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103 Small Business Marketing Ideas To Help You Grow

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103 Small Business Marketing Ideas To Help You Grow


As a small business owner, you’re probably already busy and have heard many marketing ideas that sound impossible (or, at least, very difficult) to implement.

It can be challenging to come up with proven ways to improve your online presence, build your email list, engage prospective customers in social, and drive measurable revenue.

In this column, you’ll find 103 small business marketing ideas designed to help you grow your business either through gaining new customers or retaining existing ones.

And you can actually execute these ideas on your own!

Keep reading for tactics you can use in your small business to create better and more content, grow your social presence, acquire and retain customers, and more.

Creating Content

If you’ve been paying attention, you know you need content.

It may sound intimidating, but you and your employees have the power to create powerful, relevant content with a basic smartphone.

Here are some easy examples:

1. Picture of staff member(s).

2. Picture of a new team member.

3. Picture of owner or boss doing something humorous.

4. Picture of new products being unboxed or stocked.

5. Picture of a happy customer (with proper consent, of course).

6. Picture of an office pet (if applicable).

7. Picture of a staff member enjoying a seasonal holiday gathering.

8. Picture of staff members in action (meeting, helping customers, stocking shelves, etc.).

9. Picture of a happy customer (along with a caption using an infinite number of apps that can do this).

10. Picture of new equipment (especially if it’s a home service company).

11. Picture of staff working on location (if it’s out in the field).

12. Picture of “behind the scenes.”

13. Memes made from your own pictures.

14. Video of a birthday or some other type of celebration.

15. Video announcement of a promotion, product, or special.

16. Video of a customer testimonial.

17. Video with some helpful advice the customer may find useful.

18. Video supporting a local cause.

19. Video showing off new products or services (30 seconds to a minute).

20. Video of the owner talking about the mission of the company.

21. Video interview with team members.

22. Assemble your pictures into a video (plenty of apps can do that).

Using Social Media To Grow Your Business

With local newspapers on the decline, social media has become even more important because you’re likely to find your customers on one of the platforms.

The tips below are relevant regardless of the platform. Don’t let your biases or habits determine the social media platforms you use.

You may not use [insert Social Media platform name], but your business needs to have a presence if your customers do.

23. Post the pictures described above.

24. Post one of the videos described above.

25. Post a customer review.

26. Go live with a Q & A. Have seed questions prepared.

27. Go live at an event or party your business hosts or participates in.

28. Share good news from another local business.

29. Share a post from a local charity or non-profit looking for help.

30. Answer any questions or comments that come in from customers.

31. Have a customer event and post about it.

32. Post “little known facts”  or a historical anniversary relevant to your market or community.

33. Post a picture of your business as the seasons change.

34. Post customer stories (with permission, of course).

35. Post about a business challenge you’ve had and overcome.

36. When a local school team or organization is having success, post about them.

37. Turn a frequently asked question into a helpful advice post for your customers.

38. Post about good news for the business.

39. Celebrate a new hire.

Customer Acquisition

Acquiring new customers is often about doing the little things correctly.

People in your community need the goods and services you are selling.

Part of your job is to make it easy for them to do business with you.

Below are a few items for your customer acquisition checklist:

40. Ask for a referral in an email.

41. Ask for a review in an email or text.

42. Allow customers to send a text message inquiry.

43. Make sure it’s easy for customers to contact you (test it often).

44. Run a simple paid search ad.

45. Make sure your business shows up on the map.

46.  Exhibit at a tradeshow or local fair.

47. Sponsor a team or organization (and frequently show up).

48. Run a paid social campaign (pay $10 -$20 to boost a post or video to a local audience).

49. Start building an email list by giving something of value in return.

50. Use a QR code to lead customers to sign up to receive an instant coupon via SMS.

51. Start referring customers to other (non-competitive) businesses.

52. Join a networking group.

53.  Participate in community events and gatherings.

Customer Retention

Acquiring new customers is not enough to sustain a business.

Work hard to retain your current customers or you may constantly be at a disadvantage on an uphill climb.

