Cash Flow and Marketing: What You Need to Know

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Cash flow is important in the lifespan of any business, but one of the key things to understand is that it’s about more than just “money in versus money out.” It’s a valuable look into the bigger picture of what you’re doing, and by having a handle on this aspect of your finances, you can take advantage of business opportunities when they arise.

First, you need to understand how every element of your business relates to this cash flow concept, including marketing. To that point, marketing has a very specific relationship with cash flow that you’re going to need to be aware of moving forward.

Hone Your Budget

Yes, it’s true that marketing costs can often seem unpredictable. However, working hard to hone your marketing budget can make these unexpected situations easier to deal with.

To get started, sit down and think about your upcoming marketing efforts in relation to your other expected cash inflows and outflows. You can’t afford to throw just anything at the wall to see what sticks;  you have to be more precise than that. Create a realistic marketing budget (that includes room for experimentation if needed) that is proportional to the rest of your expected business expenses and revenue streams.

It’s All About That Return

What matters most? Return on investment. For this, focus on the metrics that provide you the context necessary to understand your marketing efforts.

Essentially, stop thinking about marketing ROI as just “how many sales did that last campaign bring in?” and don’t be afraid to break things down on a more granular level. Start looking at metrics like your customer acquisition cost. If one of your campaigns was aimed at increasing more traffic to your website, start breaking things down based on metrics like “time spent on site” and “conversion rate.”

It’s important to know how your marketing collateral is performing in terms of overall sales and revenues, but in terms of your cash flow you need to dive deeper than that. As long as you’re able to A) show that your marketing is giving you something in return, and B) you can identify exactly what that something is and when it occurs, you know where the value of every marketing dollar rests.

This, in turn, will give you the context necessary to understand marketing’s affect on cash flow and vice versa. When you know that “X action will pay off in Y way after Z amount of time,” you suddenly know the impact that every marketing decision you make actually has and when that impact is going to occur. This makes long-term cash flow projections not only easier to make but more accurate as well.


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5 Ways to Find the Strength to Try One More Time.

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Have you ever wondered what it takes to become an Olympic athlete, a NASA astronaut, or a leader in a major organization?

The one trait that all of these individuals likely possess is persistence: the ability to get back up, dust themselves off after a fall, and keep trying. No matter your talent, regardless of your genius and irrespective of your education, persistence is often the trait that sets people apart from their peers in terms of their level of success.

Succeeding at anything in life requires a great deal of effort over a period of time — very few people simply decide to be the best at their craft and are able to do it without a battle. How do these individuals find the strength to try one more time . . . repeatedly?

1. Be Prepared

Planning for success helps you think through all of the reasons why someone would disagree with your ideas, and also gives you the bulletproof mentality that you’re prepared for any question that comes your way. Think of all the reasons why something won’t be successful, and then consider arguments against that point. Become your own devil’s advocate, and it will be that much easier to find a positive response and an open door for your next request.

2. Be Adaptable

Being adaptable provides you with the mental agility to not hide in a corner when you’re kicked to the curb. As Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle Corporation states:

“When you innovate, you’ve got to be prepared for people telling you that you are nuts.”  

You have to be willing to adapt your thinking and your processes and find a way to create change while not straying from your core ideas. You can’t listen to every naysayer, but you can look for the nuggets of wisdom that they share and use that information to your advantage the next time you try to move forward.

3. Be Confident

You may be surprised that confidence is not the first attribute we consider, but the reality is, you need to have a plan in place that you can trust and support before confidence will help you through to success. Confidence in yourself, your family, and your ideas — as well as a burning passion to make a change in the world — are what can help you continue on even when it feels as though there’s no path forward.

4. Do the Work

Unfortunately, there are few things in life that can replace hard work. Whether that hard work is from an athlete completing the same moves repeatedly for months or even years or a business leader who is told “No” more times than they can count, the ability to simply buckle down and execute on your vision is critical to long-term success.

