Email Personalization: Pushing it Beyond Hello {First Name}

Posted by Shannon Fuldauer on Sep 15, 2013 6:10:00 AM

personalize email

Late last week, I found myself with 114 new emails in my inbox. Not unusual, but not wonderful to wake up to. But there was one that really caught my eye. The email was from J.Crew, and the subject line read, “Easiest wedding ever – two steps to the perfect bridal party.” As a recently engaged bride-to-be, knee deep in wedding planning mode, my curiosity took over and I opened the email.

This was the only email of the bunch I opened. And I am sure I don’t need to tell you what happened to the remaining 113 (insert evil laugh here).

So what made that email so unique it avoided the dreaded trash folder? Well it just so happens that earlier this week I was perusing the bridal gowns and bridesmaid’s dresses on Jcrew.com. Unlike the other 113 emails that were offering free shipping, half off pants, BOGO sweaters and gosh knows what else, J.Crew used behavioral intelligence to develop a message that really resonated with me. Sure it's much easier to create one-size-fits-all emails, but easier does not always equate to the best results.

While most marketers agree email personalization is important, not many companies today are leveraging the power of personalization. In fact, according to the 2013 Experian Digital Marketer Report, 70 percent of brands are not personalizing emails sent to their subscribers.

For those companies that take the extra step of creating personalized campaigns, the results speak for themselves. Here are a few more interesting statistics from the report.

  • Personalized promotional emails had a 29 percent higher unique open rate and 41 percent higher unique click rate compared to non-personalized emails
  • Personalized triggered emails had a 25 percent higher unique open rate and a 51 percent higher click rate
  • Personalized emails generate transaction rates and revenue per email that is more than six times higher than non-personalized emails

With the tools available to marketers today, creating a personalized experience for your audience in well within your reach. Personalization is much more than including the person’s first name in the subject line or body copy. A truly personal email speaks to the subscriber’s pain points, preferences, fears and stage within the buying cycle.

Developing buyer personas is a great way to uncover a potential buyer’s preferences, pain points, fears, etc. Targeting smaller subsets rather than blasting your entire audience with a generic offer often increases engagement rate and, in turn, conversions.

Remember simpler is not always better. Is your company part of the 70 percent underutilizing the power personalization?


Shannon Fuldauer has a B2B and B2C eCommerce Marketing background including roles as Vice President of Marketing & Sales Support, and subsequently Vice President of Public Relations & SEO Services, for CareerBoard.com. She has expertise in digital marketing and advanced email communications.


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Topics: email personalization, email best practices, kuno creative

How to Guide the Buyer’s Journey with Email Marketing

Posted by Dan Stasiewski on Aug 11, 2013 7:22:00 AM

email marketingAs marketers, we can all agree the journey a consumer takes from lead to customer today is much different than it was 10 years ago. However, email still plays a major role in that process. Almost a third of repeat customers are initiated by email. And, according Epsilon’s Email Trends and Benchmark report, open rates are increasing with the new benchmark number set at a 31.1 percent open rate. That’s an increase of nearly 4 percent from Q4 2012 to Q1 2013.

Why are open rates going up? Mobile is one reason, according to Epsilon. Inbound marketing has also changed exactly what and how we’re emailing leads, prospects and customers. Instead of a giveaway or email that offers a free quote or consultation, educational offers like eBooks and guides keep leads engaged until they are ready to buy. Plus, providing leads with a flow of nurturing emails after a lead takes action on your site also boosts the chances relevant emails are being opened.

But what happens after engagement? The buyer might not know what the next steps to take should be. It’s your job as a marketer to make sure when a lead is ready, you’re providing him or her an opportunity to move through your funnel. Here are five basic tips you can use to guide leads through the journey rather than letting them go it alone:

Segment, Segment, Segment

At the heart of every good email program is segmentation. Your subscribers expect you to send only the most relevant information because they know you can. Email has been done this way for years now on the B2C side, but B2B companies still have a lot of catching up to do. Get started by creating these segmented lists, and then look for as many additional opportunities to segment your list into smaller and smaller groups. An email with 500 people might get a 15 to 20 percent click rate, whereas an email to 5,000 might only get 1.5 to 2 percent. That’s the same number of actions with fewer annoyed subscribers. 

