Use Your Money to Buy Happier Time

Ashley Whillans, professor at Harvard Business School, researches time-money trade-offs. She argues more people would be happier if they spent more of their hard-earned money to buy themselves out of negative experiences. Her research shows that paying to outsource housework or to enjoy a shorter commute can have an outsized impact on happiness and relationships. Whillans is the author of the HBR article “Time for Happiness.”


The uncertainty is affecting every industry.


For digital companies, it’s an essential part of operations.
5 Tips to Use Facebook Retargeting for Brand Growth
Tue, 29 Jan 2019 06:00:00 -0800

As the world's biggest social media platform, Facebook offers countless opportunities for brand growth, ranging from Facebook Groups to highly targeted Lead Ads.

Of course, as with any other type of marketing, there's no guarantee that a potential customer's first exposure to your brand will result in a sale. This is where Facebook has a distinct advantage with its retargeting options. Retargeting has consistently proven to be one of the most effective digital marketing tools available, with retargeted visitors being 70 percent more likely to convert into sales or leads.

Needless to say, those numbers can represent significant growth for your brand. Here's how you can better use Facebook's retargeting tools to achieve stellar results.

1. Use different retargeting campaigns for different groups.

There are many different ways that a potential customer could initially encounter your brand – and you can use Facebook retargeting to reach all of these groups. You can use a wide variety of metrics to build a custom audience for your retargeting campaign.

While many marketers start with the broad option of retargeting all website visitors, you can fine-tune your targeting by creating campaigns focused on those who have downloaded free content from your site, installed your company's app or visited a specific landing page.

Establish a conversion goal for each retargeted group. Whether you want to re-engage with former customers or turn a free trial into a paid subscription, these campaign goals will ultimately guide the entire Facebook ad campaign.


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2. Fine-tune your messaging.

Not all retargeting groups are created equal. After all, there's a big difference between someone who has made a purchase from your online store in the past and someone who merely browsed your landing page without taking any additional actions.

Each of these groups is at a different stage of the marketing funnel, and the content of your Facebook ads should be adjusted accordingly. After determining the metrics for your retargeted group, you'll want to carefully consider what messaging will be most relevant to them.

For example, someone who has signed up for a free trial could benefit from ads that remind them about the end of their trial period and encourage them to sign up for a paid subscription. Former customers, on the other hand, could benefit from ads detailing new features for your service or a newly launched product. Engaging content is always key to success.

3. Retarget social media users, not just website visitors.

Retargeting campaigns tend to focus exclusively on people who have visited your website – this certainly tends to be the case in SEO campaigns. But Facebook offers a completely separate channel of brand interactions. As such, you should also consider retargeting campaigns based on past social media experiences.

Facebook allows businesses to build custom audiences based on previous engagement on the platform. You could set up a campaign to retarget individuals who have messaged your page, watched a recent video or only partially completed a form on a Lead Ad. As with other retargeting efforts, adapting your messaging to each customer's location on the buyer's journey will be key to landing new conversions.

4. Use the Facebook pixel.

Measuring the effectiveness of current social media campaigns and making necessary adjustments has become easier than ever thanks to Facebook's pixel tool. By embedding the pixel in your website code, you can more accurately track on-site actions that occur after someone clicks on one of your Facebook ads.

This process doesn't just make it easier to build custom audiences for future retargeting campaigns – it also gives you key insights into your website. As you come to understand the actions people are taking (or not taking) once they arrive at your site, you can implement changes to enhance the user experience and improve conversion rates.

A quality website is just as important as an engaging Facebook ad. By eliminating roadblocks in the user experience, you can optimize everything from your landing page to the checkout process.

5. Scale growth with look-alike audiences.

After you've identified retargeted groups that are converting at a high rate with the help of your pixel, you'll naturally want to expand your efforts to new audiences who haven't interacted with your brand before. This is where Facebook's audience insights can prove even more beneficial.

Using pixel data from your past successful campaigns, you can more easily identify commonalities among the demographics or interests of your top customers. Facebook's Lookalike Audience tool can then use this "source audience" to target individuals who are most similar to those who converted from your retargeting campaign.

Because these "look-alike" individuals have much in common with your best customers, they are also more likely to be interested in your product or service. The result is a greater return on investment for your other Facebook advertising campaigns so you can enjoy even better growth.

