Monday, November 30, 2015

Why You Should Invest In Inbound Marketing Before CRM Implementation


Since the beginning of time, humanity has sought to answer unanswerable questions, like which came first, the chicken or the egg?  Recently, I’ve come across a question with increasing frequency, that may not be as significant, but is probably even more important if you’re looking to embark upon a journey of accelerated sales growth.

What should you focus on first, building an effective inbound marketing/lead generation process or implementing a CRM to manage your sales and customer acquisition process?  While both are important, the question is should you focus on one before the other? 

To be clear, both are very important to making growth predictable, sustainable and scalable. If you have the resources and bandwidth you should be pursuing and enhancing both of them simultaneously. However, if you must choose between them, the decision you make will have a significant impact on your growth outlook.

Before answering the question, let’s take a look at the fundamental purpose of each initiative.

The Purpose of CRM

There are several advantages of an effective CRM system with the primary purposes being:

  • Building sales efficiency
  • Providing management insight into the status and progress of the overall sales effort
  • Ensuring compliance with the sales process
  • Providing clear reporting
  • Creating greater predictability throughout the entire sales process

The Purpose of an Inbound Marketing Program

Here too, there are lots of reasons you’d want to embark on an inbound marketing effort, with the primary purposes being:

  • Generating greater awareness and engagement with your desired markets
  • Standing out from your competition by creating and reinforcing relevant thought leadership
  • Increasing lead velocity and generating more sales qualified opportunities for the organization

To reiterate, all of these results are very important, but I think it’s pretty clear which initiative should be focused on first. That is Inbound Marketing.

3 Reasons Why You Should Focus on Inbound Efforts First 

1) CRM Doesn’t Fix Bad Processes, But Inbound Can

An effective CRM system provides tremendous value in increasing the efficiency of a good process. However, it does nothing to address an average or poor process.

For more than 20 years I’ve been working with companies looking to improve their results through CRM utilization. All too frequently significant investments are made in software, time is spent training on the system and absolutely nothing changes. The initial reaction is to blame it on bad CRM, when the reality is that it’s bad process that is the real culprit. Designing a CRM system effectively requires that you have a clear and effective demand generation process that can be mapped to the CRM.

While working on the CRM does little to address bad sales process, the process of implementing an inbound marketing approach does a tremendous amount to improve your sales process (and thus your CRM efforts).

Inbound marketing requires that you start at the top of the funnel and work your way through to the bottom. It makes you view demand and revenue generation from a holistic viewpoint, to understand your market better and to align your sales efforts to how your market behaves today. All of these things drive greater revenue opportunities and create the path to gain the very efficiencies that CRMs promise to create.

2) Effective Inbound Methodology Creates Better CRM Application

I deal with a lot of companies that have been using CRM for years. It is a rare event for me to come across someone who has either designed or implemented their CRM effectively. The data is, to put it bluntly, 90% crap.

A tremendous amount of the value you get from using a CRM comes from the ability to slice and dice the data to segment effectively and increase personalization. However, if you haven’t done the basic work of defining your buyer personas, designing the message to enable you to personalize and to determine how you are going to effectively nurture, you won’t have the clarity to use your CRM effectively.

In my experience, effective CRM reinforces an effective inbound marketing and sales approach, it does not create one. I’ve lost count of the number of times a client has had to substantially change their CRM as a result of the creation of an effective inbound marketing strategy.

3) You Cannot Have Predictable Growth Without Predictable Lead Generation

If I were to summarize the two most valuable benefits of a CRM it would be predictability and efficiency. As I’ve shared, inbound marketing creates the environment for an efficient process, but what about creating predictability?

Simply put, you cannot have predictable sales results or predictable growth if you do not first have predictable lead generation. While creating an effective lead generation strategy certainly involves more than just inbound marketing, inbound is a crucial component.

Inbound marketing enables you to build a true funnel that allows you to build a predictable pipeline for growth.  Consider the following:

The natural focus of building engagement that is created by fully adopting an inbound marketing approach builds a more efficient and effective sales process and make CRM adoption a much easier, more profitable effort.

Additionally, a major benefit of inbound marketing is that it creates revenue. No matter how you slice it, CRM is a cost (a valuable one, but a cost nonetheless). Building an effective revenue generation process creates the environment that allows efficiency and predictability to be sustainable.

