What Happened to Summer? Back-to-School Marketing Starts Earlier Than Ever

Back to School Marketing
The temperature is soaring, steaks sizzle on the grill, and kids play in the pool, but not everyone is thinking summer. Back to school season is starting earlier than ever for big retailers and the impact trickles over into all aspects of marketing. Both Office Depot and Land’s End launch back to school campaigns at the start of summer – in some cases before school even ended in some parts of the country.

This is a change even from last year; according to AdAge, 2016 saw back to school marketing head into full swing around the middle of July. Time magazine cites the need for retailers to make as many revenues as possible during the highest spending periods as the reason Black Friday, Halloween, and Back to School promotions are being scheduled earlier than ever before.

When does Back to School Begin?

Big retailers working on the premise that earlier is better have begun pushing back-to-school marketing back each year. Back to school is big business for retailers, since it is worth about 78 billion; it is second only to the major holidays for revenues, according to AdAge.

How Early is Too Early?

Office Depot’s back-to-school advertising rolled out June 25 of this year, a full three weeks earlier than 2016’s July launch. Other retailers are following suit, but there is some consumer backlash against the early push. Lands’ End received public criticism on social media when their back-to-school catalog dropped while kids in many parts of the country were still in school.

“We got your #backtoschool catalog in the mail. Our kids still have two weeks of school left this year! #fail #marketing,” tweeted Greg Magin.

@GregMagin helpfully tagged his rant with #fail, #backtoschool and #Marketing, so it was seen by far more than just his followers. This backlash from consumers shows that a too-early launch can backfire. Right now, the sweet spot for back-to-school marketing seems to be right after the 4th of July through the end of the month.

Back-to-school marketing is all about timing. Being aware of this pitfall, and of the enormous potential of this busy season, can help you make the most of Back to School season for your brand and ensure your organization has a visible presence during this often overlooked marketing opportunity.

Make Back to School Time Count for your Brand

Positioning your Back to School promotions in July and working to build not only sales but also awareness can help place you in front of consumers when they’re ready to outfit the kids for the next school year. Since most consumers begin searching online well before they part with actual money, building awareness ahead of this busy season can help you get the results you want without irritating consumers.


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Why You Should Never Cut Corners in the World of Print Marketing

In business, to say that you should make every dollar count is an understatement. When dealing with uncertain economic times, budgeting decisions matter a great deal. Improving your profit margins and increasing your bottom line is always a top priority, which is why the instinct to try to cut corners to save a few dollars here and there is a natural one.

It’s also an instinct that you would do well to fight, especially when it comes to your print marketing.

Marketing is About Communication and Communication Matters

People who feel like it’s okay to cut corners with their print marketing are probably not understanding what their marketing collateral is supposed to do. If you look at a flyer or another piece of print material as only an information exchange, things like paper stock and print quality probably aren’t going to be high on your list of priorities.

However, those things should make the top of the list because print marketing is about more than just an information exchange. It’s about opening up a line of communication with your audience that will be mutually beneficial to everyone involved. It’s about creating a meaningful experience with a person, one that doesn’t just inform them about your product or service but that also gives you a competitive advantage.

As a “top-of-the-funnel” medium, print is important because it guarantees you the nearly undivided attention of your readers – the same attention they often give to magazine and newspaper content, as per the American Marketing Association. Why, then, do you think it’s a good idea to get someone to focus their attention on something that isn’t the best quality it can be? Is that the impression you really want to make?

That’s precisely the decision you make when you try to cut corners when talking about something as mission-critical as print marketing. If you can only make one first impression, it serves you well to make it the best one you can. Nothing makes a worse first impression than a low quality, easily ignorable piece of print marketing making their way into someone’s mailbox (or worse – your store window).

How to Save Money Without Sacrificing Quality

Instead of cutting corners across the proverbial marketing board, consider cutting out certain elements wholesale if you’re trying to stretch your budget as far as it can go. Take a look at your existing marketing channels and see what is working and what isn’t. Cut anything at the bottom of the list and funnel some of those funds back into your marketing so that you can double down on the print materials that are striking a chord with your target audience.

Not only will you still be able to save a little money, but the remaining print collateral that you’re using will come out all the better for it. Even one incredible piece of print collateral is more effective (and more important) than ten low-quality ones.

Investing in Marketing is an Investment in Your Business

A solid piece of print marketing collateral will not just get someone down off the fence and turn them from “potential buyer” to “customer.” Nurturing that line of communication at the right time can turn someone from “one-time customer” into “brand advocate” and beyond, too.

