11 ways to help stakeholders overcome resistance to change

When a business rolls out new initiatives, buy-in from its stakeholders is essential to helping those initiatives succeed. However, people can sometimes be unwilling to try something new.
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This challenge provides leaders with an opportunity to help stakeholders overcome their resistance to change. Here, 11 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share their advice for leaders who are facing this challenge.

1. Use human-centered design thinking.
Use a human-centered design thinking approach. The best way to handle resistance is to prevent or lessen it. If these are truly stakeholders, they stand to win or lose as a result of this initiative. Getting clear on desired outcomes and how the stakeholders measure success is key. Resistance usually is a result of being dictated to versus being consulted, considered or co-created with. – Kim Baker, Vivid Performance Group

2. Communicate change in clear terms.
Effective leaders communicate change in clear and tangible terms, not just ideological perspectives, sharing each new initiative and how and when to measure success. Such communications must be concrete, honest and frequent. And if a new initiative doesn’t succeed, it is imperative to communicate openly with the rest of the team so that future experimentation is rewarded, not punished. – Daniel Serfaty, Aptima, Inc.

3. Ask a small beta team to try for 30 days.
Change is always hard. When I introduce a new idea that I know my team will resist, I ask a small beta team to try it for 30 days. If we scrap it after this beta test, it means we didn’t see the results we were looking for. Most of the time, I win champions for the change and then the rest of the team jumps on board. – Kimberly Lucas, Goldstone Partners

4. Get them to participate in ideation.
Buy-in doesn’t imply simply getting stakeholders’ endorsement and support once you have a new initiative to approve. It means getting stakeholders involved from the beginning of the process through the execution and promotion. If you get stakeholders to participate in the ideation, they will be as convinced of the need for change as you are and will be your best supporters. – Peter Abualzolof, Mashvisor

5. Make it clear how change is beneficial.
Find a way to help people buy into the change. Make it clear to those who are resistant how the change will benefit them. By highlighting potential benefits and instilling excitement in that group of people, they will be ready and willing for the change to occur, as the change will be seen as something that will bring value rather than a burden they have no control over. – Jack Smith, Fortuna Business Management Consulting

6. Discuss the pros and cons of change.
Present a comprehensive argument to stakeholders to discuss the pros and cons of moving forward with any new initiative. This will ensure that all sides are being heard and a path forward can be determined. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

7. Demonstrate the cost of passing on it.
The best way to make a change, or at least gain support for a new initiative, is to demonstrate how the cost of not implementing the initiative is more costly than actually embracing it. The challenge is to quantify how the current way is sucking resources and profits compared to the alternative. Incentivizing teams to implement changes typically helps as well. – Kent Lewis, Anvil Media, Inc.

8. Socialize big ideas before jumping in.
Bank of America taught me to socialize big ideas before heading into a larger meeting. Determine stakeholders’ concerns, figure out where they can add value, express the tremendous value they add and use their words to create the connectivity and feeling that it is their idea. Directly ask for their support as a favor in upcoming discussions and ask them to help lead the conversation to drive this change. – Kimberly Janson, Janson Associates

9. Involve them in the decision-making process.
Normally stakeholders from multiple departments are involved in the decision-making process, each coming with their own priorities of importance based on how they’re impacted. I make sure I’m doing my homework and am coming prepared to overcome any objections that might be shared by each member. This includes if accounting wants to know the cost to implement, sales needs to see how it impacts revenue, etc.. – Messina Truttman, Beck Flavors

10. Get stakeholders’ perspective on strategy.
Gain stakeholders’ perspectives when devising a strategy. Be prepared to provide examples of the challenge that lies ahead or of a solution that was successfully developed due to an initiative being rolled out. Also, encourage questions up front and make all affected parties aware that adjustments may occur along the way as the initiative takes better shape. – Carlos Munguia, Amegy Bank

11. Ask key questions about desired results.
Nobody likes to change if they think the current way of doing things is fine. That is human nature. Leaders need to discuss why the current way is not the most effective. This is not just telling but asking key questions about whether you are getting the desired results and whether there is room for improvement. Once people understand the why behind the change, they are much more likely to “buy in.” – Gary Braun, Pivotal Advisors, LLC

10 smart strategies for building a crisis-resistant enterprise

Leaders of businesses and organizations might easily be forgiven for feeling as though they’re in constant crisis mode these days. Lingering effects from the pandemic, inflation, supply chain issues and labor shortages are converging to make running a company a particularly challenging effort.

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While leaders can’t control everything that’s happening in the world and the economy, they can take steps that make their organizations stronger and more resilient. Here, 11 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share smart strategies for building a crisis-resistant enterprise that every leader would be wise to take.