5. Inspire Others

Perhaps one of the most rewarding things you will ever do with your life is to inspire others to be their best. Take the time throughout your life to inspire others. When you realize how many people you have impacted and how many are watching your success, it’s a lot easier to find the strength to try again in difficult times.

Finally, in the words of Thomas Edison: “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” Shouldn’t you give it one more shot?


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“The royal road to a man’s heart is to talk to him about the thing he treasures most.”

A Royal Road to the Heart

“The royal road to a man’s heart is to talk to him about the thing he treasures most.”

Relationships are the backbone of everything we do, especially in business. Whether you intentionally network or avoid small talk like the plague, relationships are something you can’t afford to ignore. A Harvard University study showed that only 15% of the reason a person gets, keeps, or advances in a job is related to technical expertise, but a crushing 85% has to do with our interpersonal skills!

Networking is a Lifestyle

Here’s the good news: the best networking is what naturally occurs in authentic, real-life relationships. Networking isn’t just something you do at professional mixers or conventions, rather, connections that leverage results are the ones we build every day. Networking is not an event, it’s a lifestyle! However, daily networking means you may need to stretch yourself socially, which can be a challenge for Americans. The APA defines Social Phobia as an (irrational) fear of looking stupid, and social phobia is especially common in the United States. Social phobia can be healthy, acting as a “social glue” in relationships and protecting our reputation. But is there a down side? Does social phobia keep us from advancing? Maybe more than we think!

Conversations: The Critical Link to Success

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

Conversations are a critical link in the chain of relationships that lead to success, so if you want to grow professionally you need to get over your nerves and genuinely enjoy people. Sweaty palms? That’s ok! The best way to conquer fear is to go out and get busy! Here is a wonderful visual memory “stack” to move conversations forward and empower you for more proactive, inspiring conversations.

The Conversational Stack 

Visual #1: A huge brass nameplate.
Introductions start with names, and people love talking about themselves! Use names early and often.

Visual #2: Atop the nameplate sits a large white house.
Ask where someone lives or where they grew up. When people talk about their hometown they loosen up and you find many common connections.

Visual #3: Inside the house is a family playing board games by the fire.
Ask about family and important relationships!

Visual #4: On the fireplace is a large work glove and a clock.
Work and daily tasks are a huge part of identity. Chat about work, school, or how they spend their TIME.

Visual #5: The work glove holds the tail of an airplane.
Many people adore traveling and talk for hours about their adventures.

Visual #6: The propeller of the airplane is a tennis racket.
Ask people about leisure, hobbies, and what brings them joy.

Visual #7: The airplane propeller is attached by a lightbulb.
People love to discuss books they’ve read or concepts of interest. People think cool thoughts; encourage them to SHARE!

Visual #8: On the lightbulb stands a Private First-Class soldier.
If you want to genuinely connect, never forget to ask about Problems, Frustrations, and Concerns.

Visual #9: The soldier holds a football goal post and a trophy.
If you want to inspire, be sure to ask about goals, dreams, and accomplishments. Affirm and encourage people too!

A Guaranteed Return on Investment

Why make conversation? Because success stems from relationships, and great conversations always bring a 100% return. So, go enjoy people, and stop in to see us soon. We look forward to more wonderful conversations with you this year!


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2017 Price Change Information: USPS Marketing Mail and What You Need to Know

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A new year always brings with it a variety of different changes, and it seems that 2017 will be no exception, as far as the United States Postal Service is concerned. Anyone who relies on the USPS for their direct mail marketing activities would do well to sit up and take notice, especially with regards to the price change information and other news that has recently been announced.

What’s In a Name?

According to PitneyBowes.com, the USPS “Standard Mail” tier will be rebranded as USPS Marketing Mail in 2017. Additionally, what was previously known as “Alternate Postage” will now be called “Share Mail.” Pricing structures have been changed (and arguably, simplified) accordingly.

When the new branding goes into effect, letters that are 3.5 ounces in size or less will cost $0.284 – a reduction from the current $0.290 pricing structure. Flat rates for items that are four ounces or less, on the other hand, will actually increase to $0.555 from the current rate of $0.546 that is expiring. It’s important to note that these rates are for the USPS Marketing Mail items that are processed through non-automation means.

