15 Tips To Consider When Starting A Podcast

Podcasts are one of the fastest-growing methods for a business to connect with its current and potential clients and expand its influence and reach. Many people listen to podcasts since they are portable, easy to access and fit into a busy schedule.

There are only a handful of ways to get a podcast right, and a myriad of methods to get it wrong. A podcast has to compete against a lot of other, similar recordings, and it needs to prove its worth — or else it won’t get the recognition it deserves.

15 Tips for Podcast

To help, 15 members of Forbes Agency Council offer their best advice for businesses planning to start a podcast and keep it running for as long as possible.

1. Have A Clear Plan

It’s easy for many of us to talk about a topic that we find interesting or know a lot about, but make sure you don’t run off on too many tangents. Stick to the goal, the question or the topic to keep your podcast on track and your listeners engaged. Remember, it’s a podcast, not a broadcast. It doesn’t need to be perfectly polished. Your skills will improve and evolve over time. – Bernard May, National Positions

2. Know Who You Are Talking To

I’ve created many podcasts for my clients, from concept to production. The one thing that I know is that brands need to know who they are talking to. Podcasts are just like ads: Do you know who you want to talk to? Podcasts, similarly to video, don’t need a massive number of listens to have a high ROI. What you need to do is focus on your core audience and make sure they follow and listen. – Azad Abbasi, Genius

3. Think End-User First

When brands create podcasts, content typically tends to be focused on what’s important for the business. This approach results in each episode having a different target market, which prevents it from building community. Treat podcast episodes like serialized storytelling rather than a single public relations opportunity and you’ll find greater success, increased consumption and engaged listeners. – Carey Kirkpatrick, CKP

4. Provide Value Without Fluff

Standing out is a critical problem to solve with starting a new podcast. What’s the best way to do it? Provide value without the fluff. Shorter length podcasts that are jam-packed with value have an easier time gaining traction and retention than ones where the listeners have to sit through an hour just to hear a few points of interest. – Nishank Khanna, Demand Roll

5. Defining The Cadence And The Structure

One mistake that is constantly made with podcasts is people who are not taking them seriously enough. If you want to have a successful show you need to plan ahead and show when you are going to be creating content. When you put that content out, you always, without question, must be on time. You also must constantly bring an exceptional format to the show. – Jon James, Ignited Results

6. Build Viral Awareness

Every guest you host and every company they represent should be an advocate for promoting the program. Leveraging individual company newsletters, databases and social media channels will help build a following. In addition, make sure the focus of the podcast (its messaging) is clear and concise so people looking can find you based on their interests. – Ilissa Miller, IMiller Public Relations

7. Be Extremely Customer-Centric

Remember that your podcast content is not about you. Make sure that every podcast topic and episode is laser-focused on bringing value and entertainment to your audience. Think about what they want to learn in your industry and don’t be afraid to talk about things that you don’t offer. Focus on their interests and they will stick around to hear the rest. – A. Lee Judge, Content Monsta

8. Capture A Niche

In order to survive in the extremely congested podcast landscape, the podcast must adequately capture a niche and communicate that niche in a way that is extremely clear to the target audience. General topic podcasts are extremely difficult to sell to a saturated market — find a particular thing you can own and run with it. – Stefan Pollack, The Pollack PR Marketing Group

9. Become Predictable

Become predictable but not in the repetitive, boring sense — in the way that your fans know when they can expect the next release, the type of content they will hear, and how that content will be delivered. From my experience, maintaining a consistent schedule is just as important as delivering interesting stories to your listeners. – Korena Keys, KeyMedia Solutions

10. Don’t Copy Someone

If you find yourself needing to copy someone else for lack of your own originality, then maybe the time to start a podcast just isn’t right. We don’t need more content for the sake of more content. If you’re patient, your original idea will eventually come, and then it’ll be time for you to go all in before someone else beats you to it. – Greg Trimble, Lemonade Stand

11. Remember Your ‘Why’

We’ve just started our own podcast, so we’re experiencing these challenges firsthand. My biggest tip would be to always remember why you created it so that you don’t go off-topic, off-brand and off your strategy. Always think about how you are going to add value to someone else’s day. If you hold that in, you’ll be able to stay on track. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

12. Ask Better Questions

Having started my own podcast recently, my tip would be to make sure you get really good with asking better questions. I saw a lot of videos on how to ask good questions before I sat down to frame my own. Asking questions that don’t lead to a one-word answer would be my one tip. – Namita Ramani, Above Digital

13. Learn Your Distribution Model First

Developing a good podcast is similar to making a website search engine-optimized. Strategy-wise, the search engine component to podcasts is as important as the content itself. Having knowledge of your potential distribution is crucial, so it’s best to start with a distribution model and work your way back through content creation and storytelling. – Scott Harkey, OH Partners

14. Promote On Social And Track Results

It’s critical for the success of your podcast to properly leverage social media to drive listeners from your target audience. Make sure to share a link to each episode on the social platforms relevant to your target audience of listeners: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Snapchat and/or LinkedIn. Tracking visitors to your podcast will allow you to optimize future distribution efforts. – Jody Resnick, Trighton Interactive

15. Don’t Be Afraid To Get Personal

A good podcast tells a story audibly but makes you visualize the situation, personal story or character of the narrator or interviewee. When starting a podcast, strive for that personal connection by sharing relatable stories with human flaws that people sympathize with. The audience will feel they truly “know” the person and continue following their story in subsequent podcasts. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

How To Revamp Your Marketing Funnel When Results Are Sub-Par

Marketing funnels are not always successful. If a business is struggling with inconsistent marketing efforts or sub-par results despite the time and work invested, it may consider an overhaul of its entire funnel.

However, a complete revamp may be easier said than done if the business does not know exactly what the issue was to begin with. Without proper consideration, any overhaul risks causing more damage than good.

To help navigate this situation, 15 members of Forbes Agency Council share some of the key items brands should check off when revamping their sales funnel to carry out the process successfully.

