The Quarterly Audit: Why It’s Always Good to Give Your Print Collateral a Once-Over a Few Times a Year

The Quarterly Audit: Why It’s Always Good to Give Your Print Collateral a Once-Over a Few Times a Year

An opportunity that far too many people don’t take advantage of is the idea of a quarterly audit. Don’t worry; it has nothing to do with your taxes. Instead, it’s a process that you should go through a few times a year that provides you a chance to re-assess and re-evaluate. It’s a time where you force yourself to stop and think “This print mailer was designed in January, and it worked great in January. It’s April, now. What needs to change?”

Stop and Smell the Roses

When performing an audit of your print marketing materials, make a list of everything that has changed since the last time you had the chance to re-evaluate things. How have your business goals shifted in the last few months? Have you accomplished more or less than you thought you were going to at this point? What does your average customer look like today, as opposed to three months ago? How have your campaigns been performing?

If you can provide business-specific answers to questions like these, you create for yourself a valuable context that you can then use to make the right, actionable decisions regarding things like design and distribution moving forward. What you’re doing is taking a process typically completed at the end of the year, looking backward and seeing what worked and what didn’t, and then forcing yourself to do it as often as you can.

Trends and Best Practices

Another reason why the idea of the quarterly audit is so important is that, by and large, the world of print marketing is changing rapidly. New technologies, techniques, tips and best practices are emerging all the time. Taking the time to go back over everything you’ve done so far a few times a year gives you a chance to incorporate all of this into your workflow as soon as you can.

Think about it this way: maybe you designed new buyer personas in January with an aim towards attracting a different type of customer. You’ve produced everything with those buyer personas in mind, trying to maintain a consistent voice across all collateral. If things aren’t working quite right and need some tweaking, would you rather know in April or wait until December?

In the end, what you’re doing is strengthening your foundation. Many people use January 1 as a great chance for a “fresh start.” It’s a time where you stop and think about where you are, where you want to be, and how you’re going to get there. If you do this multiple times per year, however, it puts you in a much better position to be responsive to both internal and external changing factors. Above all else, it’s an opportunity to make sure that you’re still headed down the path that was important to you on January 1, if that path is still important to you at all.

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“Take It From Me”- Why Testimonials Are So Effective

“Take It From Me”- Why Testimonials Are So Effective

Marketing is all about giving your customers the information they need to make an informed purchasing decision. Everything you do – from the copy you craft to the images you choose – is built around that simple purpose in mind.

But marketing itself has evolved over the years, away from the heavy reliance on the spec sheets of yesteryear. It’s essentially become an open line of communication between you and the people you’re trying to serve. People don’t want to be “sold to” anymore – or at least, not in the way they used to.

This is why customer testimonials are so important. Instead of “taking your word” for it that your product or service is going to impact their lives positively, it lets real customers hear from other real customers why the decision they’re about to make is a good one.

The Power of Testimonials: Facts and Figures

In addition to communicating with your audience, another essential goal of your marketing materials should involve building as much trust and credibility as you can. Your customers don’t just want to know that you can solve their problem – they want to know that you can do it better than anyone else. To that end, customer testimonials are incredibly effective – particularly in the world of print.

Part of the reason why testimonials are so important is that they help create a deeper, more emotional appeal for your branding. Consider the following statistics:

  • According to one study, the regular use of customer testimonials can help you generate roughly sixty-two percent more revenue not only from every customer but from every time they visit your brand.
  • Ninety-two percent of people said that they read testimonials when considering a purchase.
  • A further eighty-eight percent of consumers said that they trusted these reviews just as much as personal recommendations, according to the same study.
  • To top it off, seventy-two percent of those who responded to the survey in question said that positive reviews and testimonials helped them trust a business significantly more.

Simply put, customer testimonials create something of a self-fulfilling prophecy regarding your connection with your target audience. Someone enjoys your product or service, so you encourage them to leave a positive review or testimonial. Consumers naturally trust each other more than they trust just marketing collateral, so that testimonial adds more weight to the decision they’re trying to make. Those initial happy customers, therefore, encourage more purchases, which creates more happy customers, etc.

