4 Stubborn Business Myths

myth

Entrepreneurs know that owning a small business takes dedication, passion, and hours of concentrated work. You may run into obstacles that test your business and your perseverance, obstacles that are norms in the world of business which each entrepreneur must learn to navigate. However, there are some obstacles that you may be facing without realizing it. Those barriers are stubborn business myths that just won’t go away because people believe them, even though they aren’t true.

1. It’s not what you know but who you know.

In the course of doing business, business owners or potential business owners come up against this belief time and time again. However, while it is true that knowing the right people may help you get started or get access to some deals, in most businesses it is expertise, experience, and skill that propel you forward in business. If you can provide the solutions customers want, they will refer you to their friends and family.

2. Nice guys finish last.

This myth is a holdover from the era of Western movies and superhero comics. Nice guys (always portrayed as pushovers or wallflowers) finish last because the villains and heroes walk all over them. In film, this may be true. After all, Tony Stark isn’t a nice guy. He is an arrogant, self-centered genius. However, The Avengers aside, in real life, nice guys finish first quite often. While a person with low self-esteem who doesn’t speak up will not be successful without change, a courteous business owner is appreciated immensely by customers and vendors.

In today’s modern world, people are used to dealing with machines, poorly-paid clerks, and online shopping. Finding a business person who is willing to offer them genuine customer service, build a relationship and spend time getting to know them to better serve them is rare. Many people are happy to pay more for real customer service. Therefore, being a “nice guy” is valuable to your contacts. They will remember your excellent service and come back for more.

3. Don’t work hard. Work smart.

This myth is one of the worst business myths out there. There is no way you can run a business without working hard. Hard work is what separates the “men from the boys” as entrepreneurs. Successful entrepreneurs put in hours of labor to get their businesses off the ground. Working smart is just another way to say that there is a workaround or that you can find a way to skip the hard work. It just isn’t possible in reality. If you aren’t willing to work hard, you won’t make it in business.

4. It’s called work for a reason. It’s not supposed to be fun.

All work has elements that workers do not like to perform. It might be the paperwork that you need to fill out for each customer or the data entry on your last case. However, why can’t work be fun?

People who find work that satisfies them are much happier in life. That happiness translates to their work and their interactions with co-workers, customers, and vendors. If you love to sell, create graphic designs, or help customers find what they are looking for, then you ARE having fun at work. In fact, many companies are now providing their employees with ways to have fun at work to help reduce stress and fatigue.

So go ahead and have fun while working! It can only improve your outlook and production. Work can be fun.


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Don’t Fear Your Marketing Competitors. Learn From Them

chessRegardless of the products you’re trying to market, the audience you’re trying to cater to, or the industry you happen to be operating in, all businesses face competition. This is just a fact of life. But it’s important to realize that a competitor isn’t just another company that is trying to go after the same pool of customers that you are. Competitors are invaluable learning opportunities that are just waiting to be taken advantage of, provided you approach things from the right angle.

Learn About Your Audience

One of the most important lessons that you can learn by taking a closer look at your marketing competitors has nothing to do with your competition itself and everything to do with the shared audience you’re both going after. For the sake of argument, let’s say that your number one competitor offers products or services that are very similar to yours.

How is your competition marketing those products and services to that audience? What types of print materials are they designing? What tone do they use when speaking to them directly? What prices do they charge, and why do they feel like the market can sustain that? What values do they choose to single in on when representing their brand?

All of these choices, along with the public reaction to them, can tell you a great deal about what your audience is looking for. Marketing is all about making a connection, and if you can pick up something through observation that you can adapt and make your own to strengthen that connection, you should absolutely take that opportunity.

Learn About the Competitors Themselves

The second lesson you can learn by taking a closer look at your marketing competitors comes down to how they choose to run a business that is very similar to yours in many ways. This goes beyond just the products or services they provide. Look at how they choose to distribute and deliver those products. Look at the steps they take to enhance customer value or build loyalty. Have they recently instituted a rewards program with great success? If you were thinking about doing one yourself, congratulations, someone else just did your trial run for you.