1. Reframe a ‘crisis’ as a ‘challenge.’
Start by redefining “crisis.” If every challenge is a crisis, you and your team will constantly be faced with making decisions that seem like do-or-die decisions. That kind of thinking is burdensome, stressful and overwhelming. Reframe “crisis” to “challenge” and emphasize using solutions that solve the challenge and any similar issues in perpetuity. – Brock Berry, AdCellerant

2. Beware of knee-jerk reactions.
Decisions impacting the entire organization should be made by a committee of two to three people. Once a decision has been reached, don’t communicate/announce it right away. Allow it to simmer for 30 minutes, an hour or a day, depending on the urgency. This gives you time to account for previously unknown variables and adjust accordingly instead of backtracking. – AJ Ansari, DSWi

3. Build a lean, proactive team.
As a business leader, you should know that your enterprise is only as good as your team is. Thus, you should make sure to build a lean, high-performing, proactive team that will be your right hand both when handling a crisis and when preparing for growth. Running a business is not a one-man show. Start building a reliable, motivated team right now if you haven’t done so already. – Peter Abualzolof, Mashvisor

4. Strengthen senior leadership teams.
Strengthen senior leadership and senior management teams. For 99.9% of teams, this means hiring a consultant to diagnose the teams’ effectiveness and the factors driving those results. One study has found that only 21% of senior leadership teams are effective. For organizations in constant crisis mode, this endeavor, if done well, reveals aspects of senior teams that may be driving that state and how to shape and sharpen change capacity. – Kim Baker, Vivid Performance Group

5. Invest in employee recruitment, training and development.
This may sound trite, but I’ve found the best way to address a crisis is to avoid it. Invest enough in recruiting, training and employee development to confidently empower employees to identify and mitigate a potential crisis. Investing similarly in product development and customer experience (service and support) should eliminate all but the greatest crisis outliers. – Kent Lewis, Anvil Media, Inc.

6. Maintain a mindset of steadiness.
Every leader needs to understand that nothing is ever as good or as bad as it seems. This allows leaders — and, subsequently, their teams — to respond to dynamically changing environments by maintaining a mindset of steadiness. Through this thought process, nothing becomes a crisis; rather, it’s just the next step that needs to be taken. – Jack Smith, Fortuna Business Management Consulting

7. Create norms for daily tasks.
Work to create norms for the daily things that pull on you and pull you away from managing crises well. Make agreements on such details as how much email is OK and how many meetings are held, and push decision making down into the organization to create capacity. Also, reliance comes from experience. Experience builds judgment. Have a long-term play for developing judgment and perspective to enable resiliency. – Kimberly Janson, Janson Associates

8. Encourage and absorb feedback.
We know the importance of feedback loops; aircraft systems use them to maintain control and position in flight to stabilize for speed, wind direction and more. Similarly, the more feedback loops a company has internally and externally, the more stable it can be. Your organization can adapt with purpose by continuously encouraging and absorbing feedback about employees and the outside world. – Daniel Serfaty, Aptima, Inc.

9. Ensure that leaders have needed support.
Ensure that every leader is effective by giving them the right support to tackle the most important work. Take anything that can be off their plate so they can maintain focus and composure. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

10. Develop a culture of resilience.
In the business world, it’s not a matter of if a crisis will occur, but when. One key step is to develop a strong culture of resilience. This means creating an organizational culture that values learning from mistakes and encouraging employees to take calculated risks. It also means having clear policies and procedures in place so that employees know what to do in the event of a crisis. – Adam Toren, RaisingEmpoweredKids.com

9 high-level business metrics to track during pivotal points

Whether good or bad, every business goes through pivotal points throughout its lifetime. Pivotal points can occur due to growth, obstacles and other occurrences. It’s important to track certain aspects of the business during such points to ensure that everything is staying on track.

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While it’s always important to track high-level metrics, there are some specific ones that are crucial to keep an eye on during pivotal points. Here, nine members of Business Journals Leadership Trust discuss these specific high-level metrics and why it’s important to track them.

1. Related indicators and their ratio.
Identify two related performance indicators and track their ratio over time (i.e., track how they trend). For example, revenue by itself tells a portion of the story, as does expenses, but it’s better to track gross margins (in dollar amounts or as a percent) or profits. These are the basics. When you can do this, the next metric to track is customer acquisition cost today and over time. – AJ Ansari, DSWi

2. Employee satisfaction.
Employee satisfaction as it can be a proxy for several other metrics. Why? Because an unhappy team results in turnover, inefficiencies, quality issues and generally not being bought into your mission. Other metrics that can roll are workload capacity, work fragmentation and communication, to name a few. – Joseph Wynn, Seiso, LLC

3. Number of sales meetings.
The number of sales meetings that your team is having each week is in my opinion the most important metric a business can track. You should know how many meetings it takes in order to close a deal and work backward from there to set goals based on the number of deals you want to close each year. These meetings are the absolute building blocks of your business. – Courtney Folk, Textile Restorations

4. Degree of awareness.
Pivotal points are usually the result of a change imposed by external market forces or internal structure to improve organizational performance. For this change to succeed, a necessary precondition is that everyone involved is aware that the change is happening. Without it, there is no chance of success. Therefore, your key performance metric is the degree of awareness — how many people know? – Daniel Serfaty, Aptima, Inc.