When you combine customer testimonials with other effective marketing tactics – like a heavy reliance on not just print but on print techniques that help your collateral stand out and make a unique impression – suddenly your message is being amplified in the best possible way. You’re giving an opportunity to let regular customers become brand advocates, which does more in terms of building trust, credibility, and emotion than you could ever do on your own. You’re also creating more brand advocates in the process, which is always a good thing.

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Veterans Use the Internet to Expand Skill Set and Boost Income

Veterans Use the Internet to Expand Skill Set and Boost Income

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Print Marketing: Never Underestimate the Value of Letting Someone Unplug

Print Marketing: Never Underestimate the Value of Letting Someone Unplug

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

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

The Digital Divide

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

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

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

What This Means For Direct Mail

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

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

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

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What’s in a Leaf?

What’s in a Leaf?

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” (http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/4890-customer-engagement-tips.html), 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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The Art of the Pivot

The Art of the Pivot

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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Know When to Hold ‘em and When to Fold ‘em

Know When to Hold ‘em and When to Fold ‘em

“You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to run.” This iconic hook from the song “The Gambler” is about more than just playing cards. It’s also a metaphor for many circumstances that we encounter in life and business. Knowing when to end a dead-end job or a toxic relationship is critical to maintaining a happy life.

Likewise, understanding when it’s time to quit a product you love, but that is not providing you with the gains you want, can mean the difference between success and failure, or even fulfillment and frustration.

In 1976, 23-year-old Don Schlitz wrote “The Gambler.” After pushing it around for a few years, eventually, it was picked up by Bobby Bare and later, Johnny Cash. Despite the talent behind the lyrics and performers, the song never really took off. That is until Kenny Rogers picked it up and launched it to the top of the charts. Schlitz knew he had a song worth pushing and didn’t give up. That perseverance paid off in spades (pun intended).

Knowing when to keep going with a product or service is not always so straight-forward, though. It’s a difficult decision to give up on your “business baby” that you created and nurtured, especially when revenues are “ok.” Sometimes, though, it’s necessary to give up an “ok” thing to make room for an extraordinary thing. So, hear from some of the top founders in the country about how they know when to hold em’ and when to fold em’.

Is It Profitable?
This question is probably the easiest to answer when you take into account: (1) revenue, (2) time and money investment, (3) emotional investment and (4) company goals. For Elisa Doucett, Founder of CraftYourContent, it’s a no-brainer – “if it costs more fiscally and mentally to maintain than it makes, then it is no bueno.”

For Matthew Newton, Founder of TourismTiger, his approach is similar – “if the return on time or money invested isn’t worth it and you can’t find a clear solution, it’s time to kill the product.”

Is It Providing Value?
Just creating a product because you want to make money or achieve a personal goal may not be the best for your product’s success. Likewise, if your product is too similar to your competition or doesn’t add more value than a competing product, it’s time to move on to something else.

Micheal Ericsson, Founder of Search Scientists, looks to the founder’s mindset in determining when to kill a product: “Everyone I know with a truly successful product…[is] not creating a product to create a product, they’re moving forward with the goal to change a piece of the world.”

Is It Feeding Your Passion?
While passion may not be the best reason for creating a product, it certainly should be a factor in keeping it going. According to Brandon King, Founder of SmartInternChina, “You should kill a product when it is killing you. If you go through an extended period of time working on a product you hate…that drains your energy, that is a good sign that it is time to move on.”

Continually working on a product that you hate will erode your ability to put your best efforts into it. Nobody wants to put their name on a mediocre product.

Phil Ivey, (a.k.a. Gambler) always quits for the night when he’s no longer at his best. The same holds true for running a business.

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5 Psychological Triggers To Convert Prospects To Clients

5 Psychological Triggers To Convert Prospects To Clients

Any marketer worth anything will tell you that the key to increasing sales is to use A/B testing to determine which sales tactic is more successful than another. If you’re not familiar with it, A/B testing (sometimes called split testing) is comparing two versions of something to see which one performs better. With that in mind, have you ever wondered why some tactics are more successful than others?