Perhaps the most important thing you should be watching out for when it comes to your marketing competitors is how they react when they make a mistake. These days, everything is essentially an extension of your marketing arm – from the print collateral you’re putting out into the world to customer service interactions on a site like Facebook. Everything is taking place in the public space, which means that other customers (and you and your associates) can all see everything go down in real-time.

Did your biggest competitor have a particularly nasty public interaction with a customer? What factors caused it to occur in the first place? How did the customer react? How did the business react? What did the rest of the audience have to say at the end of the day? Remember that mistakes are only a bad thing if you choose not to learn from them. If you can get someone else to make a mistake and arrive at the same lesson, you come out all the better for it.

Competition in the world of business (and especially regarding marketing) isn’t going away anytime soon. However, it’s not something you should let get you down. Instead, look at it for what it is: an incredible ongoing education into your market, your industry, and even your own business that someone else is paying for.


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How to Take the Lessons Learned in Online Marketing and Apply Them to the World of Print

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Print marketing isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Over the last few years, people are coming to the realization that digital and print isn’t an “either/or” scenario. Many use one to supplement and compliment the other to great effect. Despite this, people still tend to think of them as two different mediums, thinking you have different rules that you use online than those that you follow in print.

Because online marketing has become so prominent, it has taught us some very valuable lessons. One of which is that those lessons aren’t reserved only for the digital market. You can apply those lessons to your print collateral and come out all the better for it.

Marketing Is About Intimacy

Perhaps the biggest lesson that various digital and online marketing channels have taught us is that at the end of the day, you’re not trying to “sell” to someone at all. You’re trying to connect with them. The best marketing reaches out to customers and prospects in an intimate way that establishes the type of bond that turns prospective customers into buyers, and buyers into loyal advocates.

On the internet, this often takes the form of various social media and related techniques – after all, what could be more intimate than contacting someone on a small device that they carry around with them all day? The key takeaway, however, is that you DO have a way to maintain this intimacy in the world of print marketing, too.

According to a study conducted by the United States Postal Service, sixty-nine percent of people who responded said that they felt direct mail was more personal than internet mail. Emails may be great and efficient, but an actual letter (or in the case of a marketer, a flyer or brochure) is something tangible. They can hold it in their hands, pin it up on the refrigerator and share it with their friends and loved ones.

Optimizing Print Campaigns Through a Digital Lens

So how do you take full advantage of this fact and build the type of intimacy and emotional connection you can online? Simple. Take the rules that the internet forced marketers to adopt and apply them back into your print campaign.

Don’t just tell the story of a product or service, tell the story of your entire organization. Bring people into the fold and let them see who you are, what you’re all about, and why you do what you do. According to Millward Brown, physical materials forge a stronger connection inside the human brain than digital media ever can.

You can also take the valuable data you’re gathering about your audience from the digital world and apply that back into your print collateral. Marketing has gotten hyper-specific. By using various software, you now know precisely what type of white paper, blog post, or video to send to someone at just the right point in the customer journey to help nurture that lead and guide them through to the desired outcome. Taking that one step further, you can also use the same insights to know exactly what type of flyer someone needs to receive in the mail, or take a successful visual element from social media and transform it into your next poster.

Print media is a format that people are naturally wired to engage with. If you can provide them with materials that are worth engaging with, similar to and combined with what digital agencies have been doing over the last few years, you’re in an incredibly powerful position as a result.


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Learn to Protect Yourself From the Inside

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Kingdoms have fallen, and wars have been lost because of betrayal. Although we all desire to foster an atmosphere of trust and dependence on one another within our companies, it would be foolish to underestimate the internal risks with reports and employees in this digital age.

The Case of Bradley Manning

The case of Bradley Manning is an illustrative example of how even the most secure agencies can be compromised from the inside. Private Manning worked as an intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army two years after enlisting in 2007. Then, in 2009, a major leak occurred that disclosed millions of classified documents from the military’s databases to the now-famous government leak website, Wikileaks. The identification of the source was unknown until Bradley Manning himself disclosed he was the source to a civilian. The conversations about that activity, and other functions Manning had in the military, were primarily out of boredom and disillusionment with the U.S. Army and its role in the Middle East. That discussion disclosing Manning as the source was then reported by the civilian, and Manning was arrested. He was eventually charged and sentenced to 35 years incarceration in a court martial for his actions releasing intelligence material. However, outgoing President Barack Obama decided to pardon Manning.