5. Cash flow, cash reserve.
Cash flow and your cash reserve are critical items to keep a close eye on. Business investments and pivots can quickly eat up cash, and you need to make sure you have enough to keep the company healthy and running. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

6. Employee turnover.
Employee turnover is an indication of a company’s health, and this is particularly true for those employees who are on your list of regrettable losses. Top talent is the first to leave if they feel organizations are not being led well during pivotal points. Organizations are perfectly designed to produce the results they are producing. High-potential talent uses this as a metric on the health of the business. – Kimberly Janson, Janson Associates

7. Chargeability rate.
In my industry, chargeability has to be that metric, as it’s how we earn revenue. With low chargeability, you cannot grow or invest in your business. – Jerry Ramos, LJA Program Management, LLC

8. Churn rate.
No matter what your business is going through — whether it’s a circumstance experienced by the entire ecosystem or a factor specific to your company — you have to make sure that your customers still find value in your product and want to continue using it. Keeping track of your churn rate is the most efficient way to ensure that your product remains relevant to your customers’ needs. – Peter Abualzolof, Mashvisor

9. Customer-centric metrics.
During a pivotal point, tracking customer-centric metrics is critical for businesses. These metrics may include customer acquisition costs, customer retention rates and the percentage of repeat customers. The importance of customer-centric metrics is inexorable. Knowing your customer acquisition and customer retention costs gives you actionable insights for improving the business overall. – Sanjay Jupudi, Qentelli

7 industry leaders share simple growth hacks for boosting the bottom line

Every so often, business needs a boost. If sales are slumping or they’re not signing new clients as quickly as they’d like, business leaders may need to take quick action to improve the bottom line. Many leaders may believe doing so takes a major initiative, but that isn’t always the case — sometimes a quick addition or adjustment can yield significant results.

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There are several simple growth hacks leaders can leverage to make a positive impact on the bottom line. Below, seven members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share the best growth hacks they’ve learned and discuss the results they’ve seen from leveraging them.

1. Boost your online presence.
One of the most straightforward hacks I’ve learned over the years is ramping up visibility across various channels such as social media, search engines and even your own website. Today’s world circulates around virtual spaces, and your online presence matters. Thus, increasing and maintaining your social media interactions, search engine optimization and so on are valuable initiatives. – Sanjay Jupudi, Qentelli

2. Look closely at operations and operating costs.
Sometimes boosting the bottom line means taking a good look at your operations and operating costs. See what efficiencies can be improved to tighten overall operations and minimize costs. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

3. Leverage positive reviews from happy customers.
In our case, the simple growth hack that helped us significantly increase revenue without adding a lot of new resources was focusing on positive reviews from existing customers. The happy, satisfied clients were already there; all it took was establishing a simple process to collect their reviews in a systematic manner. This helped boost new customer confidence and raise our conversion rate. – Peter Abualzolof, Mashvisor

4. Identify redundant, low-value activities.
We reached a point in our growth where we were at capacity but wanted to grow top-line revenue. As a service business, you are always constrained by people capacity. We took time to really document our workstreams and then identify those activities that were redundant, low-value and repetitive. By eliminating waste and automating repetitive activities, we saw a 30% increase in revenue over 2020. – Kimberly Lucas, Goldstone Partners

5. Develop new services based on client requests.
A simple method that has led to business growth for us has been to focus on client requests. When a client asks us to do something new, we then extend that new service to all our existing clients. The expansion of our service offerings helps us to continue doing business with existing clients while also attracting new ones. – Jack Smith, Fortuna Business Management Consulting

6. Revisit product pricing and service contracts.
Revisiting your product pricing and service contracts — especially if you’re in the professional services business — can have a significant impact. For example, we changed how we billed our clients for reporting technology and turned it from a top five largest expense to a top 10 largest income line item in less than a year. – Kent Lewis, Anvil Media, Inc.

7. Add value pricing packages, and be aggressive about managing expenses.
Value pricing, where clients buy more and receive some type of valuable asset in addition to the traditional product, is a strong way to drive revenue and boost the bottom line. The other way is to manage expenses very tightly and aggressively, especially for a short-term interval. Doing without expensive items, such as travel, for 90 days can create savings that go directly to the bottom line. – Kimberly Janson, Janson Associates

Opening a business? Nine up-and-coming locales and regions to consider

While remote work may have opened up the “anywhere” workplace, there are still locations that are hotspots for building a business. In fact, the digital economy that has supported remote work is part of what’s making less-than-traditional locales attractive choices for a new concern. While traditional business centers are still humming, smaller cities and markets — and even more rural areas — are touting the perks and lifestyles that both business owners and employees are looking for.

