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Why we care about email marketing: A marketer’s guide



Why we care about email marketing: A marketer’s guide

Email marketing helps organizations acquire and retain customers, build businesses and make more money.

That single sentence explains why companies must invest in effective email marketing.

Email success relies on more than buying an email platform and knocking out random messages to every email address in the database, although some email thought leaders do joke that email is the only marketing or advertising channel where even a marginal program still makes money.

However, companies will make more money and use email to serve their entire organizations more effectively when they use a strategic approach that harnesses and respects the channel’s power simultaneously.

Email remains a cost-effective way of reaching audiences and driving outcomes. Because of the volume of email customers receive, there is a growing emphasis on personalization and the use of engaging dynamic content. Also, while email optimization has endured as essential for marketers to master, new challenges tied to inbox algorithms and deliverability have added technical considerations that marketers need to manage.

A successful email marketing program requires a thorough understanding of the channel, from acquisition to strategic planning, data collection, and management. Unlike other channels, marketers need to know the mechanics of message delivery, too.

This guide helps marketers understand the most significant issues that affect email marketing and its success within the company. Here’s what you’ll learn:

Estimated reading time: 14 minutes

A snapshot of today’s email marketing landscape

It all began in 1971, according to email legend, when engineer Ray Tomlinson sent the first email – to himself, basically, to see if he could send a personal message between two computers.

Then, in 1978, DEC marketing manager Gary Thuerk sent what amounted to the world’s first spam email, an unsolicited email that brought in an initial $13 million of sales for Digital’s VAX computer systems.

The effects of both events wouldn’t be felt in the wider world for a couple of decades, but there’s no doubt about their impact in ushering in email both for personal communications and for commercial impact.

Today, nearly three decades have passed since commercial email emerged in the mid-1990s as a powerful channel for communications, commerce, relationship-building and just plain making money.

3 drivers of email marketing’s evolution

Permission and privacy regulation. Permission has evolved from a vague concept to a best practice and now to the law in most countries around the world. The evolution continues, too, because permission is now intertwined with privacy expectations, both from the individual’s perspective and as enshrined in law in just about every country with commercial email senders.

The Wild West days of buying email lists and scraping addresses off the internet have moved from standard practice to illegal activity or strictly outlier behavior thanks to country-specific laws like CAN-SPAM in the U.S. and Canada’s Anti-Spam Law and federation laws like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation.

Marketing automation. This technology explosion turned email marketing from a labor-intensive, spreadsheet-driven manual process into a nearly seamless production where most of the work goes into setting up processes that can run in the background. 

Dashboards control nearly every process relating to email, from acquisition to message creation, launch timing and optimization, and from list management and quality enhancement to reporting. The benefit to marketers is clear – while automation does the heavy lifting of day-to-day marketing, the marketing team can direct its energy toward strategy and achieving goals.

User expectations. Email marketers (and their texting cousins in SMS) have to weigh both the channel and how they use it or face backlash, not just from recipients but from the guardians of that channel.

Once upon a time, consumers were excited about seeing messages from their favorite brands in their inboxes. Email fatigue is a well-documented reason why consumers disengage from brand emails, either by unsubscribing or ignoring unwanted messages.

Over the years, email recipients now expect much more from the commercial messages they choose to receive. Besides requesting permission first and an email frequency that respects their inbox load, they expect brands to send them relevant, personalized emails using the data they have volunteered. When a brand violates those expectations, consumers unsubscribe, ignore or report those emails as spam.

Why email remains a dominant channel for marketers and consumers

One of email’s great benefits is that it plays well with other digital channels like websites, search marketing, social media and SMS. It has a strong record of driving engagement and revenue but can also combine with other channels such as search, social and SMS marketing to reach out to the widest possible audiences.

Continued growth predicted. Research firm Radicati predicts email users, volume and revenue will grow through 2025:

  • The addressable market of email users will increase from more than 4.1 billion users as of 2021 to 4.5 billion.
  • Daily email volume, both individual and commercial, will grow an estimated 4% a year through 2025.
  • Email revenues will grow between 15% and 17% year to year, from $54.8 billion in 2021 to $97.1 billion in 2025.