That Manning was pardoned or that he committed the damage he did to U.S. intelligence is beside the point. The real takeaway here is that he did not trip any flags during his enlistment, screening, and subsequent assignment to intelligence. And then, without any warning, Manning ends up becoming the source one of the top five most famous intelligence leaks in U.S. military history via the internet.

We all want to think the best of the employees and contractors who support our businesses. As a result, most employee policies are written with the assumption that no action will be taken until a threshold is met of unacceptable behavior. However, companies cannot reasonably operate with blind trust either, especially when managing sensitive data information. As in the case of Manning, it only took one action and one flash drive to walk away with as much as was lost in that case. So companies need to be proactive as well.

Begin with One, Two, Three

There are ways to stop data losses from the inside before they occur without having to be suspicious of good employees. Here are three of them:

1) Modularization of data access is a key defense.

By effectively limiting an employee to only the data area in the network needed to do his or her job, the employee cannot access anything else. This can be done through both network login authorizations, as well as pass-keys to different parts of the office building.

2) Keep logs of large data movements.

By having your network administrators can keep regular records of large data changes, you would be able to highlight issues to look into, such as large data transfers at night or on the weekend when nobody would regularly be working or connecting.

3) Learn to be proactive with training.

Companies can follow up regularly with training to teach employees to notice and proactively warn their superiors when they see something wrong. Employees are typically eager to help in this way because they are seen as part of the company defense to protect it and their own livelihood. This approach focuses on personal investment in the issue, which often gains very strong support in practice.

Again, we assume the best of employees, but we also need to be realistic about how easy damage can occur in the digital age. Practicing both trust and sound IT


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defense can protect a company far more than just a firewall alone.

Print Marketing: Never Underestimate the Value of Letting Someone Unplug

unplug-greenTechnology is all around us. As recently as ten or fifteen years ago, computers weren’t quite the ever-present part of our lives that they are today. They were usually reserved for when you got home from a hard day at work or school and not something you used all day every day. Flash forward to today, where 77% of adults in the United States own a smartphone according to Pew Research – a device that’s literally more powerful than the combined computing that NASA used to send men to the moon in the 1960s.

All of this may underline how important our digital lives are becoming with each passing day, but it also helps to illustrate perhaps the most critical benefit that only print marketing collateral can bring to the table: that it isn’t digital at all.

The Digital Divide

Technology addiction, and specifically smartphone addiction, is a very real concern across the United States. According to one study, 89% of Americans check their smartphones “at least one or two times a day.” That may not seem too bad, but when you consider that 36% admit to “constantly checking and using” their phones, things get a little more concerning.

Of those surveyed, 21% of people said that they checked their smartphone at least once every hour. When you add in people between the ages of 18 and 24, that number rises to 36%. According to another study by IDC Research, 80% of smartphone users, in particular, check their mobile devices within fifteen minutes of waking up in the morning. Taking a shower? Brushing your teeth? Getting breakfast ready? All of these things take a back seat to finding out what your friends are up to on Facebook or checking your work email account for new messages.

While this may sound alarming, it again perfectly illustrates one of the reasons why print marketing is, and will always be, so valuable. Whether you realize it or not, you’re giving someone a chance to unplug. You’re giving them permission to take a breather from the internet and to check in with something tangible, something that they can hold in their hands, and something that they can pass along to their friends. You’re letting them tap into an experience – a physical one, at that – that people don’t get nearly enough of these days.

What This Means For Direct Mail

This digital divide is likely a large part of the reason why in the last ten years, direct mail response rates have shot up 14%. What else happened during the last ten years, you ask? That’s right – the Apple iPhone was released in 2007 and the smartphone explosion occurred, changing large portions of our lives for all time.

