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20 Marketing Tools for a Small Business & Their Best Feature

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20 Marketing Tools for a Small Business & Their Best Feature

There are thousands of marketing tools, but only a few fit the bill for small businesses. Some you may already know; others you should consider using.

We’ll outline how to use the best feature of each tool so that you can get started on delivering some real marketing success today.

Sounds good? Let’s get into it.

1. View monthly comparison reports with Google Analytics on your phone

Google Analytics is a free tool that provides a 360-degree view of the performance of your website.

It is suitable for tracking sales, conversions, the best source of visitor traffic, how people interact with your website, and insights into your audience.

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The mobile app provides these reports instantly in the palm of your hand.

With Google sunsetting the old version of Google Analytics, here’s a beginner’s guide to setting up GA4.

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How to view monthly comparison reports with Google Analytics

Follow these steps:

  1. Download the app on App Store or Google Play
  2. Log in and select your property
  3. Select the date range in the upper left
  4. Select month > Last 30 days > Compare > Preceding period > Save

This view ensures you compare all metrics with the previous time period.

Google Analytics monthly comparison reports

2. Use Intercom’s convert feature to grow your sales funnel

Intercom is an all-in-one marketing platform that helps businesses build, automate, and scale customer relationships. It includes email marketing, chatbots, social media management, and CRM features.

Intercom is suitable if you’re looking to answer visitors’ questions via live chat, keep them interested in your products or services, and turn them into customers.

Pricing

  • Price range: from $74 per month
  • Free tier: yes

How to use it

  1. Select Operator
  2. Select Qualification
  3. Choose data fields
  4. Add response rules

https://youtu.be/a3x3uEHdGbE

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3. Add visitor segmentation and CTA using ConvertFlow

ConvertFlow is an online marketing platform that helps you convert website visitors using CTAs, landing pages, forms, quizzes, surveys, and personalization.

It is suitable for most websites, including e-commerce, service, and software businesses.

According to Statista, e-commerce conversion rates vary between 0.6% and 5.5%—or expressed differently, around 94% of website visitors leave without taking any action.

You can use visitor segmentation to help you identify who visits your site, ask them one or two questions to determine what they’re interested in, and provide them with a CTA to encourage them to enter your sales funnel.

Pricing

  • Price range: $0–$300 per month
  • Free tier: yes

How to use visitor segmentation and a CTA

Before getting started, ensure the ConvertFlow script is added to your website’s <head> section.

  1. Add your website
  2. Go to Dashboard
  3. Create a CTA
  4. Choose a template, e.g., visitor segmentation, sticky bar, pop-up
  5. Preview and use template
  6. Name it and create CTA
  7. Customize
  8. Add a form to step #2
  9. Connect step #1 to step #2 using confirmation actions
  10. Save, publish, and preview
  11. Launch
ConvertFlow workspace and sidebar on rightConvertFlow workspace and sidebar on right

4. Build an email prospect list with ConvertKit’s landing page builder

ConvertKit is an easy-to-use online marketing platform that helps small businesses and individuals grow their audiences using email marketing, forms, and landing pages.

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Its landing page feature works well for small creative businesses, such as those run by marketers, coaches, writers, etc.

Pricing

  • Price range: $15–$2,599 per month, depending on the number of subscribers
  • Free tier: yes

How to use it

To use the landing page feature, follow these steps:

  1. Grow > Landing Pages > Create New
  2. Landing Page
  3. Filter by Profile
  4. Choose any profile template
  5. Click each component and customize
  6. Click Publish and add to your social media profile or embed the page in your WordPress site

https://youtu.be/g6fy9ixlDAs?t=88

Calendly is an online scheduling tool that allows business owners to create appointments, meetings, and events, send invitations, and manage bookings.

Calendly is ideal for those who provide professional, IT, recruitment, beauty, and marketing services.