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Depending on your industry, there are hotspots all across the country that offer attractive incentives for building a business. Here, nine members of Business Journals Leadership Trust discuss some specific, up-and-coming cities with great features that business owners and investors should keep an eye on, as well as regions with characteristics that are also worth a second look.

1. Austin, Texas
Austin remains a hotspot for business owners. The city offers something that is essential for continued growth: building infrastructure that is a low lift for employees to thrive in that environment. As an employer, I made the move to purchase a historic building suited for my employees and clients. This foresight allows my teams to thrive in a place that inspires them in an incredible city. – Kathleen Lucente, Red Fan Communications

2. Dallas, Texas
Dallas is a hot spot for business. The number of available jobs and the cost of living are still great in the North Texas Area. I believe that people are also coming to Texas to work with other professionals in person so that they can collaborate and grow professionally, which would not happen remotely. – Douglas Carter, Ironside Human Resources

3. Miami, Florida
With no state income taxes, incredible beaches, entertainment and ample job opportunities, it’s no wonder people are flocking to Miami. It’s second in the U.S. for new tech company formations and it’s becoming the crypto capital of the world, all while contributing to the fourth-highest state GDP in the U.S. All this sure makes it hard not to be bullish on Miami, and it’s why I think every business needs to have its eyes set on the “Magic City.” – Michael Ayjian, 7 Wonders Cinema

4. Phoenix, Arizona
Phoenix is quickly becoming one of the most business-friendly cities in the United States. The city has a thriving startup scene with a number of incubators and accelerators working to support new businesses. In addition, Phoenix is home to a talented workforce and a lower cost of living than many cities. – Adam Toren, RaisingEmpoweredKids.com

5. Raleigh, North Carolina
I’m biased, but Raleigh is experiencing explosive growth. Top tech companies including Apple and Lenovo have already or are establishing significant operations in the area. A low tax rate, an abundance of highly educated graduates from top colleges in the area and Research Triangle Park are enticing to many companies. It’s a great area for investors to tap into emerging startups primed for success. – Colt Parsons, Insight

6. The metaverse
One of the emerging locations for businesses to have a presence is in the metaverse. Virtual worlds provide an opportunity to engage with customers, prospects and other constituents on a global scale, avoiding Covid and travel expenses. It’s still the Wild West, but it’s suited for technology-centric and decentralized organizations. – Kent Lewis, Anvil Media, Inc.

7. Locations with a large university population
If you are looking for an eager and available workforce who is talented and ready to work, I always suggest focusing your headquarters in a city that has a large university or college population. If there are lots of colleges, there is a revolving door of new workers who will help you scale every quarter. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

8. Locations with innovation centers and social spaces
Businesses still need to find locations that are conducive to collaboration and, ideally, some in-person social interactions. Locations with collaboration or innovation centers that also offer a variety of restaurants and bars can help a business progress. – Steve Wang, Protiviti

9. Locations that offer ‘the great outdoors’
Many workers are moving city to city. However, businesses should also be paying attention to more remote, outdoor locations that have a hip, local vibe for the worker who is truly looking for that outdoorsy lifestyle balance. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

Eight buzzwords to use instead of ‘innovative’

Buzzwords, those catchy adjectives that help mold a brand’s identity, can either help or hinder a brand. Either way, once a buzzword catches on, it can sometimes be impossible to escape.

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“Innovative” is a buzzword that has become so overused it’s losing its impact. Below, eight members of Business Journals Leadership Trust discuss some impactful buzzwords that companies can use instead of relying on the word “innovative.”

1. Words that mirror and advance your mission.
In the nonprofit space, the meaning of buzzwords like “innovative” will vary amongst your audience and stakeholders. This can quickly muddy the message you intend to cascade or the action you want to elevate. The best words to rely on are those that mirror and advance your mission. It will hold true, no matter the audience. – Chandra Scott, Alabama Possible

2. Words that convey a specific message and solution.
The only thing a customer wants to know is how you can help them. Saying you are innovative does not mean much to the customer. Instead, we have always said this to clients: “When you work with us, we help you do ABC to address your biggest challenge of DEF.” This is what we do consistently at The Franchise Pros. Our clients come on board delighted and clear about the value we will deliver to them. – Faizun Kamal, The Franchise Pros

3. Words that express resourcefulness.
I prefer the word “creative” as it implies that your company is addressing a particular need or problem by devising a solution that best addresses it in the most progressive, resourceful, productive, efficient and value-oriented manner available. – Carlos Munguia, Amegy Bank

4. Words that spell out your company’s value.
Innovation is no longer a differentiator; it’s an expectation of being in business. Instead, spell out what value you could bring to a potential customer in jargon-free terms. Potential customers will be able to make informed decisions when they see the use case of what’s on offer. – Kenneth Bowles, WilsonHCG