Other Upcoming USPS Changes

The USPS also announced a number of other changes, particularly to items that fall into the presorted mail category. Overall, people can expect a price decrease on average of about 0.25%, though it’s important to note that certain types of items will actually increase in price at the same time.

One change that marketers will no doubt be happy about is the fact that presorted First Class Mail will see a significant price reduction. Starting at the end of January, sending 3.5-ounce materials will now cost the same price as a one-ounce letter. Up until these changes go into effect, the pricing category ranged from one to two ounces, not 3.5 ounces.

Those First Class letters up to one ounce will now cost you $0.49 as opposed to the current $0.47. Flat rates up to one ounce will increase to $0.98 from $0.94, while First Class Mail parcels will allow you to pay one price ($2.67) for any item up to four ounces in size. Each additional ounce will cost you $0.21, which is actually one of the few categories of pricing that will remain unchanged in the new year.

Changes Behind the Scenes in 2017

It’s also important to note a significant change in the way these types of items are processed. Items that used to fall under the 3-Digit and AADC categories are being combined with First-Class Mail Presorted Automation Letters and USPS Marketing Mail Automation Letters. Ultimately, this won’t really change the price that you can expect to pay when you send your marketing materials out into the world, but in theory, it should make them easier to process and send out once they’ve made their way into the hands of the United States Postal Service.

All of these changes will go into effect on January 22, 2017. Until then, the current pricing structure will still apply. As marketing budgets get tighter than ever during a period where direct mail marketing has never been more important, it’s always essential to stay as up-to-date as possible on any and all USPS pricing changes to help make sure you’re getting the most out of your hard-earned (marketing) dollar.


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What’s in a Leaf?

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If you enjoy watching the leaves float down during the fall season, you probably already know that just like snowflakes, each tree’s leaves are individual and unique. Unlike snowflakes, though, leaves can tell you from which tree they came, and fortunately, there are many resources available to you for identifying trees by their leaves.

Knowing more about your surroundings is important, and it can apply well in a work situation.

Discovery

An excellent resource for identifying trees will take you on a journey of discovery: from the color and shape of the leaf to how many points it has, all to learn more about the tree it came from. It might go on to identify the type of bark, the size of the tree, and more to help you determine which tree you are looking at.

There are many ways you can apply this strategy of discovery with your customers, especially if they are repeat customers. If you think about each customer as if they were an onion with many layers to uncover, you can view each contact with them as an opportunity to peel away one more layer.

Learning

Your customers are individuals with unique personalities, family issues, work challenges, and styles of doing business. You can work on strategies to uncover more information about your customers to help cement a relationship with them. Customers who like you and enjoy your relationship are more willing to continue to do business with you and become loyal repeat customers.

Depth

Depending on how you maintain your customer records, there are different methods of collecting and retaining information about your clients. In an article, “7 Ways to (Really) Know Your Customers,” it offers several suggestions for small businesses to get to know their customers better including gleaning social data from sites such as Facebook.
By getting to know your customers better, you can anticipate when they will be spending, what triggers a purchase, and how you can be proactive in contacting them for their triggers. As you learn more about your customer, you can apply your knowledge to help them better manage their relationship with you, potentially saving them money in the long run. For instance, if they are buying their products when needed, but you see a pattern, you can sell them a larger bulk amount on a periodic basis saving them money and securing the purchase for your account.

Knowledge

Knowing your customers will allow you to separate the A and B level of customers from the one-time business customers. As you develop your relationships with your clients, you can grow your business in depth. Then, using similar methods, seek out new business and begin the process again.


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Don’t Make the Internet Angry: Important Considerations About Using Social Media as a Marketing Platform

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As a sheer marketing platform, social media brings with it a host of advantages that can’t be ignored. According to one recent study, there will be 2.5 billion unique users worldwide on social media networks by as soon as 2018. Right now, social media sites like Twitter and Facebook have the potential to effortlessly connect you with approximately 70% of the United States population.
However, social media also presents some challenges, too – particularly if you insist on taking the “tried but true” marketing techniques of yesteryear and trying to cram them into a social media-shaped box. If you want to unlock the real potential that only social media can provide, you’ll need to keep a few key things in mind.

