Category Archives: Content Marketing

Writing for Your Audience: How to Keep Them Engaged While Still Selling

How Social Media Holds the Keys to Successful Business Writing

NewspaperAccording to The State of the News Media: 2013 Report by The Pew Research Center, “Newspaper website audiences grew 3 percent as measured by unique visitors from November 2011 to November 2012. However, total visits decreased almost 5 percent in the same time period.” These numbers point out an interesting phenomena occurring in media as consumers are transitioning their readership to online channels, while spending less time reading the news than they did in the past.

So as a writer, how do you keep your audience engaged, especially when your end goal is to sell your product? What are the emerging trends in business writing sales and how can you help stay abreast of the latest writing techniques needed to make a sale? Believe it or not, social media may hold the insider’s tips into keeping your audience engaged.

Keep it Short and Simple

The shear metrics behind the Twitter website should demonstrate consumer’s demand for short and to-the-point information consumption. According to the company’s website, average monthly users soared from 100 million in 2011 to 255 million currently. This represents a 155 percent increase in just three years. Compared to the 3 percent growth for newspaper website audiences, it’s clear to see Twitter has the emerging market cornered.

That said; how can you capture audiences using the same characteristics of Twitter? Well for starters, consider keeping messages short, simple, and to the point. Twitter has a 140-character limit for a reason; people don’t have the time or attention span to read anything longer. Imagine how successful your next media ad text would be if you sold every key benefit within the first 140 characters. Or, what if you wrote a sales blog that got to the point in three paragraphs instead of seven? While short and sweet definitely has its place, the theory of “less is more” cannot be lost when it comes to writing to sell.

Visual Interest Is Crucial

Dog Watching ButterflyImagery is a necessary part of any successful business writing piece. In fact, imagery, be it a company logo, creative photo to accompany your advertisement, or even a fun video to go along side your blog, can be the difference between capturing an attentive audience or receiving a high website click through rate before your readers actually absorb any of your content. For example, organizations such as the Business Marketing Organization are recognizing the value of using up-to-date, intriguing visuals, and are updating their brand imagery accordingly.

Social media sites like Instagram and Pinterest provide leading examples of the use of effective imagery which brands should be striving for. True-to-life, action shots of average people in real life settings are the business imagery that will resonate in the future. Gone are the days of staged portraits with professional actors who know nothing about your product. Looking for great imagery to accompany your business writing piece? Try photographing some of your actual clients using your product in a real-life setting. Or, use customer submitted photos. If you think it would get a “Like” on Instagram or a Pin on Pinterest, it’s probably a solid image.

Relationship Building Is a Necessary Step

NotebookYour business writing piece should speak to your audience in a way they can relate to. Just like your Facebook followers, users who regularly visit your business blog or look for your advertisements will expect a certain caliber and stream of content from you. For example, the content created on a Facebook page for a local rock band would be much different than the Facebook content created for the corner garden and nursery supply store. Keep in mind the audience you are speaking to about your business just like you would your Facebook page:

  • What will my friends/family/followers want to know about this product or service?
  • Will this information actually interest them?
  • Have I already talked about this idea in the recent past?

Likewise, make your business writing a two-way conversation. While this specifically applies to blogs, it is crucial that your audience feels like you are talking with them, not at them. Solicit commentary from your audience. Welcome guest bloggers. Make your writing a conversational piece verses simply just a straight sales pitch. The more social engagement you can bring into your piece, the stronger your final sales results will be.

~ Katie

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Filed under Audience, Capturing Audience, Content, Content Marketing, Sales, Social Media, Technical Writing, The Writing Process

What can we learn about marketing from CNBC’s marketing of The Profit?

Donald Trump. Mark Cuban.

Mr. Wonderful. 

Kevin oleary make up

In the last eight months, a new business teacher has emerged to entertain weary and wanna-be entrepreneurs.

Who is this new profit?

Marcus Lemonis- and his show, The Profit.  (Do you think the show’s name was purposeful?)

Lean in. We can certainly learn a lot about marketing from a network marketing machine trying to launch a new television show.