But that’s not going to happen if you cut corners on something this important. According to Quickbooks, inadequate marketing has been proven to stunt your business’ growth. Is that a chance worth taking, all in the name of saving a few bucks in the short-term? We certainly don’t think so.


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Veterans Use the Internet to Expand Skill Set and Boost Income

Happy Veteran US Army
As a war veteran, Shane Thomason knows firsthand what it feels like to experience victory in battle. After being home for nearly ten years from the Iraqi War, Thomason now spends his time giving back to the community and expanding his occupational skill set via the internet. Owning more than 250 websites, including RandomVeteran.com, Thomason enjoys working from home and has found much success in being able to sell unique t-shirts and other novelty items online.

Thomason isn’t the only veteran taking advantage of the internet to boost his annual income. There are veterans located all across the globe who sell items and services online as a way to supplement their earnings, and for many of them, they simply do this for the same reason Thomason does — to pass the time and keep their minds occupied.

A former civil engineer for the US Navy, Zachary Scheel, says, “Veterans are comfortable operating in high-pressure environments that are changing rapidly, where they’re constantly forced to make decisions with incomplete information.” And while many common internet users may not think of the online world as being high-pressure, Thomason is sure to tell you different. From selling websites at exactly the right moment to creating content on a consistent basis, operating businesses and sites online is a full-time job that requires much attention, and more so, much intelligence.

There are many skills learned through the military and overseas that can be used in business. Six of the most valuable skills veterans can carry over from the battlefield are integrity, dependability, sharp decision-making, the initiative to go above and beyond, tenacity, and adaptability. The capability to take advantage of technology is also another skill that veterans are familiar with, making them all the more apt to find success. Whether it be learning new software or performing website coding, veterans often have a knack for training themselves.

Thomason wrote articles for his local newspaper, the Grayson County News Gazette, while serving in Iraq, which greatly improved his ability to write and has translated into an exceptional skill for being able to create web content, including home pages and product descriptions, which he uses to sell t-shirts and other items on RandomVeteran.com.

One of Thomason’s most valuable pieces of advice to other veterans who are considering using their skills for work is not to become a recluse. Thomason says, “helping the community by being actively involved is the primary way I am able to sustain peace in my life. Sure, working from home is great, but getting out in the community and working with the children and other veterans is what keeps me moving forward from one day to the next.” Thomason is the Commander of American Legion Post 81 and spends a great deal of time giving back to his community when he is not working.

Generating business is simple when veterans take advantage of the existing skill set that they acquired while serving in the military. Veterans can also find an abundance of resources available to them. From online training courses to website builders, many of these resources are available free of charge because they have served in the military.


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5 Tips for Effective Direct Mail

Guy checking the mail.

Every day but Sunday, the mailbox delivers surprises. Of course, much of what arrives in the mail is expected, but that element of surprise never wanes. The mail might contain a card from a loved one, a check you didn’t expect, or a great offer from a local company, via direct marketing. Successful direct marketing campaigns don’t happen by accident, but a small business doesn’t need to pour substantial amounts of money into such an endeavor to achieve a good result. That means rather than mass marketing, modern direct mail campaigns concentrate on targeted marketing. When businesses use effective direct mail marketing, they not only boost their bottom line, but add excitement to the routine of picking up the mail.

1. Set Your Goals

As a business, what do you expect this mailing to accomplish? Have a firm plan in mind ahead of time. What is your budget for this mailing? What kind of ROI do you think you’ll receive? Crunch the numbers before embarking on a direct mail campaign.

Have a projected number of new customers in mind. For small businesses doing much of the work on their own, one of the best measures is sending out a mailer-only coupon for a percentage off a purchase or free item with purchase. Ensure that keeping track of the number of people who redeemed the coupon, including new customers, is quite simple.

2. The Mailing List

When it comes to an effective direct marketing campaign, nothing is as crucial as the mailing list. That seems obvious, but too many companies waste time and money sending direct mail to people with little interest in their product or service. You want a “Goldilocks” mailing list – not sending too many or too few mailers, but just the right amount.

While you will need to purchase some lists, focus on your own lists of previous customers. In fact, if you don’t have a solid database of customer names and addresses as well as strong prospects, avoid direct marketing until you do.