It's time to grow through retargeting.

Building a successful Facebook retargeting campaign may require a bit more work than simply creating an ad campaign with a target audience of your choosing. But going the extra mile can ensure far better results for your brand as you reach high-converting groups with messages that are most relevant to them.

Leverage retargeting today to start achieving more conversions.

Resource Burn: 4 Things That Are Wasting Your Team's Time
Tue, 29 Jan 2019 07:00:00 -0800

“Overhead” is a fact of life for any business, regardless of size. Every aspect of operating a business has a cost—monetary or otherwise—that generally can’t be avoided, but sometimes companies add costs that they don’t need for reasons that are unclear.

It’s easy to pile up these expenses, as they can start off as part of other overheads. Even so, when left unchecked, these once small costs can quickly balloon and result in major setbacks that can impact every aspect of your business.

For IT managers and business owners, reducing these types of resource waste is vital for ensuring the continued success and longevity of their companies. While they may be borne out of necessary activities, it’s important to recognize when you have gratuitous waste on your hands, and to find ways to stem the tide.

Here are four of the biggest resource wasters, and ways you can rapidly overcome them.

1. Falling into social media black holes

Social media is a staple of marketing—both for B2C and B2B audiences—and having a presence on multiple channels is no longer optional for businesses. Even so, some would have you believe that you need to be on every platform and every channel to form a successful strategy. Moreover, it’s become common practice by many marketers to advocate simply buying audiences and engagement—paying for likes, post boosting, and new followers.

Additionally, as companies try to maintain an “edge” over their competitors, every new trend feels like a must-have. The reality, however, is that this bandwagon effect is far from useful. While having a presence on multiple channels is important, not every platform gives you a direct benefit. Companies that deal in industrial solvents or SaaS products don’t necessary need Snapchat or Instagram accounts, for example, but may benefit from a presence on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Spreading your resources out too thin to stay active where your audience doesn’t really spend any time can quickly kill your marketing budget and hurt your business.

How you fix it – The easiest solution to social media creep is to turn to data to give you real answers. One of the few trends that should be adopted by pretty much every business is social media analytics. Understanding your real impact, as well as which channels are best suited for your presences, is vital for ensuring you’re not overspending, but rather allocating your dollars to the most effective destinations.

2. Using too many tools

This is another area where many executives assume that more is always better. The ease with which companies can add new tools thanks to the SaaS model lets companies quickly onboard new services on demand.

However, the model falls apart when those making decisions aren’t the ones dealing with the big picture. IT managers and CIOs understand a company’s tech needs, but they’re not always empowered to make those choices.

The addition of more tools and applications creates logistical and management nightmares that are hard to resolve. For one, even though then monthly fees for individual tools are often low, once you have subscriptions to dozens upon dozens of tools running at once, they can grow costly quickly. Furthermore, having that many tools means some of them are probably not getting used to their full potential. Managing permissions, people coming and leaving the company, and overseeing accounts can waste your IT team’s time that might be spent more valuably elsewhere.

How you fix it – A jumbled approach to SaaS integrations can be bad if managed improperly, but creating a more efficient and centralized management system for your tools can deliver real results. Pipedrive, a software company with over 400 team members, recently started using a platform to map and centralize all their app administration in a single location, and they found that this change alone saves their IT team about 1.5 hours per offboarded employee.

3. Meetings about meetings

Meetings are a hallmark of corporate life, and even new businesses are prone to schedule meetings about anything and everything. Bosses feel the need to have direct communication with their teams or individual employees, different teams need to huddle for coordinating on ongoing projects, and weekly company-wide meetings are standard.

However, these meetings can have a decidedly negative impact on productivity. The worst part is that more than simply impairing productivity, they actually hurt your bottom line.

Besides, it’s not like people view these meetings as productive, or even worthwhile. A 2014 study by Bain & Company found that a weekly meeting of executives at a company took up 7,000 hours a year, while the total meetings had wasted 300,000 of total worker hours. All told, a penchant for meetings can emerge as one of the biggest drains on productivity, and therefore, your profit-generating capacity.

How you fix it – The obvious answer is to be more discerning about what meetings you schedule and for how long. Most meetings are not necessary and can be replaced by emails, chat channels and other instant communication methods. More importantly, find the right channels to reduce the need for face-to-face meetings. Project management tools and messaging applications can supplant them while simultaneously reducing the need to stop working in order to communicate.