To start, watch CNBC’s The Profit.  It’s a newer show trying to build an audience in its second season.  At its start in August 2013, the show weighed in between 248,000 viewers and 254,000 viewers, but as of March 18, 2014, the audience grew to 415,000 in the 10 pm time slot thanks to the Worldwide Trailer Sales episode .

What has the series been doing to build its brand?

 

Airing Interesting Content

Piggy-backing off of the success of Shark Tank, the premise of The Profit is that accomplished businessman, Marcus Lemonis, can save failing businesses and ultimately generate profit, if current owners are willing to sell their majority shares for Lemonis’ infusions of cash, instruction, and hard work.  The Profit’s Worldwide Trailer Sales episode, for example, while controversial, ranked well with general audiences because it was a lesson in what not to do in business– don’t air dirty laundry in front of co-workers and employees.

The Profit team also delivers related business insights and advice via video and articles through the show’s CNBC web site.

Knowing your niche and casting stories that are interesting and insightful are integral components to success.  If you sell a service or a product, focus on delivering the best possible quality product.  Hire a team that understands how to deliver the type of content that’s needed for each channel. You can drive segmented audience traffic to your website or store, if you deliver a story that’s relevant, engaging, and right-sized for your customers.

I once had a college professor spilt our class into thirds.  Some of us were producers and had to conjure up show names and premises.  Some of us were advertisers trying to decide where we wanted to place our advertising, and the rest were sales people.  All of us voted on what shows we would want to watch.

The lesson?  In a public university college class, the most outrageous titles always won the popular vote and usually those had to do with sex, models, and alcohol.  Nice, straight-forward, and generally wholesome programming usually bombed.  Advertisers soon learned that they had to weigh exposure to more viewers against their brand’s image and associations.  Sales people didn’t want to get stuck selling low-rated shows to advertisers, so they pitched work more often with those producers who had a string of titles that resonated with audiences.  I learned that what I thought would go over big (nice, educational shows) didn’t and, in looking back, some of the voting was probably influenced by certain frats hosting the party that night.  The content has to fit the audience and be justified with numbers.

When I saw the Worldwide Trailer Sales Inc episode of The Profit, I had déjà vu.  That crazy episode- with the foul language and bad behavior, had all the makings of a winner in the ratings.

 

Real-Time Engagement on Social Media

So, after the show, @marcuslemonis stayed an hour longer to tweet with fans.  Without ruining the show for you (because it ends rather abruptly), this technique helped viewers to sort through reactions. What a great idea!  Use social media to start, clarify, or end conversations.  How?  Create a video or blog post about your service or product.  Then, expand upon the conversation in another channel.  Ask viewers to migrate there with you.  You’ll influence search, loyalty, and engagement with this technique.

Producers of the Profit received some decent feedback about the March 18, 2014 show and I suspect a sequel to the Worldwide Trailers episode was even discussed.  If not, the feedback was valuable for fine-tuning Season 3 criteria and upcoming episodes.  Test the market place for your product or service with feedback obtained from social media.

If anything, Twitter gave Lemonis the opportunity to share feelings and thoughts about the show.  He worked on developing relationships with his emerging fan base.The profit tweets

Lemonis uses his Twitter account to promote upcoming shows and to build his personal brand.  He asks for entries for The Profit’s next casting season and promotes contests that give fans chances to ask him questions and to meet him for lunch.

Is your CEO using Twitter to rally the troops and to promote your brand?

 

Create Memes

The Profit Facebook page employs another search marketing tactic.  It features memes.The profit meme

Take professional pictures of scenes from your story and add wording to those pictures to create memes or info-graphics that link to your website. People are more likely to share pictures and those shares- especially on G+ and Facebook can influence search engine results.  Pinners are even creating boards with sayings from the show!

What are your company’s sayings?  Take snippets of the CEO’s best speeches, add them to pictures, and ask the team to pin ‘em.

Lemonis and The Profit are also on Zeebox.  What’s Zeebox? It’s a place where TV fans go to hang-out with cast members and fans of their favorite shows.  The conversations in these micro-communities give producers feedback and insights, while feeding additional information to fans.

 

Create Videos

The Profit shares about ten full-length episodes on its website. It then breaks those videos into smaller tidbits with inserts of business advice from Lemonis.  You can do this, too.  What is your company’s story?  Its mission?  What does it do well?  Educate your customers, your employees, or your partners with a YouTube channel filled with useful videos.

