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Key lessons learned during the Covid-19 pandemic that transformed effective leadership, including emphasizing the importance of providing your team with new modes of support.


5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Being an effective leader means supporting both employees and customers. During the upheaval of 2020, this was especially essential, and certainly challenging, as we navigated the changes from how we work to politics and the very structure of society. Interestingly, McKinsey & Company found that executives reported that their companies responded to a range of changes much more quickly than they thought possible before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In July of 2020, I became general manager of the application performance management and IT operations analytics company, AppDynamics, taking over that leadership position in the heart of this period of uncertainty. Since then, I have learned a great deal. Below are three key lessons that helped me get through nearly a full year at the helm — ones that any leader can leverage. 

People First

The most important foundational investment you can ever make is in people. How you bring an organization together, especially during times like the recent pandemic, demonstrates such commitment. To that end, perhaps start by innovating on how to accommodate the challenges your teams face while working from home (an increasingly likely prospect of continuing indefinitely), such as managing a child’s learning while a parent works full-time. Our Employee Experience team, for example, revamped its offerings to include programs that focus on how to stay mentally and physically healthy during COVID, including a virtual Silly Circus to entertain kids at home. Looking to reduce meetings (to help battle “meeting fatigue”) as well as get employees in the flow, we also launched a no-meeting day, which was so well received that we expanded it to twice a month.

How we demonstrate our values needs to show up not just in our personal lives, but at work. So, we hosted guest speakers on issues that were both tethered to our company values and on the minds of employees, such as the fight for racial justice in the U.S. Additionally, our entire executive team jumped to participate in a reverse-mentorship program with African American/Black colleagues to boost both those intuitions and awareness generally. We also sponsored donation-matching blitzes so employees could amplify their impact on causes they care about, and the response has been overwhelming.

Resulting company check-ins, town halls and ongoing conversations played a key role in providing a safe space as well as in educating one another. To be sure leadership was listening as much as talking; we set aside more time for Q&As at our town halls and used the real-time polling platform, Slido, to prioritize questions that mattered most to employees.

Related: The 5 Crucial Phases of Building a Team

Drive Focus, and Be Decisive

The pandemic forced entire industries to embrace the need to adapt, and quickly. Some processes were smooth transitions, while others were more difficult. As you move higher up in an organization, problems become more complex and your decisions become more impactful. It gets scary, and it can be tempting to lean on additional discovery and analysis in response. Many times, however, this results in “analysis paralysis”, which can lead to torpor — exactly what’s not needed. The key is to understand the big picture and focus a team on your top priorities. As you face decisions, weigh the largest trade-offs based on those priorities and agree (or disagree) and commit. Almost always, the inability to pick a path is more damaging and tumultuous for an organization than making the wrong decision and having to go back to iterate. As you build this muscle, you’ll find teams gaining velocity in execution and that will allow you to fail faster and iterate quickly. 

Related: Why Failure is Necessary in Order to Succeed as an Entrepreneur

Embrace Curiosity

Once people find themselves in a leadership position, it’s easy to forget a growth mindset. I strongly believe that every person I meet has something to teach me; whether I choose to learn from them or not is up to me. Leaders are exposed to so many individuals, and finding the energy to stay curious is tough, but critical. So, ask questions, double-click into their perspectives, and let them teach you. From learning about the nuances of each part of the business to the art of making the best matcha, people around me teach me something new every day. I’ve also learned the value in knowing where to find answers; instead of trying to be the expert, I’ve focused on knowing who the experts are. Connecting them with interesting problems is one of the best ways I see companies move fast and innovate. 

We don’t know exactly what the future will look like, and there will inevitably be more challenges ahead, but we can apply what we learned this last year and be more prepared for uncertainty in the future. There are always ways we can grow as individuals and help our teams and companies develop with us. 

Related: How Your Business Can Be Ahead of the Curve by Looking Backward and Thinking Forward

 

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5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


I’m standing in a savanna in South Africa, surrounded by roughly 25 tranquilized elephants. It is 2018, and just minutes earlier the massive creatures had been darted by a veterinarian from a helicopter overhead.