B2B and B2C marketers say email is essential. More than 90% of respondents to a Litmus survey said email is at least “somewhat critical” to their companies’ overall success, and 41% said it’s “very critical.” That’s 30% higher than pre-pandemic sentiment in 2019. 

Email serves up first-party data: The email address is the epitome of data given by the consumer instead of inferred from a third-party cookie. Both B2B and B2C marketers can use preferences and email campaigns to collect this first-party data and use it to understand their customers better, target and personalize messages better, whether in email or other marketing channels.

Customers prefer email: Email is the No. 1 channel for consumer communications from brands, with social media a distant second.

7 reasons brands should invest time and money in email marketing

  1. As the numbers quoted previously show, most people with access to technology have at least one email address) everyone has an email address and almost all users check their inboxes regularly.
  2. Most digital marketers are spending money on email marketing right now. So, using that budget more effectively can reveal new ways to recoup an investment, grow the audience and meet company objectives.
  3. Email marketing puts brands closer to their customers than other channels like search or SMS and can have a direct impact on their customers’ experiences with their brands.
  4. Social media includes the opportunity to speak directly to customers, but it doesn’t scale as easily as email, and messages won’t always reach their intended audiences thanks to changing algorithms and paywalls that determine what a brand’s users see in their Twitter, Instagram or Facebook feeds.
  5. Email marketing will deliver a higher impact at a lower cost than other channels. Different studies have estimated email’s ROI from $35 to $42 for every dollar spent – most recently, Litmus calculated that ROI at $36. However, email generally comes in at No. 1 for ROI over search, social media, mobile, direct, print and broadcast.
  6. Email technology has evolved over the years to become more sophisticated, more available and less costly. Marketing technology, in particular, drove the evolution from broadcast messaging to personalization in everything from content to sending schedules. Today, even basic platforms now have many of the tools for marketers of all budget sizes and skills.
  7. Email faces many challenges, from inbox exhaustion to deliverability and resource constraints. But marketers can reach customers’ inboxes at will thanks to push messaging. They don’t have to wait to be discovered, as in search marketing or social media.

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The difference between B2B and B2C in email marketing

B2B marketing and its B2C counterpart isn’t the clash of the titans that some have made it out to be. Rather, they’re two sides of the same coin. Even more importantly, marketers in each discipline can learn something from the other to create more effective marketing that delivers better results.

First, here are the similarities.

Permission is essential. “Opt in” is a legal requirement in most countries to get subscriber permission before sending marketing or other commercial email. The United States and India are notable exceptions. However, even if the law allows “opt out” email marketing, it’s best to get permission first to avoid spam complaints, potential blacklisting and bad customer reactions.

Personalization delivers better results. Emails that reflect a customer’s purchase history, browsing activity, location on the buying journey, demographics, and other data points perform better, via clicks and conversions, than general emails. While a good email program includes both broadcast and custom emails, personalized messages deliver more revenue or other KPIs. Historically, B2C marketing adopted personalization earlier than B2B but this is changing as more B2B brands adopt account-based marketing (see below).

Email drives brand equity. All of the email a company sends – marketing, transactional, account-related, one-to-one communications and more – affects the way recipients view its brand. Marketing messages, in particular, can help or hurt brand equity: what audiences think of a brand, whether as customers, employees, vendors or just observers. Email marketers, both B2B and B2C, can build up or tear down their brands’ equity based on their email practices.

Now, for two key differences.

Transactions versus nurturing. B2C is often more transaction-based, focused on driving customers to websites to act. Transactions usually happen offline in B2B marketing. Thus, B2B marketers focus on lead nurturing and qualifying for sales contacts through education, becoming a trusted industry news source and microtransactions like whitepaper downloads, webinar and conference registrations, information requests, how-tos, Q&A, etc.

Account-based marketingABM is “a B2B marketing strategy that aligns sales and marketing efforts to deliver targeted advertising, as well as personalized content and messaging, to high-value accounts.” Although both B2C and B2B email marketers are pivoting to personalization through improved data and marketing technology, ABM strategy and tactics focus on a different approach.

Who uses or works with email marketing?

The email team generally works under the chief marketing officer or a similar C-level position. It manages these tasks: 

  • Program direction and planning goals.
  • Strategy and tactics.
  • Campaign design and execution.
  • Testing and optimization.
  • Subscriber acquisition and list management.
  • Day-to-day use of marketing technology.
  • Decision-making about data acquisition, use, management and integration.