5. Words that make you stand out.
The word “innovative” carries with it a great deal of pressure to be the person. Many people don’t identify as being innovative, but if you use language such as, “Let’s think differently.” “What are new solutions?” “What hasn’t been tried?” or “What are some outlandish ideas?” — it conveys a more rudimentary level of thinking even though it gets you to the same outcomes of great ideas. – Kimberly Janson, Janson Associates

6. Words that convey awareness of the future.
“Forward-thinking” would be my suggested option. It indicates that you are actually thinking about the future and taking into account all of the options that are available for you to utilize. You truly know what the future holds, but you need to have your eyes open and be constantly aware of your surroundings if you want to evolve and survive. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

7. Words that speak to personalization.
Instead of “innovative,” originality should be a goal of any brand or think tank. It speaks to the individuality of your consumer and the personalized nature and relationship they want to have with any product or service. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

8. Words that describe your uniqueness.
When every company claims to be innovative, the word starts to lose its meaning. Instead of relying on the word “innovative,” companies should focus on describing what makes their product or service unique. What problem does it solve? How will your customer be better off with your product or service? This will help connect companies with their customers on a deeper level. – Adam Toren, RaisingEmpoweredKids.com

11 ways for leaders to establish themselves as market experts

One of the best ways to market your business is to become a market expert, but how does one achieve such a status? There are several ways to go about establishing yourself as a leader and market expert.

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Hard work, experience and some creative thinking will help get you started. Below, 11 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share their best advice on how leaders can establish themselves as market experts.

1. Say ‘yes’ before you’re ready.
When I started my business, I didn’t have all the answers but found people and opportunities that appeared when I needed them. In four years, I conducted over 200 workshops for organizations placing clients into franchises and helping others franchise their businesses. I now speak at conferences around the world on franchise ownership. Say “yes” before you’re ready! This has a magic all its own. – Faizun Kamal, The Franchise Pros

2. Use help to grow.
Use someone else’s help to grow a following. There are many ways to do it. You can get invited to a podcast, guest blog for some big-name publications or partner with some influencers to share your expertise on social media live. People will be happy to do so if you truly have something valuable to offer. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

3. Create a plan and have patience.
Have a plan and be patient. Being seen as a “market expert” doesn’t happen overnight; it takes diligence and fortitude. Create a multifaceted plan that includes having a vibrant website, writing blogs, being on panels, doing keynote speaking, winning awards. Do social media marketing that highlights you, your business, your accomplishments and getting published in leading business publication articles! – Aviva Ajmera, SoLVE KC

4. Share knowledge without expectation.
Share your knowledge without any expectation of a return. I know this sounds counterproductive coming from a person who is very metrics-driven, but I find that providing value to others by giving of your own experience and know-how will cement you as a trusted advisor, elevating you to expert status. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

5. See what’s around the corner.
The best way to show expertise is by seeing what’s around the corner or what’s in the white space. How is the market or industry evolving? What trends are emerging? What do you as an expert see on the horizon? What is yet unknown but you anticipate could become the next “big thing?” Forecasting within an industry or market segment creates conversation, delivers value and shows authority. – Hinda Mitchell, Inspire PR Group

6. Size up your expertise and interest.
Size up your expertise as well as interest in a particular topic. Research it further to gain a current pulse. Network to identify potential panel discussions, print publications or social media forums where you can contribute an article or participate. Identify multiple opportunities and be sure to document your article, presentation and research for future reference. – Carlos Munguia, Amegy Bank

7. Be authentic.
Be who you are and act authentically. Personally, I don’t love the word “expert.” We all have more to learn and any great leader is curious. You’ve got to constantly be living and learning and refining your expertise. And ultimately what makes you an authority in the domain where you work is the sum of every part of your life — your work, your family, your hobbies, etc. – Jenn Kenning, Align Impact

8. Read and research everything.
Read everything you can. Conduct primary research that you can point to and reference as real-time data. Do a meta-analysis of the other thought leaders in your space to know the contemporary points of view on things. Figure out your differentiation supported by data. And then write! Be a visible and vocal thought leader on social media and other forums by consistently providing expertise. – Kimberly Janson, Janson Associates

9. Publish specific content regularly.
Publishing regular content on specific thought leadership verticals can help brand you with the expertise and resonate where someone will look to you when they are looking for expert advice on that particular subject. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

10. Don’t wait to share.
Don’t wait for people to ask. Proactively share observations of what you see happening in the market — both good and bad — and what people are doing to address challenges. Most businesspeople have similar challenges. If you can become recognized as someone who shares best practices for addressing those challenges, people will look to you each time a new challenge pops up. – Gary Braun, Pivotal Advisors, LLC

11. Learn constantly and get involved.
Become a master of your industry. Constantly be learning and be involved in your industry. Make others aware of your industry expertise and make yourself available to the media, competition, customers and potential employees. Always put yourself and your company in front of as many people as you can so that it becomes apparent that you and your company are experts in your industry. – Douglas Carter, Ironside Human Resources

13 website design elements that can increase sales and engagement

Anyone can make a website, but a successful one that drives engagement and increases sales must contain certain elements. From eye-catching designs to ease of use and other elements in-between, it takes a lot of diligence and savvy to make your site, products and services popular.