The nature reserve in which these elephants reside has too many elephants for its habitat to handle. A national park in Mozambique, to which these elephants are soon headed, has too few elephants. Moving the animals from one to the other is part of an innovative conservation technique (translocation) that can help save both ecosystems.

Related: How to Start a Side Hustle: Manage Your Fear

As the sedated elephants are loaded into transport vehicles for the 1,000-mile journey to Mozambique, I wonder — and not for the first time — how did I get here?

I’d like to say it was because I made a brave decision to start my own company. But the decision was less “brave” than it was practical. It was simply too damn hard to find a job.

I had been employed over the previous few decades in newsroom-leadership positions at various media companies, ranging from big (New York Daily News, AOL, Huffington Post) to boutique (Boston Phoenix, Spy magazine), with tons of freelance work in between.

But in 2016, after a seven-year run at AOL/HuffPost, I was let go in a 500-person layoff, following the company’s merger with Yahoo!

I was 51 years old then — hardly ready to retire. But the market for journalists of my age demographic was not exactly pulsing with opportunities.

After regrouping for a couple of weeks, I ginned up the job-search machine. At first, several possibilities did arise; two even progressed to a fifth round of interviews. Alas, I didn’t get either gig, and I was wondering how I could afford to stay in New York with my family.

At that point, I happened to get back in touch with a dear friend, Giovanni Rodriguez, someone with whom I had previously worked in New York in the nonprofit space.

Related: How Resilience Led Me to Success

He had had his own marketing and consulting business for a number of years, and he painted an exciting picture, one in which we joined forces and launched our own media company.

While the idea was certainly enticing, I was terrified. I knew what I was good at, and that didn’t include running my own business.

Spinning a good story

But Giovanni knew how to spin a good story. Several years earlier, he had moved to the Bay Area with his family and had established deep connections in Silicon Valley, from tech startups to Stanford and Singular universities.

So in 2017, with two other partners, we launched Silicon Valley Story Lab (SVSL), a media company for a new age. To that point, organizations relied on earned media — coverage from established media companies — to report on their work or achievements. But increasingly, brands, nonprofits, and individuals started serving that content directly to an audience themselves. The problem for many of them was that they lacked the skill or capacity to effectively tell or promote those stories.

With SVSL, we used our journalistic experience to help clients and partners better tell their own stories.

Internally, we created a big tent, under which we could each pursue our own projects. I identified a space in the market for social-good-oriented storytelling, using the principles of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs were adopted by the UN in 2015 and are, essentially, a blueprint for saving the planet by 2030. There are 17 Goals, the first 16 of which are assigned to readily identifiable social-good causes: hunger, poverty, education, gender equality, climate, etc. The last one, though — SDG 17 — is called “Partnerships,” and in my estimation, it is recognition by the UN that the public sector will never be able to raise the trillions of dollars necessary every year to achieve the first 16 Goals without partnering with the private sector.

So if a brand is doing virtually anything under the social good umbrella — from working hand in hand with nonprofits to CSR efforts — this strategy of tying their work to an international framework like the SDGs could help get 1) more visibility and 2) more impact for their efforts.

(We decided early on that this strategy would definitively not apply to greenwashing efforts, such as, say, British Petroleum efforts to clean up the Gulf of Mexico, which needed clean up only thanks to BP’s irresponsibility.)

The elephant project, for example, was a partnership between a private-sector entity, two national governments, and an NGO that established transnational corridors for wildlife. We suggested calling the effort Moving Giants, and our work “captured the capture,” as it were, in a documentary video series that can be found on the website we created. That website also featured daily blogs and weekly reported articles on elephants and conservation efforts around the world. In other words, we launched an elephant-focused journalism destination.

Now the story evolves further. This week (June 2021), I am launching Brooklyn Story Lab. While Giovanni will keep doing great things with SVSL and his new passion — a virtual theater company for the Zoom age (Remote Theater) — Brooklyn Story Lab will be laser-focused on social-good initiatives, from a new elephant effort to thought-leadership consulting with myriad Nobel Peace Prize winners to working with young, entrepreneurial changemakers from more than 150 countries.

The tectonic changes to the media landscape have been understandably scary for journalism veterans (like myself) to navigate. But good storytelling will always be an in-demand commodity — and it isn’t quite as difficult as moving 200 elephants 1,000 miles across national borders.