How To Revamp Your Marketing Funnel When Results Are Sub-Par

1. Identify Where Losses Happen

Rather than abandoning their entire strategy, brands should identify the step where customer losses are greatest and address this area specifically. For instance, if you’re successful in capturing attention but conversions aren’t happening, you may need to analyze why customers are choosing your competition over you and address their objections in your campaign. – Hannah Trivette, NUVEW Web Solutions

2. Insist On A Holistic Program

Company marketing efforts often happen in silos (marketing, PR, sales, etc.), each with its own plan, agenda, language, etc. This inconsistency can create confusion with customers and hurt sales. A marketing funnel overhaul is a good time for executive leadership to be brave and insist that department heads get aligned on corporate marketing priorities, messages, goals and successes. – David Fouse, Pinkston Group

3. Reflect On Your Ideal Customer Profile

Before throwing the entire marketing funnel out with the bathwater, I’d suggest taking a deep look at your ideal customer profile. Far too often, brands don’t really understand their customer and worse, aren’t spending money where their customers spend their time. Go back to the customer — really go back. Host a focus group and get their insights and opinions before you slather on a new concept. – Danica Kombol, Everywhere Agency

4. Start With The Pain Points

Rather than starting with a blank canvas, start with the biggest issue or pain point in your funnel. Where are the numbers bad or where is there a big drop-off? More than likely, this will lead to a ripple effect of solutions if you can pinpoint the source of the issue. – Jim Huffman, Growthhit

5. Consider The Domino Effect

A marketing funnel can be like a stack of dominoes — when one piece falls, the rest follow. So when “revamping” a marketing funnel, the first step is to analyze the funnel to uncover if the whole system is broken or if there are some specific parts that are broken. Attempt to “root-cause” the problem first before starting from scratch and reinventing the wheel when only one spoke is broken. – Bernard May, National Positions

6. Optimize One Stage At A Time

Don’t destroy the entire funnel without evaluating where the problem lies. Nail down the biggest barrier to action for each stage and then optimize your lead gen plan focusing on one stage at a time. And don’t forget that both marketing and sales must have a voice in the discussion. – Keri Witman, Cleriti

7. Revisit Your Audience Insights

The best way to identify the actual problem in your marketing funnel is to revisit your audience insights. When you address channels and tactics, without an understanding of your audience and their unique journey, you’re wasting your time and money. Instead, map the journey of your target audience. Identify outside factors and the role your brand plays in their lives. Then adjust accordingly. – Kevin Smith, Mighty Roar

8. Segment Your Audience

The most important aspect of a brand revamp is to segment your audience by demographics, and more importantly, psychographics such as reasons to buy, personal preferences or other selection criteria. After that, building detailed personas will be key. Make sure to prioritize the most desired segments and include those you may not have been targeting previously. After that, focus on messaging. – Francine Carb, Markitects, Inc.

9. Look For Changes In Your Audience

Sometimes, sagging results are just par for the course. But, if there’s genuinely a downward trend, looking at changes in your audience is critical. As consumers continue to gain more power and tools and techniques change rapidly, marketers are left holding the bag, and as the sand leaks out, they can panic. First, look at your customer — they’ll tell you what you need to know. – Bo Bothe, BrandExtract, LLC

10. Open Up Communication With Clients

The first step is to open up communication with your client. What we often see with smaller businesses is that there isn’t an agreement on what qualifies as a “response.” We can show them countless calls, clicks and impressions, but they still see “no results,” when really, it’s another cog in the wheel that’s broken, usually their website or landing page. – Joy Gendusa, PostcardMania

11. Understand Your Attribution Model

One of the first things a company should visit is their attribution model — where are they attributing the valued touch points within their customer journey. A deep understanding of your own attribution model is crucial in order to understand how clients are converting and why. Revisit your attribution model with solid analytics from your social and ad platforms to find if it warrants remodeling. – Michael Smith, MDS Media Inc.

12. Start With The Data

It all starts with data. If tracked properly, you should be able to determine exactly what parts of marketing are performing better than others. You’ll start to see a baseline to determine if it was the creative, messaging or media that supported the increased results. But if not tracked properly, you won’t be able to determine any of this. Make sure you find the right partner who can do this. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, HAWTHORNE LLC

13. Invest In Tools And Content

Marketers are quick to try lead generation pilots and find out nothing takes flight. To be successful with customer engagement at scale, you need two core things: 1) the right marketing automation tools that can deliver connected and personalized journeys, and 2) a runway of good content to drip out. Having one e-book, whitepaper or webinar won’t cut it. You need to continuously feed the funnel. – Andrew Au, Intercept Group

14. Don’t Forget Cross-Sell And Upsell

Many brands have departments that operate separately. Your best prospects may be current or lapsed customers from a “sister” brand. When you revisit your marketing funnel, pay special attention to the opportunity you may have missed to cross-sell or upsell or drive renewals previously. – Kieley Taylor, GroupM

15. Flip The Sales Funnel

Usually the funnel looks like a reversed cone, that narrows on the bottom. Instead, I flip the funnel 90 degrees, and turn it into a megaphone that narrows at the top. I speak through my most loyal customers to spread my message and you should do the same. If you can turn your funnel upside down, you’ll get results! – Fran Biderman-Gross, Advantages

14 Things To Remember When Creating ‘Explainer’ Videos

Videos are a common form of content these days, with “explainer” videos being particularly popular. While many of us like to think that it’s a piece of cake to create good video content, it’s just not that easy. Thought and planning need to go into explainer videos in order to make them most effective and to reach the right audience.

So, when you’re getting ready to plan out your next explainer video, look to this list of things to remember from 14 Forbes Agency Council experts.

Explainer Videos

1. Follow Monroe’s Sequence

Explainer videos seek to teach and motivate. Monroe’s motivated sequence provides a simple structure for the video. Open by gaining attention and reassure viewers by stating your purpose. Next, connect with the audience by identifying the need for the solution you’re about to show. Then, demonstrate the solution. Finally, close by visualizing the benefits, not the features, the solution offers. – Ahmad Kareh, Twistlab Marketing

2. Consider Different Learning Styles

Some people prefer to learn by seeing, others by hearing and others by doing. Try to incorporate as many of these styles into your educational materials as possible. – Kieley Taylor, GroupM

3. Make Every Second Count

Remember this old presenting staple: Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them and then tell them again. Time is valuable and so is thoroughness. So, in your explainer, give them the steps, present the steps concisely and then give a brief recap. If need be, break your content up into an explainer series. Attention spans are limited, so make every second count. – Bernard May, National Positions

4. Focus On SEO Benefits

The first thing we consider when creating an explainer video is the consistency with the brand and using it as a value add for UX and SEO. When using explainer videos, it’s important that the video is part of your content strategy and is supporting the optimized long-form content on your page. They’re also great for generating value links and reducing bounce rates. – Alex Valencia, We Do Web Content

5. Get A Good Spokesperson

Explainer videos are a great way to demonstrate a product; however, the voice and visual presence of the spokesperson are key. We have recently transitioned from using only product managers to also using young, high-energy employees who represent the company in the best light possible. This also serves to demonstrate that our client is thinking about its next generation of professionals. – Francine Carb, Markitects, Inc.