Different Users Are Looking for Different Things

One of the most important things to understand about social media networks is that they aren’t all created equally. Someone who uses Facebook isn’t looking for the same TYPE of message that someone who uses Twitter is. The same goes for LinkedIn, Pinterest and more. While they’re all “social networks” in the strictest sense of the definition, they all have their unique strengths.

Twitter users are looking for shorter, bite-sized bits of information while Facebook users prefer longer, more thoughtful posts. A piece of marketing collateral that you designed for Facebook won’t necessarily play well to Twitter’s audience, and vice versa. You have to understand the channel you’re using, play to its strengths, and adapt across the board. Even if you’re presenting the same message on each network, you have to make sure that the delivery mechanism is optimized for the platform you’re working with at the time.

Think Young

One of the most mission critical things to understand as you move forward with social media is the fact that 90% of young adults today (defined as people between the ages of 18 and 29) are social media users. Not only that, but a third of them say that social media is one of their preferred methods for communicating with businesses in general.

In essence, this means that if you want to create the type of loyal following that will carry your business far NOW, you have to start playing to their habits on social media today. These younger users will continue to age, and if you can hook them young via social media, you’ve likely hooked them forever.

Social Media Demands Honesty

Finally, one of the most important considerations about using social media as a marketing platform has to do with what happens if things go wrong. Because of the intimate, constant connection that social media generates, anything less than honesty is not welcome. If customers have a concern, address it. If a legitimate problem arises, do what you can to make it right. If something bad happens with your company – be it a negative run-in with a customer to a full-fledged PR disaster – don’t just try to sweep it under the rug and pretend like it never happened.

Gabe Newell, a former Microsoft employee and founder of Valve Corporation, said it best when he said “One of the things we learned pretty early on is ‘Don’t ever, ever try to lie to the internet – because they will catch you. They will deconstruct your spin. They will remember everything you ever say for eternity.”

In essence, this means that while social media can bring a lot of positive attributes to your company regarding the sheer marketing power it offers, it is also a slippery slope. If you want to use social media to develop meaningful, lasting relationships with your target audience, you can’t assume this is a given. You have to earn it, and you can never take it for granted.


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The Art of the Pivot

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No matter what business you’re talking about, most companies usually begin life in the same way: with an idea. You wake up one morning, have an idea for a product or service that you’re sure will be the “next big thing,” and you get to work. You fully commit yourself to building an infrastructure, developing and expanding on your idea, and eventually, you bring your product or service to market.

And then things have a habit of sometimes not going necessarily how you’d planned them.

Maybe people are using your product, but they’re not using it in the exact way that you intended. Certainly not in the way you built your strategy around. Maybe your product or service isn’t popular at all, but the underlying idea is still a solid one. In these situations, you have two options: you can pack up your ball and go home, or you could do what some of the most successful companies in the history of planet Earth have done: you pivot.

The Art of the Pivot in Action

A few years ago, an online role-playing game was founded called “Game Neverending” – you’re forgiven if you’ve never heard of it. The premise was simple – users would travel around a digital map and find other people to buy, sell, and build items with. Included inside the game was a photo-sharing tool, which quickly became one of the most popular parts of the experience. Though the developers loved their idea, users weren’t quite so kind. People were spending less and less time on the “buying, selling, and building items” part and more on the “photo-sharing” part, causing significant problems for the company’s long-term goals.

While you’ve probably never heard of “Game Neverending,” you ARE no doubt aware of a service called Flickr – one of the most popular and widely used photo-sharing tools of the digital age. The developers behind “Game Neverending” realized that they were never going to get people to love their RPG the way they did, so they did what any entrepreneurs would do: they pivoted. They threw out everything except the proven-successful photo-sharing technology and started from scratch. One acquisition by Yahoo! later, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Let the Market Be Your Guide

The key takeaway from this is that you need to be willing to listen to the market and allow it to guide you through execution, even if that execution is at odds with your original intent. Remember that the market is telling you “We like this, but it would be better if it had X, Y, and Z features” is different from pivoting. If users enjoyed the RPG experience of “Game Neverending” and the developers just kept adding game-related features, we might not have Flickr today.