4. Over-reliance on the gig economy

Outsourcing is by far one of the most game-changing trends of the past decade, as companies find it easier to ship out smaller, menial tasks to contractors. Done right, outsourcing can reduce costs, free up your team for the right tasks, and lower your need for more workers. However, when overdone, it can have the opposite effect.

Leaning too heavily on outsourced work can result in your overall product quality decreasing (in many cases, you get what you pay for), and can force you to spend the time fixing work that could have been done by a paid worker for less resources. What’s more, shoddy work not only results in you squandering current resources, but consequently future revenue potential as a function of your reputation being tarnished.

Finally, outsourcing requires you to manage the process, and have a clear strategy—something many companies don’t factor directly into their costs.

How you fix it – Instead of being your go-to strategy, outsourcing should be used more as a scalpel than a knife. That is, use outsourcing when it is necessary and makes sense, instead as your first option. In many cases, focus your resources on completing work in-house, and find outsourcing services with a record of superb quality to ensure you’re not double spending on every outsourced contract.

Reducing waste is a conscious choice

Cutting down on waste is far from impossible but requires a conscious effort. Identifying areas where you’re not performing well may be difficult but taking actions to resolve them will start paying off immediately.

Focus on those aspects of your business that don’t necessarily deliver the intended results, and find ways to replace wasteful processes with more efficient solutions.

Tricks of Trade: Angel Investor Shares Secrets for Landing a Deal
Tue, 29 Jan 2019 08:00:00 -0800

There comes a time for entrepreneurs when an influx of money, guidance or both is needed to take their business to the next level. It's in these times that many business owners turn to an investor for help. 

Whether this is before a startup is even up and running, or after it's established and trying to scale, taking on an investor can be critical to the lasting success of many businesses. 

While there is a range of venture capitalists and angel investors willing to put money into small businesses, actually selling them on your venture, and its promise, is no easy task. 

As an angel investor and CEO of the telecommunications company Amobee, Kim Perrell knows what it takes for businesses to secure an investment deal. Over her career, Perrell has invested in more than 70 startups, 14 of which have successfully been acquired. 

We recently spoke with Perrell about approaching an investor and what entrepreneurs should expect from the process. In addition, we asked her several rapid-fire questions about technology, her career and advice she has received over the years. 

Q: How do you know if you are ready to take on an investor? 

A: When taking on an investor, it's very important to have a solid business plan and financial model of how you will turn your idea into a viable, lucrative business. You will need to be able to clearly articulate the market size and potential market demand for your product or service. You also need to show how you will use the potential investment proceeds. Investors want to know you have a plan. 

It is also important to acknowledge that it will take a significant amount of your time to raise investment. Raising money is a full-time job and also comes with expectations. 

As soon as you raise capital, you will be working with investors who will want to know performance and progress. There are also many different types of investors – angel investors, friends and family, crowdfunding – and each will require a different level of preparedness and savviness. 

Q: What are the three most important things investors want to hear during a pitch? 

A: A polished, confident elevator pitch: It's important to have a quick, easy-to-understand version of your pitch that you can deliver in less time than it takes to ride an elevator. You should be able to explain your idea to anyone, any time. Staying concise matters during the real deal too – your first meeting with investors will not be long. Your pitch should also have a solid pitch deck

Accountability: Your pitch needs to address every question an investor could have. What is the market need, and who is demanding it? How does your idea solve that need? How will your idea make both revenue and profit? You need to really sell your investors. What have other companies in the space sold for? How much capital will you need, and how will you use it? Investors want to know what they will get out of their contribution, so calculate your request by estimating double the time and cost you expect. Plan for the worst-case scenario. 

Confidence: Your biggest challenge is convincing investors to believe in your ability to execute, so tell them your story. What have you done that proves you can make this happen? Businesses may change and trends may pivot – investors need to be confident that you can pivot too. Surround yourself with a team that supplements any perceived weaknesses and convey both realism and passion so potential investors can see that you will persevere, no matter what it takes. Investors don't expect you to be perfect or know everything (in fact, it is concerning if someone is), they expect you to have the wherewithal to be resourceful and resilient when you encounter challenges. 