According to yet another survey, an incredible 92% of younger shoppers say they actually prefer direct mail when it comes time to make purchasing decisions – the same demographic who check their phones constantly. These ideas may seem like they’re in conflict with one another, but they really aren’t.

With print marketing, you’re giving people an opportunity to do something they want more of but just can’t seem to find time for: stop thinking about their digital lives for a minute or two so that they can focus on the real world around them. If anything, this is something that is only going to get MORE precious as time goes on, which is why print marketing is and will always be one of the most effective ways to reach out to someone to make a strong, emotional connection that benefits you both.


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Different By Design: 6 Tips for Adopting The Principles Of Disruption and Improving Your Marketing Strategy

flamingo

Less than a decade ago, one of the world’s largest transport networks was simply an imaginative flicker in the minds of two men trying to hail a taxi on a cold Paris night. After failing to snag a car, the two men came up with an idea of an on-demand taxi service at the touch of a button. What began on a snowy evening in France quickly turned into an app to request luxury sedans in a tiny handful of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities. Soon it spread to include different types of rides, package and even food delivery in nearly any city on earth. That app was Uber.

Uber is now one of the world’s richest start-ups. Along with other innovative digital companies such as Airbnb, Snapchat, Netflix, and even Buzzfeed, Uber has grasped a powerful disruptive strategy that has brought it financial and scalable success in a short amount of time. Disruptive businesses such as these can pick out and then act on trends before they become a trend, building a niche in a market that many people haven’t even discovered yet. Follow these six tips to learn some disruptive strategies that will help to differentiate your business and set it up for future growth.

1) Be technologically savvy

Get to know what is happening in the world of all things digital and tech, even outside of your own industry. Something that can revolutionize your business might come from a spark of something you’ve noticed in a different market or business type.

2) Be a first adopter

Often successful companies are the first ones to take on changes and innovations and to use them to their advantage. Don’t be afraid to step out on your own when trying something new.

3) Rely on sharing

Businesses can no longer rely solely on traditional forms of advertising. Combining your marketing channels to include print, as well as digital sharing and promotion can be the easiest and quickest ways to reach potential customers.

4) Keep up with the competition

Stay aware of what your competitors are doing and be prepared to match their innovations with yours.

5) Interact with customers

Uber and the like are successful for their ability to connect with customers instantly. Listening to your customers helps to gauge demand and enhance the consumer relationship. With the rise of social media, customers are developing increasing expectations for transparency from businesses. Forming a connection with your clients will add to their loyalty and trust of your company. With constant lines of communication open to your customers, you can also respond quicker to real-time changes in the market, safeguarding you from future pitfalls.

6) Track your success

Digital data provides you with the tools and metrics to see how and where your customers are coming to awareness and consideration of your services or products. Understanding and using data effectively can make the difference in building and maintaining new business and answering needs within the market.


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Why You Can Never Nurture Your Leads TOO Much

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If you think that you can comfortably stop nurturing your leads as soon as they make that ever-important sale, you’re only seeing one small part of a much larger and more important picture. The fact of the matter is that you can NEVER nurture your leads too much for a variety of important reasons.

Why Lead Nurturing is So Important

Lead nurturing is an essential part of any business, but judging by some recent studies, it may be more important than you think. According to Gleanster Research, as many as half of all the leads coming into your business may be qualified, but they’re not yet ready to buy. Nurturing is perhaps the single best way to make sure you’re able to convert as much of that 50% as possible into a sale.

To make things more interesting, research from InsideSales.com shows that between 35% and 50% of all sales go to a brand that responds to a customer FIRST. This means that even if you know you’re working with a qualified lead AND you know that they’ll eventually be ready to buy, they may not buy with YOU at all if you don’t have a timely presence in their life.

That, in a nutshell, is why lead nurturing is so mission critical to your organization. If you’re not nurturing properly and using timely marketing collateral to help usher someone down the sales funnel, you may be doing little more than perfectly setting someone up to make a purchase with one of your competitors.

NSN: “Never Stop Nurturing”

Consumers want to be loyal to a brand. However, they’re also loyal to themselves and their own situations first and foremost. If you think that just because you’ve ushered a lead down the sales funnel and convinced them to make a purchase that you’ll have them forever, you’re sadly mistaken. And, unfortunately, this is one mistake that you’re likely to pay dearly for.