Instead, the market communicated loud and clear: “We don’t like this game, but we do enjoy this one thing that the game lets us do.” These are the types of moments you have to be not only willing to listen to, but also to allow them to change your idea of what your product or service could become.

Listening to the market and being willing to pivot, even if that was the furthest thing from your mind at the time, is not a bad thing. Indeed, history has proven that great things have been born out of it time and again. Because if you release a product or service and are unwilling to change based on the ideals of your users, you’ll wind up hemorrhaging users pretty quickly.

And without those users, what are you left with? Little more than a good idea in search of a purpose, which isn’t anything at all.


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Once Upon a Time

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Storytelling is a time-honored tradition which began before humanity had the ability to create long-lasting printed documents. The first stories were a way of passing on an oral tradition and history of various cultures around the world. There is still a storytelling tradition in many cultures, although as communities spread out, storytelling has moved to written, printed, and now digital methods of recording the tales. Oral traditions created a rich history for ancient cultures that gave rise to much of what we call myths and legends today, a blend of history and religion which gave purpose to people who lived short and often harsh lives.

Role of Printing in Storytelling

The development of the printing press gave stories new life because they could be disseminated on a broader scale and replicated easily. No longer were scribes necessary for copying expensive books and papers. Not only was the rich, cultural history and religious beliefs of various people shared among a wider community, but pure fiction was written for the purpose of entertainment and enjoyment for the masses. For those who were not taught to read, stories were read and passed around by those who could.

Storytelling in the Digital Age

While it has become easier to distribute stories in the digital age, and more of the world’s population is educated enough to read, storytelling continues to be a powerful way to distribute a message to people. Computers and the internet make spreading the word faster, but the concept of an oral tradition is easily seen in the many repetitions of news stories online from different slants or points of view. The question lies in how an entity or brand can create a unified story to present to an audience or market. With the unique ability to duplicate digital image and print and distribute them through many channels, storytelling can be a powerful tool for marketing a company or organization.

Incorporating Storytelling in Marketing and Branding

A recent article in Search Engine Journal discusses the benefits of storytelling as a method for branding. The author, Katy Katz, talks about how storytelling creates connections and potential bonds between a brand and a market. When thinking about storytelling for a brand, call to mind some of the brands that you grew up with that have become common words in the American culture such as Kleenex, Coke or Pampers, often used to replace the actual word for the item being talked about. While creating a storytelling campaign for your own brand may not turn it into a common household word, you will still be able to cement the story with the brand name to create lasting memories in the minds of your audience.

Benefits of Brand Storytelling

Katz mentions 5 benefits to brand storytelling in her article.

1. Storytelling builds memories.
2. Storytelling is a natural motivator.
3. Storytelling builds relationships.
4. Storytelling makes content exciting.
5. Storytelling can make something old, new again.

How Can You Use these Benefits to Your Advantage in Marketing?

Since most businesses have competitors that offer products or services that are similar to theirs, branding offers a way to show your differences. Creating a brand story or even just telling your brand’s story in a cohesive manner can give your audience reasons to bond with you beyond pricing or product quality. An excellent example of brand storytelling is the way Tom’s Shoes has incorporated their brand name with their history of giving. (http://www.toms.com/stories/giving/10-years-of-giving-together) They have created not only an excellent product, but a compelling reason to buy from them.

You can do the same.


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Create An Environment That High-Value Employees Want To Work In

work-environmentIf you tasked most business leaders with sitting down and making a list of their struggles, attracting high-value employees would more than likely fall close to the top. Finding those versatile, well-rounded, and driven candidates is one thing – getting them to come aboard is something else entirely. Making sure you’re not just a “stepping stone” in someone’s successful career is also a lot easier said than done. If you want to attract the type of high-value employees that will carry your organization forward, you have to start from within and create the kind of organization they want to work for in the first place.