Lance Gould is the founder and CEO of Brooklyn Story Lab. He can be reached at lance@brooklynstorylab.net.

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Covid-19 slowed M&A activity, but there were still many large deals and IPOs last year.


5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


At the start of 2020, some experts predicted that M&A activity would be weaker than in 2019. Then, Covid-19 slowed M&A expectations even more. However, we saw plenty of massive deals and IPOs last year, and I expect that to continue as businesses and the economy alike enter the post-Covid recovery phase. 

The cybersecurity market saw more than $6.3 billion invested throughout 2020 in the U.S alone with laser focus on growth and the consolidation of functionality. This May will mark one year since my company acquired Octarine to expand our expertise in container security and Kubernetes environments, and to say we’ve learned a lot is an understatement. I’ve previously highlighted challenges, learnings, and humbling moments that came with completing an M&A amid the pandemic, and now I’m taking a look back at the past year and offering some advice for other entrepreneurs in similar situations. 

Trust your new team to make important decisions 

While it was remarkable to complete an M&A remotely between my company in the U.S. and Octarine in Tel Aviv, it was even more of an accomplishment to onboard, align and work remotely so closely over the past year. Add in the pressure of an unfortunate industry standard that most M&As perform under expectations, and we had a tall order in front of us. 

Building trust among the new and existing team members was absolutely critical to our success from the minute the deal was signed. As a business leader and someone who has been on the other side of an acquisition many times, I knew early on that I didn’t want to suffocate the new team. As Steve Jobs once said, “Don’t hire smart people and then tell them what to do.” This couldn’t have been more true when it came to combining our teams. I made sure that our new teammates had a voice and felt comfortable sharing their points of view. 

Related: 7 Virtual Team-Building Ideas to Keep Your Staff Connected

Ensure alignment toward the joint vision and goal 

The two Octarine co-founders that joined our team fundamentally understood that they were transitioning their company to be a part of something bigger. They were on board with a vision that was different than their initial one when founding Octarine. They knew that this acquisition allowed for accelerating the adoption of Octarine technology — putting Octarine tech in more customers’ hands, faster.

As a joint team, we agreed early on to fully transition the Octarine product into our existing security platform. This was painful at first. After all, the Octarine team had to go back and re-tool work they’d already poured their energy into. But by making that decision — and getting genuine and heartfelt alignment — we were able to complete the transition and get to market in six months, which is a remarkably short period and much faster than typical. 

I’m the first to admit that, as a senior technical person, I’m opinionated and hate to lose. However, we agreed from the onset that we shared the same common goal of delivering great products to our customers and would agree on our path to achieving it. In the case of this M&A, we had a larger security strategy to strive toward, and Octarine filled one piece of that. In order to deliver on our aggressive product roadmap promises six months after the deal closed, we made sure that we kept the larger strategy at the forefront of our efforts the whole time.

Related: Six Ways to Manage Global Teams Remotely and Create a Culture of Trust, Productivity

Don’t be afraid to be decisive 

In video meetings full of experienced and opinionated technical leaders, it’s no surprise that we unearthed conflicts. There were hard calls to make along the path to delivery. When there was an issue, we escalated it quickly and then we were decisive and made a call. Both teams had to agree because, in the end, we were one team. 

I had a similar experience when my company, Carbon Black, was acquired for the first of two times in 2014. We were a small, very technical startup. We were acquired by a bigger player, which of course was exciting — we finally had paying customers! It’s because of this experience earlier in my career that I empathize with wanting to see something through. It’s critical as a leader of both the acquired and the acquiring company that you let strong teammates continue to have a voice, a clear path for growth, and to be challenged. But, at the end of the day as a leader, it’s your job to be decisive and make hard decisions.

As human beings, we don’t crave conflict. It’s not easy. To prepare for some of these expected growing pains after an acquisition, it’s critical that a leader is defined, and that the roles and responsibilities of the team are crystal clear. The only way to solve conflict is with a leader who isn’t afraid to make the final call and keep the team aligned. Another critical element here is to take any emotion or ego out of the situation. You can’t let someone needing recognition be the cause for a slow path to success. Lead by example and leave the ego at the door (or off of video meetings). In the end, winning solves everything, and in this case, it’s winning as one united team that matters most. 