6. Stay Authentic

Authenticity is more than just what you say, it’s also the world you create. Cut through the clutter with an explainer video that brings the product or service to life in an authentic, engaging way, showing passion for what the company does. This creates an emotional, compelling connection for consumers, allowing them to envision themselves using your tool to solve their problems. – Howard Breindel, DeSantis Breindel

7. Keep The DIY Feel

I see businesses get stuck on explainer videos because they try to make them too good. Sure, you want to reflect your brand well, but if what you’re providing can solve the problem of a customer tomorrow, then make it with your laptop or phone. Consumers can understand the context of what you’re sharing. If anything, videos that feel more DIY will help humanize you and your brand. Just make it! – Jessica Gonzalez, InCharged

8. Remove The Jargon

When creating a problem solving video or a product overview video, you want it to be searchable and you want it to be easy to understand. Therefore, the words you use should be relatively simple. Keep it brief, use images, supporting text (again, simple) and include a short description tag for reference. Don’t over-complicate with industry jargon. – Scott Kellner, GPJ Experience Marketing

9. Include Subtitles

Don’t forget subtitles. The majority of social media users do not have audio on when viewing videos, so it has been increasingly important to implement accurate and easy-to-read video captions. – Stefan Pollack, The Pollack PR Marketing Group

10. Maintain Your Brand’s Voice

Explainer videos should still maintain tone and voice of the brand. Often times brands can be very operational and tactical in their approach, but should consider weaving in personality to really resonate with their consumers. Consistency across all mediums builds a stronger brand. – Lauren Shirreffs, 2Social Agency

11. Speak To The Lowest Common Denominator

Our agency refers to this service as LCD-ing it — speak to the lowest common denominator. You must assume that a fair number of viewers are starting from scratch, with no knowledge of your company or how it can benefit them. You must create the video for that group of people. The more knowledgeable consumer will still gain something and the LCD customer will feel educated and empowered to purchase. – Dustin Iannotti, artisansonfire.com

12. Keep It Simple

One of the most important things to remember about creating explainer videos and content is that people do not have a ton of time. Your video needs to be entertaining, straight-to-the-point and clear. Those videos need to explain only what is necessary and ensure that the user is able to access the most important discussions. – Jon James, Ignited Results

13. Focus On Visuals Over Sound

Visual images that have graphic reinforcement are important. Many people won’t watch a video with the sound turned on, so explainer videos have to be effective with the sound on or off. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, HAWTHORNE LLC

14. Focus On Originality

Explainer videos have long been popular, but the formats that receive the best engagement are constantly changing. The problem with inexpensive, cookie-cutter vendors is that they are always behind the curve in producing videos that are fresh and different. Do you really want the same kind of whiteboard video or animation style that everybody else is using? Your content won’t matter if you do. – Scott Baradell, Idea Grove

11 Experts Share Top Impacts From AR And VR

AR and VR aren’t just for tech industries anymore. This technology is branching out into other sectors, so the impact of VR and AR will be widespread. Within the agency and marketing industries, there are many ways that this tech could be and is being used. Some ideas may be further off than others, but it’s a good idea to keep up with the potential and current trends.

We’ve asked 11 experts from Forbes Agency Council to share the top impacts of VR and AR that they have seen or think they will see within the agency and marketing sectors. See what they have to say here.

Augmented and Virtual Reality

1. Impact In Selling Experiences

Marketing professionals have to be on the cutting edge of tech innovations in order to spot opportunities for their clients. AR and VR can make a big difference for businesses that sell experiences. Whether it’s a hotel, an entertainment park, a wedding venue or a university, brands can recreate the setting with VR to give a taste of the experience and save time for their customers. – Inna Semenyuk, InnavationLabs

2. Lower Cost In Sharing Product

VR has changed the way that we view reality as well as the way that we view marketing. Recently, while in a showroom in Beverly Hills, I came in contact with a hologram model of a car. One thing that is helpful about this VR application is that there is a lower cost in sharing your product with an audience. No physical production is required with VR. – Jon James, Ignited Results

3. Delivering A Sense Of Community

I believe we are seeing a shift in consumers who are desiring a community that has been placed behind vanity metrics and personas due to the nature of social media. AR and VR have the ability to deliver this type of community and it will be interesting to see how people react to the use of this media type. – Sarah Remesch, 270M

4. Showstopping Demos

VR and AR are becoming increasingly popular in trade shows as a way to attract traffic to booths and demonstration areas. When visitors see the VR and AR demonstrations, they want to be a part of it and “see” what’s happening for themselves. In health care, which is our agency’s focus, this is particularly important for medical devices and new technologies. – Jodi Amendola, Amendola Communications

5. Transforming The Music Industry

It is only a matter of time before augmented reality takes over the music industry. We’ve seen many great examples of AR and VR transforming the music experience at live events, such as Coachella. My prediction is that music fans and artists will soon be connected through AR platforms to create a unique experience, providing an unparalleled connection between the artist and their fans. – Raffi Keuhnelian, INexxus

6. Dissolving Implicit Bias

The power of VR is that you can literally see the world from someone else’s shoes. As the world tries to break down barriers and implicit biases, VR will be used more to help people understand what it’s like to be another race, age, gender or sexual orientation. Sensitivity training via VR will hopefully open our eyes to our pre-existing biases and be more open to any minority group. – Emily Porter, Havas Formula

7. Increased Brand Engagement

Virtual reality holds incredible potential in brand engagement across the retail, commercial and entertainment sectors. It also holds promise for B2B marketers, particularly in creating engagement on the trade show circuit. We’re already seeing this with Progressive’s Lake Dash VR Experience and Samsung’s Moon for All Mankind. – Mary Ann O’Brien, OBI Creative

8. Increased Brand Awareness

The very nature of VR is extremely visual and immersive, which means companies will need to build their brand even more. Users will need to instantly recognize your brand because you cannot offer them an experience that is like an advertisement. The experience should be akin to a video game, which means it needs to be fun and interesting. If done right, they will associate it with your brand. – Jason Hall, FiveChannels Marketing

9. Virtual Advertising

Right now, AR and VR are used in very specific event marketing or defined spaces where you can experience a brand element or launch. Eventually, AR and VR will come into the general marketplace in the form of 3D or hologram billboards, in-car advertising with autonomous vehicles, etc. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, HAWTHORNE LLC.