Most in-house email teams have these positions:

  • Email specialist.
  • Email analyst.
  • Email designer/developer.
  • Email manager.
  • Email team leader.

Email teams also work with these departments, teams, or solutions:

What challenges facing today’s email marketers?

It’s often said that email is the only channel where even mediocre efforts can make money. That means email often doesn’t get the care, attention, budget or respect it deserves. But even having enough resources isn’t a cure-all, as this list of challenges shows.

How do I prove the value of email marketing?

Email’s high ROI is a selling point, but it can also imply that a company isn’t spending enough to achieve even greater gains. Getting better at acquiring, managing and analyzing data is a start.

How do I acquire and retain high-quality subscribers?

The permission model allows marketers to attract more motivated and interested customers, but keeping those customers as active subscribers is an important follow-on objective.

How do I reach customers’ inboxes?

Email marketers don’t have to contend with search and social algorithms. But they do have to meet ISP rules that govern whether they go into the inbox, land in spam or get blocked.

How do I use email marketing data?

Email marketers need to become better at measuring performance accurately and using data to optimize every aspect of their email programs, from acquisition to content.

How do new privacy laws and customer expectations affect email marketing?

These two developments have transformed the email marketer’s world from the “anything goes” early days. Marketers must understand what laws like CAN-SPAM, CASL and GDPR require and how their operations must comply. Equally, customer expectations can make or break an email program, especially if the emails don’t meet expectations for relevance or frequency.

How do I get corporate support?

Marketers must work hard to show not only how well email marketing makes or saves money but also how much more money it can make or save by investing in better technology and human resources.

How do I build customer trust?

Spam, phishing and security breaches have heightened consumer distrust. The inbox is one place companies can shore up brand trust, especially with a technology like Brand Identifiers for Message Identity, which can help subscribers tell whether an email is genuine or fake.

How do I use email marketing technology effectively?

Today’s marketing tech can do amazing things. But getting the right tech and getting the best use from it is a perennial challenge. It takes a team approach to buying technology, a clear plan for using it and training users so the company can reap all the benefits a tech platform promises.

How do I focus on strategy over tactics?

Tactics are easy. Strategy is hard. But marketers have to understand how strategy – the “why” – can drive the “how:” tactics like campaign design or acquiring technology.

How do I develop agile marketing workflows?

The COVID-19 pandemic taught many marketers how agile marketing helped them reduce the time between campaign planning and launch. But true campaign efficiency is still a work in progress.

5 email marketing tactics to acquire more customers, build brands and make more money

No email marketer can expect to succeed in this day and age with batch-and-blast campaigns. Instead, marketers should gain a better understanding of their audiences with effective data collection processes, allowing for more engaging communication.

Here are five email marketing tactics to help brands secure customer buy-in:

  1. Use a prominent opt-in form throughout the website, in all digital communications and printed collateral, with copy highlighting the benefits of subscribing.
  2. Acquire first-party customer data that can drive and inform the company’s understanding of its customers and communications.  
  3. Include engagement-focused copy in email messages along with purchase calls to action or other transaction requests.
  4. Develop complete message programs that align with key points on the customer journey, including onboarding, engagement, abandonment and retention.
  5. Maintain a customer service and problem-solving mindset, especially in B2B communications, to make email communication more valuable.

6 best practices every email marketer must follow

Like most of the marketing world, email tactics and technologies are in a state of constant flux. However, several best practices can help marketers succeed no matter what comes their way.

  • Develop strategy before focusing on tactics: This will avoid wasting time and money on things that don’t work.
  • Focus on benefits over features. Customers are always asking, “What’s in it for me?” whether it’s about subscribing to an email program or deciding whether to click from an email to check out an offer. Email copy should always answer that question.
  • Use data to drive meaningful personalization: Customers, whether B2B or B2C, want to know that a company knows who they are, and email personalization is an easy way to achieve that. 
  • Keep learning: The email industry is always changing, from new laws and evolving customer expectations to new marketing technology and trends. Read trade publications like MarTech, join industry organizations and hang out in email communities.
  • Continually test, optimize, and document results: Testing can reveal whether email efforts are succeeding or failing and prevent wasting precious time and money on strategies or tactics that don’t work. 
  • Ask for help and accountability from tech vendors to get the best use from all tools and platforms: Nobody knows a tech platform better than the people who built them. They succeed when their customers succeed. If they can’t or won’t help, it might be time to find a different vendor.