Pricing

  • Price range: $0–$20 per user, per month
  • Free tier: yes

How to use it

  1. Log in
  2. Create > Event Type
  3. Create a one-on-one or group event
  4. Provide event name, location, and instructions
  5. Set the event date, time, and schedule
  6. Set additional options such as invitee questions, workflows, notifications, and confirmation page
  7. Turn the event on
  8. Select Account > Share your links > Choose the option to email or embed on your website

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sd8qzy0UUXc

6. Grow an email prospect list on Twitter with Revue

Revue is an editorial newsletter service owned by Twitter itself.

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Connecting Twitter with Revue is suitable for any business that wants to encourage users or followers to subscribe to its additional content by clicking its profile and the “subscribe” button.

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How to use it

  1. Sign in to Revue with your Twitter login
  2. Select Account Settings > Integrations > Connect Now (under the Twitter logo)
  3. Click Create and write out a subject line for your first newsletter
  4. Copy/paste or write the body copy of your email newsletter
  5. Preview it
  6. Schedule it
  7. Share it
  8. Repeat steps #4 to #8

7. Use TryInteract’s quizzes to grow your email list and prospects

TryInteract is an interactive marketing tool that helps you create online quizzes that generate new subscribers and leads, segment your audience, and drive website traffic.

TryInteract is best suited for those building brand awareness or have pages with less commercial inten­t that don’t get any conversions.

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Pricing

  • Price range: $29–$209 per month
  • Free tier: no

How to use it

  1. Create New Quiz
  2. Select a category from the filter
  3. Hover over template > Preview > Use Template
  4. Customize the quiz color
  5. Change the quiz questions and answers
  6. Click the Lead Generation option to connect quiz respondents and answers with your CRM or marketing platform
  7. Choose Publish
  8. You can share the quiz link in an email campaign, in a social post, or as a website post or announcement bar

https://youtu.be/5d_QYhloWLg

8. Use Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer to find easy-to-rank keyword opportunities

Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer identifies millions of keywords and topics, their ranking difficulty, and their traffic potential.

It is suitable for small businesses that wish to find and target low-competition and easy-to-rank opportunities that drive more organic search traffic.

Pricing

  • Price range: $99–$999 per month
  • Free tier: no

How to use it

This involves quite a few steps and requires an understanding of some concepts and metrics. Your best bet is to follow this step-by-step video tutorial:

https://youtu.be/s7hR-i6Go4c

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9. Build a calculator to collect leads with Calculoid

Calculoid lets you build and add calculators to your website with little technical know-how.

Its calculator templates suit businesses that require custom quote forms.

Pricing

  • Price range: $0–$99 per month
  • Free tier: yes

How to use it

  1. Open Keywords Explorer
  2. Search for “calculator”
  3. Go to the Matching terms report and apply filters (words related to your business, KD, etc)
  4. Matching terms report results for "calculator" Matching terms report results for "calculator"
  5. Get relevant ideas for calculators
  6. Sign in to Calculoid
  7. Create a new calculator
  8. Choose a relevant template
  9. Customize the fields and calculations
  10. Add submission form (if you wish to capture leads)
  11. Publish to your webpage using the embed code or WordPress plugin

https://youtu.be/C3_iYuUh5HM

10. Use Ahrefs’ Content Explorer to earn links naturally

Ahrefs’ Content Explorer is a search engine containing billions of pages, all with SEO and social metrics.

The Content Explorer feature is suitable for small businesses that wish to earn backlinks without investing in email outreach campaigns.

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Pricing

  • Price range: $99–$999 per month
  • Free tier: no

How to use it

  1. Use this report link or go to Content Explorer, enter keyword AND (“statistics” OR “checklist”), and select “In title”; remember to replace “keyword” with a seed keyword
  2. Sort by Referring Domains
  3. Select Exclude Homepages
  4. Use any other filters, e.g., I filtered by DR 20–30 and found 111 referring domains to an “SEO checklist for lawyers”
  5. Identify a common theme among pages
  6. Create page content containing the most frequent statistics or checklist items (refer to Canva checklist instructions below)
Content Explorer search results Content Explorer search results

11. Use Trello to manage marketing campaigns

Trello is a project management platform similar to Basecamp or Asana. It lets you create boards with lists, add cards to those lists, assign tasks to other users, track progress, and collaborate with others.