 

Cross Promote other Channels

If you own other properties or are in relationships with partners, promote each other.

Lemonis tweets to Shark Tank investors, interviews with CNBC, and appears on CNBC’s Power Lunch.  The Profit even sponsored a Nascar raceLemonis is also visible promoting the show with interviews like this one with the HuffPost. Stories and interviews are cropping up on blogs like Inc., My Web Writers, and Ken McCarthy.

The result?  More exposure.

Growing ratings.

Increased profits for the companies vested in the show.

 

Marketing Take-Aways

What can you learn from the marketing of CNBC’s new show, The Profit?

  1. Know who you are and what you want to say to customers.
  2. Promote your mission in sound bites and actions through tweets, posts, memes, and videos.
  3. Be available. Stay engaged with customers.
  4. Cross promote. Find like-minded partners and help each other by interviewing and promoting each other.
  5. Provide relevant content that your niche will actually want to digest and share.

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Filed under Business Strategy, Content Marketing, Facebook, Google Plus, Infographics & Memes, Marketing, Pinterest, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), Social Media, Social Media contests, Twitter

Nothing Fits “All of Your Needs”

The phrase appears everywhere.  Our service or products will fit “all of your needs.”  Wow!  This is it.  I’ve hit the Holy Grail.  ALL of my needs.  Where do I sign up??  I need a new wardrobe.  I need someone to wash my dog.  I need more time to watch Shark Tank Tuesdays.  I need a vacation.  And on and on…

The reality is, nothing fits “all of your needs.”  Not any one person, company, or product.  A search of Google yields about 121,000,000 results for “all of your needs.”  That large a number says that there are a lot of people and businesses that believe they can do it all.  (Humorous sidetrack:  the number one search result on Google for “all of your needs” returns a link to a Bible passage from Philippians 4:19 that says, “And my God will meet all your needs.” Score one for the big guy.)

Delete trite phrases

Delete trite phrases

One of the lessons that should be taught to content writers during their Marketing 101 course is to avoid using the phrase “all of your needs” in copy.  Forever.  In fact, there should be a law against using such a trite phrase that’s guaranteed to underdeliver.  Besides “all of your needs,” the Harvard Business Review released their own Bizspeak Blacklist of overused word phrases that display an absence of actual thought.  Some offenders:

  • Think outside the box

  • Mission-critical

  • Hit the ground running

  • Push the envelope

  • Value-added

  • Level the playing field

SHIFT Communications took overuse of a trite phrase one step further and sampled 62,768 press releases from 2013.  Their goal was to find the top 50 most overused words marketers penned in press releases.  Do you use (or overuse) any of these:  new, first, most, leading, best, great, largest, better, special, or better?  If so, you are not alone.  They made the 50 most overused words in press releases list for 2013 along with mobile, professional, current, real, and top.

4 Steps To Avoid Trite Marketing Phrases

  1. Describe what makes your item or service unique from others like it.  This is your chance to take a 30-second elevator pitch and translate into a few short sentences.  Some items to cover in your written description may include a guarantee, something that will be fixed, benefits when used, and specialties that will stand out from the crowd.

  1. Wrap your product around words that trip the senses.  Effective copy crafts words that make the reader believe they cannot possibly live without the product or service.  Paint a word picture that appeals to one or more of the five senses.  Create a sensory experience with words that let’s the reader see a vision, remember a smell, or desire to touch.  For inspiration, click on a few of the products from one of the best eCommerce brands today that knows how to appeal to the senses.  The Duluth Trading Company uses humor through the words on their t-shirt product descriptions.  One solves the problem of confronting the unsightly shock of happening upon someone with a much-feared “Plumbers Butt.”

  1. Share a true story or testimonial.  For marketers, nothing is better than word-of-mouth referrals where one customer sells another on a product or service.  BazaarVoice, a leader in gathering product or service reviews, reports that items with positive feedback convert 12.5% better than those without.  Let the praises of your customers sing for others and add their words in a quote format to your marketing copy.