Don’t Be Afraid to Send Frequent Emails

What seems frequent to you (say twice a week or every other business day) might not be so frequent to the subscribers. Smaller, more targeted segmented lists allow you to send more messages in a shorter time period. To use the 500/5,000 comparison above, targeting the smaller list means you can contact the 4,500 other subscribers with content more relevant to their needs. 

Provide One Offer Per Email

Because your lists are getting smaller and your emails more frequent, simple one-offer emails are necessary both for relevance and your sanity. Customizing an email newsletter with multiple offers and actions for each targeted group decreases the effectiveness of the offers overall and wastes time. Plus, giving the user too many options doesn’t help move the user along on their journey. If you focus on the offer at hand, you’re a much better guide.

Tell a Story with Lead Nurturing Emails

Once a user converts on a single offer, you can continue to provide the user information of interest to him or her with lead nurturing emails. But rather than just hammering leads with offer after offer, tell them a story. Your lead nurturing workflow should have a first, second and third act (top, middle and bottom of the funnel) and should be just as creative and engaging as the content that started the workflow in the first place.

Always Include a Bottom of the Funnel Offer

Now there’s one thing we all know about any journey: It’s nice if you have a shortcut. Whether it’s a line in a lead nurturing email, an image in a footer or a call-to-action on a linked website page, you should always give the subscriber a chance to take the final step in the journey from lead to customer. Without it, you could miss a valuable opportunity to convert a lead when he or she is ready.

How do you guide your leads through the buyer journey? Share your tips in the comments.


Dan Stasiewski is Technology Director at Kuno. When he's not talking about marketing data and trends, he's probably in a movie theater... or randomly breaking into song. You can connect with Dan via TwitterLinkedIn or Google Plus.


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Topics: email marketing, dan stasiewski, buyers journey, kuno creative

Making the Case for Storytelling in Content Marketing

Posted by Brianne Carlon on Jul 12, 2013 7:28:00 AM

storytellingMazda car company decided to forgo its popular “zoom zoom” advertising campaign this year in favor of an ad that tells a great story. And it isn’t even a story about Mazda. It portrays Dick Fosbury who revolutionized the high jump by soaring over the bar backward. Fosbury and other “game changers” portray Mazda’s idea behind “developing new and different ways to build outstanding vehicles.” The ad goes beyond the what to the "why.”

By reaching buyers on a human and emotional level, this simple, 30-second commercial has made the case for storytelling in advertising, marketing and content development.

Let’s take a look at a few other elements that make the case for storytelling.

According to Psychology Today, the influential role of consumer behavior has been proven again and again:

  • fMRI neuro-imagery shows that, when evaluating brands, consumers primarily use emotions (personal feelings and experiences) rather than information (brand attributes, features and facts).
  • Advertising research reveals emotional response to an ad has far greater influence on a consumer’s reported intent to buy a product than does the ad’s content—by a factor of 3-to-1 for television commercials and 2-to-1 for print ads.
  • Research conducted by the Advertising Research Foundation concluded the emotion of “likeability” is the measure most predictive of whether an advertisement will increase a brand’s sales.
  • Studies show that positive emotions toward a brand have far greater influence on consumer loyalty than trust and other judgments, which are based on a brand’s attributes.

In a less formal study, a marketing researcher decided to have each of the students in her class give a 1-minute pitch. Only one in 10 students used a story within his or her pitch. The others stuck to more traditional pitch elements: facts and figures. The woman then asked the class to write down everything they remembered regarding each pitch. Only 5 percent of students cited a statistic, but a whopping 63 percent remembered the story.

However, no one says facts and figures should be completely eliminated from your storytelling. In fact, weaving the two together can have an even greater effect on your buyers. “Studies show that we are wired to remember stories much more than data, facts and figures,” explains Jennifer Aaker, professor of marketing at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. “However, when data and story are used together, audiences are moved both emotionally and intellectually.” 

Now you know storytelling is good for your bottom line. But how do you implement it? Marketers are not traditionally skilled in writing prose. Well the truth is, storytelling can be broken down into three acts, each one ultimately leading your buyers down the rabbit hole. To learn more, download the free guide, “Storytelling: How to Acquire Leads in 3 Acts.”