How the Email Marketing Periodic Table can optimize email

Today’s email marketers have to know much more than the best day to send an email. Dozens of factors go into planning, executing and reporting on a successful email program. Marketers juggling many duties can find it hard to keep up from day to day. 

Enter Martech’s Email Marketing Periodic Table. It lists the factors (“elements”) that go into email success and groups them into categories of similar elements, just like the periodic table of elements that you had to memorize back in chemistry class.

Email Periodic Table Elements: Optimization and Deliverability

The Email Marketing Periodic Table has eight element groups, ranging from compliance to infrastructure and content to experimental concepts like artificial intelligence.

Knowing the Email Marketing Periodic Table will help marketers understand all of the fundamentals for email success, how they relate to each other and why they’re important.

Resources for learning more about email marketing

Email marketing isn’t going anywhere; it remains a great channel for connecting with audiences. Marketers should make sure they’re aware of the best practices, technologies, and platforms available.

Here are some helpful resources detailing the best email marketing tactics and tools:

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

As the co-founder of, Ryan Phelan’s two decades of global marketing leadership has resulted in innovative strategies for high-growth SaaS and Fortune 250 companies. His experience and history in digital marketing have shaped his perspective on creating innovative orchestrations of data, technology and customer activation for Adestra, Acxiom, Responsys, Sears & Kmart, BlueHornet and infoUSA. Working with peers to advance digital marketing and mentoring young marketers and entrepreneurs are two of Ryan’s passions. Ryan is the Chairman Emeritus of the Email Experience Council Advisory Board and a member of numerous business community groups. He is also an in-demand keynote speaker and thought leader on digital marketing.

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45 Free Content Writing Tools to Love [for Writing, Editing & Content Creation]



45 Free Content Writing Tools to Love [for Writing, Editing & Content Creation]

Creating content isn’t always a walk in the park. (In fact, it can sometimes feel more like trying to swim against the current.)

While other parts of business and marketing are becoming increasingly automated, content creation is still a very manual job. (more…)

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How data clean rooms might help keep the internet open



How data clean rooms might help keep the internet open

Are data clean rooms the solution to what IAB CEO David Cohen has called the “slow-motion train wreck” of addressability? Voices at the IAB will tell you that they have a big role to play.

“The issue with addressability is that once cookies go away, and with the loss of identifiers, about 80% of the addressable market will become unknown audiences which is why there is a need for privacy-centric consent and a better consent-value exchange,” said Jeffrey Bustos, VP, measurement, addressability and data at the IAB.

“Everyone’s talking about first-party data, and it is very valuable,” he explained, “but most publishers who don’t have sign-on, they have about 3 to 10% of their readership’s first-party data.” First-party data, from the perspective of advertisers who want to reach relevant and audiences, and publishers who want to offer valuable inventory, just isn’t enough.

Why we care. Two years ago, who was talking about data clean rooms? The surge of interest is recent and significant, according to the IAB. DCRs have the potential, at least, to keep brands in touch with their audiences on the open internet; to maintain viability for publishers’ inventories; and to provide sophisticated measurement capabilities.

How data clean rooms can help. DCRs are a type of privacy-enhancing technology that allows data owners (including brands and publishers) to share customer first-party data in a privacy-compliant way. Clean rooms are secure spaces where first-party data from a number of sources can be resolved to the same customer’s profile while that profile remains anonymized.

In other words, a DCR is a kind of Switzerland — a space where a truce is called on competition while first-party data is enriched without compromising privacy.

“The value of a data clean room is that a publisher is able to collaborate with a brand across both their data sources and the brand is able to understand audience behavior,” said Bestos. For example, a brand selling eye-glasses might know nothing about their customers except basic transactional data — and that they wear glasses. Matching profiles with a publisher’s behavioral data provides enrichment.

“If you’re able to understand behavioral context, you’re able to understand what your customers are reading, what they’re interested in, what their hobbies are,” said Bustos. Armed with those insights, a brand has a better idea of what kind of content they want to advertise against.