Related: Don’t Even Think ‘Merger’ Without Taking These 5 Steps First

 

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6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


There’s no question that Benjamin Franklin was a highly productive guy, with a CV that included writer, politician, entrepreneur, scientist, inventor, diplomat, printer and postmaster. In his autobiography, the polymath shared the details of his morning routine, which included waking up around 5 a.m. and asking himself, “What good shall I do this day?” He then set aside a couple of hours to “wash and address Powerful Goodness! Contrive days’ business, and take the resolution of the day; prosecute the present study; and breakfast.”

Later in life, he amended his schedule to include a refreshing “air bath,” which he found preferable to the cold water bath considered healthful at the time. 

“With this view I rise early almost every morning, and sit in my chamber without any clothes whatever, half an hour or an hour, according to the season, either reading or writing,” he wrote. “This practice is not in the least painful, but on the contrary, agreeable; and if I return to bed afterwards, before I dress myself, as sometimes happens, I make a supplement to my night’s rest, of one or two hours of the most pleasing sleep that can be imagined.”

The air bath might not have been Franklin’s most notable contribution to society, and adopting it as a practice likely won’t lead you to invent the next lightning rod. But it does illustrate the importance of finding your own rhythm in the first hours of your day. Productivity gurus have all sorts of advice on how to organize your morning routine, which include but are not limited to exercising, meditating, journaling, reading a book and setting intentions — all before your day even officially begins. 

Such an action-packed morning might be right for some people, but it isn’t for everyone. Here’s how to create a morning routine that works for you — regardless of whether you prefer your baths in water or air. 

Related: 5 Morning Habits That Will Start Your Day With Purpose

Waking up doesn’t have to hurt

As much as experts will tell you that the key to success is springing out of bed at 4:30 a.m., the truth is that early mornings aren’t for everyone. 

If you do want to train yourself to begin your day earlier, start slow. Laura Vanderkam, a time-management expert and author of What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, says that suddenly trying to wake up at 5 a.m. instead of your regular 7:30 is a recipe for hitting the “snooze” button. 

Instead, work in increments, setting the alarm 10 minutes earlier each day, and going to bed 10 minutes earlier each night. Calibrating your bedtime is crucial — if you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re not going to want to wake up. 

There’s also the matter of the alarm itself. Unless you absolutely can’t wake up any other way, use a soothing alarm that eases you gently out of sleep, rather than terrifies you into consciousness with a cacophony of beeps. There are innumerable options out there, from sunrise alarm clocks to those that optimize your wake-up time based on your sleep rhythms. As Vanderkam says, “[Getting up earlier] isn’t about punishing yourself.”

Related: What The Work Routines of Pharrell, Jack Dorsey, Shonda Rhimes, And 37 Other Business Leaders Say About Peak Performance

Clear your mind

The word “meditate” conjures images of sitting cross-legged on a pillow, hands resting on knees and eyes lightly closed. It’s a popular practice for a reason — it helps you keep emotions from controlling you by developing a non-reactive mind. 

I practice 20 minutes of Transcendental Meditation each morning, but I also do morning pages, which allow me to spill my unfiltered thoughts over the course of three blank pages before I get to work each day. I consider these pages a sort of mental cleanse, whether it’s working through a problem or spouting off about something totally banal. Whatever I come up with is fine — research has shown that releasing your subconscious mind makes you more likely to make creative connections before your mental processes hit their peak. 

Not ready to jump headfirst into an hour-long mindfulness practice? It’s okay to start small. Deep Patel has a great 10-minute routine for clearing out the cobwebs in your mind, recommending first drinking some water, followed by spending one or two minutes deep-breathing. Next, stretch your back, neck and shoulders, and spend a few minutes feeling grateful for what you have. Finally, take a minute or so to visualize yourself achieving your major goals for the day. It sounds like a lot, but in the end, it’s only one “snooze” button’s worth of time, and you’ll be amazed by how well it sets you up for success. 