Q: What should you avoid doing or saying during a pitch meeting? 

A: Never go in unprepared. You often have only a few minutes to make a good impression. Investors hear hundreds and hundreds of pitches, and their time is valuable. Make it count. Make sure you have practiced and gathered great feedback before you go in for your first pitch meeting. Investors are looking for evidence, not just ideas. They will want to see proof of concept or a minimum viable product. 

Never say that you don't have any competitors or there is no competition. This is a red flag to investors and generally shows that an entrepreneur is naive and has a lack of understanding of the market. Competitors aren't bad; they help you define your market opportunity and uniqueness. It's very important to identify what you are competing with and how you are different. 

Don't try to answer something you don't know. If you are unable to answer something, note that you will get back to them and then follow up later. For example, you can say "I don't have access to that data, but I'll provide it in my follow-up," or "You raise an excellent point, or I hadn't considered that. Let me look more into it and I'll follow up with you on that." 

Don't ramble. Stay direct and to the point. Speak clearly and concisely. Hit upon what is key to investors. If you say too much, it will distract from what's important and can cause confusion and doubt for investors. If it is going well, quit while you are ahead and don't inadvertently throw a wrench in a meeting. 

Q: What are some strategies to ensure your pitch is tailored to each investor? 

A: Do your research. Understand what is important to your investor, what they have historically invested in and what sectors they are familiar with. Why would that investor add value to you? Most investors invest not only because they can provide financing but also strategic guidance. How could the investor you are pitching be of value to you and your opportunity? It's important to take the time to do due diligence. Investors ultimately should be able to add value beyond merely financing, whether that is in their network, area of expertise or their particular sector or experience (i.e., they are marketing experts, have successfully run manufacturing companies or invest in tech startups). 

Use the time you have not just to pitch but also to build relationships. Success in business and life is all about relationships. Seek to build an authentic relationship with a potential investor long term – even if they don't invest at the time, perhaps they invest in a later date/round. They can often help you build valuable connections. Some investors are not suited to a particular investment but know someone who is. 

Be genuinely interested in learning about the investor. Ask how the investor evaluates an investment and how involved they are in their portfolio Ask for honest feedback. What could I have done better in my pitch? I know you have seen one thousand pitches, what feedback have you given for mine? What are the things you think I need to address? This is one of the most valuable audiences you will have the opportunity to meet with, so be thoughtful and prepare wisely. 

Q: What questions should entrepreneurs be prepared for from the investors? 

A: Entrepreneurs should be prepared to share and clearly articulate the following: 

Your background and the company history: Clearly articulate who you are. Investors bet on people even more so than the idea which will often change or pivot Size of the opportunity/market Product/technology patents/barriers to entry: Show a minimal viable product and evidence of success. Competitive environment: What is the competition and others in the space? How are you different? What sets you apart? Marketing/sales/partnerships: How will you make money? What is the business model? How will you get new customers? Demonstrate the need for investment and what you want to do with the investment: What is the overall capital you need? Who are you trying to raise it from? How are you going to raise the capital? Other factors for success: This could be things like great early customer feedback or technology development 

Q: Should you expect a definite yes or no answer from an investor during your pitch meeting? If not, how should you follow up? 

A: No, you should generally not expect a direct yes or no during your pitch. Almost all pitches consist of a series of questions the investor will ask. 

I recommend following up immediately, stating how much you appreciated their time and outlining the follow-up for the next steps, including additional questions. 

You can then request for a secondary follow-up with information that may take more time to gather. Again, your follow-up helps demonstrate to the investor you can execute.

Rapid-fire questions

Q: What piece of technology could you not live without? 

A: I am on the road for work constantly, and my cell phone gives me the ability to work from anywhere. 

Q: What is the best piece of career advice you have ever been given? 

A: The best advice I received as an entrepreneur starting my first company was to follow the two by two rule, which explains that it is going to take twice as long to achieve whatever I want and it's going to cost twice as much, and I am not the exception. 

To this day, I continually remind myself of this in whatever I'm doing financially, professionally and personally. Whether I'm going to remodel a house, it's going to cost me twice as much and will take twice as long. If I'm going to buy a business, it's going to likely take me twice as long and there will be unexpected costs. 