The publisher does need to have a certain level of first-party data for the matching to take place, even if it doesn’t have a universal requirement for sign-ins like The New York Times. A publisher may be able to match only a small percentage of the eye-glass vendor’s customers, but if they like reading the sports and arts sections, at least that gives some directional guidance as to what audience the vendor should target.

Dig deeper: Why we care about data clean rooms

What counts as good matching? In its “State of Data 2023” report, which focuses almost exclusively on data clean rooms, concern is expressed that DCR efficacy might be threatened by poor match rates. Average match rates hover around 50% (less for some types of DCR).

Bustos is keen to put this into context. “When you are matching data from a cookie perspective, match rates are usually about 70-ish percent,” he said, so 50% isn’t terrible, although there’s room for improvement.

One obstacle is a persistent lack of interoperability between identity solutions — although it does exist; LiveRamp’s RampID is interoperable, for example, with The Trade Desk’s UID2.

Nevertheless, said Bustos, “it’s incredibly difficult for publishers. They have a bunch of identity pixels firing for all these different things. You don’t know which identity provider to use. Definitely a long road ahead to make sure there’s interoperability.”

Maintaining an open internet. If DCRs can contribute to solving the addressability problem they will also contribute to the challenge of keeping the internet open. Walled gardens like Facebook do have rich troves of first-party and behavioral data; brands can access those audiences, but with very limited visibility into them.

“The reason CTV is a really valuable proposition for advertisers is that you are able to identify the user 1:1 which is really powerful,” Bustos said. “Your standard news or editorial publisher doesn’t have that. I mean, the New York Times has moved to that and it’s been incredibly successful for them.” In order to compete with the walled gardens and streaming services, publishers need to offer some degree of addressability — and without relying on cookies.

But DCRs are a heavy lift. Data maturity is an important qualification for getting the most out of a DCR. The IAB report shows that, of the brands evaluating or using DCRs, over 70% have other data-related technologies like CDPs and DMPs.

“If you want a data clean room,” Bustos explained, “there are a lot of other technological solutions you have to have in place before. You need to make sure you have strong data assets.” He also recommends starting out by asking what you want to achieve, not what technology would be nice to have. “The first question is, what do you want to accomplish? You may not need a DCR. ‘I want to do this,’ then see what tools would get you to that.”

Understand also that implementation is going to require talent. “It is a demanding project in terms of the set-up,” said Bustos, “and there’s been significant growth in consulting companies and agencies helping set up these data clean rooms. You do need a lot of people, so it’s more efficient to hire outside help for the set up, and then just have a maintenance crew in-house.”

Underuse of measurement capabilities. One key finding in the IAB’s research is that DCR users are exploiting the audience matching capabilities much more than realizing the potential for measurement and attribution. “You need very strong data scientists and engineers to build advanced models,” Bustos said.

“A lot of brands that look into this say, ‘I want to be able to do a predictive analysis of my high lifetime value customers that are going to buy in the next 90 days.’ Or ‘I want to be able to measure which channels are driving the most incremental lift.’ It’s very complex analyses they want to do; but they don’t really have a reason as to why. What is the point? Understand your outcome and develop a sequential data strategy.”

Trying to understand incremental lift from your marketing can take a long time, he warned. “But you can easily do a reach and frequency and overlap analysis.” That will identify wasted investment in channels and as a by-product suggest where incremental lift is occurring. “There’s a need for companies to know what they want, identify what the outcome is, and then there are steps that are going to get you there. That’s also going to help to prove out ROI.”

Dig deeper: Failure to get the most out of data clean rooms is costing marketers money

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Ascend | DigitalMarketer



Ascend | DigitalMarketer

At this stage, your goal is to generate repeat buys and real profits. While your entry-point offer was designed for conversions, your ascension offers should be geared for profits—because if you’re serving your customers well, they’ll want to buy again and again.

Ascension offers may be simple upsells made after that initial purchase… bigger, better solutions… or “done for you” add-ons.

So now we must ask ourselves, what is our core flagship offer and how do we continue to deliver value after the first sale is made? What is the thing that we are selling? 

