. – Roger Hurni, Off Madison Ave

How 14 Agency Pros Measure ROI For Their Own Marketing Activities

Marketing is essential for promoting and expanding all businesses, including agencies. While these firms execute plenty of marketing campaigns and measure ROI for their clients, it can be tricky to devote enough time and resources to determining their own.

Nonetheless, as with any client, it’s critical to measure your agency’s own efforts and initiatives to ensure that you’re seeing a return on those investments.

The members of Forbes Agency Council know how important it is to track the results of internal marketing activities. Here, they share 14 strategies and metrics they use to measure the ROI for their own campaigns.
Forbes Agency Council

1. Urchin Tracking Module Parameters

Set up proper UTM parameters for each campaign, both organic and paid, create events and goals in Google Analytics, integrate your contact form with your CRM and use plugins to track UTMs for each lead that reaches out. If you have everything under control, you will be able to calculate CPC, CPI, CTR and average contract size by acquisition channel. – Alessandro Bogliari, The Influencer Marketing Factory

2. Facebook Ads Manager

We measure and track ROI for our internal marketing activities directly inside the Facebook Ads Manager, just as we do for our clients. We measure cost per lead and overall sales to ensure that we have an ROI with all of our efforts. – Jonathan Durante, Expandify Marketing Inc

3. Non-Revenue Metrics

When ROI is measured solely by revenue, you can miss measuring and tweaking some of the KPIs that indicate progress through the sales funnel. By measuring and analyzing web traffic, social media engagements and qualified leads generated (versus a one-dimensional revenue number), you have the opportunity to tweak and improve throughout the process, which leads to continuously improving ROI. – Carey Kirkpatrick, CKP

4. Qualitative And Quantitative Leads

It’s about qualitative and quantitative leads. Does your inbound pick up? Do you have those out-of-the-blue requests, or is it one of those Google Ads-based campaigns where you spent tons of money, got (unqualified) leads and your website’s bounce rate went sky-high? Rather than being about an absolute ROI, it’s about being clear on your objectives (top/middle/lower funnel) and focusing on that! – Lars Voedisch, PRecious Communications

5. Brand Awareness

There are easily tangible KPIs to track for marketing, including the number of inbound leads generated and, even better, how much revenue is generated from those inbound leads. But we also need to keep brand awareness in mind, which is more difficult to quantify, but can be measured through things such as overall site traffic or page views per month. – Jason Wulfsohn, AUDIENCEX

6. Customer Lifetime Value To Customer Acquisition Cost Ratio

Our agency assesses the customer lifetime value to customer acquisition cost ratio (LTV to CAC) to determine our ROI. The LTV to CAC ratio measures the value of a customer over time compared to their acquisition cost. The ideal LTV to CAC ratio is around 3 to 1, where a customer’s lifetime value is three times the cost of acquiring them. Anything less than 3 to 1 means your investment is higher than your return. – Adam Binder, Creative Click Media

7. Money Spent Versus Money Made Per Campaign

We measure ROI for ourselves the same way we measure ROI for our clients: how much money is spent versus how much money is made on an individual campaign. For example, if we’re doing PPC (pay-per-click) for ourselves, we take into account the budget and the revenue generated from said PPC campaign to measure its effectiveness. – Garrett Atkins, VIE Media

8. Sales Leads

What’s great about digital marketing is that everything is measurable if you have the right tools for tracking it. You can measure the value of the digital traffic that you received; however, the real ROI still comes through your sales. See if your marketing efforts still lead you to the next sales lead. It doesn’t matter if it’s just one. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

9. New Client Acquisition And Yearly Revenue

ROI is measured from new client acquisition and revenue for the calendar year against the number of resources invested in the activities, both time and financial. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

10. Web Traffic Value

We’ve been blessed to be ranked No. 1 on Google for “Facebook advertising agency.” This came from years of hard work, blogging and PR. We track the estimated costs for that keyword and the amount of traffic we receive each month. Since we know the value of the traffic, we know what to invest to ensure that we remain in that top position. – Brian Meert, AdvertiseMint