As an angel investor, with the entrepreneurs I invest in, I tell them this too. It's going to take you twice as long and cost twice as much as you think. Just knowing that it will cost more and take more time than anticipated helps create both the financial framework as well as the mindset and mental preparation to ensure success despite the inevitable roadblocks ahead. 

Q: What's the best book or blog you've recently read? 

A: I love reading and read as much as possible. I just finished Extreme Ownership over the holidays. It was a great read, and the Navy Seal stories translate well into lessons for business and life. It was a good reminder that a true leader must be ready to take responsibility when things fail, regardless of circumstance. 

I have to say my favorite book of 2018 was my own. I spent a lifetime writing it, and it has truly a dream come true. My first book, The Execution Factor, The One Skill that Drives, is designed to help others achieve success in business and life. I highly recommend it. 

Q: What's the biggest risk you've taken professionally? Did it pay off? 

A: The biggest professional risk I've taken was starting my own business at 23. After getting laid off from my first job out of college, I ended up starting my first company from my kitchen table, asking my grandmother for a $10,000 loan – which was the only funding I took. 

Working all day and night for three years, I tirelessly grew the business. Eventually, the online advertising market grew and proved to be a great growth opportunity for digital companies like mine. I sold the company in 2008 and then sold my last company for $235 million in 2014. 

To pay it forward, I love investing in aspiring entrepreneurs and helping them succeed, and I've angel invested in more than 70 companies, 14 of which were successfully acquired. I believe my success is due to my ability to execute, and that is what I look for in the people I hire and invest in.

Email Etiquette: 5 Ways to Respect Your Customers' Time
Tue, 29 Jan 2019 08:00:00 -0800

When it comes to digital marketing, it’s hard to beat the raw power of email to connect with customers and get a lot of value out of your marketing dollars. With that said, no one likes to get rude, tone-deaf or inconsiderate emails. We’ve all been known to hit the unsubscribe button on more than one occasion!

So how do you prevent your customers from doing the same to you? You'll want to practice proper email etiquette and be considerate of your customers’ preferences, time and attention. Aside from following any spam laws, there are more subtle dos and don’ts for business emails, especially when you’re trying to connect with customers. Here’s what you need to know about email etiquette and why it’s so important to think before you hit that send button. 

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Reread Your Emails

This might sound obvious, but the first principle of email etiquette is to reread your emails before you send them. This isn’t just about preventing typos (though those errors can be embarrassing and send the wrong message!) it’s also about clarity and politeness. Sometimes, we write something that is perceived as rude by others when that wasn’t the intent at all.

This isn’t just important for when you’re emailing customers, it’s also important for internal communications as well. Misunderstandings and even bullying and harassment in the workplace are all too common, and can take place over email. Keeping the office a safe and friendly place is absolutely crucial, and everyone needs to be aware of how their emails may be perceived by colleagues. 

Understand Your Audience

Etiquette changes depending on who you’re speaking to. Different audiences have their own preferences and perceptions. For example, cultural differences can have a huge impact on what is considered rude and what isn’t. Age plays a role as well.

What’s considered professional will change quite a bit depending on who you’re trying to reach. If your business has a fun and sassy brand voice, then that’s what’s expected from your email communications to customers. When you’re emailing the CFO of that same company? Clear and professional is the way to go. Think of it this way—it’s not rude to be very informal to a good friend of yours. But it would be inappropriate to communicate the same way with an executive you don’t know or a police officer. Know your audience when you’re speaking, and when you’re writing. 

Train New Employees

The ways we communicate are changing, and while learning on the job is important for some skills, communication is so crucial that all new employees should be trained on proper email etiquette. This is especially important for younger employees who may have mostly communicated via text message in the past, rather than email. There are lots of guides available for improving business communications, and just about everyone can benefit from brushing up on these concepts. There will always be some missteps along the way, but taking the time to prevent as many of them as possible can be very beneficial. 

Don’t Write Emails When You’re Upset

We’ve all had moments of anger when we’ve wanted to say exactly what was on our mind right then and there. While it can be cathartic to write emails when you’re upset, resist the urge to send them. If you really can’t wait to cool down before typing out your feelings, write them in a document that’s not attached to your email. You can blow off some steam and calm down before you write the email you’re actually going to send. This method can prevent you from sending something you’ll regret that could ultimately tarnish your company’s or your own reputation.