With a degree in journalism, Brianne Carlon has more than seven years of professional writing and content marketing experience. Through web and editorial writing, she reaches target audiences for Fortune 1000 companies, as well as small businesses. She uses her content marketing powers to help Kuno and its clients build their brands. You can connect with her on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+


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Topics: storytelling, content marketing, kuno creative, brianne carlon

Measuring Marketing Return on Investment (ROI) in 5 Easy Steps

Posted by Shannon Fuldauer on May 14, 2013 7:13:00 AM

In the early days of website analytics, businesses measured page hits, site visits and unique visitors. And while most companies still do, these basic metrics fail to show how inbound marketing contributes to the organization’s bottom line. Because marketers are now being held accountable for proving return on investment (ROI) for their efforts, new ways to reach data-driven decisions must be developed. However, significant gaps between desire and execution still exist.

The 2012 BRITE-NYAMA Marketing in Transition Study revealed several common challenges marketers face in the collection of and reporting on the data necessary to effectively prove ROI within their organizations. According to the study, 51 percent of survey participants stated a lack of sharing customer data within their organizations as a barrier to effectively measuring their marketing ROI. About 65 percent of respondents said comparing the effectiveness of marketing across different digital media is a “major challenge" for their businesses. To help you get started measuring your marketing efforts, here are five tips:

Step 1: Define What Marketing ROI Means for Your Organization

Before you can effectively measure success, you must define what your key performance metrics will be, and agree upon the definition of “success.” The definition of success is not only unique to an organization, but often to each stakeholder, as well. For example, content marketing managers will be interested in the number of blog posts and downloads published, while your CMO will be interested in cost-per-lead and number of new leads at each phase of the sales funnel. For examples of additional digital marketing KPIs, check out John McTigue’s blog post, Top 10 Inbound Marketing KPIs – The View From the Top.

Step 2: Set Realistic and Measurable Goals

Once your KPIs are defined and agreed upon, the next step is to establish appropriate metrics. This may be a bit tricky, especially when you are first starting out. Chances are good you will need to make adjustments to your goals as you dig deeper into the data over time. Whether your goals were too aggressive or too conservative, be willing to adjust accordingly. At this point, you may also consider establishing guidelines for how the data will be presented. As a general rule, keep things simple. At a quick glance, your C-level executives should be able to tell if the goal was met or not. If using a spreadsheet, consider a simple color coding system—perhaps green if the goal was met and red if it was missed.

Step 3: Gather the Right Data Needed

As previously mentioned, one of the primary concerns of marketers who participated in the study was the lack of sharing customer data within their organizations. If you are like most organizations and data is collected and managed in multiple databases, establish a system for collecting the data needed from each department. First and foremost, work with your sales and IT departments to create a closed-loop process through your marketing automation platform. This integration will provide you with timely feedback from sales on the impact of your various activities in driving revenue.  

Step 4: Monitor Your Goals Frequently

Don’t wait until the end of the month to evaluate your performance. Rather, monitor your KPIs on a weekly, if not daily, basis. For example, at Kuno, if we notice our number of new leads is below target at any point during the month, we have a plan in place to publish and promote new content (among other tactics).

Step 5: Use Your Data to Make Better Decisions

The days of “this just feels right” are long gone and collecting simple data just doesn’t cut it. Successful marketers understand the importance of using data to make decisions and justify budget requests to their bosses.

Please share your tips for showing marketing success in the comments section below!


Shannon Fuldauer, a senior consultant at Kuno Creative, has a B2B and B2C eCommerce Marketing background including roles as Vice President of Marketing & Sales Support, and subsequently Vice President of Public Relations & SEO Services, for CareerBoard.com. She has expertise in digital marketing and advanced email communications.


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Topics: shannon fuldauer, roi, return on investment, analytics, kuno creative

Qualifying Criteria for Scoring Leads: 3 Important Indications

Posted by Dan Stasiewski on Apr 12, 2013 7:43:00 AM

Don't let the numbers distract you from the real goal of lead scoring: determining if leads are sales ready. See, by quantifying activity driven by quality information, you will know exactly when to pass that lead onto sales. This information needs to come from two places—your lead and your well-aligned sales and marketing teams. 