Investing the time, money and energy into inbound marketing first, puts you in a stronger position to both implement an effective CRM initiative and to accelerate growth.

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Get to Know Women in Tech: 33 Facts About Female Leaders in the Tech Industry [Infographic]


For a long time, the tech industry was heavily dominated by men. Nowadays, though, more and more women are entering both regular and high-level positions in tech. In fact, the eight largest tech companies are hiring women 238% faster than they are men, including Google, Apple, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Who are these women? How about Sandra Kurtzig, the first female entrepreneur to take a Silicon Valley company public? Or Stephanie Hannon, the first woman to manage technology for a U.S. presidential campaign?

Coupofy aggregated data from 30 trusted sources and looked at the most successful women in the industry and their roles as founders, leaders, and venture capitalists. Check out the results of their research in the infographic below.


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Overwhelmed by Email? Here Are 11 Great Tools for Organizing Your Inbox


Most people have a love-hate relationship with their email inbox. On the one hand, email can be exciting – whether you’re making progress with a client, replacing a meeting with a (much more efficient) email thread, or receiving an invitation to a fun social gathering.

On the other hand, though, email can be overwhelming – especially if you lose control.

And boy is it easy to lose control. After all, email is one of the top ways we communicate with a lot of the people in our lives, from our best friends to people we’ve never spoken with before. Many of us get bombarded by new emails on a regular basis, and it’s stressful to know that we might be missing out on the truly important stuff amid the flood of less pertinent stuff.

Luckily, there are a lot of tools out there that can help us get more organized. In this post, we’ll go through 11 of our favorite tools for organizing your inbox. Try ‘em out, and help pave your own way to a more productive and less stressful email experience.

11 Tools for Organizing Your Inbox


Price: Free

The first step to relieving your inbox from all that email is to unsubscribe from all the newsletters you’ve subscribed to over the years. But unsubscribing manually from tens, maybe hundreds of newsletters would take forever.

Enter, a free tool that lets you mass unsubscribe from all the newsletters you don’t read. You can either wipe the slate clean and unsubscribe from everything at once, or you can pick and choose. Read this blog post to learn more about how it works.


2) The Email Game

Price: Free

If you’re overwhelmed by the amount of email in your inbox but dread the thought of clearing it out, and you’re a competitive person, The Email Game might be right up your alley. This free tool for Gmail and Google apps gamifies the act of clearing out your inbox.

All you have to do is enter your email address, and the game will begin. It gives you five seconds per email to decide what to do with it: reply, “boomerang” (i.e. archive now and resurface in your inbox at a later, specified time), archive, delete, or skip. You get a certain number of points for each action and you’re penalized if you go over time. If you click “reply,” then you’re given three minutes by default to respond. You can always add time if you really need to, but speed is in your best interest here.

3) FollowUpThen

Price: Free; Paid Versions Available

Here’s another simple but useful tool, this time for reminding you – and even your clients, if you want – to follow up on specific emails.

Here’s how it works: Compose an email, and then include [any time] in the “Bcc,” “Cc,” or “To” fields of your email. The “any time” wording here is pretty flexible: It can be ",“ ",” “,” “,” “,” and so on.

What happens to that email when you click “send” depends where you put that email address:

  • Bcc: You’ll get a follow-up regarding the email (without bothering the original recipient).
  • Cc: The tool will schedule a reminder for you and the recipient.
  • To: The tool will send an email to your future self.

It works for every email client, and it’s free for up to 50 follow-ups per month. You can increase the number of follow-ups and add features like calendar integration for between $2–$9 per month.

4) Boomerang 

Price: Free

Boomerang is a powerful tool I’ve been using for years to manage my Gmail inbox. This Chrome extension for Gmail users does two things really well:

  1. It lets you schedule emails to be sent later.
  2. It lets you archive emails that will reemerge in your inbox later as an unread message.

The second concept here is similar to that of FollowUpThen, except you have a lot more control over tracking and changing the times at which emails reemerge in your inbox. It’s free and works on desktop and mobile, including Android.