11. Return On Influence

We focus on return on influence as well as return on investment. So we are tracking engagement and growth on social channels, email marketing metrics, website traffic and visitation metrics, as well as referrals and inquiries. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

12. Cost Per Key Performance Indicator

We measure ROI for ourselves exactly the same way we do for our clients: We define our goals beforehand (impressions, engagement, clicks, leads, etc.), and then assess what we’ve spent, what we got and what it cost per KPI (CPC, CPI, CTR, etc.). We look at the analytics to assess what was strong and where we can improve next time. – Christoph Kastenholz, Pulse Advertising

13. Revenue Versus Ad Spend

You can only put profit in your pocket, so we measure revenue versus ad spend, also known as ROAS (return on advertising spend). Generating site traffic, brand awareness and inbound leads is meaningless if they don’t turn into paying clients. Those KPIs simply give us direction to help keep the business on a plan. Deals are always in the sales funnel. – Michael Fox, Corberry Digital

14. The Same Metrics And Tools Used For Clients

We measure our agency’s performance with the same metrics and tracking tools we use to track ROI for our clients. If I, as a small-business owner, wouldn’t be satisfied with the metrics being provided, then I shouldn’t ask my clients to accept them. – Hannah Trivette, NUVEW Web Solutions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

15 Overlooked Best Practices For Managing A Small-Business Website

In today’s digital age, it’s vital for your small business to have a fully functional website to attract and retain customers. While larger businesses are able to hand website development to their team or outsource it, small-business owners may have only themselves or a small group of people to work with.

Creating and maintaining a website while wearing all of the hats in your business can be overwhelming, and you may not be aware of some of the best practices your more established competitors are following.

Forbes Agency Council

To help, 15 Forbes Agency Council members shared some commonly overlooked best practices for small-business owners who are managing their own company website.

1. Consider A Static Website

Depending on the cadence of posting content to your site, you may not actually need a CMS (e.g., WordPress) and all the hassle that comes with maintaining it. For many small businesses, a static website based on a Bootstrap theme is sufficient, and also lightning fast, which is great for SEO. To add a dynamic “gallery,” simply integrate your Instagram feed and, voilà, no maintenance is required! – Justin Cook, 9thCO Inc.

2. Get An Outside Opinion

Small-business owners view their own companies through different eyes than their clients. Even if you have the in-house skills to build your own site, you’re too close to the business to make objective decisions, and you’re too busy to make timely updates, optimize SEO and create fresh content. We are an agency, yet we outsource our own site development and management. Best thing we ever did! – Bruce McMeekin, BKM Marketing Associates, Inc.

3. Measure Your Site Performance With Analytics

Optimize web analytics to measure and benchmark your site performance. You can connect your site to analytics even if you do not have a roadmap or specific strategy regarding how you want to use this data. Let your analytics start accruing information from your website that will be there when you’re ready to evaluate key performance indicators that will drive your business. – Ana Miller, A2 Communications Group

4. Optimize Content For Voice Search

Less than 5% of companies have optimized their online content for voice search. Not only does this mean that businesses are missing out on valuable searches, but it also indicates there is a huge market to capture. By servicing consumers who use voice search queries to find products, your business can be one of the first entrants to this budding digital advertising channel. – Laura Cole, Vivial

5. Think Like Your End-User

This suggestion might get a few eye rolls, but our clients always have a hard time thinking like users when they’re internal at organizations. This user-centric approach will make you stop and ask, “Do users need this?” and then go from there. Horrific PDF menus with QR codes are a good example of a bad user experience. No one wants to pinch and zoom. – Lee Salisbury, UnitOneNine

6. Strive For Continuous Improvement

Pay attention to analytics and maintain a discipline of continuous improvement. Know your audience as well as you know what you want them to do when they arrive at your site. From navigation and page flow to view times and clicks times, how your audience is engaging is key to managing websites that successfully convert. – Patrick Nycz, NewPoint Marketing

