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

5 ways to leverage behavioral targeting to increase customer engagement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 smart strategies for managing marketing analytics in a digital world

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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