Remember: Email is Powerful

Out of all the types of digital marketing and in-office communications, email is the most intimate. It is powerful and can contain a lot of nuance whether we want it to or not. It’s so important to think about how your messages will be perceived. If you’re not sure, think about how you’d feel if you received the email. Would you be annoyed? Offended? Hurt? If you’re still not sure if a message is appropriate, asking someone else for their opinion can be very helpful. Email etiquette is deceptively simple. But it’s a difficult skill to master — and one that everyone should learn for smooth, effective and respectful communication in the workplace.


MIT Sloan Management Review
Tue, 29 Jan 2019 19:03:47 +0000

In 2019, businesses will pour a massive $1.5 trillion of their IT spend on “communications services” technologies, Gartner predicts. Across all kinds of organizations, managers are looking to add new platforms to expand their reach with customers and increase internal productivity.

Unfortunately, much of that money will be wasted.

After more than a decade of working with businesses of all sizes on their communications challenges, both external and internal, I am observing a growing number of problems that companies are facing with regard to how they engage their customers. Chief among them is how fractured this engagement has become.

Era of the Consumer

We’re experiencing a golden age for the customer. With tech giants like Netflix, Spotify, and Amazon using algorithms and machine learning to tailor experiences to customer tastes, buyers have come to expect this kind of personalization.

They expect to be in the driver’s seat, determining when and how they use any channel for communicating with a business — from phone and email to online chats and forums, SMS, and various social media platforms and apps. A report by Microsoft found that 66% of consumers actively use at least three different communication channels to contact businesses.

Customers are well ahead of most businesses in this respect, using new tools more quickly than the businesses can adopt them and get their customer service teams up to speed. But even when companies do adopt these technologies in hopes of serving their customers, they often fail to use the tools harmoniously.

Managers all too often have no functional system for collecting customer information into a single repository. At every point of contact, consumers provide the business with valuable information. Businesses are getting inundated with data, but that data isn’t being gathered in a holistic way that provides managers with knowledge about the customer.

As a result, managers and businesses struggle to keep track of what customers are communicating across different platforms, which negatively affects the customer relationship.

Staying in the Loop With Your Customers’ Journeys

The last thing customers want is to have to re-explain something they’ve already discussed. They feel like strangers to the company. A business that lacks this knowledge about their customers sends the signal that they don’t really value them.

It’s just as frustrating an experience for managers, particularly customer service managers, who keep finding that they don’t have important information about the prospective and existing customer journeys at their fingertips.

A survey by our company, Nextiva, found that 63% of business professionals experience communications-related issues with their customers, colleagues, or team that stop them from achieving business goals at least once a week. One-quarter of those surveyed said communication issues have led to lost customers for their business.

A survey by The Northridge Group found that one-third of consumers say customer service personnel rarely or never know about their accounts. Half say the personnel rarely or never know their history with the company. And even more (54%) say customer service representatives rarely or never know previous reasons they’ve contacted the company.

Ernst & Young, meanwhile, drilled down on how this problem affects a single industry, insurance, in which customer dissatisfaction is very high. According to an EY study, only 14% of consumers report being very satisfied with communications, and the authors note the customers’ needs in this industry, saying, “Insurance consumers want more frequent, clearer, and more personalized communications from their insurers.”

The study further noted that by adopting a holistic, customer-centric approach, insurers develop a clear and more compelling business case. The benefits here are many — from reduced call center volume to reduced customer churn and reduction of operational spend. Over time, this reduction in costs and improved operational efficiency can prove to be a competitive advantage for businesses.

How Organizations Can Step Up

To be successful in today’s environment, businesses need to focus less on how customers contact them and more on how the information those consumers provide at every touch point is collected and used. The value for modern businesses lies in providing real-time and actionable information to everyone in their organizations, from front-line employees all the way up to the CEO.

MIT Sloan senior research scientist Peter Weill, chair of the Center for Information Systems Research, has said that “to dramatically increase the quality of the customer experience using digitization usually does require fairly radical organizational surgery.” I couldn’t agree more.

When it comes to communication, the first form of “surgery” businesses need is not an enhancement. It’s a fix to get all parts of the organization’s body working together. Customer information should be in the blood of an organization, constantly pumped out to all parts of the body. Technologies that do this can help equip organizations to strengthen their all-important customer engagement — and build toward a stronger digital future.

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