Here are a few simple ideas to give you a leg up:

54. Send a quick follow-up survey after the purchase.

55. Ask for a review in an email or text.

56. Send a thank you to the customer.

57. Follow up with the customer to make sure they’re happy.

58. Send offers (price, sneak peek, early access, etc.) to existing customers.

59. Have a customer appreciation event.

60. Set up a customer advisory group.

61. Send a monthly email to your customer with announcements, specials, and even an occasional personal update.

62. Create a customer of the month program.

63. Know who your best customers are and offer exclusives.

Promotion

To be blunt, you need to get the word out to give your business a chance to succeed.

While “Field of Dreams” is a great movie, the approach doesn’t work in business (“If you build it, they will come”).

64. Add a promotional link in email signatures.

65. Develop some product (or service) bundle deals to increase your average order value.

66. Test a buy now, pay later service on your ecommerce website.

67. If you’re a service company, offer a cash or upfront payment discount.

68. Announce all promotions on social media channels.

69. Test various promotional discounts, bundles, ways to pay, etc.

70. Partner with other local businesses to promote yours.

71. If you’re going to do swag, make it memorable for your customers.

72. Become the face of your business. “People do business with people they like.”

73. Support your local news publications when it makes sense.

74. Get a logo to put on your vehicle.

75. Partner with a bank to offer financing on larger purchases.

Measuring Effectiveness

If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably thinking: Great! But how do I know whether or not any of this is working?

Below are some fundamental things you can do to measure the effectiveness of your efforts:

76. Add Google Analytics to your website (or have someone do that).

77. Document what success looks like from a business perspective.

78. Track your progress toward your goals.

79. Know the difference between a top and bottom of funnel metric.

80. Keep track of coupons redeemed.

81. Track incoming calls, messages, and emails.

82. Make sure conversion tracking is set up for your digital advertising.

83. Ask customers how they heard about you.

84. Measure your foot traffic (if your business is retail).

85. Measure your average order value.

86. Measure your conversion rate (online and in physical stores).

87. Document any changes to your promotion and messaging and note the effect on business.

88.  Track your bottom line to ensure your advertising and promotions drive profitable sales.

89. Calculate the lifetime value of a customer.

90. Know what it costs to acquire a new customer.

91. Know your customer retention rate.

92. Know the cost difference between retaining a current customer and acquiring a new one.

93. Test a discount vs. non-discount type of offer (bundle or buy now, pay later).

Getting Help For The Needed Work

Time is money, and you will find that sometimes, it’s just better to hire an expert who can help you market your business.

Below are some tips for doing just that:

94. Ask for a referral to hire expertise in digital marketing (PPC, SEO, email, web design. and development).

95. Get an intern to create all the pictures and videos outlined in the content section.

96. Hire a local freelancer if you have budget constraints.

97. Be crystal clear about your definition of success for anyone you hire.

98. Ask to see relevant case studies before hiring anyone.

99. Get an SEO audit to identify any gaps.

100. Use online resources like Fiverr, Upwork, and 99 Designs for some of your needs.

101. Hire someone who can write content for you.

102. Ask an employee or someone you know to edit videos. You might be amazed at how good a job they do.

103. Keep a handy list of trusted resources for when you need them.

Getting Started

That’s the list!

103 small business marketing ideas you can actually implement.

The best advice I can give you for getting started is to pick a couple of easy ones (most likely in the content section) and have at it.

Before you know it, you find your rhythm.

Good luck!

More resources: 


Featured Image: KucherAV/Shutterstock





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Meta Reinstates Trump to Facebook & Instagram

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Meta Reinstates Trump to Facebook & Instagram

Meta announced that the suspension of former president Trump from Facebook and Instagram will be lifted within a few weeks, with “guardrails” in place to discourage repeat offenses.

2021 Suspension of Trump

Meta indefinitely suspended the account of then-president Trump after he praised the people who engaged in anti-government violence that ended in several deaths.

The suspension was reviewed by the Meta Oversight Board who concluded that the indefinite suspension was inconsistent with rules in place for dealing with policy violations.

The Oversight Board wrote:

“…it was not appropriate for Facebook to impose the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension. Facebook’s normal penalties include removing the violating content, imposing a time-bound period of suspension, or permanently disabling the page and account.