Would You Want to Work for Your Business?

If you want to attract high-value employees in a marketplace that is growing increasingly competitive with each passing day, you need to start by putting yourself in their shoes. What are some things that 21st-century talent may be looking for that you aren’t currently offering?

Thanks to things like SaaS (software-as-a-service) and IaaS (infrastructure-as-a-service), the ability for businesses to allow employees to work remotely has become a significant priority for quality applicants. Even if you don’t feel comfortable bringing someone on and allowing them to work from the home full-time, see if having them work remotely two out of the five business days is something you can manage.

Likewise, BYOD (bring your own device) has become a significant priority for younger employees. It lets them bring their own smartphones, tablets and other devices to work that they already feel comfortable using, thus increasing the overall quality of the work they’re able to generate. It also helps save money for businesses, as you no longer have to pay to purchase and maintain a computer for an employee if they’re already bringing one from home. These small changes to your existing policies can go a long way towards creating the type of environment and culture that attracts the talent you’re after.

Get Competitive

Another one of the core ways to attract valuable employees these days involves being as competitive as possible when it comes to job perks. Apple, for example, has a now-legendary attraction strategy that includes not only traditional perks like healthcare, but also things like educational reimbursement as well. Not every company has the type of bankroll that Apple does, but it’s always important to remember that making an investment in your employees through competitive perks is ultimately an investment in the future of your company.

These are just a few of the many ways that you can create the type of environment that makes it easy to attract high-value employees and even easier to retain them for the long haul. Remember: quality employees don’t grow on trees, and the difference between someone who is “just punching a clock” versus someone who is putting their blood, sweat, and tears into the task at hand is an immense difference, indeed. By putting yourself in their shoes and creating the type of company they can’t help but want to work for, you, in turn, create the kind of company clients can’t wait to do business with.


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3 Tips to Communicate with All Types of Clients

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When it comes to reaching your audience, a lot comes down to communicating with them in the language they will understand. We can learn a lot from Julia, a Pasadena ten-year-old. Julia is deaf; her new puppy, Walter, is as well. But, the two have found the ability to communicate with one another with ease. Julia has begun training the seven-month-old puppy by teaching him sign language. The dog knows the signs for sit, water, food and several others.

Julia’s mother, Chrissy, said that when her Julia was born, she couldn’t hear her mom and would smell Chrissy’s neck for comfort instead. The moment Chrissy picked up Walter, he did the same thing. “I remember just looking at him, and I knew that he was meant to be ours,” she said in a Humane Society video. Walter was the last puppy of his litter to be adopted, but the Humane Society did not give up hope.

The Pasadena Humane Society, which introduced the two, posted a video of Julia and Walter on their page. The reaction was immediate and positive. “Amazing!!” said one commenter. “This is my dog, Wyatt. He is also deaf, and he has no idea he is different.”

When we are communicating with our prospects and our customers, we can take some valuable lessons from Julia and Walter:

1. Different customers will respond to different communication.

Customers are not all the same. You will deal with Millennials and Boomers, urban and rural folks, and people from different income brackets and areas of the country. It is important to segment your marketing lists and create materials for each individual group.

2. Remember that each group does not think of itself as a segment.

Just like the dog Wyatt who thinks himself like any other dog, your customers just think of themselves as ordinary people. Talk to them directly and respectfully. Never talk down to a group. Don’t use slang that is not in keeping with your brand. This can feel false and off-putting.

3. Remember that consistent marketing is key.

Don’t just reach out to each segment once. Create follow-up emails and other remarketing opportunities. If you do direct mail, send a follow-up postcard to go out to people who did not respond to your initial offer. Just like raising puppies requires a long-term commitment, nurturing a prospect from initial contact to conversion takes patience, time and effort.

Marketing segmentation takes more time and attention than a shotgun approach. But, over time, you will find that it consistently increases your return on your marketing investment and helps you build stronger relationships with your clients.

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