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If you want to increase online sales, you need to engage the visitors to your site. Below, 13 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust discuss what they believe are the most essential website design elements to include to increase sales and engagement through your website.

1. Photos of employees.
One element that is key would be to include photos of your employees. Using stock photos will never truly capture the essence and soul of your company. Visitors can instantly tell when you have put just a tad of extra work into your website. – Jacquay Henderson, Square Peg Technologies

2. Digital freebies and guides.
Definitely offer a digital freebie like a short e-book or guide related to your site. Capturing the emails of new visitors helps strengthen relationships. Also, if the quality of your free offer is good, they will be more likely to invest in any of your paid offerings. – Indya Wright, Artiste House

3. Site analytics.
Invest in analytics for your website so you know who is visiting. If you can create an immediate touchpoint for a prospect visiting your website, you can help create more value and gain more customers. – Douglas Carter, Ironside Human Resources

4. User-friendly purchasing.
Make it easy to purchase the product or service! It’s amazing how challenging it is to find the “buy” button on many sites. – Dorian Rader, OneTen° Capital

5. Short promotional video.
A sizzle reel (short promotional video) on your home page will ensure that those landing on your website are immediately wowed by your accomplishments. Whether they click on your services page or read your posted case studies, a high-energy video of your best work will present prospects with what they want: Proof of your ability and authority. Then, increased sales and engagement can follow. – Lincoln Jacobe, 6 Pillars Marketing

6. User-friendly content strategy.
Companies should ensure their website has a user-friendly content strategy with calls to action that are relevant to the audience you’re trying to reach. This includes nurturing campaigns that give visitors a sense of what you stand for as well as your services. Today’s market cares more about who you are and how you uplift your community versus product solutions alone. – Kathleen Lucente, Red Fan Communications

7. Embedded newsletters.
If you have a blog page, embed a newsletter signup form within the copy of the blog. I have seen this done a little aggressively (sometimes more than a few times), but usually one in the middle and one at the bottom is a great way to grab and convert visitors to your blog while building your email list for future nurture processes. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

8. Simplicity and grace.
In working with my website guru, I learned a few lessons that apply not only to websites but to life in general. He brought a common-sense approach coupled with a dash of delightfulness! He got rid of half the words on each page, then got rid of half of what was left! Clients love the simplicity and grace on our website. The result? Client engagement and sales skyrocketed! – Faizun Kamal, The Franchise Pros

9. Appointment scheduler.
Implement an appointment scheduler like Calendly onto your site. This gives your potential partners full access to booking a time and date that works for them while saving your sales team the headache of scheduling, rescheduling and canceling appointments. Once we invested in Calendly, we saw an increase in both revenue and conversions. – Scott Scully, Abstrakt Marketing Group

10. Chatbots and live online support.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to boost engagement and sales is to incorporate a chatbot (or ideally live online support) into the website. If a visitor can click to chat or call, they are far more likely to convert, regardless of the site goal or audience. – Kent Lewis, Anvil Media, Inc.

11. Chat functionality, event invites.
Make it easy for customers or visitors to engage. Provide a clear, easy-to-find “contact” page, utilize chat functionality and send invitations to local events or webinars through personalization technology. – Cindy Zhou, LogRhythm

12. Engaging lead magnets.
Potential buyers visit websites to fill their needs or solve problems. Come up with an engaging lead magnet positioning your company as the best solution. Lead magnets are a “give-to-get” strategy and gated content. When leads provide contact info, they get something useful — a report, checklist, kit, sample, discount or special offer. One tip is having a follow-up strategy in place to make the sale! – Linda Bishop, Thought Transformation

13. Stimulating or engaging visuals.
Ensure your website is visually stimulating from the first glance to ensure that it grabs the viewer’s attention. Immediately engage them in wanting to scroll through and get more information with the ultimate goal of converting them to a consumer in the first interaction. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

16 often-overlooked steps in building an effective marketing campaign

Developing a great product or service is only the first step in bringing the world to your business’s door. The second, equally important step is getting the message out to potential customers about what you have to offer and helping them understand how it will make a positive difference for them.

The Business Journals

It’s easy to get caught up in your own enthusiasm about your offerings, but that’s not enough. You have to consider the perspective of your target audience and craft a campaign that really speaks to them. Here, 16 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share important steps businesses often overlook when they’re crafting a marketing campaign and why they’re so essential to success.