Related: 5 Ways You Overcomplicate Your Morning Routine

Work with your natural rhythms 

Maybe you’ve found that no matter how early you get to sleep or how gently your alarm, you simply can’t prod yourself to wakefulness until 9 a.m. It’s not a failure on your part. Research shows that everyone has different peak hours; defined as the period of time each day when you’re at your sharpest mentally.   

Finding your own peak time can take some trial and error. Learning about mine has helped me tackle the most important strategic work during my best hours, which has been instrumental in helping me run my business. If you’re still finding yours, I recommend following this three-week experiment from author Chris Bailey, which asks you to rate your energy, focus and motivation at the end of every hour. It can seem daunting, but the patterns that emerge will help you capitalize on your prime times. 

If you feel guilty about working non-standard hours, think about this: Evan Williams, the hyper-successful co-founder of Twitter, Medium and Blogger, traded going to the gym first thing in the morning for the middle of the day. “My focus is usually great first thing in the morning, so going to the gym first is a trade-off of very productive time,” he says. He acknowledges that “it feels weird (at first) to leave the office in the middle of the day,” but finds that “total time spent is nearly the same with higher energy and focus across the board.” 

Everyone is different — Franklin has his air baths; Williams, his midday gym time. What works for one person might not work for you, and that’s okay. What matters is beginning every day by giving yourself the best chance for success. 

Related: What Your Morning Routine Is Missing

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Master the Adobe Creative Cloud and save money on your next ad campaign.


2 min read

Disclosure: Our goal is to feature products and services that we think you’ll find interesting and useful. If you purchase them, Entrepreneur may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners.


The internet is incredibly competitive for businesses. To stand out, you need a great marketing strategy and compelling, engaging branding and design. For many small businesses, hiring a growth marketer and a graphic designer can be an expense that’s just a little too steep to make. So, why not do it yourself? The All-in-One Adobe Creative Cloud Suite Certification Bundle can help.

This extensive, eight-course bundle will introduce you to the Adobe Creative Cloud, the leading creative software suite for professionals. You’ll get a crash course in some of the platform’s most popular tools, including Photoshop, Lightroom, After Effects, Illustrator, InDesign, XD, and Premiere Pro, gaining the kind of comprehensive education you’ll need to tackle virtually any project. Many of the courses are project-based, too, helping you learn how to develop a well-designed marketing strategy by actually doing it. You’ll learn how to create a logo, social media posts, presentations, and even videos in as little as ten minutes. By the end of the bundle, you’ll have a complete creative education that will help you create compelling ads and designs that can make your brand shine.

Start standing out. The All-in-One Adobe Creative Cloud Suite Certification Bundle is just $34 today.

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A look into the opportunities available for minority-owned businesses to engage with state and local governments.


4 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


There has never been a better time in recent history for minority-owned businesses to seek government contracting opportunities than now. To put this into its proper context, we must first understand that federal, state and local governments have laws and provisions in place that requires agencies and departments to allocate a portion of their budgets to minority-owned businesses.

But what defines a minority-owned business? According to the Small Business Administration, a minority-owned business is classified as a business that is owned by individuals that are a part of a “disadvantaged community”.

Laws and provisions to provide better access to opportunities for minority-owned businesses have been on the books for decades. However, in practice, the access to opportunities were not always as readily available or apparent as they might seem, especially when it came to government contracting. High-cost barriers to entry (ex. hiring the right consultants and legal advisors to assist the business) made it difficult for most minority businesses to gain access to opportunities due to the lack of adequate capital resources available to them and the difficulty they have had in securing credit facilities from financial institutions at market rates.

Thankfully, the sociological dynamics has shifted dramatically since the times that these laws, policies and provisions were initially brought to fruition. In today’s climate, governments from the federal level to the local level are more interested and motivated than ever to assist minority-owned businesses in successfully gaining access to contracting opportunities with them. Large, institutional shareholders across the board have been demanding better, more robust, actionable Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) methodologies that produce tangible results. Companies who did not take these demands seriously paid the price by way of their share prices plummeting in the wake of large shareholder divestitures.