Remember that “making a sale” is NOT the only benefit of consistent lead nurturing. According to research, leads that have been nurtured experience a 23% shorter sales cycle than those who have not been. Nurturing over time (as opposed to just in the beginning of your relationship) can even increase your revenue over the next six to nine months by as much as 10% or more.

Remember that a constant and consistent nurturing gives way to perhaps the biggest benefit of all: retention. According to one study, it costs 500% more to bring in a new customer than it does to keep a current one. Likewise, the cost of bringing a new customer up to the same level of profitability as one of your old ones is up to 16% more. All of this is to say that by adopting the mantra of “I can never nurture a lead too much” today, you could be saving yourself a tremendous amount of money tomorrow.

Nurturing a lead to the point where you’ve made a sale is important, but this is not the point where your story ends. Consistently nurturing your leads even AFTER a sale will continue to pay dividends over the lifetime of your relationship with that person. The benefits of retention versus bringing in new customers alone should be more than worth the effort you’ll need to make.


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How to Combine Your Passion and Profession to Make Your Life Purposeful

passion

You have likely heard the adage, “Choose a profession you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Although the thought of this has merit, sometimes, if a person’s passion isn’t something they can easily transform into a money-making endeavor, it can be a little unrealistic. Thankfully, there is more than one way to combine your passion with your profession to create a purposeful life.

Use Your Passion to Generate Income

We all seem to know at least one person who bought a professional camera and began making money by becoming a photographer. Their profession, of course, was combined with their passion for photography and is now generating income. Another good example of this is someone whose passion is music. They have many options when it comes to transforming that into a career. They can become a music teacher at a school, play an instrument in their local orchestra, give private lessons, or even play at places of worship, parties or weddings as a way to produce an income. These are just a few examples of passions perfectly suited for generating income. There are countless others, and we can all agree that “it’s a beautiful thing when a career and passion come together.” If you have a passion like this, congrats! Unfortunately, not all passions are equally conducive when it comes to generating income. There isn’t an obvious way to create a career out of every passion.

What to Do When Your Passion Doesn’t Easily Translate to a Profession

Let’s consider an example of a passion that would be less than ideal as a career. This could include being passionate about running, biking, or being focused on giving to the homeless, third world countries, or charities. Often, these are hobbies/passions that are practiced alongside a career and don’t ever become the career itself. Of course, there are some ways to use these passions to generate income. However, it’s not easy to make money working for a charity or by giving to the homeless. It’s also hard to get someone to pay you to cycle or run. That doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to live out your passion, though. You just might have to get creative with how you go about doing it.

Companies That Have Successfully Combined Their Passion & Profession:

An excellent example of this principle in action is the TOMS Company, which has been in business for going on eleven years. The concept they came up with was revolutionary at the time. When they began, TOMS was virtually the only company doing something like this. (There are more now.) TOMS started by selling shoes and advertising a one-for-one system. Their customers bought a pair of shoes from them, and then TOMS donated a pair to a needy child. Therefore, every customer got to get in on the giving action. Customers loved the product but liked the fact that their purchase helped a child in need even more. Today, TOMS has branched out to sell coffee, bags, and eyewear along with their shoes. As of January 2016, TOMS has given away more than 60 million pairs of shoes. TOMS is an excellent example of how you can combine your passion, in this case, helping children in need, with a profession that began selling shoes in a unique way.

How to Get Started

TOMS showcases an ideal strategy to combine your passion and profession. Of course, you don’t have to sell shoes to give back. You can also use the assets you acquire through doing business to give back. The idea isn’t to get this perfect. It’s to attempt to combine your passion with your profession in some way so that you will live purposefully. Remember, starting somewhere will get you where you want to go quicker than sitting still!


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Three Brothers and Success

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In a town with lots of industries and choices of careers, three brothers grew up and began to pursue their paths in work. Based on their father’s wisdom and teachings, they all decided they wanted to work in a field that would eventually let them start their own businesses. The oldest became a lawyer. The middle brother became an accountant. The youngest brother, however, didn’t want to be an office professional but, instead, enjoyed food, so he became a cook. All three left home, set off to pursue their goals, and wished each other the best.