It is suitable for anyone who manages or is involved in digital marketing or SEO campaigns.

Pricing

  • Price range: $0–$17.50 per user, per month
  • Free tier: yes

How to use it

  1. Register or log in
  2. Create a new board
  3. Customize the board
  4. Add colleagues or clients
  5. Build a workflow
  6. Add tasks and to-do items
  7. Set deadlines
  8. Repeat for the next project

https://youtu.be/l3F3l3psqXY

12. Schedule social media posts with Canva Calendar

Canva is an online tool where you can create images without being a graphic designer.

The Content Planner tool from Canva allows you to create and schedule posts ahead of time for your social channels from within its design platform.

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This is ideal for companies that want to repur­pose their website content or simply grow their social media presence.

Pricing

  • Price range: $0–$12.99 per month
  • Free tier: yes

How to use it

  1. Go to Canva Content Planner
  2. Press “+” next to a date
  3. Select a graphic you have already created or create a design
  4. Choose a destination, e.g., Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc
  5. Write a caption
  6. Schedule post
  7. Repeat

https://youtu.be/ebqqPnMEZwk?t=328

13. Use Microsoft Clarity heatmaps for improved website and user experience

Microsoft Clarity, similar to Crazy Egg and Hotjar, is a free online tool that helps you analyze, understand, and improve your site performance and user experience using heatmaps and user recordings.

It helps website owners understand how users found their websites, what they did, what they did next, and why they left the website.

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How to use it

  1. Sign up or log in
  2. Go to settings, copy the code, and add it to your website’s <head> section
  3. Leave for a few days until data has been collected and return to Clarity
  4. Look at the heatmaps of top pages and see how far users scroll down the page or compare different page versions and see how users scroll and click
  5. Share with your web team or developers and ask them to implement solutions to any identified problems
Example of heatmap on ClarityExample of heatmap on Clarity

14. Use Grammarly to improve your existing content

Grammarly is an online grammar checker, spell checker, and plagiarism detector; it can also help with your writing style, sentence structure, and word choice.

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Grammarly is useful for people who want their website copy to be clear and well written.

Pricing

  • Price range: $0–$12.50 per user, per month
  • Free tier: yes

How to use it

  1. Create a Grammarly account or log in
  2. Select Apps
  3. Click the Chrome Store link and install the extension
  4. Click the icon in your browser and change the settings to suit
  5. Go to the program where you have written your content
  6. Click the icon and action the suggestions
Grammarly extension in a Google DocGrammarly extension in a Google Doc

15. Use Wordable for WordPress to publish content faster

Wordable is a tool that allows you to export your content created in Google Docs to your WordPress or HubSpot website, which has saved Ahrefs a ton of time.

It is suitable for anyone who regularly produces and publishes blog posts and articles.

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Pricing

  • Price range: $49–$999 per month
  • Free tier: no

How to use it

  1. Log in and connect to Google Docs
  2. Connect your website
  3. Import and export your documents

16. Interview customers to create better service page copy with Otter.ai

Otter.ai records and transcribes audio conversations and meetings on your desktop or mobile device by using artificial intelligence.

Interviewing and recording customer interviews have helped me write better copy for the customers’ service pages.

Otter.ai provides better playback and editing features than “voice typing” with Google Docs; you can press the “play” button to listen back and edit any copy errors.

