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.

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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

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.

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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

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.

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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.

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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

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.

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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

7 simple ways to get more revenue from current customers

Many business owners and entrepreneurs believe that in order to grow revenue, they need to expand their business, products or services or grow their customer base. However, there are usually some untapped methods to get more revenue from current customers.

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Before launching new products or services or looking for new customers, there are some simple ways to tap into the ones you currently have. Below, seven members of Business Journals Leadership Trust discuss some of the simplest ways to get more revenue from current customers and why they’re effective.

1. Find complimentary services.
Find complementary services that can help you grow or reach your campaign goals. Never sell unnecessary upsells; keep them essential. By doing this, you will then continue to be considered a thought leader by them. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

2. Offer top-notch customer service.
In business, if cash is king, then revenue is queen. One simple way to get more revenue from current customers is to meet and exceed their expectations through top-notch products or services with executive customer service. This approach has a two-edged sword impact. First, customers are more likely to come back to buy more. Second, they will refer others, thus creating more revenue. – Emmanuel Eliason, Eliason Wealth Management

3. Match previous energy and passion.
Use the same energy and passion for delivering products or services used when pursuing customers. Delivery excellence is not simply meeting contract terms but going above and beyond contractual obligations. It may sound counterintuitive, but do not focus on the next thing you can sell. Instead, focus on creating and delivering the highest quality deliverable possible. – Quoc Nguyen, Arthur Lawrence, LLC.

4. Ensure it’s love at first touch.
The best way to ensure the highest revenue per customer is to ensure they love your product or brand from the first touch. This will lead to a purchase with them becoming a repeat customer and drive lifetime value. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

5. Preserve service consistency.
As a service business, it is as simple as treating them well! Be consistent. Meet your deadlines and maintain accuracy. Their trust in you will grow and they will inevitably ask you to do more. – Zane Stevens, Protea Financial

6. Deliver incredible experiences.
Share best practices, deliver an incredible customer experience and give them a reason to want to do more business with you. You get what you put into it! – David Wescott, Transblue

7. Maintain regular communication.
The easiest way is to retain existing customers for as long as possible. To do that, you must maintain regular communication with them to ensure that your product is still adequately meeting their needs. In our ever-changing world, the needs of customers are also always changing, so you need to understand them well and ensure that your product evolves with these needs in mind. – Peter Abualzolof, Mashvisor

12 ways for managers to understand what stakeholders want

Every business has various stakeholders, from customers and investors to employees. Every group of stakeholders expects something different from the company, and it’s important to keep them all satisfied.

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The first step to satisfying stakeholders is understanding what they want. Here, 12 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust discuss how managers can get a better understanding of what internal and external stakeholders want.

1. Solicit feedback in a safe manner.
Solicit feedback in a manner that feels safe to internal and external stakeholders. Focus the questions to ensure that feedback is targeted. Open-ended or vague questions discourage interest in responding because it doesn’t support real change. Finally, be open and welcoming to the feedback by providing a post-feedback follow-up so that internal and external stakeholders know you value their time. – Chelsea Suttmann, Barulich Dugoni & Suttmann Law Group, Inc.

2. Hold sensitive info in confidence.
When it comes to understanding what internal and external stakeholders want, need and expect from the C-suite, there is no substitute for listening. However, just being present to listen alone is not enough. You have to hold sensitive information in confidence, make timely and transparent leadership decisions with feedback and be engaged authentically for the long haul. – Carrie Collins-Fadell, Brain Injury Alliance

3. Talk through expected results.
Talk through the job to be done or the expected results. Many times it’s difficult to articulate what internal and external stakeholders want, so doing this can be more effective in understanding the desired outcomes. – Jawad Shaikh, Avelead

4. Have authentic conversations.
Ask them! We spend so much time assuming the wants of our stakeholders when personally asking them can be so meaningful. Having authentic and transparent conversations moves relationships forward in a sustainable and positive manner. – Lelia Kramer, Saint Ursula Academy

5. Keep constant communication.
There is no shortcut, social media or survey-based answer here. Constant communication is the only method to understand other people better, whether in a business, personal, internal or external setting. The fact that it’s hard work and most people won’t do it will set you — and your company — apart for years to come. – Daniel Sweet, Sweetview Partners, Inc.

6. Spend time for honest feedback.
Spend time with team members/staff, clients and referral sources to solicit honest feedback. Start the conversation with kind words about how important the stakeholder’s viewpoint is and then ask for thoughts on what’s working, what needs improvement and if they see opportunities worthy of consideration. Consider offering some kind of small gift as a “thank you” for their valuable time. – Wendy Merrill, Affinity Consulting Group

7. Create thought-provoking questions.
Research of existing stakeholders and potential stakeholders is key, but don’t just ask the standard “ranking” questions on satisfaction. Create thought-provoking, open-ended questions, such as “How can we improve our relationship?” or “What’s one thing we could do differently?” Engage face-to-face when possible, as what is on a survey is rarely the same as what you get in a two-way conversation. – Hinda Mitchell, Inspire PR Group

8. Hold bi-weekly/monthly meetings.
We call it a management operating system. This is a regular cadence of one-on-ones and/or team meetings with stakeholders that impact each other. For instance, the sales and marketing teams should sit down on a bi-weekly or monthly basis to discuss what’s working or not. As soon as these regular meetings start to wane, then misalignment starts to creep in and conflict arises. – Gary Braun, Pivotal Advisors, LLC

9. Have regular metrics meetings.
Holding quarterly and yearly meetings where you agree on metrics, one-year and three-year goals are key to getting alignment across the board. It also ensures everyone has clear goals and action items. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

10. Identify who serves each stakeholder.
We conduct live or surrogate stakeholder analyses delving into who are the stakeholders, why each one needs this team to be aligned and how each stakeholder measures the team’s success. This exercise reveals a team’s purpose and sets the stage for shaping and strengthening the drivers of team effectiveness. – Kim Baker, Vivid Performance Group

11. Practice active listening.
Practice active listening, and take notes. Leaders take notes, listening and ensuring they have heard what their counterpart is talking about. If you focus on listening, you will understand what your stakeholders really want. – David Wescott, Transblue

12. Get ‘boots-on-the-ground’ experience.
If you want to keep your pulse on what’s happening, take a walk in their shoes. Getting a “boots-on-the-ground” experience with your stakeholders can help you understand what’s working and what needs help. – Kimberly Lucas, Goldstone Partners

13 ways to develop an organic marketing strategy

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

The Business Journals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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