Historical website activity data and good old-fashioned sales qualifying questions can provide all the information you need to begin scoring leads—and automating communication based on those scores. But not all information is scored equally. Here are three primary types of criteria that should be established in order to properly qualify leads and how each influences the actual scoring:

Engagement

Scoring based on engagement seems pretty simple on the surface. Criteria that fall under this category usually includes interactions like number of pageviews, website visits, social media mentions and emails opened or clicked.

Engagement, however, can provide more false positives than other type of criteria. You can prevent this by taking the average number of interactions for specific criteria (or the median if the numbers are excessively out of proportion) and making that number your top point score. Then work backward, grouping the number of interactions based on obvious patterns in criteria for various points.

Behavior

Scoring based on behavior goes beyond broad-based engagement and really starts to investigate specific interactions, or combination of interactions, that determine a lead’s level of interest.

For example, if we know a user visits or uses an ROI calculator on your website or downloads a specific pricing sheet as they are moving closer to sales-readiness, then you can give an appropriate score for that specific interaction. Behavior-based scoring involves looking at the historical trends for leads who moved to sales-qualified, opportunity or customer stages in the lifecycle and finding patterns in their paths. The benefit of scoring on these interactions, rather than just engagement, is that it weeds out the tire-kickers and is less likely to allow someone’s score to be disproportionate to his actual interest.

Persona

Scoring based on persona is the most valuable type of scoring you can do. Beyond a lead’s actions, the information a lead provides about him/herself can make a marketing automation system do much of the time-consuming qualifying before a lead even hits a salesperson’s queue.

For example, if you’re selling solar panels to homeowners, you might know one of your most likely candidates has a certain income-level, can utilize a state or local tax credit, or is more likely to be married than single. By scoring based on these specific qualifiers, you can quickly determine if the lead is the right match for you.

But don’t forget about disqualifying people. If you know someone’s electric bill needs to be a certain level in order to benefit from your solar panels, you can negatively score someone who comes in way under the number you’re looking for.

For B2B sales, you might know a decision-maker commonly has a certain title (or simply ask if the lead is the decision-maker). You can score a person with director or president in his or her title higher than someone at the management level or below—or even negatively score an associate level employee.

How These Points Are Used

Once your lead scoring is in place, you can do a number of things using a marketing automation platform, including: 

  • Alerting salespeople when a lead in their queue reaches a certain score
  • Sending an automatic email to a lead when she reaches a certain score
  • Changing a lead’s lifecycle stage to marketing-qualified when he crosses a score threshold
  • Providing more specific content to a lead based on a combination of lifecycle stage and lead score
  • Update a lead’s rating in CRM software from warm to hot

Of course, there are many other ways you can use lead scoring, but the primary goal is simple: how your sales team determines a lead’s sales-readiness. Whether you go strictly with a lead score or add an at-a-glance layer (like lead grade) on top of the score, your efforts will help sales focus their efforts on leads who are further along in the buying cycle.


Dan Stasiewski is an Enterprise Data Consultant at Kuno. When he's not talking about marketing data and trends, he's probably in a movie theater... or randomly breaking into song. You can connect with Dan viaTwitterLinkedIn or Google Plus.


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Topics: dan stasiewski, lead scoring, lead intelligence, kuno creative

4 Questions to Create Buyer Personas: A Client Story

Posted by Brianne Carlon on Feb 11, 2013 7:29:00 AM

Developing buyer personas can be time consuming and challenging. While there are expensive options, such as focus groups, sometimes all you need to do is talk to your customers. Recent customers know what your target audience is looking for and the pain points they are experiencing. So start interviewing!

After you have interviewed several recent customers, you are ready to get started creating your buyer persona. Here's a Kuno Creative example: 

4 Questions for Understanding Your Customers and Your Product

Who is your ideal buyer? Yes, the first step is that easy. Talk about who your buyer is — as you would describe a friend, and take notes. This does not mean write down demographics and move on. It means understanding what your buyer cares about, what a day in his life is like, how he likes to communicate, what his hobbies are and what drives him to make decisions. Sit down with your team and talk about the details that affect your consumers’ lives.