Pricing

  • Price range: $12.99–$30 per month
  • Free tier: yes

How to use it

  1. Log in or register
  2. Select Record
  3. Press the “stop” button when you are finished
  4. When the conversation is processed, press the “play” button to listen back and edit any copy errors

https://youtu.be/mkF1cE7ARTE

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17. Use Google Forms for market research

Google Forms is a useful, free tool for creating survey questions and distributing and analyzing your survey results.

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How to use it

You’ll need a good-sized audience, such as your email list or social media following.

Let’s say you want to survey others about Google Ads. Here’s what to do:

  1. Create a Google Form with your questions
  2. Include fields for the respondent’s name, email address, website, social addresses, and questions you want to ask
  3. Send the Google Form to your social account or email list
  4. Analyze your responses
Excerpt of a Google FormExcerpt of a Google Form

18. Use Canva to design checklists for customers

Canva has hundreds of predesigned checklist templates you can customize for your customers (without being a design expert).

Pricing

  • Price range: $0–$12.99 per month
  • Free tier: yes

How to create a linkable asset with Canva

  1. Visit Canva templates here or here
  2. Use the filters to find a template and open it up
  3. Add your checklist items and descriptions
  4. Change the colors and fonts to match your brand
  5. Download, share with customers, or add to your webpage
Example of a Canva templateExample of a Canva template

19. Embed YouTube videos for training or educating customers

A large part of Ahrefs’ success has been attributed to our educational content.

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Our training academy features courses on using Ahrefs, how to grow your traffic, SEO training, and the best of our YouTube videos.

In total, we have over 20 hours of educational content.

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How to do it

  1. Upload your video to your YouTube account
  2. Design and add your thumbnail to your video (use a Canva template)
  3. Press the “share” button underneath the video
  4. Copy the link or the embed code
  5. Add to your webpage
Ahrefs Academy's page with short write-ups on courses; above each write-up is a picture of SamAhrefs Academy's page with short write-ups on courses; above each write-up is a picture of Sam

20. Get more reviews with BrightLocal’s Reputation Manager

BrightLocal provides a suite of online marketing tools for local businesses that help them rank high on local search results, deliver accurate business information, and generate and manage customer reviews.

The reputation management feature is suitable for any business with a multi-channel presence that wants to generate more positive reviews of its products, services, and brand.

Pricing

  • Price range: $8–$79 per month
  • Free tier: no

How to use the reputation management feature

  1. Customize your template
  2. Set up email and SMS that go to customers asking for reviews
  3. Add review sites, e.g., Google My Business, Facebook, BBB, TripAdvisor, OpenTable, Yelp, Trustpilot, etc
  4. Import customer details and send email/SMS to ask for a review
  5. Create a list or carousel widget and add it to your website to display all reviews

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8G9BLDVAXHg&t=1200s

Final thoughts

We’ve chosen ways to help you improve your marketing game; pick the marketing tools that work for you and use our suggestions to implement their best features.

Got any questions about using these tools? Ping me on Twitter.

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How We Used a Video Course to Promote Ahrefs (And Got 500K+ Views)

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How We Used a Video Course to Promote Ahrefs (And Got 500K+ Views)

Creating and selling educational courses can be a lucrative business. But if you already have a product to sell, you can actually use courses as a marketing tool.

Back in 2017, about two years after joining Ahrefs, I decided to create a course on content marketing.

I had a very clear understanding of how an educational course would help me promote Ahrefs.

  • People like courses – Folks like Brian Dean and Glen Allsopp were selling theirs for $500 to $2,000 a pop (and rather successfully). So a free course of comparable quality was sure to get attention.
  • Courses allow for a deeper connection – You would basically be spending a few hours one on one with your students. And if you managed to win their trust, you’d get an opportunity to promote your product to them.

That was my raw thought process going into this venture.

And I absolutely didn’t expect that the lifespan of my course would be as interesting and nuanced as it turned out to be.

The lessons of my course have generated over 500K+ in total views, brought in mid-five-figures in revenue (without even trying), and turned out to be a very helpful resource for our various marketing purposes.