Logically, we think that if we appeal to the rational brain, we will convince people that our product is the best possible product for their needs. However, if that were the case, would anyone ever buy Croc Accessories or Pet Rocks? Nope.

Unless you’re selling to Mr. Spock, there’s a much simpler way of convincing people to buy what you’re selling. The key to turning prospects into clients is tapping into the deeply embedded emotions inside each one of them.

By identifying these emotions and learning how to trigger them, you can increase your revenue faster than you can say “Chia Pet.” Here are the top 5 psychological triggers you can start using immediately to boost your bottom line.

1. Increasing Pleasure and Avoiding Pain

Avoiding pain and increasing pleasure are the driving forces of all human activity. This idea is the most fundamental reason we have a nervous system. If something hurts, we find a way to stop it. If something feels pleasurable, we do it more.

Translating this into your marketing strategy, you must first identify what your clients associate with pain and pleasure. Once you’ve figured that out, the rest is easy. Draft your marketing message in a way that shows your customers how your product or service will get them as close as possible to their pleasure trigger and away from their pain trigger.

2. Simplifying Life

For most of us, life is complicated. Too complicated. It takes 47 steps to get us from the comfort of our beds and out the door prepared to work. We don’t need another product or service that will add more steps (obstacles) to our day.

Take a good, hard look at what you’re selling. Does it add or remove barriers from people’s lives? If it’s not easy and fast to use, consider making a few tweaks that will take all of the “no’s” out of the equation.

3. Creating Novelty

New and shiny are what we love. In fact, it has been scientifically shown that exposure to something novel increases the amount of dopamine in the brain, that chemical that makes us all tingly and excited.

If you’ve ever heard someone complaining about the lack of significant changes in the latest iPhone, but still stand in line for hours to get one in their hot, little hands on release day, you’ve witnessed the power of novelty.

You can easily create innovation with your products by making a few simple changes and give your prospects that shot of dopamine they’ve been craving. Think googly-eyes on the pet rock.

4. Telling a Story

Humans have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years by telling stories. It’s how we share our experiences. The best storytellers invoke all of the senses to put their audience directly into the action.

You can infuse even the most mundane products with the magic of a good story. Try updating your copy to tell a story about your product that transports your prospects to a happier, more memorable place. They’ll buy just to keep the story alive.

5. Building Anticipation

We’ve all turned 16 at some point in our lives. Remember the anticipation we felt as the day drew nearer and the prospect of being able to drive around without an adult sat winking at us in the distance? It made life a little more sparkly, didn’t it?

If you’ve got a new product or service in the works, don’t just plunk it down on the counter when it’s all done. Start building some buzz while you’re still working on it. Send out emails to your current customers and prospects. Create a series of videos giving out little bits of information at a time. Get people in that “I can’t wait” mode and your launch day will be more profitable than you can imagine.

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Judging a Book by its’ Cover – How People Choose Products Based on Packaging

Judging a Book by its’ Cover – How People Choose Products Based on Packaging

Kids and cats seem to have this well figured out. We’ve all seen or experienced first-hand the joy that kids and cats take in taking an “ordinary box” and making that product packaging into the most exciting plaything of all time. What they are instinctively telling us, without truly understanding for themselves, is this: if the packaging sparks the imagination, it almost doesn’t matter what’s inside.

While they may be appreciating the packaging more after the fact, this axiom still holds true when we are making our purchasing decisions. No, we’re not likely looking for packaging we can turn into a rocket ship, but we are looking for something that reflects our values and distinguishes itself from the rest of the products out there. So, what does that mean for those of us who are trying desperately to gain the attention and love of consumers? Well, it means you need to know a few key things about who your consumer is and what they value. Let’s break it down.

People want to buy things that reflect and confirm how they see themselves in the world. How do you as a producer know what that means? Well, you might do a lot of research, or you might already know who your demographic is because they are you! For this example, let’s assume the latter. You are a 32-year-old, college-educated female living in Northern California who is passionate about organic farming, conservation, and veganism. You’ve designed a line of shoes using recycled materials that are vegan-friendly.