1. Seeking the opinions of multiple stakeholders.
It’s smart to start with brand discovery by answering critical questions. What are the product’s or service’s attributes? What is the value proposition it offers? What does success look like? What are competitors doing? What might get in the way of our success? Seek the opinions of different stakeholders — not just the marketing team — to gain diverse perspectives that better inform the campaign. – Hinda Mitchell, Inspire PR Group

2. Considering who you’re helping, and why
Marketing campaigns have to be about your customer and how you’re going to relieve their pain points. Marketing is no longer about what we do as businesses. Don’t overlook who you are helping, and why. – Tiffany Wallace, Dagen Personnel, LLC

3. Developing a comprehensive buyer persona
Develop a comprehensive customer avatar — aka a buyer persona — to develop marketing that truly connects. A customer avatar humanizes your ideal buyer by going far beyond demographics and including psychographic traits, such as values, goals, lifestyle, pain points and so on. By aiming for one customer, you can successfully reach many more. Be sure to build your customer avatar using research and data. – Lincoln Jacobe, 6 Pillars Marketing

4. Collecting a range of customer testimonials
Businesses often overlook consumer testimonials. They are the authentic voice of users of your product or service. Testimonials bring a user experience to life. They are more reliable and trusted than a company bragging and give the potential buyer insight from a variety of “real-life” perspectives. – Aviva Ajmera, SoLVE KC

5. Developing a clear and concise message
Before launching any marketing campaign, it’s important to take the time to develop a clear and concise message. Every aspect of the campaign, from the tagline to the visuals, should work together to reinforce the central message. By developing a strong message up front, businesses can increase their chances of success and avoid wasted effort. – Adam Toren, RaisingEmpoweredKids.com

6. Conversing with potential customers
When creating marketing campaigns, many businesses overlook the conversations with potential customers that need to happen throughout the development cycle. Create a feedback loop: Take your offering early and often to customers for input. When you learn your market’s pain points and needs during development, your offering — and therefore your marketing campaign — will resonate with your customers. – Daniel Serfaty, Aptima, Inc.

7. Establishing a brand narrative
Establish a brand narrative and ask the basic questions about why you exist, why people should care and what problem you solve. Companies should be able to easily answer why they should be trusted by their customers, industry, investors and their own employees. This allows them to cut through the clutter and approach their goals with a full package of products and purposes. – Kathleen Lucente, Red Fan Communications

8. Maintaining ‘always-on’ content marketing
The “always-on” campaign of great content marketing makes every one-time campaign more effective. If people already associate your brand with a solution to their problem(s), it makes a campaign focused on a specific product or service feel less like marketing and more like another way to engage with a trusted thought partner. – Andrea Fryrear, AgileSherpas

9. Understanding the customer’s journey
Experience mapping is a critical step in building an effective marketing campaign that’s often overlooked. Work to understand the customer’s journey by watching their behavior, listening to their stories and learning from their data. By putting yourself in the shoes of the customer, you gain vital insight into the moments that matter most in their relationship with your brand. – Ethan Whitehill, Crux KC

10. Planning fresh, modern sales materials
Marketing collateral is often overlooked. These assets are ideal for increasing brand awareness and providing information about your products or services. In our marketing plan, we plan out sales materials with fresh stats, stories and a modern design. This helps us stay ahead of the competition and generate more leads using sales collateral. We know that it’s a critical component of business growth and sales success. – Scott Scully, Abstrakt Marketing Group

11. Building a strong email list to nurture leads
Something that’s often overlooked is building a strong email list — every single time. I have spoken to an immeasurable number of prospects over the years who, when asked about the size of their email list, just stare back blankly. Building and using an email list will enable you to nurture your leads and convert them along the way. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

12. Sending direct mail to engaged leads
Direct mail is effective. To maximize its value, mail to engaged leads, not all leads. Engaged leads interact with emails, talk to sales or make multiple visits to your website. Direct mail is effective because we get less mail than email, so it stands out more. Mail also has a longer “shelf life.” Studies show recipients keep direct mail for 17 days on average — and that helps you win. – Linda Bishop, Thought Transformation

13. Packaging compelling case studies/success stories
While customer testimonials can provide highly effective validation and social proof, I feel the most persuasive element of a product launch is the packaging of compelling case studies/success stories. Outlining the use case and the resulting impact of your product or service on a business (or consumer) leaves little room for skepticism. – Kent Lewis, Anvil Media, Inc.

14. Conducting in-depth customer research
Customer research is by far one of the most overlooked steps in building a marketing campaign, which often results in a significant gap between what your team puts forth and what the customer actually wants. Its importance is reflected in the effort required to motivate your customers to buy the product. Validate your roadmap constantly with your target customer profile to ensure alignment. – Sanjay Jupudi, Qentelli

15. Being a thought leader in your space
Being a thought leader in your space is a critical component of extending your brand. A consistent showing in written form, where you are fueling discussions and adding to the perspective of leaders, is a powerful way to keep you in front of large audiences. Make sure what you offer is quickly absorbable, easily identifiable, clearly written and compelling, such that the audience wants to read more. – Kimberly Janson, Janson Associates

16. Ensuring outstanding customer service
A great marketing campaign can effectively target your consumer audience, but the key to it all is successfully converting them to a consumer and then fulfilling the product order in a timely manner. Once a customer receives the product, ensure it exceeds their expectations, with the goal of them becoming a lifetime customer and brand ambassador who attracts other customers to your brand through word of mouth. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

11 ways business leaders in large markets can address staffing challenges

Finding new talent in a tight workers’ market is a challenge for any company. But when you’re a business leader in a large market, addressing staffing challenges during a labor shortage requires thinking outside of the box. In the current economy, filling a post takes more than an ad in the paper or posts on online job sites.