The demonstration of large shareholders to exit companies that were not implementing strong DEI methodologies forced companies to take notice, pivot and adapt to the change in investor sentiment. Not only do shareholders require the company to have a strong DEI methodology in place, but they require that the company hold its supply chain, major business association and affiliations to the same standards. In order for politicians to continue to enjoy the generous contributions of corporations, they had to develop even more robust programs and initiatives at the federal, state, and local levels to ensure that not only were the opportunities available, but that access was attainable for the average minority business.

Related: 3 Ways to Support Minority-Owned Businesses

Colorado: an example

A great example of how governments have rolled out the red carpet for minority businesses in the contracting space is Colorado. I spoke extensively with Wael Khalifa, who is currently a special aide to the mayor of Denver. In his capacities within the government of Colorado, he has worked extensively on Colorado’s DEI framework and implementation.

Wael shared with me that Colorado’s Minority Business Office (MBO) provides free one-on-one consulting services as well as an online learning platform to help minority business owners understand and attain the different types of certifications available to them. For minority contractors, the office even educates them on the process of selecting, writing and submitting bid proposals to the state. The MBO also has an advisory council which is designed to provide a forum for which the perspectives of minority business owners can be brought to the attention of the state. In addition, the MBO also maintains a comprehensive database of all minority businesses that are certified as such with the state.

Related: The Government Wants You to Become an Entrepreneur

The state of Colorado also hosts the Advance Colorado Procurement Expo, which is a day-long event designed for businesses to showcase their products and services to state and local governments, attend workshops and network. Finally, in 2020, the state legislature passed SB20B-001 – COVID-19 Relief Small And Minority Businesses Arts Organizations in which the Colorado legislature allocated an additional $4 million to the MBO to provide direct relief payments, grants, loans, technical assistance and consulting support to minority-owned business.

Colorado is just one example of how states are strongly encouraging engagement with minority-owned businesses through legislation, regulation, guidance and funding to provide measurable access to opportunity at an unprecedented level as a part of their deepening DEI initiatives. Because many states are currently doing similar things to support minority businesses, the possibilities and opportunities for minority-owned businesses are limitless.

Related: These City Programs Are Giving Minority- and Women-Owned Businesses Access to Capital

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6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


The biggest mistake most first-time marketers make is attempting a “one-size fits all” approach to their marketing efforts. They launch one campaign, sent with the same message, to all people. That may work for something that has mass appeal, across all demographics (e.g., promoting ice cream). But, for most of us, we are trying to laser into a very specific target customer. Or, more likely, target customers (plural), each with a different focus. That is when you need to build different target customer personas, segment your lists and customize your marketing messaging to each of those different sub-segments. Allow me to explain in these two examples, one for a B2C business and the other for a B2B business.

A B2C persona-building case study

Let’s say you are a manufacturer of mattresses and you offer three different tiers of quality, the basic product from $499, the medium grade from $1,299 and the higher grade from $1,999 for a queen size mattress. One marketing option is to market all of your mattresses to all potential buyers and hope for success. A better option is to build a unique persona for each tier.

Perhaps the basic product appeals to lower-income demographics or students needing a cheap mattress for their dorm room, and the middle-grade product appeals to someone in their 30s that is furnishing their first home on a tight budget. The higher-end product most appeals to people in their 50s that place a high premium on comfort and getting a good night’s sleep to help resolve their lower back pain. These are three distinct personas, and you need to segment your customer lists and customize your messaging to each one, separately.

Related: 3 Marketing Tactics Entrepreneurs Should Implement to Improve Their Return on Investment

A B2B persona-building case study

The same holds true in the B2B world. Let’s say you are a call center software business that provides workflow tools for call center reps to use, including a reporting and analytics package to optimize performance. The first persona is the call center rep, teaching them how your product is going to make their lives easier. The second persona is the call center manager, teaching them how you are going to simplify the management of their team and cross-filter best practices between the call center reps. The third persona could be someone like a COO or CFO, impressing them with the fact that your clients typically see a 20% increase in revenues and a 10% reduction in payroll costs by using your software. Again, each of these personas would be segmented into three separate groups and marketed to with messaging specific to their needs.