So here goes the story of my “Blogging for Business” course.

1. The creation

I won’t give you any tips on how to create a successful course (well, maybe just one). There are plenty of resources (courses?) on that topic already.

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All I want to say is that my own experience was quite grueling.

The 10 lessons of my course span some 40K words. I have never attempted the feat of writing a book, but I imagine creating such a lengthy course is as close as it gets.

Scripts of the course in Google Docs.

I spent a tremendous amount of time polishing each lesson. The course was going to be free, so it was critical that my content was riveting. If not, people would just bounce from it.

Paid courses are quite different in that sense. You pay money to watch them. So even if the content is boring at times, you’ll persevere anyway to ensure a return on your investment.

When I showed the draft version of the course to my friend, Ali Mese, he gave me a simple yet invaluable tip: “Break your lessons into smaller ones. Make each just three to four minutes long.”

How did I not think of this myself? 

Short, “snackable” lessons provide a better sense of completion and progress. You’re also more likely to finish a short lesson without getting distracted by something. 

I’m pretty sure that it is because of this simple tip that my course landed this Netflix comparison (i.e., best compliment ever):

2. The strategy

With the prices of similar courses ranging from $500 to $2,000, it was really tempting to make some profit with ours.

I think we had around 15,000 paying customers at Ahrefs at that time (and many more on the free plan). So if just 1% of them bought that course for $1K, that would be an easy $150K to pocket. And then we could keep upselling it to our future customers.

Alternatively, we thought about giving access to the course to our paying customers only. 

This might have boosted our sales, since the course was a cool addition to the Ahrefs subscription. 

And it could also improve user retention. The course was a great training resource for new employees, which our customers would lose access to if they canceled their Ahrefs subscription.

And yet, releasing it for free as a lead acquisition and lead nurturing play seemed to make a lot more sense than the other two options. So we stuck to that.

3. The waitlist

Teasing something to people before you let them get it seems like one of the fundamental rules of marketing.

  • Apple announces new products way before they’re available in stores. 
  • Movie studios publish trailers of upcoming movies months (sometimes years) before they hit the theaters. 
  • When you have a surprise for your significant other (or your kids), you can’t help but give them some hints before the reveal.

There’s something about “the wait” and the anticipation that we humans just love to experience.

So while I was toiling away and putting lessons of my course together, we launched a landing page to announce it and collect people’s emails.

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The landing page of the course.

In case someone hesitated to leave their email, we had two cool bonuses to nudge them:

  1. Access to the private Slack community
  2. Free two-week trial of Ahrefs

The latter appealed to freebie lovers so much that it soon “leaked” to Reddit and BlackHatWorld. In hindsight, this leak was actually a nice (unplanned) promo for the course.

4. The promotion

I don’t remember our exact promotion strategy. But I’m pretty sure it went something like this:

I also added a little “sharing loop” to the welcome email. I asked people to tell their friends about the course, justifying it with the fact that taking the course with others was more fun than doing it alone.

Welcome email with a "sharing loop."

I have no idea how effective that “growth hack” was, but there was no reason not to encourage sharing.

In total, we managed to get some 16,000 people on our waitlist by the day of the course launch.

5. The launch

On a set date, the following email went out to our waitlist:

Course launch email.

Did you notice the “note” saying that the videos were only available for free for 30 days? We did that to nudge people to watch them as soon as possible and not save them to the “Watch later” folder.

In retrospect, I wish we had used this angle from the very beginning: “FREE for 30 days. Then $799.”

This would’ve killed two birds with one stone: 

  1. Added an urgency to complete the course as soon as possible
  2. Made the course more desirable by assigning a specific (and rather high) monetary value to it

(If only we could be as smart about predicting the future as we are about reflecting on the past.) 

Once it was live, the course started to promote itself. I was seeing many super flattering tweets:

We then took the most prominent of those tweets and featured them on the course landing page for some social proof. (They’re still there, by the way.)