The Board insists that Facebook review this matter to determine and justify a proportionate response that is consistent with the rules that are applied to other users of its platform.”

Facebook responded to the board that the suspension will last for two years beginning on January 7, 2021 after which the suspension would be reconsidered.

The indefinite suspension remained in place until the announcement that it will be lifted in the weeks following January 25, 2022, just over two years after the suspension.

Why the Suspension of Trump was Lifted

The review of the suspension was timed for two years after the imposition of the original suspension on January 7, 2021. This was by agreement with the Oversight Board.

Meta undertook a review of whether Trump continued to pose a risk to public safety and decided that enough had changed to lower the risk.

The explanation of the decision indicated that multiple factors were considered:

“To assess whether the serious risk to public safety that existed in January 2021 has sufficiently receded, we have evaluated the current environment according to our Crisis Policy Protocol, which included looking at the conduct of the US 2022 midterm elections, and expert assessments on the current security environment.

Our determination is that the risk has sufficiently receded, and that we should therefore adhere to the two-year timeline we set out.

As such, we will be reinstating Mr. Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts in the coming weeks. However, we are doing so with new guardrails in place to deter repeat offenses.”

Facebook Public Figure Penalty Guardrails

Meta published updated policies, Restricting accounts by public figures during civil unrest, that describe the new protocols for dealing with public figures who violate Meta guidelines.

The updated rules apply to both Facebook and Instagram.

The new policies outline tiered penalties increasing in severity depending on the content violations.

Meta explained that the goal of the penalties were to deter violations of their policies.

The penalties last from one to thirty days to as long as two years for especially egregious violations.

Three factors will be considered to determine the severity of the penalty:

  1. “The severity of the violation and the public figure’s history on Facebook or Instagram, including current and past violations.
  2. The public figure’s potential influence over, and relationship to, the individuals engaged in violence.
  3. The severity of the violence and any related physical harm.”

 

Heightened Penalties

Public figures who return after a suspension will face heightened penalties, including disabling the account of any public figure that fails to respond to repeated warnings.

Meta’s rules targets QAnon content and outlines specific measures they will take that will limit the reach of penalized public figures.

That means anyone who is following the restricted account of a public figure will not see content posted to those accounts, plus the removal of reshare buttons.

“Our updated protocol also addresses content that does not violate our Community Standards but that contributes to the sort of risk that materialized on January 6, such as content that delegitimizes an upcoming election or is related to QAnon.

We may limit the distribution of such posts, and for repeated instances, may temporarily restrict access to our advertising tools.

This step would mean that content would remain visible on Mr. Trump’s account but would not be distributed in people’s Feeds, even if they follow Mr. Trump.

We may also remove the reshare button from such posts, and may stop them being recommended or run as ads.”

Response to Reinstatement of Trump

Facebook’s announcement stated that they expect to be criticized but that the decision was guided by guidelines set down by the Oversight Board.

The response on social media was predictably passionate, with congressman Adam Schiff characterizing the reinstatement as Facebook having “caved.”

Others accused Facebook of having no rules or procedures even though Meta’s decision was based on rules and procedures.

Many of the top tweets commenting on the Trump reinstatement commented that Facebook’s decision was based on greed while others lamented the lack of consequences from Trump’s action, even though he was punished with a two year suspension.

Read Meta’s Announcement:

Ending Suspension of Trump’s Accounts With New Guardrails to Deter Repeat Offenses

 

 



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Wayback Machine: 5 Alternatives To Try

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Wayback Machine: 5 Alternatives To Try

Much of the web is ephemeral.

Web pages exist until they don’t. The content on them exists until it’s updated – and then it’s gone.

Unless you go digging in an archive.

Archiving the web is important for cultural and anthropological research. It’s also helpful for business reasons, like competitive analysis. It can even help document or monitor political processes.

Your particular reason for seeking archived content might determine which service works best.

The Wayback Machine is the most commonly known archive.

Screenshot, https://archive.org/web/, January 2023.

The Internet Archive is a nonprofit organization, and the Wayback Machine is the web version of its archive, containing an absolutely massive amount of data.

You can request that it save a webpage in its current state, as well as make use of tools, like an API.