  1. Appeal to the imagination.  The art of poetry is lost.  Bring wordsmithing back with words that evoke images for your products or services.  Words to Use is a website that can help remove writer’s block and find the right words about anything.  Can you describe a rose?

While you won’t be able to entirely eliminate trite phrases from your writing, editing with a mind toward using words with sizzle will bring your marketing prose to the next level.

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Filed under Blog Writing Tips, Content, Descriptive Writing, Narrative Writing, Revising & Proofreading, The Writing Process, Words Which Sell, Writer's Block

Use a Mutual Fund Strategy to Counter Google

Diversify your search portfolio

Diversify your search portfolio

Investors learned the trick long ago. Place your hard-earned money in just one stock and it is win big or go home. Diversify your monies and invest in multiple stocks through mutual funds and minimize your risks. It’s a winning strategy eCommerce marketers should look to as well.

Why Build a One-Legged Stool? 

When it comes to search engine marketing, conversations drift towards how tactical efforts will affect the search engine result page ranking on Google. Of course, there are Bing, Ask, Dogpile, Duck Duck Go and a bunch of other search engine “also-rans,” but with two-thirds of all searches being conducted on Google according to comScore, they are the tail that wags the dog in search.

The attention given solely to and dominance of Google is not a good thing. Having all your marketing eggs in one large search basket places too much pass-fail risk in one channel. And, it’s one channel you can’t control. (Think of the next Google Panda or Penguin update.) This is similar to what investors learned to circumvent 80 years ago. Marketing diversification is the key to long-term growth and success.

Broaden Your Definition of Search 

Sure. Google is the #1 most visited web site according to Alexa rankings with its primary purpose being search. Facebook is #2 and is primarily a social network. But, at the very top of the Facebook site, there’s a search box! How does your product, brand, or service rank when searched on Facebook?

There’s a search box at or near the top of #6 Wikipedia, too. And #8 LinkedIn, #11 Twitter, and #12 Amazon. Of course, there’s Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, SlideShare, and dozens of other heavily visited web sites that all have search engines. Does a click on their search engine result pages lead to your site?

Internet Shoppers Leverage Amazon Reviews 

Why Amazon Matters Now More Than Ever

Why Amazon Matters Now More Than Ever

Forrester Research recently published a report called, Why Amazon Matters Now More than Ever. The study surfaced that, in 2012, 30% of online consumers were already using other approaches to search for and research products, like reading Amazon customer reviews, before making a purchase decision.  These shoppers were not necessarily making their purchase on Amazon. This behavior is on the increase. According to the study, only 13% of online users are researching a potential product purchase solely online through search engines like Google. Chalk one up for including Amazon in your search strategy. Be sure to add other review sites like Epinions.com, Buzzillions.com, ConsumerReports.org, ConsumerSearch.com, and CNET.com to your search marketing strategy list.

Smile for the Camera 

With more people than ever carrying smart phones with mega-pixel cameras embedded within them, consumers are being trained to digest image content quickly and easily. Three of the four top social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) have the same common characteristic – they place an emphasis on sharing images. The recent rapid rise to success of Pinterest and Buzzfeed only adds testaments to the viral power and search potential of image-based content.

Mean Stinks Photo Sharing

Mean Stinks Photo Sharing

Proctor & Gamble leveraged this trend recently with their “Mean Stinks” Secret deodorant campaign by creating a photo searching and sharing application to spread an anti-bullying message.  According to P&G, over 1.5 million girls spread awareness about girl-to-girl bullying through the generation of these images.

Successful brands that receive the most social image shares also have another common characteristic. They know how to pepper in some well-placed, creative images into their written content that drive consumers to search for them to share.

Spread the Wealth 

A solid search engine marketing strategy creates content that aims to improve the search engine results page rank for as many visit driving sites as possible, not just Google. Both what you do with content on your own web site, as well as these other web sites, can have a positive impact on many ways people can find your business or service when they search. Having a diversified content strategy in place also insures your site against being at the mercy of the next Google Dance, when your rankings on just that search engine slip a bit.