5) Sidekick

Price: Free; Paid Versions Available

Ever wanted to know who opens your emails and when, how many times, and from where? When you download the Sidekick Chrome extension, you can opt in to get live notifications whenever someone opens or clicks on the links in your emails.

Another cool feature is the contact information sidebar that pops up when you open an email thread. It includes all the relevant information about the person you’re emailing, including past contact history (kind of like LinkedIn’s “relationship tab” function), social media content, mutual connections, and so on. Soon, the extension will let you schedule emails to send later.


Image Credit: Sidekick

The free version gets you 200 open/click notifications per month and unlimited email profiles. For unlimited open/click notifications, you can upgrade for $10 per month. There’s also a version created for sales teams that includes email templates, document sharing, and other functionalities you can learn about here.

6) SaneBox

Price: $2/month

If you’re looking to automate prioritizing each email as it comes in, you may want to give SaneBox a try. There’s nothing to install here: Basically, it works with any email client to create three new folders: SaneTop, SaneLater, and SaneNews. When a new email comes in to your inbox, SaneBox quickly analyzes it to determine how important it is. This analysis is based on your past interaction with your inbox. If SaneBox finds the new email important, it’ll keep it in your inbox. If not, it’ll send it to one of those three folders.

Later, you’ll get a digest of the emails that were sent to those three folders so you can decide whether any of them need your attention when you have the time. Over time, you “train" SaneBox to filter certain types of emails into each of these folders.


Image Credit: SaneBox

SaneBlackHole is a fourth folder that’ll help you delete emails and unsubscribe from them in one fell swoop. When you manually drag an email into your SaneBlackHole folder, it’ll delete the email and unsubscribe from the source automatically.

There are other cool features in here too, like the "attachments” feature that automatically sends all email attachments into a Dropbox folder.

You can try SaneBox for free for two weeks, but after that, it’s $2 per month.

7) Checker Plus 

Price: Free

Checker Plus is a Chrome extension for Gmail that helps you manage multiple Gmail accounts at once so you don’t have to flip through multiple inboxes. One of the main features is instant email notifications even when Gmail isn’t open. So if you’re a fan of notifications, then you’ll like this one.

Without opening Gmail in your browser, Checker Plus will give you desktop notifications when you get a new email, along with the option to read, listen to, or delete emails.

I’m a big fan of the extension’s voice notification feature. If I get an email while I’m busy cooking dinner or something, I can choose to have the extension read the email out loud to me, even if Gmail isn’t open. (Just remember to shut this off when you head into the office.)

It’s worth noting, by the way, that Checker Plus has pretty extensive online support and documentation. If you’re having an issue with the extension, it’s not hard to find a solution.


Image Credit: PC World

8) Hiver 

Price: Free; Paid Versions Available

If your team (or heck, even your family) uses Gmail as their main email client, then this could be a useful app for collaboration. Hiver lets you share Gmail labels with other users to streamline collaboration. That way, you can share emails with other people – even if they weren’t an original recipient – by adding a shared Gmail label to that email. A great way to use these labels is by assigning tasks, delegating emails, and tracking their status.

Hiver also lets you create and share email templates with your team, as well as share notes on emails that help you summarize or explain what’s going on in an email thread. This can be helpful for anyone working on proposals, tasks, or support tickets.

Hiver’s free version lets you share labels, notes, and so on with three other users, and lets you share three labels and ten email templates. For added features and functionality, paid versions range from $6–$18 per user per month.


Image Credit: Hiver

9) Mailbird

Price: Free; Paid Versions Available

There are other email clients out there, like Mailbox, Boxer, and CloudMagic, but Mailbird manages to stand out.

While it only works for Windows users, this email client unifies your inbox with your apps by rolling your email and all your calendar, task, and messaging apps into an all-in-one interface. And it’s a simple user interface, which you can customize in different colors and layouts.

Here’s an example of what one layout looks like with email and WhatsApp integration:


Image Credit: IT World

Other popular choices for app integration include Google Calendar and a video conferencing app called Veeting rooms.

Mailbird works for Windows users on desktop and mobile. The Lite version is free and will allow you to sync three email accounts. If you want to sync more than that and want other, more advanced functionalities – like the ability to “snooze” your email, Boomerang-style – then you’ll have to get the paid version for $9 per year.