10. Heightened Experiences

Just as the internet changed everything and nothing, we predict VR and AR will do the same for marketing. The rules will still apply — know your audience and educate or entertain them to build a brand. VR and AR are starting to allow us to do that in new, immersive ways. Buyers’ interactions and experiences during their journey will be heightened and the expectations on marketers will be as well. – Patricia Rioux, Team ODEA

11. Try Before You Buy

AR and VR have been elevating the “try before you buy” e-commerce experience, helping buyers make more informed decisions. Not sure if that couch will match your decor? Point your phone and tap for a virtual taste before you schedule that delivery date. Can’t tell if those shoes are the right match? VR and AR lets you get up close and personal before you decide. – Bernard May, National Positions

14 Tips For Agencies On How To Promote Themselves

Agencies know how to market, but they often forget to do the same with their own company. It’s imperative that agencies remember to market themselves; otherwise how will they get more clients and continue to be successful? While this seems like an easy thing to, it can be difficult to set aside time for these sorts of tasks.

We’ve asked 14 Forbes Agency Council experts to share their best tips for how agencies can market and promote themselves. See their suggestions below.

Promote Your Agency

1. Make Yourself A Client

It’s incredibly challenging to prioritize “unpaid” work over paid work. However, it’s imperative to keep marketing yourself or there won’t be any more paid work! One of the best ways we’ve achieved this is by making ourselves a client. Schedule meetings with team members to brainstorm and don’t reschedule them. Then, schedule the work in the weekly schedule along with all other paid projects. – Chelimar Miranda, iHealthSpot

2. Be Authentic With Your Content

Successful agencies are those that build fantastic client relationships, and those can only be built when your team is authentically themselves with each interaction. When creating marketing material, give consideration to whether the tone sounds phony. If it does, that’s a good sign that it’s not representative of you. – Catherine Seeds, Ketner Group Communications

3. Self-Promote

Never skip an opportunity to self-promote. If you are presented with an opportunity to be part of a reputable blog, podcast, interview, article or news story, take it. The value of your brand is reliant on the perception of it. Positive perception is built through repeated strong performance, referral and, ultimately, visibility. Do good work and take every chance to get your name out there. – Lucas Miller, Moment Creative

4. Empower Your Employees

One of the most underutilized resources at many agencies is its employed media — the people. Give your agency the tools and encourage them to share what they love about the agency, the city/cities you operate in, their work, etc. Empower them to use social media, blogs, podcasts and industry events to organically spread the word about who you are and what you stand for. – Blair Brady, WITH/agency

5. Be Consistent

One of the problems we had early on is we weren’t consistent. It is consistency and persistence that pays off long term when promoting your agency. Make it a priority to be one of your own clients, but you have to keep sharing the message. That is where the magic happens over the long-term. – Justin Christianson, Conversion Fanatics

6. Remember You’re A Brand, Too

We sometimes are so focused on client work that we forget to take care of our own branding, but agencies are brands, too. They should have the same branding and communications standards that their clients do. Staff should understand the agency’s core value proposition, its mission, reason for being and differentiation. The same rules for consistently communicating those elements apply, as well. – Fiona Bruder, George P. Johnson (GPJ) Experience Marketing

7. Focus On In-Person Networking

When your agency becomes successful, you start relying on organic lead generation and forget to promote your agency. This comes up often at cocktail parties and social engagements when people simply ask, “What do you do?” One tip is to always have an exciting and non-salesy answer to that question. So many people are looking for quality marketing nowadays. – T. Maxwell, eMaximize

8. Show Who You Are

It’s great to showcase your work, but companies also like to get a feeling of the company’s culture as well. Use your social pages to not only promote work being done but also the team behind all of that effort. Put faces to your agency so that others can see the human side of the company and who they may be working with if they sign with you. – Rebecca Kowalewicz, Clearbridge Branding Agency

9. Promote Your Clients

The best way to promote your own company is to promote your clients. If you’re in PR or strategic communications, for example, don’t talk about how awesome you are. Talk about a major client win that your services helped achieve. Not only does it follow the axiom of “share credit, shoulder blame” that good people appreciate in all walks of life, it also demonstrates real results, not platitudes. – Brian Reisinger, Platform Communications

10. Leverage Testimonials

Use client case studies, testimonials and successes as a means of marketing yourself. As a professional services agency, the best way to build a marketing strategy is by tethering it to your clients’ achievements in smart ways. – Kathleen Lucente, Red Fan Communications

11. Test Ideas On Yourself First

Your internal marketing needs a team just like any other client. Agencies need to remember that they are setting their own example, and they will be their longest-running, most important client. They must be willing to test the latest and greatest strategies on themselves first and foremost. Treat your company just as you would any other paying client — with care. – Bernard May, National Positions

12. Showcase Your Culture

Besides an agency’s accolades or awards, showcasing the company culture and the strength of its employees helps give the agency a living identity. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, HAWTHORNE LLC

13. Practice What You Preach

You can make the most amazing, dynamic content for your clients, you can be the best of the best, but if you don’t practice what you preach, it can hurt you. Audiences reflect on your content as recommendations. If you produce and display strategies and tactics for your clients that you aren’t in some way using for yourself, why would they trust it? To truly resonate, you need to lead by example. – Kirk Westwood, Glass River Media

14. Share Case Studies

You get great results for your clients, so be sure to capture those stories — especially when supported by outcomes such as increased share of voice, shorter sales cycles and increased customers — as case studies. You can add these client success stories to you agency proposals and presentations, capture them on video during in-person meetings, post on your website and promote on social media. – Jodi Amendola, Amendola Communications

12 Things A Business Can Do To Project Authenticity

Customers now are all about giving their business to companies they can trust and that they feel are authentic. In order to build that trust, you have to engage with your audience in a way that also builds your authenticity. While it may be tempting to look at what other companies have done, you have to make sure that you stay true to your company; otherwise you are going to ruin whatever trust you’ve built.