3. The Demographic

Who are your customers? What is their primary age and income level? Where do they live? This information is essential for a small business conducting a direct marketing campaign. You’re looking for your ideal customer, whether that person is a senior citizen, millennial, parent of young children, individuals with X amount of disposal income – that’s necessary information before you start your campaign. The more personally you can delineate the target, the better the response rate. You can then consider the type of mailing list you want to purchase.

4. Clarity Rules

No matter what type of mailing format you decide to go with, the potential customer must instantly “get” what you offer. All the fancy graphics in the world won’t make up for a confusing message. That doesn’t mean your direct mail has to be boring – far from it. You only have a few seconds for the recipient to decide whether your offer is one worth saving or throwing in the trash. Funny, clever copy can help get the message across, but it must be absolutely clear. The person must instantly recognize they can get a special deal on your product or service and understand exactly what they must to do to take advantage of the offer. For best results, repeat that call-to-action a few times.

5. From Direct Mail to Online

Social media and direct mail marketing are not mutually exclusive. A direct mail campaign is a good way to get customers to follow you online. The cheapest form of direct mail, the postcard, can get you more online customers and followers. You want to drive traffic to your website, and direct mail is a useful vehicle. A coupon code on the postcard for online sales or some other promotion can gain you the customer info that you can then follow up on via an email or social media marketing campaign.


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4 Essential Tips for Time Management On-the-Go

Woman Checking Her Phone

It happens to the best of us: you’ve worked hard to build a daily routine that lets you maximize every second of every day. You’ve mastered the fine art of working smarter, not harder, and everyone in the office is jealous of your productivity skills. Then, that upcoming business trip (or even vacation) gets slotted on the calendar and threatens to jeopardize everything you’ve built up to this point.

Take a deep breath and relax. Staying as productive as humanly possible while on-the-go is a challenge, yes, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. If you want to make the best use of your time while you’re out of the office, here are four simple, yet essential, tips you’ll want to focus on.

1) Beware of Those Time Zones

You know how it takes everyone a few days to recovery from the hour gained or lost due to Daylight Savings Time? Time zones are even worse for your productivity, especially if you’re not a frequent traveler. If you’re going to be headed across the country (or even across the world), the first thing you should do is update all of your devices to local time. You’re the one out of the office, so the burden is on you to adapt, not everyone else. Most “smart” devices have a feature in the “Settings” application that will update to local time automatically as soon as you connect to your first Wi-Fi network once you arrive.

2) Cloud Storage Is Your Friend

If you’re not already embracing the wonders of cloud-based storage services like Dropbox, now would be the time to start. Not only does it make sure that all of your documents sync to all of your devices, but many services (like Dropbox for Business) include built-in collaboration features that let multiple people edit the same documents at the same time. Whether you’re on a business trip or are on vacation, if something needs to be approved or modified while you’re waiting for your flight to take off, you’ll still have the opportunity.

3) Don’t Try to Adapt Your Routine. Make a New One

Regardless of where you’re headed, your instinct may be to take your daily routine, the one you worked so hard to build and hone, and cram it into a travel-shaped box. This is an instinct that you should fight at all costs. Don’t pretend that nothing has changed just because you’re going to be away from the office for a few days. That’s how mistakes are made. Instead, think about the obligations you have on your trip and find opportunities to remain productive around those scheduled demands. You’ll have a much better chance at building a new, temporary routine that works for the specifics of the situation you find yourself in.

4) The Devil Is (NOT) in the Details

When you’re hard at work in the office, you tend to have more time to pay attention to the little details of the task at hand. It’s something that goes hand-in-hand with being a career-driven professional. The problem is that this is almost always a bad idea. Striving for perfection 100% of the time is a great way to get less done in a day than you need to.


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Top Five Ways to Work Less and Enjoy Life More

Child and a father

Everything today is about “more”: more money, more time, more pressure, and ultimately, more stress. However, does this rat-race life leave you feeling flat and defeated and constantly chasing an ideal you’re no longer sure exists? If this sounds like you, it’s probably time to downshift and find ways to work less and truly enjoy your life more. Working less sounds like a scary prospect, but once you see how achievable it is and how much peace it will return to your life, you will be sold!

1. Make Changes at Work

We often get caught up in the tidal wave of rushing to get to the next level at work. So caught up, in fact, that we don’t realize we are no longer enjoying the work that we do and aren’t even sure that we’re adding value. How do you make an honest shift towards happiness while not letting down your co-workers or your boss, and continuing to pay your bills? Fortunately, there are more options available than ever before. There are simple steps that you can take such as walking at lunch as a way to get away from your desk or more drastic options such as requesting a lower-stress (and likely lower-paid) position. However, there are some great middle ground opportunities at businesses today as long as you get creative. Have you ever considered flex time? More than ever, organizations are allowing their employees to work one day a week from home or create a more flexible schedule that doesn’t inconvenience office mates or negatively impact work.