7. Keep Your Site Regularly Updated

Your website is a living organism. Keep it healthy by updating it regularly. Set up a spreadsheet with checks to perform on an annual, quarterly and monthly basis. Some things, such as updating the year in your footer or performing a thorough content and SEO audit, can be done every January. Other tasks, such as updating company and leadership data, should be done monthly. – Mary Ann O’Brien, OBI Creative

8. Ensure Seamless Desktop And Mobile Experiences

A small-business owner should always make sure that both the desktop and the mobile experience have the same ease of use and user experience. The mobile experience can sometimes be overlooked in development, which can be a critical mistake when the majority of users are browsing via mobile. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

9. Provide A Good Experience For Consumers

Many businesses focus on the marketing activities that generate traffic to the website and often forgo the most important element: Does the website provide a good experience for the consumer? Websites don’t need lots of bells and whistles to be effective. Instead, focus on a digital storefront that looks good, is easy to use and clearly communicates your expertise. – Carey Kirkpatrick, CKP

10. Prioritize Local Search

Make landing pages for your local customers, which are easily searchable on Google. Work on your local presence with good reviews on platforms such as Google My Business, Yelp or Google Maps to give your brand good visibility. – Mandeep Singh, SEO Discovery Pvt Ltd.

11. Check Your Site Content Monthly

Many marketers take months to build the “perfect” website, and then think the job is done. But site content must be refreshed and reworked on an ongoing basis in order to stay fresh and have a positive impact on your Google site ranking. Make a calendar reminder to check through your site content at least once a month and make any required updates. – Jason Wulfsohn, AUDIENCEX

12. Hire The Right Developer

Stop reinventing the wheel or overpaying for custom backend development. Small businesses can easily build massively successful websites using open-source software such as WordPress. I’ve seen $80,000 “custom builds” recreated for $10,000 in WordPress. Do you have concerns about WordPress? The build is as good or as bad as the developer. – Damon Burton, SEO National

13. Think Of Your Site As A Library

Does your site have all of the “books” you need to properly educate, inform and assist your prospects and customers? If it doesn’t, work to create them. Move away from the assembly line and, instead, build and optimize the library so that your customers can easily consume it. – Douglas Karr, Highbridge

14. Outsource Your Web Design

My best piece of advice for a business owner regarding the management of your company’s website would be to delegate it to someone that specializes in web page design as soon as possible. Web design is a full-time job in and of itself. That factor coupled with the fact they need to be updated on a regular basis to stay effective is a great reason to get it off your plate. – Garrett Atkins, VIE Media

15. Optimize Your Blog Pages For SEO

You might easily overlook the structure of your headers, the number of keywords you include in the content and what you place in the meta tags. Each page has to be made with the intention of improving SEO. If you do this, I guarantee your website is going to get more visitors than before. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

15 Ways To Develop A Customer-Centric Content Strategy

Content marketing is a great way to get in front of and bring value to consumers without going overboard on your sales pitch. However, it can be tough to strike a balance. Your content shouldn’t completely ignore your offerings, but you want to make sure it adds value for your customer first.

Forbes Agency Council

That’s why developing a strategy focused on your target customer is the key to executing successful content marketing initiatives. To help you achieve this, 15 members of Forbes Agency Council gave their best advice on how brands can develop effective, customer-centric content.

1. Create Outcome-Based Content

People today are focused on issues, personal and social outcomes and ways that products and product providers can positively affect their lives and the lives of others. Content should be visual, interactive, emotive and outcome-based. Pick the right channel. TikTok is delivering huge numbers. – Peter Prodromou, Boston Digital

2. Implement Persona Identifiers On Your Website

Implement persona identifiers (via “tags”) into the data layer of your website. Push those identifiers into audiences within your analytics tool. This will enable you to understand which audiences are interacting with existing content, selectively build out additional content based on audience priority and run “lookalike” campaigns to promote the new content to only that audience type. – Justin Cook, 9thCO Inc.