To help you with this important task, we’ve asked 12 experts from Forbes Agency Council to share what your business should do to project authenticity and build good relationships with consumers.

Project Authenticity

1. Be Careful What You Automate

There’s a fine line to walk with automation. As a business, you have to automate some communication to keep up with the digital pace of competitors, but choose wisely. Having human moments within your funnels will counteract the feeling customers get of being ushered through a digital queue. As far as the communication that is automated, please just write like a human being. – Jessica Gonzalez, InCharged

2. Be Transparent About Progress And Issues

One of the largest shocks in the market recently has been the lack of authenticity that has been coming through for all of the companies and outlets. One thing that is really capable of making a real difference is being transparent about your company’s progress and issues. There are positive and negative ways to paint all news — the key is honesty. – Jon James, Ignited Results

3. Build Relationships With Micro-Influencers

Micro-influencers, those with 5,000 to 150,000 followers, are a great way to strengthen the relationship between your brand and consumer because of their authenticity. Having influencers create their own content with their own message around your product can establish trust. That content can be posted on their social media channels and can be repurposed in your other paid, earned and owned channels. – Maria Sipka, Linqia

4. Focus On Your Customers Over Your C-Suite

Beat the press to it by delivering on your brand promise and capturing it on video for your website. Give a voice to your employees and the communities you’re involved in. How has your contribution impacted their lives? By moving the spotlight from the C-suite to the people you affect, you’ll differentiate yourself from the pack, show that you walk the walk and convey your authenticity. – Howard Breindel, DeSantis Breindel

5. Create A Brand Narrative

Have a clear vision of why your brand exists and define your mission and values. Then, create a brand narrative that is based on the essence of who your are. Once you have defined your storytelling line, find your tone of voice and share your message with a clear and consistent format. Make sure that your story has personality, so your audience will remember it and connect it to your brand. – Daniela Pavan, The Ad Store New York

6. Utilize Guided Conversations Over Scripts

Consider moving away from committee-scripted storytelling. There are better ways to communicate key insights, understanding and clear directions to customers. We sometimes use news-oriented techniques such as interviewing “customers like you” in guided conversations designed to naturally and authentically reveal common problems and solutions. This approach can be quite natural and effective. – Rick Kupchella, The Informed Engagement Network (i.e. network)

7. Interact With Customers On Social

Use social media to establish authentic relationships by being proactive and an active listener. Listen to the conversations online and provide solutions, show empathy, address concerns and use social media the way it should be used: socially. These channels give brands the opportunities to communicate their humanity and resonate with consumers and perspective customers. – Lauren Shirreffs, 2Social Agency

8. Always Represent The Company

Whatever you’re doing — if you’re on social media, walking from your car, attending a conference or in line for a coffee — you’re a manifestation of the company. Who hasn’t had a “rude server experience” that has made you write that restaurant off forever? The lesson is, always assume your actions speak for the company and make those actions reflect positively on the brand you care about. – Dustin Iannotti, artisansonfire.com

9. Get Involved With The Community

The best way for companies to establish trust with consumers is to get involved with their communities. Companies that support arts and cultural groups or have days of service show that they are a part of the places where they live and work. Giving back and helping to build stronger communities shows social responsibility and helps to earn trust. – Henry Kurkowski, One WiFi

10. Show Real Customers

Showing real-life customers who are passionate about a brand, not just paid influencers, is more authentic to a brand and will connect with the everyday audience — not just the aspirational audience. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, HAWTHORNE LLC

11. Stick To Your Brand’s Mission

Stick to your brand’s mission through thick and thin. Don’t waver or flop based on what others are doing or saying unless you truly feel that this change is in line with your brand, more so than your previous values. Don’t catch someone else’s train — drive your own, and continue to prove your worth at every opportunity. Remember, carbon copies are not authentic. – Bernard May, National Positions

12. Put Thought Into Your Content

In the professional services space, thought leadership is still the best strategy for creating trust with prospects. But, the content marketing craze has degraded the quality of thought leadership as companies prize timeliness over thoughtfulness. If you want to create trust, talk to your audience (not at them) on topics that matter to them. Timeless content beats timely content every time. – Randy Shattuck, The Shattuck Group

Understaffed In The Summer? 13 Tips For Managing Employees’ Work When They’re On Vacation

There are bound to be periods of time, especially in the summer, when a lot of your employees are on vacation or otherwise out of the office. While this is expected, it is still something that needs to be planned ahead for to ensure that everything that needs to get done still gets done.

If you are too short-staffed, work can start to pile up, and you may need to decide to implement some new rules regarding out of office (OOO) time and the preparation leading up to it. To help you figure out what’s best for your company, we’ve asked 13 experts from Forbes Agency Council to share their advice for managing employees’ work when they’re gone.

On Vacation

1. Always Stay Organized

If you are disciplined daily and organized, you are ready to hand over files to others to manage or take on items to cover for others. At iMPR we have an OOO document organized by client, contacts, projects, and links. This document is shared with a team assigned to look after the various initiatives in motion so it does not bog down any one individual. – Ilissa Miller, IMiller Public Relations

2. Prepare Reliable Freelancers Ahead Of Time

You may find your business normally dips in the summer months, and your staff naturally wants more time off. That’s great, but you’ll still need to be prepared with coverage if work ramps up. If you don’t already have a stable and reliable group of freelancers at your disposal, then start bringing in extra help in the spring. This will help you identify keepers that you want to put on speed dial. – Kenny Eicher, The CSI Group

3. Use A Task Management Tool

Our team uses the task management program Asana every day. You can set recurring tasks for things that need to be done daily, weekly or monthly and you can create one-off tasks and organize everything under a project umbrella. When employees are on vacation, it’s easy to reassign tasks to other employees managing work while they’re out. This ensures nothing falls through the cracks. – Leila Lewis, Be Inspired PR