The Lawyer and the Accountant

The years passed and the lawyer made a lot of money, but he was always miserable and in debt. Everything about his job was about fighting or arguing, and eventually, he lost his own marriage. The lawyer was regularly complaining about his work whenever asked. The middle brother found himself living a life of stress. He chose to be an accountant because he thought it was a safe career path for income, but he found himself always under extreme pressure to complete his work and make sure it was accurate. The stress became so intense the younger brother was regularly sick and became a prime candidate for serious health problems before he was middle-aged.

The Cook

The younger brother focused on what he wanted, learning how to be a cook. Every day in the kitchen was where he wanted to be, so it never felt like work. His enjoyment quickly increased his skills in cooking, and soon he became a head chef. He was doing so well he chose to open up his own restaurant. It wasn’t the biggest place, and it wasn’t the most expensive. However, the youngest brother loved his job, and that made a difference in his food, his staff, and the experience of his customers.

Which Brother Had the Right Idea?

Essentially, the best place to be as a business or business leader is to love what you do every day. If you’re not happy in your work, your market position or your role, you will never be able to manifest your full potential. Happiness and satisfaction are key elements of success, especially for business leadership who look for someone to follow and emulate in their own tasks. Sure, your business can have some immediate success, as in the case of the lawyer brother, but ultimately, the angst and frustration catches up with everything and becomes a psychological burden in the workplace. Don’t be that older brother. Find your love and make it come to your career and your path. You will be happier, your productivity will be higher, and staff will follow your lead.


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What’s in a Name? The Value of Sponsorship as a Branding and Marketing Opportunity

sponsorship

In the world of marketing, you’re essentially always on the lookout for new and innovative opportunities to raise awareness about the brand that you represent. It isn’t just about getting the word out about a new product or service; it’s also about reminding people that you’re there, that you’ve always been there, and that you’re always going to be there. In an era where marketers strive to stretch the value of each dollar as far as it will go, one often overlooked opportunity may just generate the types of results you’re after: sponsorship.

Sponsorship and Brand Awareness: The Stats

Even if you don’t necessarily see sponsorship of charities, non-profits, or other local organizations as a valuable addition to your marketing arsenal, it’s clear that somebody does. According to a study conducted by IEG Sponsorship Report, sponsorship was a $2 billion dollar enterprise in 2016 and is expected to increase by roughly 3.7 percent over the course of the next year.

A report generated by the Edelman Trust Barometer indicated that sponsorship even goes far beyond marketing impact. Eighty percent of consumers around the world agreed that a business has a duty to play a very key role in addressing modern issues.

It even plays an important role in your own company culture. Fifty-one percent of employees surveyed said that they didn’t want to work for a company that didn’t have strong societal and environmental commitments, and almost seventy-five percent said that they liked their jobs more when they were given the type of opportunity to make a positive impact that sponsorship affords.

Sponsorship Best Practices

If you do decide to go ahead with sponsorship as a new brand and marketing opportunity, there are a few key things you’ll want to keep in mind. For starters, do your research carefully. Always make sure that you’re aligning with an organization that meshes with your existing culture and values. Do as much deep digging as you possibly can, as sponsorship creates something of a symbiotic relationship between two entities. A scandal at one will more than likely affect the other, so you’ll want to make sure that there are no skeletons hiding in the closet before you start spending your money.

You’ll also want to make an effort to isolate the impact of your sponsorships from the rest of your marketing activities, as only then will you be able to fully understand just what role it is playing in your larger campaign. MarketStrategies.com says that only half of marketers actually do this, which is a mistake. Though you’re doing something for a good cause first and recognition second, it still needs to be measured for maximum effectiveness – the same as anything else.

These are just a few reasons sponsorship is such a valuable branding and marketing opportunity, particularly for companies operating in the small and medium-sized business space. Not only does it give you a chance to raise awareness in a powerful way, but it also allows for something even more important – you get to give back to the community that you are an active part of.


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