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Filed under Business Strategy, Content, Content Marketing, Marketing, Search Engine Marketing

DeGeneres Crashes Twitter the Wrong Oscars Headline

Oscars Group Selfie Sets Twitter Record

Oscars Group Selfie Sets Twitter Record

What was the big headline from the 2014 Oscars telecast?  “Ellen DeGeneres Broke Twitter.”  That’s not the best headline.  Instead, the big headline from the Academy Awards should have been, “Ellen DeGeneres Proves Power of Social Media.”  Millions played a part acting to support the lesson and promote multiple brands worldwide.

Midway through the show, the Oscars hostess walked down an aisle of stars and asked actor Bradley Cooper to take a selfie with her.  As they both crouched in front of Cooper’s extended arm, several other stars sitting nearby quickly crowded around Cooper and DeGeneres.  In a matter of seconds, the group photo, including Kevin Spacey,  Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, and Angelina Jolie.  It was about to go viral on Twitter and be seen by millions.

A few moments later, DeGeneres uttered what the social media world had already known as their Twitter feeds froze for twenty minutes due to all the retweet activity.  “We crashed and broke Twitter.  We made history.”

Former Obama Record Retweet

Former Obama Record Retweet

Before the end of the broadcast, the star-studded group selfie had been retweeted over 2 million times, breaking a record of 781,728 retweets set by President Barack Obama with the picture of him hugging First Lady, Michelle Obama, after his 2012 re-election.

Which brands were the beneficiaries from this comic interlude? 

Of course, Twitter scored big.  The short message service specializing in 140-character bursts of thought proved it is not all about words.  It was the photo that generated the activity proving there are many ways to send a message others would be interested in receiving.

Samsung Electronics Corp. enjoyed the value of product placement as it was their electronic device that snapped the picture of the moment.  Their One Samsung advertising deal with ABC television included an agreement to take ten promoted tweet selfies in the green room at The Oscars and send them to the world.

Obviously, Ellen DeGeneres bolstered her brand image and savvy know-how of social media use.  Her @TheEllenShow Twitter account grew by a 47x factor the day of the Oscars broadcast compared to an average day and now boasts 27 million followers.

Finally, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences proved it was hip to a new generation of social media users.  After the brief Twitter outage, when services were restored, @TheAcademy sent a tweet of their own saying, “Sorry, our bad.”  It generated 4,211 retweets.

What should your brand learn? 

Watching advertising’s best on the big stage can provide your business with a few takeaways:

  • Create memorable moments.  What unique photo or situation can you create that will be fun to share and get people talking about your brand?  Mix words about your brand, with images and video.

  • Plant your product strategically.  Let your product or service be seen by others so they can interact with it and comment on it.  A paid placement sponsorship or a few product giveaways cannot hurt.

  • Get involved with social media.  It’s new.  It’s a bit untested and wild west.  It’s here to stay.  If the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences can be trendy after being in business for 86 years, so can you.

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Filed under Audience, Content Marketing, Marketing, Social Media, The Writing Process, Twitter

Email Marketing Is Not Old School

My Web Writers Content EmailsEmail marketing seems so old school. Today, it’s often overlooked as eCommerce Marketing pros are pressured by top brass to look forward towards the next big customer acquisition tool. Should we be building Pinterest boards or posting daily video snippets on YouTube? What’s this Quora thing and should we be active there? The list of potential new ways to engage customers can become endless. Improving email marketing too easily gets brushed aside.

Simms Jenkins, in his book The New Inbox, notes that, “Email marketing is the digital hub in a social and moblie world.” He couldn’t be more spot on. Have you ever tried to start a Facebook or Twitter social media account without an email address? Most apps require using social logins with start with an email too!

With all this movement forward into new digital marketing channels, organizations should stop for a moment to consider the vital role email plays. With every eCommerce transaction, asking the customer to provide an email address is required. From that requirement flows a string of email communications: order confirmations, shipping confirmations, invitations to provide feedback on the online shopping experience, reminders to complete a product review, and prompts to follow the brand using social media. The list of potential email marketing activities doesn’t stop.

Weeks and months after the purchase, trigger campaigns follow with “since you purchased A, you might also like to purchase B” offers. There are reminders that you may need to re-purchase that same item again. Incentives are shared to join loyalty programs. Brand messages are being reinforced every step of the way through these emails.

It is the written word that powers these essential email marketing messages that support eCommerce. Too often, the words themselves are not reviewed to ensure they function as well as intended. Email marketers should periodically run through a checklist:

1. What is the call to action that is being focused upon within each email communication?
2. Does the messaging support the brand?
3. Does the wording ramble? Customers spend a few seconds per email. Brevity is key.
4. Is the message memorable? Should it be?
5. Did the message provide value from a customer’s perspective?
6. Do all the hyperlinks still work?
7. Are you properly using ALT text on images as a call to action?
8. Have the Subject lines been A/B tested for open rate improvements?
9. Are the font sizes being used for words big enough to be read on a mobile device?

If conducting a review of your email marketing practices is far down the list of future to-dos, bring on board a writing workforce to review and improve your content. With a few updates, you can quite easily demonstrate that the old email dog can still bite! ~Keith

Related Posts To Read:
5 Tips to Grow Your Email Audience
What Should Web Writers Know About Content Creation in 2014
Purchasing Furniture – Why Did She Buy From Your Store?

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Filed under Content Marketing, Email Campaigns, Marketing, The Writing Process

Radio’s One-to-One Marketing Secret Resurrected

radio-dialOne-to-one marketing is not new.  Successful radio broadcasters have leveraged this form of communication for almost one hundred years.  As the Radio Association of Broadcasters Users Guide notes, “Most people listen to radio on their own in their own personal space such as the car, the kitchen, the bedroom etc.  When they say it on TV, they’re saying it to everybody, whereas when I hear it on the radio they’re saying it more to me personally.”

Just like radio, this is how the Internet works today.  While surfing the web, a one-to-one message is targeting a specific audience group.  That message is further refined with each click to the individual level as specific content marketing strategies for top sites are being personalized for each user.

Four trends will continue to support this ongoing growth of one-to-one content marketing on the web for many years to come:

The one-size-fits-all marketing broadcast from the 20th century is not relevant in this era of social media.  Take note of how many Super Bowl and Olympics commercials on the broadcast networks encourage viewers to engage personally with the brand.  Customers are individuals and do not want to be treated like masses.  That was how TV broadcasts used to work.  Today, top brands treat individuals as they are and address their own unique sets of wants and needs.  Just follow the conversations brands are having with followers using hashtags seen on these television commercials.  By its personalized nature, one-to-one marketing via social media fulfills this desire to have each individual’s voice be heard.

Personalized direct marketing will only increase.  Despite all the time saving devices, shoppers are more pressed than ever for time.  Personal content marketing will continue to grow to meet the needs of customers who don’t want to wait in long lines or sit in traffic.  They seek to make quick purchase decisions.  Crowd sourcing product recommendations through “customers who bought this also bought this” algorithms cut to the chase and streamline the web shopping experience.

Consumers will freely share the brands they are loyal to with others.  Shoppers love the perks they receive from brands that reinforce a unique value proposition during every purchase occasion. One-to-one marketing techniques used by eCommerce marketers today focus on discovering a brand’s best customers and reward them frequently for their loyalty.  Who doesn’t share news of big discounts received or memorable experiences?

Mass-media approaches will decline.  With advances in business intelligence gathering, market research analysis, and database mining technology, marketers will be able to engage customers personally in ways never before imagined.  GPS tracking, geo fences, and instant messaging will provide potential customers with the right message, at the right moment, at the right location.  These technological advances will offer one-to-one marketers a more cost-effective way to reach customers as businesses continue to personalize their messages.

While most decision-makers realize that one-to-one communication opens the door to revenue, knowing which technologies and human resources are worth investing in to make your marketing plan successful takes wisdom. The number of companies in the content marketing space has more than doubled in the last couple years. This rapid growth was sparked by Google’s Panda update in 2011, which emphasized quality content and continues with the 2013 Hummingbird update. While there have been abuses to guest posting for SEO back-links, which Matt Cutt’s addressed in his January 2014 post, “The Decay and Fall of Guest Blogging for SEO,” marketing with a targeted message in mind will continue to thrive in blogs, social media, press releases, video and on your website. Investing in quality content creation continues to be an integral part of one-to-one marketing success.


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Filed under Business Strategy, Content Marketing, Hummingbird, Marketing, Panda