2. Pick Your Battles

Think of everything that you need or want to accomplish in the next five years. Maybe it’s saving up for a big trip, or getting that huge promotion you’ve had your heart set on. Physically write down what is most important to you in the short-term and the long-term, and those are the things that you don’t want to compromise on. Everything else is up for negotiation. If a short jaunt with friends comes up that will require you to skip a vacation day with family later in the year, just say no! The same goes for things like eating out on a weekly basis. The costs associated with feeding a family of three or four outside the home can really mount up, and keep you from reaching longer-term goals for a short-term convenience. This trade-off may not be worth it and may cause you to have to work overtime to support your fast-food habits.

3. Stop Multitasking

Taking the time to focus on one topic at a time truly does pay off. While multitasking feels efficient, a recent study at Stanford University showed how productivity can plummet when your brain attempts to focus on more than one thing at the same time. Instead, be intentional about what you need to accomplish — focus, complete the task, and then move on.

4. Automate Your Savings

Ever find it difficult to get enough money together at the end of each month for savings? If so, it’s time to outsmart yourself! Even if it’s only ten to twenty dollars per week, start sending a small chunk of change from each paycheck to a savings account that you can’t easily access, and do it automatically. The theory being that if you never see the money, you’ll never miss it. Before you know it, you’ll be able to buy something you’ve really wanted without having to work overtime or take on extra shifts to make it happen.

5. Get Motivated

Sometimes, the way to do your best work is simply to have fun! When you are energized and enjoying what you do, work just comes more naturally. Creative juices flow, relationships with co-workers have more synergy, and life is good. When you’re at work, look for ways to enjoy it! The positive mood will spill over into your personal life, and you’ll find yourself enjoying life more every day.

These are just a few of the ways you can find more peace and joy in your daily life, simply by finding the balance between hard work and hard play. Multitask less, focus more, and bring fun to everything you do!


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What You Need to Know About Color in Design

pantone

In a recent study conducted by KissMetrics.com, visual appearance and color ranked more important to consumers than just about everything else when viewing marketing materials. In fact, ninety-three percent of people who responded to the survey said that visual appearance (which color is a part of) was the most important factor they used when making a purchasing decision. Only six percent said texture, while on percent placed a heavy value on sound and smell.

Color and Marketing: Breaking it Down

Along these same lines, an incredible eighty-five percent of consumers said that color was THE primary reason why they chose to buy a particular product or service. It goes without saying that the right color design is the perfect place to start with your marketing materials.

In terms of your long-term success, one of the most valuable resources that you have available to you is and will always be your brand. It’s something that lives on long after a purchase is made. It’s the narrative and the set of strong, relatable values that are at the heart of your business. Additional studies have shown that the careful use of color can increase brand recognition by up to eighty percent, which, in turn, goes a long way towards increasing consumer confidence at the same time.

But What Do Colors Mean?

However, none of this is to say that your marketing materials should be jam-packed with as many colors as possible. Quite the contrary, in fact. Different colors have all been known to affect people on an emotional and psychological level in a variety of ways. Consider the following:

  • Yellow is often associated with optimism and youthful enthusiasm. This is why it’s often used to grab the attention of people like window shoppers.
  • Red is almost always associated with a sense of energy and excitement. In fact, red is a great way to create a sense of urgency in your readers (and when used right can even increase their heart rate, too!)
  • Black is considered to be very powerful and very sleek, which is why it is usually used to market luxury products.
  • Green is normally associated with wealth – which makes perfect sense because money is green. It also happens to be the easiest color for the human eyes to process, which is why green is often used to underline important information in marketing copy.

To that end, it’s important to use different colors depending on exactly what it is you’re trying to accomplish. Are you trying to highlight an upcoming clearance sale and want to create a sense of urgency? Make sure those fliers and posters have as much red on them as possible. Are you trying to attract the attention of a more sophisticated level of clientele, or do you want to positively influence the overall impression that people get when they see your products? Try using as much black as you can.

Color is a powerful tool when used correctly, but it’s important to remember that it is just one of many. But, provided your use of color matches up with both your audience and your long-term objectives, you’ll find that it can be a terrific way to put your campaigns over the top and start generating the types of results you deserve.


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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

ipad

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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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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