How we continue to deliver value after the first sale is really important, because having upsells and cross sales gives you the ability to sell to customers you already have. It will give you higher Average Customer values, which is going to give you higher margins. Which means you can spend more to acquire new customers. 

Why does this matter? It matters because of this universal law of marketing and customer acquisition, he or she who is able and willing to spend the most to acquire a customer wins.

Very often the business with the best product messaging very often is the business that can throw the most into customer acquisition. Now there are two ways to do that.

The first way is to just raise a lot of money. The problem is if you have a lot of money, that doesn’t last forever. At some point you need economics. 

The second way, and the most timeless and predictable approach, is to simply have the highest value customers of anyone in your market. If your customers are worth more to you than they are to your competitors, you can spend more to acquire them at the same margin. 

If a customer is worth twice as much to you than it is to your competitor, you can spend twice as much trying to acquire them to make the same margin. You can invest in your customer acquisition, because your customers are investing in your business. You can invest in your customer experiences, and when we invest more into the customer we build brands that have greater value. Meaning, people are more likely to choose you over someone else, which can actually lower acquisition costs. 

Happy customers refer others to us, which is called zero dollar customer acquisition, and generally just ensures you’re making a bigger impact. You can invest more in the customer experience and customer acquisition process if you don’t have high margins. 

If you deliver a preview experience, you can utilize revenue maximizers like up sells, cross sales, and bundles. These are things that would follow up the initial sale or are combined with the initial sale to increase the Average Customer Value.

The best example of an immediate upsell is the classic McDonalds, “would you like fries with that?” You got just a burger, do you also want fries with that? 

What distinguishes an upsell from other types of follow up offers is the upsell promise, the same end result for a bigger and better end result. 

What’s your desired result when you go to McDonalds? It’s not to eat healthy food, and it’s not even to eat a small amount of food. When you go to McDonalds your job is to have a tasty, greasy, predictable inexpensive meal. No one is going there because it’s healthy, you’re going there because you want to eat good. 

It’s predictable. It’s not going to break the bank for a hamburger, neither will adding fries or a Coke. It’s the same experience, but it’s BIGGER and BETTER. 

Amazon does this all of the time with their “Customers Who Bought This Also Bought …” But this one is algorithmic. The point of a cross sell is that it is relevant to the consumer, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be aligned with the original purchase. What you don’t want to do is start someone down one path and confuse them.

You can make this process easy with Bundles and Kits. With a bundle or a kit you’re essentially saying to someone, “you can buy just one piece, or you can get this bundle that does all of these other things for a little bit more. And it’s a higher value.”

The idea behind bundles and kits is that we are adding to the primary offer, not offering them something different. We’re simply promising to get them this desired result in higher definition. 

The Elements of High-Converting Revenue Maximizers (like our bundles and kits) are:

  1. Speed

If you’re an e-Commerce business, selling a physical product, this can look like: offering free shipping for orders $X or more. We’re looking to get your customers the same desired result, but with less work for them.

  1. Automation

If you’re a furniture business, and you want to add a Revenue Maximizer, this can look like: Right now for an extra $X our highly trained employees will come and put this together for you. 

  1. Access 

People will pay for speed, they’ll pay for less work, but they will also pay for a look behind the curtain. Think about the people who pay for Backstage Passes. Your customers will pay for a VIP experience just so they can kind of see how everything works. 

Remember, the ascension stage doesn’t have to stop. Once you have a customer, you should do your best to make them a customer for life. You should continue serving them. Continue asking them, “what needs are we still not meeting” and seek to meet those needs. 

It is your job as a marketer to seek out to discover these needs, to bring these back to the product team, because that’s what’s going to enable you to fully maximize the average customer value. Which is going to enable you to have a whole lot more to spend to acquire those customers and make your job a whole lot easier. 

Now that you understand the importance of the ascend stage, let’s apply it to our examples.

Hazel & Hem could have free priority shipping over $150, a “Boutique Points” reward program with exclusive “double point” days to encourage spending, and an exclusive “Stylist Package” that includes a full outfit custom selected for the customer. 

Cyrus & Clark can retain current clients by offering an annual strategic plan, “Done for You” Marketing services that execute on the strategic plan, and the top tier would allow customers to be the exclusive company that Cyrus & Clark services in specific geographical territories.

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