Are you going to shove these walking works of art into a plain brown cardboard box with a line drawing of the shoes and a white label showing the color and size like every other shoe out there? No, of course not!

You’ll likely package the shoes in an attractive, reusable bag with your logo and an image of someone wearing your shoes prominently displayed in colors of greens and browns to evoke feelings of calm and earthiness. You’ll tell a story right on the bag about how you came upon your idea for these shoes and your vision for your company and the world. You’ll let people know that the shoes and the bag are handmade in a certified Fair Labor facility powered solely by the wind and the sun, using sustainable methods and responsibly-sourced materials that are animal-friendly. You’ll even tell them that the ink used to print the bag and tags is made from vegetable products and not fossil fuels. Basically, you’ll appeal to the sensibilities of your ideal buyer who shares your values.

When that person chooses your product, it’s because it confirms their beliefs in themselves, that they are passionate about protecting the environment and they despise oppressive and exploitative labor. Not only will the shoes become a part of their identity, but so will the bag that they will use every day to carry their groceries and other items. They will take pride in knowing that they did not place another shoebox and extraneous paper products into the great landfills of the world.

This bag among the sea of sameness will be what gets your customers’ attention. The story you tell on that packaging will make them love your product. Don’t let your packaging be an afterthought, make it an integral part of your product.

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Guest Blogging: Fully Understanding This Marketing Best Practice

Guest Blogging: Fully Understanding This Marketing Best Practice

Running a marketing blog as a part of a marketing campaign is practically a requirement in today’s modern world – particularly as Google changes the very foundation of what SEO stands for on a regular basis. One of the many things that Google looks for when ranking sites is how frequently they’re updated. A steady stream of fresh, trustworthy and high quality content will always rank higher than a page updated once a year. This describes a blog pretty efficiently. However, you may not always have time to pen every single entry on a blog yourself. For those situations, guest blogging can certainly come in very handy for a number of reasons.

What is Guest Blogging in Marketing?

As its name suggests, guest blogging involves “making a meal” out of the fact that you are not the one writing a particular blog entry. Not only do you get the benefit of being able to take a day (or week) off to catch up on your backlog, but you also get a huge amount of new attention to your blog thanks to the presence of your guest.

How Does Guest Blogging Help You in Marketing?

For starters, perhaps the biggest benefit of guest blogging is that it can help generate a whole new level of traffic for a site. This is especially true if this guest blogger already has his or her own following, so they’ll be bringing their own audience to your site for the first time. While most of those new visitors will likely leave again to follow the guest blogger across the Internet, many will stay.

Another one of the major benefits of guest blogging is that it helps you build your authority in more ways than one. If the person that you’re having guest blog for your site is well-respected, the very fact that they’re contributing a piece to you at all only serves to lend some much-needed credibility to your enterprise. This is particularly true if you’re just starting out.

Another one of the reasons why guest blogging is so beneficial, particularly in terms of marketing, is because it helps build authority where it matters most – search engines. Gone are the days where you can just stuff a site with keywords and instantly fly to the top of Google results. Google emphasizes pages that are trustworthy over all others now and guest blogging is one of the single most efficient ways to get in on some of that action for yourself. By showing that your site is not only regularly updated with high quality content but also pieces from different authentic, trustworthy voices, the general rank of your entire enterprise will only rise as a result. This means that there will naturally be more eyes on your marketing blogs, which only means increased revenue as a result.

These are just a few of the reasons why guest blogging is, and will remain, a marketing best practice moving forward. Leveraging the power of search engines is all about authority and high quality content – guest blogging is able to deliver this to you in spades. If you’re the type of person who could use a little extra time to keep that steady stream of content flowing, guest blogging also makes perfect sense from the standpoint of your own productivity and efficiency at the same time. There really is no reason why you shouldn’t be exploring this with your marketing materials.

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About Acme Printing

Joe Printer, owner of Acme Printing

Acme Printing has a distinctly human approach to the printing business. We always figured that putting people before profits just made good commonsense.

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