10) SimplyFile 

Price: Free

While Outlook doesn’t have nearly as many organization tools as other email clients, here’s one for Outlook users only that’ll help you spend less time filing your email. The tool adds a toolbar (or “ribbon tab”) to your inbox, with different, customizable files, which is easily accessible so you can file new emails quickly.

When an email comes in, simply drag it into the appropriate folder. You can organize both messages you’re receiving in your inbox, as well as messages you’re sending – which you can file as you send them.


Image Credit: SimplyFile

11) Gmail Special Stars

Price: Free

I couldn’t write a blog post about inbox organization without including my go-to strategy for getting to – and maintaining – inbox zero. This tool isn’t an add-on, but rather it uses a built-in feature in Gmail called “special stars,” which is just a slightly fancier labeling system than Gmail labels. Read this blog post to for step-by-step instructions for enabling special stars and using the methodology to get to inbox zero in a few hours.


Which tools do you use to organize your inbox? Share them with us in the comments.

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How to Write With Clarity: 9 Tips for Simplifying Your Message


There’s something missing from a lot of content.

It’s clarity.

Clarity means making your content easy to understand. If people can’t understand what you’re trying to say, then your content is not useful, right?

On the other hand, if you can produce sharp, clear, intelligent, and easy-to-understand content, it become much easier for people to see the value in it. They’ll want to keep reading. 

How do you make your writing crystal clear? I’ve explained nine unbeatable methods below to help you get started.

9 Unbeatable Methods for Writing With Absolute Clarity

1) Know what you want to say.

Clarity goes beyond a few writing tweaks. 

It’s a whole new way of thinking. And it forces you to think about what you’re writing before you start spilling words onto the page.

Before you write a word, you should know the following:

  • Your subject. For example, this blog post is about clear writing.
  • Your point. My point in this article is to explain how to write with clarity.
  • Your outline. An outline is the basic structure of an article. My outline has 9 points.

Seth Godin is a masterful writer. His articles are short because he knows exactly what he wants to say, then writes it. Check it out:


The lesson to learn from Godin? The clearest content is content with intention.

2) Know who you’re talking to.

Knowing your audience is an important feature of good writing. The better you know your audience, the more clearly you can communicate to them.

Let me improve on this idea. Think of your audience as a five-year-old child. 

To communicate with them effectively, write the way you would talk to a five-year-old. It won’t offend them or insult their intelligence. Instead, it will allow them to process your message easily.

Obviously, when explaining advanced topics, you will need to use bigger words and advanced concepts. For this reason, you should know what topics and concepts your audience is familiar with, and discuss such topics. 

When you write, think to yourself, “How can I help the user understand this better?” 


Image Credit: SlidePlayer

The brief list above suggests simple ways to help any user understand your content. People want to understand. They want to know what you’re trying to say. The clearer you are, the easier it is for them.

3) Define unfamiliar words.

One simple technique to make your writing clear is to explain your terms.

At the beginning of this article, I defined clarity. If I had just assumed you knew the definition, the article could have been confusing. Instead, I explained it.

If you’re going to write an article that focuses on a particular subject or concept, then be sure to explain that subject or concept. That way, readers know exactly what you’re talking about.

4) Create a sentence outline.

What is a sentence outline? 

A sentence outline is an outline of your article using complete sentences. When your outline consists of phrases or single words, it’s not clear or helpful.

Writing full sentences forces you to think through what you’re saying. Plus, full sentences help the user understand what each point is about.

5) Write one-sentence paragraphs.

One thing that I’ve tried in my writing, especially on my own blog, is creating one-sentence paragraphs. 

Here is an example from my article on webinars. 


Why do I do this?

Because it makes content scannable.

Most users don’t read every word. Instead, they skip entire words, sentences, and even sections. 

Single-sentence paragraphs cause the eye to

stop …

read …

and understand.

It’s a simple technique, and it increases clarity.

6) Make your sentences short.

Short sentences are easier to understand. If you try to pack a lot of words into a sentence, you lose clarity.


Image Credit: Charlie Hutton

What kinds of words tend to creep into sentences?