4. Be Proactive And Flexible

People can be reactionary in management, but I prefer to be proactive by creating a culture that prioritizes personal accountability. No one likes a micromanager, and we give our team members the flexibility to get their work done at home or the office and trust them to meet their deadlines. When teams have the freedom to make their own choices, they are more productive, engaged and happier. – Scott Harkey, OH Partners

5. Use Your Agency For Backup

It’s challenging to hand off long-tail programs such as thought leadership, public relations, content marketing and social media engagement to contractors, assistants or interns. Fall back on the team that you worked with to get there—your agency. They can likely provide a flexible budget for summertime coverage, and they have deep knowledge of all the moving parts to keep up the velocity. – Serenity Thompson, A23 Advisors

6. Be Transparent And Collaborate

We have a channel within which all company employees see everyone’s scheduled vacation time, including management; this helps with transparency and internal workflow distribution. This transparency allows employees to collaborate and take care of the priorities and hard deadlines before they leave for their time off and allows management to distribute the tasks evenly with achievable deadlines. – Ally Spinu, USA Link System

7. Utilize Automation

Take advantage of your own marketing automation by setting up email auto-responses and message forwarding to the appropriate team members. If you work with clients, be sure to get organized and let them know if they’ll be hearing from someone new in the interim. Prepare, plan and prosper, no matter who’s out of the office. – Bernard May, National Positions

8. Build A Team Atmosphere

Employees who have little connection to one another look at covering someone else’s work while they’re on vacation as a burden. Those who feel the camaraderie with their co-workers see it more as doing a favor for a friend. Build a team atmosphere, where we’re all in it together and everyone gets a real chance to get away, and those busy months will go much more smoothly. – Jodi Amendola, Amendola Communications

9. Establish Regular Meetings

Vacations overlap the most during summer, but OOO coverage is relevant all year. Establish processes before the summer crunch hits. Even in the most siloed organization, one function’s work impacts the others. Staff are more apt to cover for colleagues when they see how functions intersect. Establish frequent, cross-functional status meetings and include vacation coverage on the agenda. – Keri Witman, Cleriti

10. Stagger Time Off

If there is a concern that your business may suffer if too many employees go on vacation at the same time, then stagger how many people can leave at once. Your team might be frustrated by the slight limitation, but ultimately will understand that the business also can’t be short-staffed. – Zachary Binder, Bell + Ivy

11. Use The ‘Buddy System’

Every employee in our agency has a defined “buddy on backup” when they go on vacation. The reciprocal notion of a buddy system inspires a true “you got my back, I got yours” mentality. We feel very strongly that vacation should be just that—a time to get away from all work activities. Knowing someone on your team has everything handled allows that to happen. – Danica Kombol, Everywhere Agency

12. Plan Ahead

Preplanning is key, so be sure to generate a consolidated OOO calendar for all employees, across all departments, in advance at the beginning of the summer. The project management team can then plan for resources and timelines in advance of travel and/or team members being out of the office. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, HAWTHORNE LLC

13. Coordinate And Communicate

Everyone is entitled to time off, and they deserve it! One way to ensure work doesn’t get lost or deadlines are missed is to over-communicate and coordinate coverage. Ensure colleagues know the dates, have access to files and references and clearly understand where they can help while others are out. Also, you can add dates to your calendar and invite colleagues so they have a gentle reminder. – Scott Kellner, GPJ Experience Marketing

13 Tips For Effectively And Efficiently Personalizing A Marketing Campaign

Today’s marketers are learning that personalized campaigns are often the most successful. These powerful marketing tactics are particularly effective in targeting Millennials and Gen-Zers, who crave authentic, personal connections with the brands they patronize. However, taking the time and resources to tailor every individual marketing message can get very expensive, very quickly.

If you want to get more personal without breaking the bank, try following these tips from the experts of Forbes Agency Council. Their tactics will help you efficiently and cost-effectively take a more individualized approach to your marketing.


1. Authentically Automate Personalized Campaigns

There is a multitude of ways to automate personalized campaigns. However, it’s essential not to sacrifice authenticity for the efficiency of automation. For example, too many “persona-based” personalized campaigns paint too broadly when bucketing cohorts. Instead, opt for more individually personalized automation. An obvious example is sending automated emails on audience members’ birthdays. – Gyi Tsakalakis, AttorneySync

2. Get More Specific With Your Targeting

Plain and simple, our technology today allows us to get very specific in who we are targeting. The more specific you are about who you want to see your campaign, the more you are able to personalize it and keep within budget. This means you need to really know who your target audience is and what their habits, likes and dislikes, and behaviors are. – Andrea Keirn, Black Rhino Marketing Group

3. Let Them Tell You What They Want

Give your younger customers a chance to self-select by asking them what kind of consumer they are. For instance, ask if they’re a regular purchaser, a sometimes purchaser or a first-time purchaser. It’s simple: Once they’ve identified as a purchaser at all, they’re more likely to make a purchase. Then, adjust your messaging and offers accordingly (but don’t forget to test those messages!). – Kathy Broderick Selker, Northlich

4. Leverage Narrative Psychology

Personalization of campaigns can be efficient and cost effective when considering the power of narrative psychology. Think social quizzes—these self-directed widgets blew up because it’s all about the “story of me,” a.k.a. narrative psychology. Include your targets in creating the campaign, creatively, and let them tell your story in a personalized manner. – Jennifer Barbee, Destination Innovate

5. Align Campaign Structure And Messaging With The Customer Journey

When you don’t have the time, data or dollars to build truly personalized marketing, structure your campaign to mirror the customer journey and create different messaging for each stage. Most marketers don’t. In the top of the funnel, differentiate your brand and address customer needs. At the bottom of the funnel, use retargeting campaigns personalized to site behavior, and use a strong call to action. – John Keehler, RUNNER Agency

6. Start With A Hashtag

It can all start with just one word. The campaign has to be catchy, and it can be just a simple hashtag where people can get involved with no cost. Having a hashtag go viral would be the most cost-effective campaign. Millennials and Gen-Zers want something straight to the point and real. What better way than to convey your message with a simple hashtag? – Cagan Sean Yuksel, GRAFX CO.