6. The paywall

Once the 30 days of free access ran out, we added a $799 paywall. And it didn’t take long for the first sale to arrive:

This early luck didn’t push us to focus on selling this course, though. We didn’t invest any effort into promoting it. It was just sitting passively in our Academy with a $799 price tag, and that was it.

And yet, despite the lack of promotion, that course was generating 8-10 sales every month—which were mostly coming from word of mouth.

A comment in TrafficThinkTank.
Eric Siu giving a shout-out about my course in TTT Slack.

Thanks to its hefty price, my course soon appeared on some popular websites with pirated courses. And we were actually glad that it did. Because that meant more people would learn about our content and product.

Then some people who were “late to the party” started asking me if I was ever going to reopen the course for free again. This actually seemed like a perfectly reasonable strategy at the time:

7. The giveaways

That $799 price tag also turned my free course into a pretty useful marketing tool. It was a perfect gift for all sorts of giveaways on Twitter, on podcasts, during live talks, and so on.

Giving away the course during a live talk.
Me giving away the course during a live talk.

And whenever we partnered with someone, they were super happy to get a few licenses of the course, which they could give out to their audience.

8. The relaunch

Despite my original plan to update and relaunch this course once a year, I got buried under other work and didn’t manage to find time for it.

And then the pandemic hit. 

That’s when we noticed a cool trend. Many companies were providing free access to their premium educational materials. This was done to support the “stay at home” narrative and help people learn new skills.

I think it was SQ who suggested that we should jump on that train with my “Blogging for Business” course. And so we did:

We couldn’t have hoped for a better timing for that relaunch. The buzz was absolutely insane. The announcement tweet alone has generated a staggering 278K+ impressions (not without some paid boosts, of course).

The statistics of the course announcement tweet.

We also went ahead and reposted that course on ProductHunt once again (because why not?).

All in all, that relaunch turned out to be even more successful than the original launch itself. 

In the course of their lifespan on Wistia, the 40 video lessons of my course generated a total of 372K plays.

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Play count from Wistia.

And this isn’t even the end of it.

9. The launch on YouTube

Because the course was now free, it no longer made sense to host it at Wistia. So we uploaded all lessons to YouTube and made them public.

To date, the 41 videos of my course have generated about 187K views on YouTube.

"Blogging for Business" course playlist.

It’s fair to mention that we had around 200,000 subscribers on our channel at the time of publishing my course there. A brand-new channel with no existing subscribers will likely generate fewer views.

10. The relaunch on YouTube [coming soon]

Here’s an interesting observation that both Sam and I made at around the same time. 

Many people were publishing their courses on YouTube as a single video spanning a few hours rather than cutting them into individual lessons like we did. And those long videos were generating millions of views!

Like these two, ranking at the top for “learn Python course,” which have 33M and 27M views, respectively:

"Learn python course" search on YouTube.

So we decided to run a test with Sam’s “SEO for Beginners” course. It was originally published on YouTube as 14 standalone video lessons and generated a total of 140K views.

Well, the “single video” version of that same course has blown it out of the water with over 1M views as of today.

I’m sure you can already tell where I’m going with this.

We’re soon going to republish my “Blogging for Business” course on YouTube as a single video. And hopefully, it will perform just as well.

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The end

So that’s the story of my “Blogging for Business” course. From the very beginning, it was planned as a promotional tool for Ahrefs. And judging by its performance, I guess it fulfilled its purpose rather successfully.

A screenshot of a Slack message.

Don’t get me wrong, though. 

The fact that my course was conceived as a promotional tool doesn’t mean that I didn’t pour my heart and soul into it. It was a perfectly genuine and honest attempt to create a super useful educational resource for content marketing newbies.

And I’m still hoping to work on the 2.0 version of it someday. In the past four years, I have accrued quite a bit more content marketing knowledge that I’m keen to share with everyone. So follow me on Twitter, and stay tuned.



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