  • Adverbs: actually, currently, really, literally
  • Adjectives: very, real, simple
  • Other filler words: perhaps, pretty, now, that, in order, just, maybe 

These words just clutter your writing. The result? Your content loses meaning and clarity.

7) Don’t use long words.

Long words impact clarity. 

Why would you use words like these?

To impress people? To flaunt your knowledge? To most ordinary people, these words mean nothing.

Drop big words from your writing, and your clarity skyrockets.

8) Leverage writing tools.

Over the years I’ve come across a couple tools that make it easier for me to write clearly: Hemingway Editor and Grammarly. 

The Hemingway App is designed to make your writing clear. 

Here are the benefits:

  • The Hemingway Editor cuts the dead weight from your writing by highlighting wordy sentences in yellow and more egregious ones in red.
  • Hemingway helps you write with power and clarity by highlighting adverbs, passive voice, and dull, complicated words.


The desktop version costs $9.99.

Grammarly is an advanced proofreading software. When I started using it, I found plenty of places where I was using fluffy filler words.


Grammarly has both a free version and a paid version with advanced features. 

For even more resources, check out this comprehensive list of tools for improving your writing skills.

9) Be consistent.

It’s good to be predictable. In fact, that’s why people come back to your site –  they know what to expect and how your content will speak to them. 

Consider McDonald’s as an example of consistency. Every time you go into McDonald’s, you know how the store will look, the menu options, how to order, and how the food will taste. People go back to McDonald’s because it’s predictable.

Your website’s content is the same way. People want the same experience every time, so focus on delivering a steady and consistent style.

Mastering Clarity

Clarity is a lost art in today’s content-saturated world. If you can write more clearly than most people, then your writing will stand out.

Clear writing is powerful and compelling. It turns heads, changes minds, and encourages action. Although, keep in mind that clarity takes practice. If you don’t get it the first, second, or even tenth time, don’t worry. You will get it. 

What techniques do you use to write with clarity? Share them in the comments section below.

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Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Best Times to Send Business Emails This Holiday Season [New Data]


This post originally appeared on HubSpot’s Sales Blog. To read more content like this, subscribe to Sales.

We’ve finally found an effective email strategy. Our open and clickthrough rates are optimized – or so we thought.

Until one December morning when our metrics plummet. It must be a mistake.

Or, it’s the holiday season. Each year from November to January, email behavior changes and email strategies lose their effectiveness.

To combat this, we decided to look at 4,513,689 emails to analyze exactly how the holidays impact our one-to-one emails. The presentation below reveals all our never-before-shared insights. 

Let’s explore.

How have the holidays impacted your email activity? Share your experiences in the comments section below.

Visit the holiday resource hub for all your holiday marketing needs.

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Saturday, November 28, 2015

How to Create a 'To-Don't' List: A Productivity Trick for Focusing On What Really Matters [Infographic]


This post originally appeared on HubSpot’s Sales Blog. To read more content like this, subscribe to Sales.

When I got my first job, I was given one piece of advice over and over again: Say yes. Say yes to every opportunity that comes your way, raise your hand for side projects, and generally go above and beyond.

Going above in your role is a great way to learn and grow. But sometimes, saying no is just as important. And while you’re probably already familiar with the to-do list, there's another list out there that might be even more valuable.

The to-don’t list, as its name suggests, itemizes all the things you won’t do throughout your day.

Developed by Tom Peters, author of In Search of Excellence, this tool helps you focus on what’s actually important and serves as a conscious reminder of what’s not.

So what does a to-don’t list actually look like? Use the guiding questions in the infographic below to create your own, and check out what Daniel Pink includes on his to-don’t list.


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Friday, November 27, 2015

Why Last Year’s Holiday Ecommerce Sales Numbers Are Changing 2015 Expectations


You don’t need anyone to tell you that the holidays are a major opportunity for retailers everywhere (online or offline). But you might be surprised by the level of importance they carry and how some of these trends are changing.

RJMetrics analyzed data from hundreds of ecommerce stores. Some of what we found wasn’t too surprising – Black Friday and Cyber Monday are major shopping days for any ecommerce retailer. But some findings were a little more unexpected. The big one? For the past five years online retailers have been generating a decreasing percentage of their annual revenue during holiday months.

Read on for what’s behind these trends, and how they are changing expectations for the upcoming weeks.