7. Create A ‘Vault’ Of Collateral To Use Year-Round

Cost-effectiveness and efficiency often get sacrificed in campaigns when everything is created from scratch during the time campaigns are being created. Have your team regularly deliver content and copy that can be utilized when it’s time to create a new campaign. Use Pinterest boards and a shared Google Doc that everyone can contribute their ideas to as they feel inspired to do so. – Danielle Sabrina, Tribe Builder Media

8. Tell Real Stories About Real People

Personalized campaigns require preliminary research to understand your customers and the causes they believe in. To deliver powerful campaigns that truly resonate, tell real stories about real people, and draw the connection between these narratives and your brand’s overarching mission and vision. This will help make advertisements that are unique to your company and your audience. – Theresa Schieber, Givewith

9. Study Popular Search Terms

Personalizing ads can be done cost effectively through dynamic, digital creative that is based on the terms Millennials and Gen-Zers are searching for. Different imagery, highlighted products and offers can all be personalized and changed based on the initial search terms. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, HAWTHORNE LLC

10. Engage With Them Where They Already Are

It’s no secret that Millennials and Gen-Zers dwell in the details and thus consume an overwhelming amount of information to help guide their decision making. When crafting a campaign, it’s important to take note of where they are engaging with content, like YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat, and create campaigns that are relatable, personable and easy to communicate through these channels. – Scott Kellner, GPJ Experience Marketing

11. Get A 360-Degree View Of Your Customer

Invest in a platform that centralizes data about your customers, business, category and competitors to gain a comprehensive view of your business and customers. With machine learning enhanced by artificial intelligence powering your data feed and displaying it in a comprehensive dashboard, you can make informed decisions and instant adjustments to campaigns to connect with customers on an individual level. – Mary Ann O’Brien, OBI Creative

12. Get Personal At The Right Time

Personalizing campaigns used to mean inserting a name into an email or adding some “meat” to your interaction. But there are many stops along the buyer journey to connect when it is the most valuable for the buyer. For example, you get a new iPhone. Now you might need a case and perhaps a backup charger. Just check your email or that text message. This is personalized remarketing at its best. – Bernard May, National Positions

13. Use Dynamic Content

You can create personalized emails without spending hours on crafting emails manually. Use dynamic content. This method enables you to create one email with separate blocks customized to each recipient. It also allows you to localize the images. Dynamic content can be a perfect solution, as it helps brands build a much stronger relationship with the customers by showing that they really care. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

14 Agency Pros Share Their Best Practices For Website Management

Website Management

Original Publication: Forbes

Date Published: March 6, 2019

Your company’s website is the ultimate marketing tool. It’s often the first point of contact for a potential customer, and it can significantly affect how they view your brand. An outdated or inaccurate site can quickly turn off users, while an engaging and informative one can increase consumer trust and interest—and help you make the sale.

As a business owner, you need to prioritize your Web presence and make sure it’s working for you as a marketing tool. Below, 14 members of Forbes Agency Council outline some best practices for managing your company’s website.

Website Management

1. Think Mobile First

We live in a world where two-thirds of the population now have a mobile phone. Everybody uses their devices on a daily basis. This is why it is mandatory to have a website that is accessible on mobile screens, with an engaging user experience, up-to-date content and clear calls to action. – Daniela Pavan, The Ad Store New York

2. Review Quarterly And Improve As Needed

It is important to set up a time to follow up on the website and to review it on a quarterly basis. That means that it is important to ensure that there are many ways to review the success or the failure of the current structure. When you are able to do that, you will see that there are many ways to improve the overall reach out as well as the communication for the people. – Jon James, Ignited Results

3. Assign A ‘Brand Keeper’ To Audit The Site

The auditing process doesn’t have to be painful. Simply read through the website, ideally looking at it with the fresh eyes of a first-time visitor. To make it easier, assign someone to be the “keeper of the brand” and make it part of their job to do this at regular intervals. It’s also a good idea to ask brand-new employees for their opinions, as they’re best able to pinpoint anything confusing. – Sarah Mannone, Trekk

4. Build On A Platform That’s Easy To Update, And Automate Where Possible

Today’s landscape changes very quickly. If your website is doing its job, at a minimum, it’s able to keep up. That means your site should be “living and breathing” and built on a platform that’s easy to update, change or modify swiftly and effectively. After that, you should work it! Bonus points for site features that can automatically update as you populate content, such as a social feed. – Sara Helmy, Tribu

5. Publish Fresh New Content

If the site is up-to-date with the content management system (e.g., WordPress), content is the next most important aspect of any website. Whether it’s in the form of an informative blog post or additional content on the service pages, Google loves in-depth, helpful content. We start with a site audit and prioritize pages by traffic or conversions, then work our way down, finding content opportunities for each page. – Matt Bowman, Thrive Internet Marketing Agency

6. Don’t Forget To Refresh Core Content

The two tactics we’ve used to keep our website up to date are ongoing weekly blog articles and assigning website accountability. Ongoing blogging ensures there is always timely, relevant content being added to the site and shared to social channels. We’ve also found it useful to assign accountability for the site to one team member, ensuring all core content is refreshed and kept up to date. – Elissa Liu, Influential Executive

7. Always Consult The Analytics

Using Google Search Console and Google Analytics, you can gauge how well your website is performing organically across a number of key performance indicators, including traffic, click-through rate, bounce, etc. Using this data, we can update on-page elements, such as meta data, suggested links, body content, etc. to increase the usability of our website and on-site metrics that contribute to greater conversions. – Kristopher Jones, LSEO.com

8. Ask Customers What Part Of Your Website Made Them Contact You

That’s one of my first questions for every prospect who says, “I found you on the internet.” Answers help update, reprioritize or emphasize areas that need message adjustment or tweaking. We advise all our clients to track how they were found and what helps convert a sale. – Patrick Nycz, NewPoint Marketing

9. Develop In Real Time

By the time you’ve updated your website, the next version will likely need to begin development. Develop on a platform that is easy to program so you can make quick changes and optimizations based on real-time data analytics while you are looking for the next iteration. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, HAWTHORNE LLC

10. Make Website Maintenance Part Of Your Daily Marketing Activities

It may seem obvious, but the most common reason websites fall behind is that updates and maintenance are not a core part of day-to-day marketing operations. Once a website overhaul or build is complete, the project is not over, and it should not fall to the wayside. Include your website as a key part of your annual marketing plan and build a calendar of regular updates. – Keri Witman, Cleriti