As huge as the Wayback Machine archive is, it’s likely not 100% complete. If you’re having trouble finding something specific or wondering if there are alternatives with more features, these alternatives might help.

I won’t be going over paid SaaS subscriptions, as I don’t consider a paid service a true alternative to a free one provided by a nonprofit.

Let’s go!

1. The Memento Project

Memento is an exceptional alternative to the Wayback Machine because it aggregates several different sources, including the Wayback Machine itself.

On the website, you can access archives from several sources by using the Time Travel tool.

Wayback Machine: 5 Alternatives To TryScreenshot, http://timetravel.mementoweb.org/, January 2023.

This is the first distinction that makes Memento so cool, and it includes some of the other archives on this list, too. That means it’s a customizable experience and likely one of the most complete.

Memento’s other distinct feature is the Chrome extension that allows you to select the date on which you’d like to view your current page. This brings the tool to where you’re browsing instead of making you put a URL into a form.

You can also create a snapshot of a page and generate a link to it that won’t break. This is particularly useful for citation.

If you’re concerned a page might disappear, or the content might get updated, but you want to use the information, creating one of these links ensures that people will be able to see your original source.

2. Archive.today

Archive.today is another “snapshot” tool. It allows you to save a link to a page as it currently exists.

Following the link will send users to an unalterable version of the page.

Wayback Machine: 5 Alternatives To TryScreenshot, https://archive.ph/, January 2023.

It also features some relatively advanced search queries you can perform on domains and URLs to find snapshots that have been saved with the tool.

This tool also features a Chrome extension as well as an Android app.

Searches on Memento can include results from Archive.today.

3. WebCite

WebCite has powerful applications for authors, journalists, academics, and publishers.

It offers a variety of ways to build and present the archived pages and the URLs.

Wayback Machine: 5 Alternatives To TryScreenshot, rhttps://webcitation.org/, January 2023.

Unfortunately, at the time of publishing, it doesn’t appear to be taking new requests. But you can still access already archived pages. When and if it starts accepting requests again, it’s a very useful tool for that.

Its most powerful feature for authors and publishers is the ability to upload a manuscript directly to the website.

The tool will scan every link in an uploaded manuscript and automatically create archives of each of the pages linked to as they currently exist. This saves a lot of time if you’ve used a lot of website citations.

If you’ve created content that you want people to be able to create snapshots of, then you can add a specific WebCite link to your page that users can click on. This embeds archive functionality into your page, saving users time if they decide to use your work as a citation.

4. GitHub

GitHub is a development and collaboration platform that also prioritizes public projects and open-source code.

It documents and archives open-source code and programs, and is searchable by other archives such as the Wayback Machine.

Wayback Machine: 5 Alternatives To TryScreenshot, https://github.com/explore, January 2023.

But, if you’re looking for something related to code or software development, it might be easier to go straight to GitHub instead of using another archive service.

While it does have paid business plans, GitHub is free for the average user. It even offers 15GB of storage and some computing power in its cloud developer environment for free for your personal use.

5. Country-Specific Web Archives

Several countries run their own web archives.

These can be particularly helpful alternatives to the Wayback Machine if you’re looking for a website highly relevant to a specific location, or the culture of a country.

More focused archives might have more complete information if you’re having trouble finding it elsewhere, although again, I want to mention that the first alternative in this list, Memento, pulls from several different country-specific archives.

I should also note that many archives specific to a country, region, educational institution, or individual library are partnered with Archive-it, a service provider built by The Internet Archive (makers of the Wayback Machine).

They curate specific collections based on relevance, but all Archive-it partners leverage the same source: The Internet Archive.

These are a few of the country-specific web archives:

Conclusion

When you’re looking for alternatives to the Wayback Machine, you might not realize that a great many of them, in part or in whole, are powered by the same archive.

But there are other services out there you can use. Some have more helpful features, depending on what your goals are.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of alternative tools, but it’s most of the easily accessible tools for the average user.

Others require monthly payments, and some are free to academic and legal institutions, but not to individual users.

I chose to focus on the best of the tools that you could go and use right now with no fuss.