The above example is relatively simply, resulting in three personas. I saw one business selling 10 products into 10 industries to 10 roles within the company across 10 different languages as an international seller. Holy moly, that is a lot! 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 equals 10,000 unique personas that needs distinct messaging. What a chore that would be for the marketing department, having to build 10,000 variations of every campaign that goes out. So, maybe in this case, my first question for the company would be: Do you really need to be doing all of this, or can you better focus your efforts around your best sellers?

The other thing to think about with B2B: Where are they in the marketing funnel and sales cycle? Are they upper funnel — just starting to research their needs? Are they middle funnel — starting to assess various vendors? Are they lower funnel — comparing features and prices immediately prior to purchase? 

In this example, those are three separate personas that get unique messaging. The upper funnel may be speaking to your brand reputation and awards, the middle funnel may be speaking to your best of breed features and functionalities versus the competition, and the lower funnel may be speaking to save 10% if you book by the end of the month. Therefore, the call center software company with three personas discussed above really has nine different personas when you layer on these upper, middle and lower funnel status assumptions.

How to segment your lists

There are a few ways to tag your prospects and segment your lists. The first way is to simply ask your customers to self-identify themselves through customer surveys or online forms. The second way is to estimate which segment they are in based on their user behavior (e.g., the person looking at the $1,999 mattress on your website gets tagged as the higher-end buyer looking for comfort). The third way is to actually purchase prospect lists with the parameters you think are most desired for that persona (e.g., a list of CFOs to pitch cost savings advantages from your product).

Once the lists are created, they need to be stored in your CRM in separate “silos” sothat  they each can be sent unique messaging. The lists need to be updated over time for accuracy, and they also need to be grown over time for new customer additions to your database. So having someone on your marketing team that understands CRM and database management would be helpful here.

Related: 3 Crucial Ways to Measure Social Media’s Impact on Your Business

How to customize your campaigns

Now comes the fun part — customizing campaigns to each of your personas. In the example with the $1,999 mattress, the copy needs to speak to quality and comfort and the creatives need to have images of people in their 50s. It is just the opposite for your $499 mattress — that would pound home your price advantages, showing the image of a college kid in his dorm room. In the end, we are talking about unique copy, unique images and unique offers by persona. The more personas you have, the more creative work your team needs to do. Where you can, keep it simple.

Concluding thoughts

The emphasis point of this piece: Stop doing “one-size fits all” marketing. The more you segment your lists and customize the messaging by persona, the higher your conversion rates will increase. Yes, this will require more work and labor costs for creatives, but the resulting increase in conversion rates will more than offset these costs. Let’s say you are a $5MM business with a 1% conversion rate and one creative designer costing $50K. If adding two more designers for an additional $100K can increase your conversion rate to 2%, you are now a $10MM business. You just got a 50x return on that additional staff investment. As you can see, persona development, list segmentation, and campaign customization is really important for maximizing your return on investment. Good luck taking your marketing efforts to the next level. If you need help, just let me know.

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6 min read


This story originally appeared on StockMarket

4 Top Health Care Stocks To Watch In The Stock Market Now

Health care stocks stand amongst the largest sectors in today’s stock market. It comprises companies that sell medical supplies, medical services, and even those that offer medical insurances. As some would say, “The greatest wealth is health“. Many people compromise health in pursuit of wealth in their youth, only to then rely on wealth to nurse their health as they age. Whether it is for prevention or to treat a certain disease, the health care industry will always be relevant. 

For instance, health care companies such as CVS Health Corp (NYSE: CVS) play a major role in rolling out vaccinations to combat COVID-19. The company has administered well over 17 million doses and allows walk-in vaccination. CVS stock is currently looking at gains of over 20% year-to-date. For one thing, health care stocks will likely continue to grow once we’ve overcome the pandemic. No matter how you slice it, health care will likely remain essential regardless of the state of the world. With all that in mind, do you have a list of top health care stocks to buy in the stock market now? 