11. Get A Cross-Functional Team Involved

The website is not a standalone asset. It is a marketing tool. Integrate website updates into go-to-market plans so the site constantly reflects company evolution and growth. Include the cross-functional team in discussions on blog post themes, product page updates, etc. to keep content current and reflective of company values. – Preethy Vaidyanathan, Tapad

12. Follow Best Search Engine Optimization Practices

Your website is not a useful lead generation tool if no one can find it. Make it keyword-driven for the words you want to rank for, and continually release fresh content to be ranked by search engines. For example, be sure your Title tags and H1 tags are worded properly. This helps search engines determine what each page is about and enables them to rank it accordingly. – Bryan Citrin, Chiropractic Advertising

13. Introduce The World To Your Brand And Team

It’s essential for companies to make sure the website reflects the brand and culture. Our website is currently being revamped. We’ve ensured our site exemplifies our uniqueness by highlighting our team members and the work we’ve produced for our clients while capturing the nuances specific to our brand. Websites are often a client’s first introduction to who you are. Put your best foot forward. – Sarah Tourville, Media Frenzy Global

14. Ask For Help

It’s very easy for companies to put off working on their websites because, though the task is important, it doesn’t always feel urgent. Working with a marketing agency will put a healthy amount of pressure on your company, open up new ideas because of input from outsiders, and help you generate more traffic to your website instead of just making sure it’s accurate. – Joe Ardeeser, Jordan Crown LLC

11 Ways to Measure Your Marketing ROI

11 Ways to Measure ROI

Original Publication: Forbes

Date Published: March 5, 2019

Sometimes, marketing efforts feel like day after day of trial and error in an economy that’s constantly evolving. Technology is changing, social media sites rise and fall, and “hot trends” that work for one business might not be suitable for another. To ensure you’re investing in tactics that will deliver the best results for your brand, you’ll need to regularly review your efforts across the board.

11 Ways to Measure ROI

It’s not always easy to determine and quantify those results, though. That’s why we asked the experts from Forbes Agency Council to explain how they measure the return on investment (ROI) of their marketing efforts.

1. Launch A Content Marketing Campaign

There is no reason it should be difficult to measure ROI today. We have so many tools and ways to glean metrics, and the expectations on marketing to generate sales are too high for us to forsake data. If you’re not measuring anything today, start with some simple content marketing. Get a few campaigns going and you’ll have benchmark numbers—traffic, leads, conversions—in no time. – Sarah Mannone, Trekk

2. Understand Your ‘Whys’

A marketing campaign absolutely cannot be successful without a tight strategy. You should know the reasoning behind everything you do. These “whys” should align with all of your goals. These goals must be measurable, whether that’s in terms of engagement rates or direct sales. By doing this, you can show the ROI of each individual tactic throughout the duration of your marketing campaign. – Lisa Arledge Powell, MediaSource

3. Segment Your Activities

My startup is built around measuring ROI for marketing activities. Usually, I track sales, the lead volume against website traffic, the sources of traffic and total traffic over different periods of time. If you can segment branded search, traffic, leads and sales down to each marketing activity, then it is easy to track ROI. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

4. Check Your Traffic Sources For Each Campaign

One of the most important places to start assessing ROI is looking at your sources of website traffic (organic, social, paid, referral, etc.) per campaign to see what is driving the most website visits and qualified leads. From there, determine what sources are driving the most customers. This data will help you see what sources are most impactful for qualified lead generation and customer acquisition. – Elyse Flynn Meyer, Prism Global Marketing Solutions

5. Establish The Right KPIs

We all know some desired results are easier to measure than others. That’s why it’s important to establish quantitative key performance indicators, such as impressions, CPM (cost per thousand impressions) and sales, as well as qualitative KPIs such as loyalty, reputation management and third-party credibility. Measurement is not black and white anymore, and marketers need to adopt a modern mindset in order to measure true impact. – Ashley Walters, Empower

6. Measure Consistently

Every dollar of marketing investment should be analyzed to determine if it is effectively driving sales or critical KPIs. Tracking through online sales, leads, traffic, point-of-sale (POS) data or anywhere else needs to be brought into the same tech platform to analyze and determine marketing effectiveness and then be displayed in a dashboard or through a consolidated report. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, HAWTHORNE LLC

7. Conduct Customer Research

Good customer research is absolutely the best way to gain and measure the ROI of your marketing activities. Make research the foundation of your campaigns. Let it inform your strategy. Track your efforts with a comprehensive platform that integrates your contacts with your personas, website, email marketing and campaigns. You’ll be able to see and improve your ROI. – Mary Ann O’Brien, OBI Creative

8. Automate And Integrate

Marketing efforts don’t always show obvious results because they exist early in the customer journey. Marketing automation platforms like HubSpot or Pardot, when integrated with your customer relationship management (CRM), can tie your marketing efforts directly to qualified sales leads and ultimately closed business. Connecting Web traffic to prospects and prospects to closed sales is the ultimate goal of measuring marketing ROI. – Keri Witman, Cleriti

9. Know Where Your Leads Are Coming From

We are in the digital marketing area, so all our advertising is actually tracked. For leads, we know we get X amount from search engine optimization (SEO). We get Y amount from pay-per-click (PPC). We get Z amount from social media. We have yearly budgets and track leads into clients and budget appropriately. Network events and conferences can be harder to track, but usually, you can attribute spikes in leads online to attendance. – Peter Boyd, PaperStreet Web Design

10. Revisit Your Goals Regularly

The first step to measuring ROI is not at the end of a project; rather, it’s at the beginning. That sounds contrarian, but during the planning phase, it’s imperative to align on the goal(s) in order to effectively strategize, implement action, track progress, communicate and pivot as needed, and then measure success. If you don’t define and continuously align on goals, the ROI will be impossible to measure. – Scott Kellner, GPJ Experience Marketing

11. Ask Your Clients

We have clients fill out a quick survey for their personal goals and the brands with specific KPIs, which is quite helpful for referring back to throughout an engagement. In e-commerce, we’ll use cost per acquisition against predicted lifetime value to measure what works across the online touchpoints. Both ways help get at indisputable numbers for what success looks like. – Jacob Cook, Tadpull