More resources:


Featured Image: Studio Romantic/Shutterstock



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Indirect Marketing: Definition, Types, & Examples

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Indirect Marketing: Definition, Types, & Examples

Indirect marketing is marketing where you’re not trying to explicitly sell a product or service.

Instead, it focuses on activities that generate brand awareness, build relationships with potential customers, and nurture them to eventually buy from you.

Indirect marketing relies on the assumption that potential customers will not purchase your product or service immediately, but over time. 

And if we look at our buying behavior, that’s probably true. For example, if we need a new pair of headphones, we’ll probably first do some online research, browse forums, ask our friends, and get familiar with available brands and models—all before buying.

In contrast, direct marketing is marketing where you’re explicitly trying to get potential customers to buy right now. Channels include cold email, direct mail, and ads.

Types of indirect marketing

Here are some types of indirect marketing:

1. Public relations (PR)

PR is the practice of positively influencing a brand’s perception by managing communications with the media and the general public.

Common tactics include being newsworthy, responding to media inquiries (e.g., HARO), creating press releases, building relationships with journalists, and creating PR stunts. 

For example, Ahrefs was featured on TechCrunch in 2022.

Ahrefs is featured in a TechCrunch article

This was possible because we had:

  1. A newsworthy event (“we’re making a search engine”).
  2. Relationships with the right people (all thanks to the hard work of my colleague, Daria Samokish).

2. Search engine optimization (SEO)

SEO is the practice of optimizing your website and its pages to rank higher in search engines like Google. You’d want to make sure your important pages appear on Google for relevant keywords. For example, if someone is searching for your brand, your website should appear:

Google search results for keyword "ahrefs"

But nobody will search for your brand if they do not know it exists. So beyond optimizing your homepage, you should also target keywords your customers are searching for.

At Ahrefs, we create content targeting problems our potential customers have. For example, 14,000 people per month search for “link building” in the U.S.  

14,000 people per month search for “link building” in the U.S.

This is a problem our toolset helps with, so we created a piece of content targeting that topic.

Ahrefs' link building guide

Whenever someone is searching for that keyword on Google, they’ll discover our content and, in the process, our product and brand. 

Repeat this ad infinitum and you’ll expose hundreds, if not thousands, of people to your brand (in our case, an estimated 3.4 million).

Estimated amount of search traffic Ahrefs receives every month, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Recommended reading: SEO: The Complete Guide for Beginners 

3. Social media

Creating valuable content that persuades people to follow you on social media platforms like Twitter and TikTok is a great way to generate brand awareness and build relationships with your audience.

For example, our Twitter account has 128,000 followers, and we regularly share SEO and marketing tips with our audience:

Indirect marketing: pros and cons

Should you invest in indirect marketing? Let’s look at the pros and cons.

Pros

Here are the advantages of indirect marketing.

1. Indirect marketing builds demand and awareness

Why is it important to build brand awareness and demand? 

Simple: There are only so many people who are ready to buy right now. Most of your potential customers are still unaware they have a problem, unaware of solutions, or unaware of your particular product or service. 

So if you’re using direct marketing, you’re only focusing on a small pool of people. Not only that, but you could actually just be reaching out to people who are already primed to buy in the first place.

Eventually, you’ll still need a way to open up a pool of potential customers. And you can do that with indirect marketing tactics. 

2. Indirect marketing is less intrusive and non-pushy

Prospects purposely seek out content that helps them solve problems. Not only that, but indirect marketing tactics also rarely involve reaching out to people. 

Cons

Here are some downsides to indirect marketing.

1. Indirect marketing takes time

You can’t build a brand overnight. Neither can you amass 100,000 followers in one day. Relationships with journalists take time to build. And ranking on Google takes time too.

Results for a poll on how long SEO takes

Recognizing that customers need time to buy also means recognizing that nurturing the relationship takes time.

2. Indirect marketing is less trackable

Life gets in everyone’s way. You must have had the experience of researching for something to buy, only for you to give it up for a few years before suddenly returning to purchase it. Your customers are the same too. 

As a result, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly which indirect marketing tactic contributed to the success. But it doesn’t mean that indirect marketing doesn’t work, just that it’s not attributable. 