Health Care Stocks To Buy [Or Sell] In June

Veeva Systems Inc

First, we have one of the leading providers of cloud-based software solutions for the global life sciences industry, Veeva. Its solution enables companies to realize the benefits of modern cloud-based architecture and mobile applications for their business functions. In short, it helps companies to bring products to the market faster and more efficiently. VEEV stock has been up by over 30% over the past year. 

top health care stocks (VEEV stock)

Last week, the company reported an impressive earnings report. Its revenue came in at $433.57 million, up by 29% year-over-year. Out of which, subscription revenue climbed by 26%. Furthermore, its adjusted earnings grew by 37.9%. This is impressive as it exceeded the expectations of analysts. Besides, Veeva also saw the addition of 59 new customers, taking the total count to more than 1000 customers.

On April 15, the company and leading clinical research organization Parexel announced a strategic collaboration. This collaboration involves Parexel standardizing Veeva’s suite of clinical operations applications to streamline operations. Besides, Parexel will have early access and provide input into Veeva’s clinical products. In a world where tech plays a huge factor in health care, it puts the company in an ideal position moving forward. All things considered, would you buy VEEV stock?

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Johnson & Johnson

Next, we have one of the leading health care companies in the world, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ). It engages in the research and development, manufacturing, and sale of a range of products in the health care field. In the past year, the company has been making headlines due to its production of COVID-19 vaccines. JNJ stock has been trending upwards since the start of the year, up by almost 10% during this period. 

biotech stocks to buy now (JNJ stock)

On Monday, Denmark’s government asked the country’s health authorities to reconsider the decision to exclude JNJ and AstraZeneca’s (NASDAQ: AZN) COVID-19 shots from its vaccination program. It appears there has been a delay in the country’s vaccination program due to the delivery of fewer Moderna (NASDAQ: MRNA) and CureVac (NASDAQ: CVAC) vaccines than expected. 

In addition, South Korea will be getting 1 million doses of JNJ’s vaccine this week mainly to inoculate military personnel. The country has reported a lower death toll compared to many developed countries from COVID-19. There may have been some hiccups along the way with claims of side effects associated with JNJ’s vaccine. However, most of it has been cleared and the need for vaccination far exceeds the minute chance of side effects. With that in mind, would JNJ stock be a viable investment now?

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Cigna Corp

Cigna Corp is a health services company that offers medical, dental insurance, and related products and services. With approximately 190 million customers and patient relationships in more than 30 countries, the company is able to harness actionable insights that address whole-person health and drive better health outcomes. The company stock has been on a healthy incline this year. It has risen over 25% year-over-year.

best health care stocks (CI stock)

In May, the company along with Oscar Health, Inc (NYSE: OSCR) announced that Cigna Administered by Oscar small group health insurance will be available to Arizona employers. Small businesses throughout Arizona continue to struggle from the impact brought on by the pandemic. Hence, it is important that small businesses are getting aid to get back on their feet and keep their doors open. Thus, Cigna Administered by Oscar meets those needs by offering affordable health plans for small businesses.

Financially, the company reported earnings of $4.73 per share in its latest first-quarter earnings report. This is mostly attributed to higher pharmacy revenues, fees, and other income. Also, it reported revenues of $41 billion, up by 6.5% year-over-year. Given how health care is in the limelight over the past year, the company’s products and services are in high demand. So, would you say that CI stock is worth investing in now?

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Sanofi SA

To sum up the list, we have the French health care company, Sanofi. Essentially, the company focuses on the research, development, manufacturing, and marketing of therapeutic solutions. Its three operating segments are Pharmaceuticals, Consumer Health Care (CHC), and Vaccines. Despite trading sideways for the past year, it appears that SNY stock has been trending upwards since March. 

best health care stocks to buy now (SNY stock)

Just last week, the company along with GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) started enrollment in their Phase 3 clinical study to assess the safety, efficacy, and immunogenicity of their COVID-19 vaccine candidate. The primary endpoint of the study is the prevention of symptomatic COVID-19 in adults, with secondary endpoints being the prevention of severe COVID-19 disease and the prevention of asymptomatic infection. Should this be successful, it would serve as a boost to both companies as we strive to fight against the global pandemic. 

Earlier in May, Sanofi also entered into a three-year research collaboration with Stanford University School of Medicine. Together, the two organizations will work to advance the understanding of immunology and inflammation through open scientific exchange. In the field of science and health care, research is always ongoing and is the foundation of new groundbreaking discoveries. Hence, would you take a bet with SNY stock at this point in time?

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