3. Engage In Non-Commerce Dialogue With Customers

We find that most marketing plans emphasize methods for pushing content to consumers while giving little thought to methods for customers to engage in “non-commerce dialogue.” Companies that have effective customer-centric marketing have built these methods, not just “product reviews,” for engaging in these conversations. Focusing on those channels is essential to crafting better outbound content. – James Cioban, Cierant Corporation

4. Focus On Benefits Over Features

Focus on product benefits over features. Use “you” over “we.” And most importantly, do key phrase research and understand the searcher intent behind your phrases. Truly customer-centric content ties the searcher’s intent to the product on the page. It doesn’t rely on brand terms. Instead, it includes non-branded terms that speak to the product’s universe. – Brian Rutledge, GPO

5. Answer Consumer Questions

Create content that provides high-value information, answers consumer questions and guides them toward making the best purchase decision. Within your content, showcase the benefits, uses and value of your products and services as examples and case studies. This tactic will build trust with the consumer and drive them to come to you when they are ready to purchase. – Laura Cole, Vivial

6. Interview Your Customers

Start with interviewing your customers. Find a small number that best represents each audience persona you intend to target. During a brief interview, listen closely to the words each customer uses to describe why they choose your company’s solutions and how it has impacted their business and professional success. – Wendy Covey, TREW Marketing

7. Tap Into Their Existing Motivations

For content that is truly customer-centric, campaigns should tap into the customer’s existing motivations. The reason being, you can’t motivate someone to action, but you can align your content with what that customer already is motivated to do. Once that is done, the content can prompt them to take action. – Roger Hurni, Off Madison Ave

8. Talk About Things They Love

A company’s story is nice, but if you want to engage someone, talk about things they care about or love. Take a page from the big boys: Know what you sell and why people are buying. It is always about the consumer. Apple does not sell computers; it sells a set of beliefs or a way of thinking. Starbucks does not sell coffee; its sells status quo. Even Toms Shoes sold the concept of giving back. – Patrick Nycz, NewPoint Marketing

9. Practice Inbound Marketing

Develop customer personas that identify the needs, concerns, dreams and opportunities of your ideal audiences. Find intersection points and create content that speaks to your personas at every point of the buyer journey. Then, make every communication, from award wins to case studies to blog posts, speak to them about their needs rather than your capabilities. – Mary Ann O’Brien, OBI Creative

10. Ask Customers For Video Content

Customer-generated videos where customers record themselves with the brand and showcase its benefits offer an authentic way to show true excitement and endorsement of the brand from the customer’s individual perspective, which will appeal to others too. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

11. Make It Easy To Find Relevant Content

Make it easy for web visitors to find content suitable for their stage in the buying process. Think of your blog as a hub for insights that educate about your industry. Place evergreen content in static pages to inform about you and your capabilities. Find organic links between the two so that when prospects are ready to work themselves down the funnel, they can do so without friction. – Carey Kirkpatrick, CKP

12. Emphasize The Problem You Solve

There’s that old saying that nobody will care about your solution before they recognize there’s a massive problem—and it applies to them. So think about your customers’ context, situation and problems, and pick them up where they are by emphasizing that they all have a common problem that you figured out how to solve! – Lars Voedisch, PRecious Communications

13. Frame Your Message Around Their Needs

Customers largely see interactions with companies as transactional, while companies yearn for so much more. Content can help you build closer connections with customers, but only if it conveys your deep understanding of them. Always start with the emotional, social and functional outcomes they value as human beings. Then, frame your messages around the needs your offerings can deliver on. – Camille Nicita, Gongos, Inc.

14. Align Your Brand Ethos With Their Values

Newer generations care less about products’ USPs and more about how the brand’s ethos aligns with their values. To create a customer-centric content strategy, you have to understand what values are important for your audience and authentically align not only your brand message, but also your actions with those values. Brands that can create content around that will see the benefits of a customer-centric approach. – Emilie Tabor, IMA – Influencer Marketing Agency

15. Showcase Your Solution Through Testimonials

True customer-centric content needs to answer the questions your audience is asking. Rather than touting how great your products or services are, you need to provide a solution to their problems. Some of the best customer-centric content actually includes customer testimonials. This is especially helpful as video content: Let your customers speak to how you helped them solve a problem. – Jason Wulfsohn, AUDIENCEX