Direct marketing: pros and cons

Should you invest in direct marketing? Here are the pros and cons.

Pros

What are some advantages of direct marketing?

1. Direct marketing is measurable

Direct marketing tactics are usually trackable—how many opens, how many clicks, how many conversions, and so on. You can see these metrics on ad platforms and email marketing software.

2. Direct marketing is fast

Since it’s intended to elicit a response or purchase, direct marketing tactics can have an immediate impact on a business’s bottom line. 

Cons

Direct marketing is not all sunshine and roses. There are some downsides.

1. Direct marketing is intrusive

Direct marketing tactics like cold email and ads are generally seen as interruptive. That is because the prospect did not request them and yet is still served a sales message.

An unwanted ad from Emirates on the Twitter timeline

2. Direct marketing has a smaller reach

As mentioned earlier, there are only so many people who are ready and willing to buy. Direct marketing merely converts these people, but it cannot generate purchases among people who don’t even know you exist. 

3. Direct marketing can be blocked

CAN-SPAM, GDPR, ad-blockers—they exist to prevent unwanted sales messages from reaching consumers.

Examples of successful indirect marketing

Looking for successful examples of how companies have used indirect marketing? Here are three to be inspired by.

1. Ahrefs – Blog

The main marketing type we use is SEO-driven content marketing. It can be summarized into one sentence:

We create and maintain high-quality, search-focused content about topics with business potential, search traffic potential, and ranking potential.

To break it down:

  1. We research topics our customers are searching for on Google.
  2. We filter them by checking their business potential—how easy it will be to pitch our product while tackling these keywords.
  3. We prioritize by analyzing their ranking potential—how viable it is for us to rank in the top three with our available resources.
  4. We create content targeting those topics.
  5. We update or rewrite them if they don’t rank or are out of date.

This strategy means customers are always discovering us whenever they’re searching for solutions to their problems on Google. 

Ahrefs customers mentioning that they found out about our product from Google

Our strategy is simple. No fancy tactics or the latest hot trend. But this deliberate simplicity makes the strategy easy to follow and is the driving force behind our eight-figure annual recurring revenue (ARR).

Learn how to replicate our strategy in the guide below.

Recommended reading: How to Create an SEO Content Strategy (Follow the Ahrefs’ Framework) 

2. Wendy’s – Twitter

Wendy’s is a fast-food restaurant chain. Yet, you might not be able to tell from its tweets:

If you’re out of the loop, Wendy’s basically revolutionized how brands can use social media and communicate with their customers. Rather than post boring bureaucratic tweets in “corporatese,” it decided to do a 180° by sharing memes, roasting rival companies, and posting in a sassy tone. And it rarely has a call to action to visit a Wendy’s restaurant.

But this indirect marketing works for it. In a highly competitive fast-food scene, this social media strategy puts its brand top of mind. 

Not only do its tweets gain attention on the network itself, but it also spreads virally across other channels. Memes, anime parodies, and YouTube videos—the list goes on. 

Since 2012, Wendy’s has overtaken Burger King to become the #3 U.S. fast-food chain.

3. Slidebean – YouTube

Slidebean is a pitch deck design platform for startups and small businesses. It has >400,000 subscribers on YouTube. Many of its videos aren’t about pitch decks or pitch deck design; instead, they’re about startups, marketing, and business.

This is deliberate. It initially started out with topics related to its product. But it found that it exhausted those topics in a short amount of time. So it decided to move up the marketing funnel into broader topics.

Since we had found a “YouTube formula,” we decided to apply it to other kinds of content, and one of them was this idea of exploring failed companies. The first one was WeWork, which was just the right bridge between a startup-focused company and a widely known brand. At this stage, the series was called “Startup Forensics.”

However, there were only so many tech startups to explore, so we quickly opened that up to “Company Forensics” to broaden our horizons.

Jose Cayasso

This allowed Slidebean to get as many eyeballs as possible on YouTube, which puts its brand top of mind. The company hit $1.5 million in revenue with 3,000 customers in 2022. 

Final thoughts

The best companies use both indirect and direct marketing. They don’t discriminate between strategies. If you want to improve your business, you should use both. 

Any questions? Hit me up on Twitter



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