How Important Was Last Holiday Season to Ecommerce Companies?

Overall, the months of November and December account for more than 20% of total annual revenue.


On average, these “holiday shopping months” bring in 30% more revenue than non-holiday months.

Is This Normal?

Without a doubt, the holiday season is  an important time for ecommerce companies. But you can add some additional context when you segment this data by year.

Since 2010, the holiday months of November and December are comprising a shrinking portion of total annual revenue. While ecommerce sales as a whole are growing – up 15.4% since 2013 according to the U.S. commerce department – retailers are generating a bigger chunk of this revenue during non-holiday months.


This chart does not in any way indicate that the health of ecommerce is decreasing, only that the holiday season is becoming less important to overall sales numbers.

Are All Categories of Ecommerce Decreasing Their Reliance on the Holiday Season?

As you can probably predict, this breakdown differs across ecommerce categories.


When we looked at the importance of the holiday season by category, predictably Apparel/Accessories and Computer/Electronics companies are much more “holiday-sensitive”. This means that a greater percentage of their total annual revenue is generated during holiday months than Food/Drug, Health/Beauty, and Housewares/Home Furnishings categories.

The decreasing importance of the holiday season over the years is even more pronounced for holiday-sensitive categories.


The two holiday-sensitive segments, Apparel/Accessories and Computer/Electronics, are being disproportionately impacted by this trend. In 2010, holiday-sensitive categories were generating 32% of their total annual revenue during the holiday months. In 2014, they generated 20% of their total annual revenue during the holiday months, a massive 12 percentage point drop over the past 4 years.  

Interestingly, since 2012, holiday shopping has made up only 16% of annual revenue for “holiday-insensitive” companies, which means that these categories actually generate less revenue during the holiday months than they do during the rest of the year.

Why the Leveling Out?

With data it’s often easier to answer “What happened?” than it is to answer “Why?”

“Traditional retailers, both catalog and brick-and-mortar, rely heavily on holiday shopping to hit their annual revenue targets. But today’s most innovative online retailers—companies like Mizzen & MainHarry’sPlated, and more—build relationships with their customers throughout the year. They use subscription models to create regular purchase habits, build high-quality brands to nurture affinity, and use effective (but not always discount-based) retention marketing. Because of this, they’re less reliant on holiday shopping than traditional retailers.”

While the Holiday Season is Losing Some Importance, Black Friday and Cyber Monday Continue Surging

When we looked at revenue on a daily timeline, we saw that Black Friday and Cyber Monday were huge contributors to the revenue generated during the holiday season.


The holiday season is decreasing in importance for most companies, but the days from Black Friday through Christmas still pack a punch, generating 50-100% more revenue than the other non-holiday shopping days throughout the rest of the year.

This uptick is even more pronounced for the “holiday-sensitive” categories we mentioned earlier.


Specifically, Cyber Monday is important for any ecommerce retailer. While online sales in general rose 23% YOY from Thanksgiving day to Cyber Monday, last year’s Cyber Monday generated $2.3 billion, 29% higher than 2013’s figures.

IBM also reported that Cyber Monday sales were greater than both Thanksgiving and Black Friday.


What Does This Mean for Your Ecommerce Business?

There are two important takeaways from this data that every online retailer should be paying attention to:

1) Focus Your Efforts on the Key Shopping Days

While November and December aren’t carrying the same weight as they used to, it’s clear November 27th to the 30th will still be crucial to any retailer looking to close out the year with strong numbers.

There are a number of strategies to help you maximize your sales efficiency during this period, from optimizing your mobile buying experience to personalizing your interactions with shoppers, building customer loyalty from customers looking to change brands to changing your Google Adwords bidding strategy during the holiday season. 

2) Invest in Your Year-Round Strategy

Ecommerce retailers are less reliant on November and December sales, and that’s a good thing! Holiday shoppers are notoriously demanding of discounts and 71% expect free shipping (47% expect free returns). Rather than relying on the holiday season to be their primary growth driver, forward-thinking businesses are finding ways to drive growth throughout the year.

To dig deeper into these trends, check out the full Ecommerce Holiday Trends report from RJMetrics here.

Visit the holiday resource hub for all your holiday marketing needs.

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