The Business Journals

Whereas it used to be up to job seekers to convince companies they were a good choice, today, a business leader has to convince job seekers that their company is a great place to work. Even then, it may be necessary to do some creative thinking to fill any gaps until you’re fully staffed. Here, 11 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share some ways business leaders in large markets can address staffing challenges.

1. Start conversations on social media.
Sharing culture consistently, especially on LinkedIn, is one way we’ve helped clients (from regional players to multinationals) capture job seekers’ attention. There is a lot of competition for talent right now; showcasing current leaders’ and employees’ perspectives is key to winning the best hires. An employee engagement initiative on social (with a specific hashtag) to let colleagues share how much they love working at your company can also help — if it’s executed sincerely and isn’t just lip service. The more you stay involved and relevant in conversations that matter to your target employees, the easier recruitment will become. – Jen Vargas, JVComms

2. Upskill or cross-train your existing employees.
Being in a large market with a labor shortage can present new challenges to business leaders, as finding and hiring new talent becomes more challenging. A common way to address staffing challenges is to upskill and/or cross-train your existing employees to bridge your organization’s gaps. Another option would be to hire people who may not match the existing skill requirements but are willing to learn. I always tell my team to hire people for attitude, not just for skills. – Sanjay Jupudi, Qentelli

3. Engage with the talent pool before you need to hire.
Just as with any “sales” pitch, engaging with your community of potential talent before you need to hire is key. What value can you offer the people who have the skills you will need in the future? Whether it’s a simple “How to prepare to get hired at MyCo” page on your website with a Q&A feature or the sponsorship of an event that the community attends, there are a thousand ways of engaging with potential employees before you have an open position. Regardless of how simple it is, having a “future employee” strategy — in the same vein as your sales strategy — will ensure that you’re way ahead of your competition. – Daniel Sweet, Sweetview Partners, Inc.

4. Evaluate the person first and the CV second.
Meet people where they are. Our climate today calls for us to be creative and actively meet the needs that today’s employees are looking for. Lead by valuing a candidate first and their CV second. This could include company-led networking opportunities where the goal is to expand beyond what’s on paper and learn who people are or what they can bring to the table. – Kathleen Lucente, Red Fan Communications

5. Consider broadening your talent pool through a remote work strategy.
Be broad in your definition of where work happens. Not only is that advocacy for a work-from-home strategy (if it makes sense for your in-person employees), but it’s also a call to consider what work can be done in another country. Another call to action is to spend resources automating work where possible to diminish some of your human capital needs. Lastly, develop a pipeline of junior talent, and grow it aggressively. – Kimberly Janson, Janson Associates

6. Write ads from a behavioral viewpoint.
We write our ads from a behavioral viewpoint. Rather than talk about tasks and duties, we focus on attitude, learning opportunities, culture and purpose. We can teach the necessary skills to the right person, but skills won’t make up for a good personality fit. – John Dini, MPN Inc.

7. Make hiring a promotional focal point.
Make hiring great talent a focal point in the things that you’re doing to promote yourself, whether it’s through podcasts, LinkedIn posts or something on your website. Also, make it a point to emphasize that this focus is demand-driven and a positive for your business, rather than coming from a place of scarcity. – Jenn Kenning, Align Impact

8. Ask your team to record testimonials.
Candidates crave authenticity; they don’t want a curated marketing spiel. Encourage your employees to share their stories in their own words, as this will resonate much more with candidates. For example, ask your team to record short testimonial videos to discuss their work experiences rather than creating highly edited productions. Candidates want something that depicts real life. – Kenneth Bowles, WilsonHCG

9. Connect with local media outlets.
I believe traditional marketing, particularly PR, can be highly effective at generating awareness and credibility in the marketplace. Connecting with local media outlets — particularly those read by the target audience (potential hires) — to tell your story is the ultimate validation. – Kent Lewis, Anvil Media, Inc.

10. Engage consultants or temporary workers.
Staffing shortages pose an opportunity to engage a talented consultative or temporary worker who may not be wanting a full-time job due to a personal preference for flexibility. Tapping into this option can be a win-win for both the business and the professional. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

11. Always be hiring.
The easiest way to ensure that you have a pool of people available to you at any point is to always have opportunities available for people to apply to. This can help you sidestep a tough labor shortage, as you’ll already have engagement with key people in the market. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency