Rethinking Marketing

Four links that will make you rethink

Today I thought I would share with you four “must read” articles that will make you rethink — rethink marketing, rethink business, rethink work and rethink life. I read a lot of great content online. I share some of it on LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+, but today I’ll share four that I think are particularly amazing. They’re not necessarily articles that are related to marketing, business, work and life, but you can apply it to those areas.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I did:

  • [Rethink Marketing] Use Sales Linguistics to Structure Winning Presentations: Marketers spend a lot of time presenting to clients, small crowds or big auditoriums. We present to clients, colleagues, bosses and peers. Why? To sell our ideas. This article helps you understand how to structure your presentations to get your point across. Learn about Situational Dominance, Behaviour Interruption, Commands, Foreground and Background Suggestions.
  • [Rethink Business] Homegrown Retailers Falling Behind as Canadians Embrace E-Commerce: The Globe and Mail article outlines how some Canadian retailers have fallen behind…way behind their American counterparts when it comes to E-Commerce. As Canadians are getting more comfortable with purchasing online, their loyalty to Canadian brands and businesses is suffering. They are heading south of the border (virtually that is) to do their shopping despite the higher shipping and custom fees. This articles highlights the consequences of ignoring the digital space for too long. At some point you just won’t be able to catch-up. I hope it’s a lesson for all; digital is here to stay (it’s 2013, I don’t think I should have to say this).
  • [Rethink Work] AP Twitter Hack Causes Panic on Wall Street and Sends Down Plunging: This article fits in each category. On Tuesday April 23rd the Associated Press’s Twitter account got hacked and announced an explosion in the White House. Wall Street freaked out. The Dow plunged 143 points. Did you feel it? Probably not, the losses were quickly recovered. So what’s the big story here? The reason the Dow plunged so fast is that increasingly Wall Street is guided by algorithms that scour news sources like Twitter, analyse sentiment and trade stocks accordingly. The algorithms read “explosion at the White House, President Obama injured.” which means sell, sell, sell. Limited human intervention needed. Of course they’ll rectify and the algorithms will get “smarter.” But think about this… How easily can your work be replaced by an algorithm? Trading stocks seems like a complicated process of analysis and evaluation, but if you break it down enough, computers can do it (and get tricked, just like their human counterparts). I’m not saying it’s good or bad, I’m just saying…think about it. We are still at the early phases of an increasingly complex digitalized and robotized world. Like it or not, it’s happening. Fascinating question.
  • [Rethink Life] The Secret Workings of the World’s Central Bankers: Let’s stick to the world of finance. This radio interview highlights some of the workings of the world’s top Central Bankers. Their mandate is to keep world economies stable and predictable. They’re currently printing tons of money and at the same time keeping interests incredibly low. In a way wiping out the savings of a generation who was told to “save their money.” My aim here isn’t to be all doomy and gloomy, but it’s to say this — how much influence do you think you have over your future? While it’s impossible to have complete control, I know that; but in a world that’s becoming increasingly complex (in large part due to digitization and robotization…see previous link), the answer has somehow been to simplify. Don’t wait for a saviour.

What links would you like to share?

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Marketing goals

We were talking about goals in this week’s newsletter and it got me thinking about marketing goals. I think marketers need to get a whole lot better at goal setting. Let me explain.

There are four items that I think can be improved… Meaningful goals; clear definitions; team buy-in; and expertise.

  1. Meaningful goals or lack thereof are arguably the biggest issue. For example, increasing Facebook Likes is not a meaningful goal by itself. Each business has a model which defines how they make money. Your marketing goals need to be aligned at some level with that. So let’s say you’re a media company and you make money from advertising, your goals should be related to increasing traffic. In that context increasing Likes and engagement on Facebook makes sense if you notice traffic coming from the site.
  2. Clear definitions go hand-in-hand with item 1. “We’ll increase Facebook Likes” is not clear. “We’ll increase Likes by xy% by doing a and b” is better. Makes sense?
  3. Getting the team on board. Goals need to be shared with the team. Often they’re given in a vacuum. Each team member should know what your overall goals is and what others’ objectives are.
  4. Expertise. One reason we marketers have a hard time with goals is expertise. Many marketers are not very comfortable with numbers like ROI. So if you work at a larger organization, if you get it, there’s a good chance someone above you doesn’t. Or if they do, they have a hard time explaining it in the context of their business. If you’re an entrepreneur/freelancer and you don’t have a marketing background, goal setting and the logic that flows from it might not be your forte and that’s how you end up with strategies like “publish more blog posts” or “start a podcast.” What would make more sense there is “We have a strong written presence with a good readership on the site and newsletter, we need to reach out to potentials that prefer audio or video.”

Just a thought. What’s your take?

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The best marketing books

“A really incredible book — even if its subject matter has nothing to do with your situation — can help you understand your life and circumstances more clearly.” — Ayana Mathis

Blogs, newsletters and podcasts shed light on marketing practices, books stand on their own. They allow the author to dive into a subject and share her best insights. I’ve been a marketer for over 10 years now and books have been an integral part of that. They’ve allowed me to understand my marketing life and career and the circumstances of various strategies, tactics and situations more clearly. I’d like to share 5 books that have made all the difference.

  1. Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind (Affiliate link) by Al Ries and Jack Trout: Recommended to me by Julien Smith, this is an older marketing book that explains the ins and outs of brand positioning. How you position your brand as a start-up, freelancer, established company and even employee is vital. It’s what tells others who you are, why they should listen to you and more importantly, why they should buy. The best part is everyone forgets positioning. Apply it and you’ll have a leg up on the competition.
  2. Marketing White Belt: Basics For the Digital Marketer (Affiliate link) by Christopher S. Penn: I like going back to basics. Every year or so I like picking up a marketing basics text. It reminds me of the fundamentals. If you have a strong foundation, you can withstand any change better than the next marketer. It’s a quick read by a very smart author.
  3. Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul (Affiliate link) by Howard Schultz. Ignore what you feel about Starbucks for a minute. It’s not a marketing book per say although in a way it’s a book about positioning. Or more specifically, it’s about what happens to your brand when you forget about positioning. What do you need to do to establish it in the first place and how to get it back. This is a must read for any person who works for a living.
  4. HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Strategic Marketing. Another one of those back to basics books. It’s actually a collection of essays from Harvard Business Review writers. Learn about branding in the digital age, marketing myopia, marketing malpractice, the one number thing you need to grow and to rethink marketing. It’s a book you’ll constantly go back to.
  5. Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries (Affiliate link) by Peter Sims: I often forget about this book. Again, not exclusively a marketing book, it shows you how the best ideas come from small discoveries. In a constantly evolving world, marketers need to be nimble and quick. That doesn’t happen through big and broad tactics and initiatives. It happens one small step at a time.

Notice how none of them have to do with the web or social web directly? Once you grasp the basics like positioning, ROI, and marketing basics like the 4 Ps you’ll be a better marketer. Yesterday’s basics are today’s fuel.

What’s your favourite marketing book?

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how to use linkedin for marketing

A short detour

Every so often Peter Aceto, CEO of ING Direct Canada, pops-in to see his Customer Service Department. He takes the opportunity to get on the phone with ING customers and help them out. It allows him to learn about the needs of his clients and give them what they’re looking for. In turn he aligns the needs of the bank (more customers who place more money) with those of the customer (a simple, no BS bank with minimal fees).

Our digital and automated world has created abundance (more stuff for more people). In a world of abundance, the customer has choice. In a world of choice, disruption marketing (a.k.a. Advertising) has become less effective. So marketing has become about alignment.

As Winston Churchill said,

“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”

If you want to build a company that’s more; if you want to build a brand that’s more meaningful, if you want to build a life not a living, you have to give. If you can afford to give, it will make all the difference.

Align your company’s needs with those of your customers and prospects. Only once you’ve achieved that, will you be able to give and make a life for you and your company.

How to give to your customers?

Assuming you don’t have a Customer Service Department to drop by, here’s a little LinkedIn trick you can use.

Drop-in on your LinkedIn Connections with a daily hello. Each day send a message to your first degree connections that have checked-out your LinkedIn Profile.

By saying a simple hello, you’re opening the door to conversation that they might be hesitant to have – after all, [if they visit your profile] chances are they don’t want to be seen as a stalker following you. Assuage that fear with a friendly hello, and see where the conversation takes you.

Start a conversation, align and give.

Makes sense?

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What is content marketing?

A little background first, yes? Marketing has been going through a (not so) subtle shift. You see, it used to be about us and the companies and firms that we worked for. More sales, more leads, more prospects, more brand recognition. At some point, a shift started and it became about them — the prospects and customers. Gone (or going) are the days when your needs are more important than theirs. Gone are the times when one cares about your discounts or deadlines.

Why did this shift happen?

There are a few factors that have contributed to the shift. The main one being abundance.

Abundance

Your company and firm you diligently marketed for has produced more and more. At the same time the Internet has allowed and encouraged us to be producers (bloggers, tweeters, web entrepreneurs). The end result is an abundance of things. Your company markets TV shows? There’s Apple TV, YouTube, Roku, Hulu, Vimeo and more for your customers to pick from. Your company markets furniture? There’s local stores, Amazon, Ikea, local chains, artisans, Ebay, Etsy and more that can fulfill our needs. For example, a local furniture store was having a one day sale this past weekend — we missed it. But that’s OK because one of the above will have another sale before this post goes live.

We live in a world of abundance accelerated by technology, robotics and cheap labour.

The next nail in the coffin of curation and scarcity is the so called maker movement. As 3D printers grow in ease-of-use and availability, the shift will further continue. It doesn’t matter if Home Depot has a sale on nails, I can print my own thank you very much.

Just a little karma

If you believe in karma, that’s the second reason for this shift. As businesses moved toward greater efficiency, the customer got tossed aside. Why? Because she doesn’t fit in a mould. Each customer with their own questions, concerns and problems. Yes, sometimes similar problems arise, but more often than not, they’re unique. But we’ve pushed them towards automated voice systems and FAQ sections when all customers want is connection with others.

Think of all the times you stretched or embellished the truth. Every time you’ve omitted a detail or two.

Well karma is biting us in the ass. Because now, it’s all out there; you can’t hide.

But there’s a business to grow you say

Yes, of course there is a business to grow but your thinking is flawed. Business doesn’t happen because of abundance, efficiency and automation — it happens despite of it. Actually, let me correct that. Business happens because automation and efficiency are implemented in the right place. Apple is moving back their manufacturing to the U.S. If you can get me computers faster and of a more consistent quality, great! Just pick up the phone and care when I have a problem. The goal, you’ll have guessed it, is to transfer the savings that happen on one end to caring and creating connections.

I wish there was a better word that caring. It sounds too kumbaya for business, but it’s time to shift how we think a business is built. It’s no longer about you, it’s about them. Your deadlines, deals and discounts no longer matter. Build on what is human, not what has the potential for efficiency.

What’s that have to do with content marketing?

In a word — everything. Content marketing has always been about them. So is utilitarian marketing. Don’t bastardize it. Before publishing your next post, tweet, newsletter or application ask yourself who does it benefit? If the answer is us then it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Content marketing is about aligning your needs and goals with those of your customers and prospect. The actions of your company need to align — from what the CEO tweets to what your direct mailing campaign says. I think that’s where a lot of content that fails:

  • On one side, it’s about us and what we care about or know about. If you’re marketing furniture, that’s your need. How does it align with mine?
  • Or it’s on the other side of the spectrum, it’s all about them. If I write about LinkedIn and thousands of people read it each month; that’s their need, how does that align with me?

Before we leave, Mahatma Gandhi once said…

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.

Stick it up on your cubicle, because you and me, we need to live to service our prospects and customers.

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How to improve your marketing skills

I think — at some point in every marketer’s career — you get to a fork in the road. The proverbial fork that divides the road most traveled from the one less traveled. Your degree and experience pushes you down the former. More AdWords, more Direct Marketing, more newsletters, more SEO. And there’s value to that, I think. The second path is more scary because it isn’t as defined. There aren’t any “how to” blog posts or established digital agencies at the end of it. There’s just the path you decide to forge.

Ken Wilber argues in A Brief History of Everything (Affiliate link) that we live in an It-dominated world. This world favours and celebrates the tangible, the measurable, the concrete — An “If it’s not observable and quantifiable, it’s not real” kind of thinking. I think that’s what you find down the path most travelled. The thing is, that path doesn’t need you anymore. We’re heading towards another world. One that includes the I — what lives within you — and the We — what lives within us, as a society and tribe.

Our world has been dominated by It, but without the I and the We we can only go so far. We’re moving on to the next level. Computers will always be better at It than you or me. They remember more, calculate and extrapolate faster and don’t need sleep or rest. If it’s routine, it’s being replaced. And routine doesn’t necessarily equal mundane, it includes your morning drive to work.

What does this have to do with marketing?

In a word, everything. Marketing has been obsessed with It — spreadsheets to track ROI, dashboards, analytics and visualizations. We haven’t always been that great at it, but that’s still the path most traveled. The least traveled path is about I and We. The less quantifiable. The unpredictable. It’s now about story and empathy as Daniel Pink would say. As marketers we have a choice. We can head down the predictable path or take that newer one — the one less traveled; the unknown road.

I think we need to take the newer one.

How to prepare for the unknown road (aka.: How to improve your marketing skills)

The path ahead for you and me is unknown. An FBI agent prepares for the unknown with curiosity, small steps and master. For you,

  1. Learn to be curious. The great marketer explores, asks questions, tries, tests, repeats. If you’re not sure: Try it. Learn new topics — psychology, sociology, neurology, religion, spirituality. Exercise, learn your body. Never stop being curious regardless the topic.
  2. Learn to take small steps. You don’t need bold gestures. Habit and behaviour change works best with Little Bets (Affiliate link). If you learn something interesting, take small steps to implement it.  Keep it concrete, celebrate the small victory and acknowledge the small set-backs.
  3. Learn mastery. Cultivate your strengths. You — as marketer — have great skills. Improve what you’re great at and accept what your less good at. Find someone to compensate.

That’s it. Be curious, take small steps and learn mastery. Those three skills will prepare for the road ahead.

But before we leave know this:

What I know for sure is this: You are built not to shrink down to less, but to blossom into more. To be more splendid. To be more extraordinary. To use every moment to fill yourself up.

– Oprah Winfrey

You — Mr. And Ms. Marketer — are destined for greatness.

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A little back ground

You’ve heard this story before.

Marketing is about tribes — Get your message to the right people. The thing is the right people were easy to find: you had 4 or 5 TV channels, a few radio stations and some newspapers. If you were more local, you had radio, newspapers and neighbourhoods to walk through. Your tribe didn’t have many places to go; if you put your message in all these places they would hear from you (with some collateral damage: others also heard too).

Marketers then diluted the message — If I’ll be talking to all these people to reach those I want to, I might as well try to convince all the others too.

What happened next is history. Our tribes packed-up and left to be with their own. They’re no longer watching the same shows. They’re in Groups or holding Hangouts or Tweeting with #Hashtags. Even traditional mediums have completely changed too. Why do you think Oprah started OWN? She’s giving her tribe something to watch on TV while they’re tweeting away.

Where does that leave you?

As James Patterson once said

The high-brow audience wasn’t interesting to me.

You, as a marketers need to relentlessly focus on the audience that’s interesting to you. That being said, it’s not because your tribe has splintered off that convincing them to buy from you is an easy thing to do. It’s not because you find them that they want to hear from you. That’s why your role now is to work for those that have said “yes, I do want to hear from you.” As marketer, go out and find, love and delight those in your tribe so that when the timing is right, you can sell to them and they’ll buy from you.

Inefficient and inconvenient

It’s not easy, I know. No one said it would be. Leads and clients will need to be nurtured and cared for like never before. Of course, you have a business to grow, so you’ll need to balance that too.

But, as a marketer, this is the best time ever.

Marketing targets

What are they…

Your targets are simple. They are tangible like audience numbers, number of leads, number of qualified leads and number of sales (your own industry will have their own significant numbers). While those still hold true for the business, I think what’s increasingly important is the flow from one to the other.

…and how to achieve them

Sure, tell us a) how many people your ad reached, but then b) how many said they were interested and c) out of those, how many qualified (side note: notice how before your process stopped at a?) Now your focus needs to be in between the lines — how do you get from point A to point B, to point C and beyond? I’m talking about what you did to find your audience; what did you do to get more of your tribe to stand up and say “I’m interested” and what did you do to introduce the qualified ones to sales?

So instead of simply determining targets, how about we reported the process because it’s more complicated than ever and important than ever because getting the customer from point A to point B and beyond is also more difficult than ever.

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Marketing frameworks

Michelangelo once said

In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.

Artists have a way of seeing what could be instead of what is don’t they? Where we would have seen a block of marble, Michelangelo saw a statue.

Marketing frameworks

As companies grow and mature they polish and clean the same big block of marble — they tend to improve and optimize frameworks and processes. It’s partly because what’s shared with new employees is best practices. The advantage of course is efficiency, which drives down costs. If you consistently implement marketing campaigns in a similar way with similar tools, you slowly get better at it. Until the day when it’s no longer a framework — it’s just the way your marketing isIt’s no longer about figuring out what your prospect’s biases and worldview and fears and beliefs are, it’s about getting it done quickly and efficiently — preferably before 5pm.

The thing is efficiency doesn’t lead to efficient work. If the day’s work is done before the actual day is, busywork tends to fill the gap — not because your employees are incapable of more, but because that’s what they’re trained to do. As marketing tasks become increasingly efficient, the job gets done faster and the day gets filled with more busywork and the cycle continues.

What could be

The biggest drawback is then being blind to what could be. The stronger the framework becomes, the more it becomes reality. As marketing tactics and strategies repeat themselves, they stop being tactics and strategies and become marketing itself. The process becomes more important that the result. Trying, testing, improving is not longer allowed because we don’t care about the result, we care about how it’s being done and the best way to get it done is how it’s always been done. It’s not the time or the place to try something new.

Frameworks and change

Could we use the benefits of frameworks — efficiency — with the necessity of experimentation and change?

Let’s try this: instead of using the framework to add more busywork, once the day’s work is done, can we just try one new thing? Scope out prospects on LinkedIn, buy Google AdWords, reach out to media reps and see what they have to offer, try a new revenue stream…whatever you would like, as long as it’s new and different — as long as it’s art.

Why do you think companies like Facebook have hack days?

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4 Ps of marketing wrap-up

Over the past 5 weeks we looked at each of the 4 Ps of MarketingProduct, Price, Promotion and Place. Before I let you out for recess, I’d like to do a short wrap-up.

The skinny on the 4 Ps

As I started off saying, I like the 4 P model — some have tried to change it or even add Ps — but  it’s basic and I think it’s simple enough to be easy and helpful. Is the model perfect? Of course not. That doesn’t mean it can’t work for you?

As a marketer/small business owner/freelancer you need to take a detailed look at each P and see where you stand to make sure you have a strong presence. If you’re not completely happy with your marketing or the way your business is running, there’s a good chance it’s related to your Product, your Price point, your Promotion or your distribution.

Do your self a favour and review your Marketing Ps today.

Product

What is your Product really? Sure you do graphic design…but is that really what you are selling? What does graphic design mean for people? Better conversions? Increase sales? A new branding?

You can usually start answering that question by answering this — In the past, why have customers purchased your Product? Remember the answer can be pretty far out. If you honestly have no idea why someone would purchase, it could be that a) you need more research or b) your Product is horrible and you need to rework it.

Just keep in mind, especially if you work in a larger organization, that more often than not, there’s a point where the customer becomes the shareholder and your Product becomes profit and productivity and the item consumers find in the store is more of a means to an end.

Price

What is your Price? Remember, in a connected world, your competitor could be half-way across the globe. How does your Price compare? If you know what you are selling, you can then Price according. You can be the cheapest; you can be similar to others or you can be more expensive than others. Regardless, you have to know why you sit in that category.

Promotion

Your Promotion…how do people hear about you? The amount of tools available to you has grown dramatically. I think what’s important to remember here, is to set-up the right analytics to make sure you are spending time and money in the proper channels.

Place

Your Place. That’s where people find your Product after they’ve heard about it. Again, Place has changed dramatically — from the physical space to the digital and in the digital there are computers, tablets and phones…and that’s just the beginning.

So basically, how easy is it for someone to purchase at one of these touch points?

The forgotten Ps

One last thing before we go: I need to contradict myself and add a couple forgotten Ps. Namely Prospects and People (Customers). The major flaw of the 4 Ps is it focuses almost entirely on you. In order to properly answer the 4 original Ps you need to know who your Prospects are and who your People (or Customers) are. It’s pretty obvious that if your customers are senior citizens, your Product, Price, Promotion and Place will be completely different than if your customers are social media marketers.

One secret…find a relatively forgotten and targeted niche of Prospects and customers.

There you go…the 4Ps of Marketing (plus 2 more) — I hope that was helpful. If you have any questions or would like to discuss any of the points contact me. I would love to chat.

Class is over for this week…

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Place | Marketing Mondays

After Products, Price and Promotion it’s time to talk about the last P — Place.

What is Place?

Place maybe the least intuitive of the 4 Ps. Place is where your customer will find your Product. It’s also been called Distribution — or how you will get your Product in front of potentials and customers. If you sell a physical Product, Place could be on retail shelves or online. If you sell a service, Place could be face-to-face or via Skype. If what you sell is retail then Place is where you set-up your stores — in malls and on streets — but it could also be online.

Of course there’s a whole new breed of companies and brands that exist exclusively online. Take Facebook. What’s Facebook’s Place? It’s obviously online right? But “online” is like saying “offline” — it doesn’t mean much unless you dive a little deeper. For Facebook, Place has, for a large part of its existence, been the computer screen. The rise of mobile phones and tables have forced them to thing of two new and vastly different Places.

I think that’s a great transition to the next section.

Where are we today?

Place is arguably the P that has changed the most in the last 15-20 years. It used to be you wanted to sell a physical item there wasn’t much choice other than retail. That’s not to say retail is dead — Starbucks, Apple and DavidsTea have proved that wrong. The difference is with “online.” And that Place is changing faster and faster. Online used to mean a big desktop computer at work or in a computer lab at school. Then it also meant a big desktop at home. Then it meant also a laptop you could bring anywhere, then it meant multiple laptops and computers at any given moment. To that we added tablets and smart phones. So online is actually many very different Places because we act differently on a desktop than on a tablet, but a massive integration as well — I want my laptop to remember the sites I visited on my phone for example. Let’s add to that the integration of digital or online and the physical world. Foursquare and Google Local is one thing, but just think for a second how Square and Nomi are seamlessly merging online and offline. Burberry’s flagship store in London is just one example of how much Place has changed.

What does this mean for you?

If you’re part of a larger marketing team it means you need to take a serious step back and look at all the touch-points your customer or potential customer has with your brand or Product.

  1. There’s probably some sort of an “in person” contact — retail, over the phone, at a service counter. There’s a good chance it’s the part of the business that’s been around the longest. How can you add a level of digital that makes sense for the customer? This isn’t the time to add bells and whistles. How can you incorporate CRM data to make that experience better? How can you integrate the social world of Facebook, Google+ or LinkedIn to make the interactions more relevant?
  2. There’s the digital contact. How’s your website performing in terms of offering the Product. Can they buy online? Can they easily find a Place to buy it online? I can think of an increasingly small list of companies that shouldn’t allow any type of transaction online.
  3. Beyond the computer screen. What about the other Places we talked about? What about their iPhones and Androids? What about their tablets? Can they purchase there? Why not? Does a type of social commerce make sense? What about social logins?
  4. The pipes. Have you thought about APIs so your customers can integrate your Product with their tools?

If you’re flying solo or part of a small team team, I think those same questions apply, but perhaps on a smaller scale. How can you integrate digital in to a real world collaboration. How does your site convert? What’s the mobile and social reality? What can you do beyond the actual social/mobile/local? How can you integrate it all?

What kind of experience are your clients expecting?

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