At Kuno Creative, we have a client called Kendal at Oberlin, a retirement community located in Oberlin, Ohio, for independent adults. After interviewing several current residents, here’s how I would define a likely candidate: John and his wife, Theresa, are retired but are not slowing down. They enjoy traveling, social engagements and physical activities that help them remain fit, and they don’t want to stop learning—ever. Their fear is feeling old, lonely and useless.  John and Theresa are not ignorant of technology—their grandkids got them an iPad for Christmas last year—but they prefer to communicate via phone or in person. Finally, John and Theresa do not want to deal with owning a home anymore: landscaping, paying utilities, cooking and cleaning are just not priorities these days. However, they do not want to give up their independence or living in Ohio where their family also resides.

There are a lot of factors in that one conversation, a lot of which help you understand what drives your buyers’ decision-making process. Your next step should include boiling down your buyers’ problem.

What is their need? John and Theresa want to sell their home and find a retirement community that is filled with life, instead of a nursing home for “old people.” They are not sure this option even exists.

When you get to the root of your persona’s problem, you can really target your marketing in an effective way. Do not skip this step.

How do we solve that problem? This is the step where you figure out why consumers should care about your product or service and what would intrigue them to check you out.

For example, our client provides a vibrant living community located in a college town for active older adults who are seeking independent living and also planning for future health care needs. Now Kendal at Oberlin needs to convince John and Theresa they are a perfect fit.

What is your unique value proposition? In this case, we are a retirement and long-term care community that encourages independence, lifelong learning and a social life without the hassle of owning a home.

What makes your business stand out? What makes your product or service different from your competitors? How does it solve your potential customers’ problems? Once you figure this out, you know how to start marketing.

Write out your persona using complete details. Give the persona a name (such as John or Theresa) and include a picture to really help your team picture this persona as a real person.

Remember, each persona is different and will have a different buying cycle. In our current example, John and Theresa do not want to leave Ohio because that is where their family is located. Their buying experience will be different from Jacki’s, a single retired college professor who wants to move to a retirement community but does not want to give up that college-town vibe, so she is willing to move farther to obtain those goals.

What are your tips for developing buyer personas?


brianne carlonWith a degree in journalism, Brianne has more than six years of professional writing and content marketing experience. Through web and editorial writing, she reaches target audiences for Fortune 1000 companies, as well as small businesses. She uses her content marketing powers to help Kuno and its clients build their brands. You can connect with her on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+


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Topics: content marketing, kuno creative, buyer persona, brianne carlon

The Age-Old Content Marketing Conundrum: Quality vs. Quantity

Posted by John McTigue on Dec 17, 2012 8:06:00 AM

content marketing balanceWe all know the benefits of writing at least five blog posts per week (higher traffic and leads), but what happens when we don’t have enough time to write them for every client, as well as ourselves? What happens if we outsource them to “blog farms”? Most likely, we will see a decline in readership and shares. Then how do we find a good balance between quality and quantity that sustains our growth without diluting our content? Here are some things to think about.

Let's consider the root cause of the problem using a continuous improvement exercise: the 5 Why's. 

Perceived problem: We don't have the internal resources to write a sufficient number of high-quality blog posts on a consistent basis to increase traffic and leads.

Why? Because we don't have good writers on staff who have the bandwidth for blogging.

Why? Because we don't hire people with those skills in mind and make content a part of their job descriptions.

Why? Because we are just now recognizing the value of content marketing in our overall marketing strategy.

Why? Because we adopted a 'wait and see' policy until the economy recovers and marketing trends become clearer.

Why? Because we have always taken a conservative approach to new directions, and that has always been successful for us.

Continuous improvement is good at uncovering bigger problems that plague the rest of the organization or even hold it back. In this case, because the company is worried about hiring new people and doesn't recognize the value of talented content writers, it is prepared to surrender that advantage to more aggressive competitors. So what's the solution? Higher ups at the organization think, "Let's try some experiments by outsourcing a few blogs a month to some (relatively) cheap bloggers and see what impact that has on our inbound metrics." But there are troubles that come with that:  

  • The inexpensive, outsourced writers don't know you and don't care
  • You're not committed to consistent, high-quality content, and it shows
  • Your most valuable assets, your people, have no voice
  • Your leadership in your market has no voice, and no audience
  • This strategy won't work, so the initiative will die on the vine
     

Is there a better solution?

Take the leap. Hire someone with excellent writing skills. Make blogging an important part of his or her job, and empower them to become an important voice of the company. Get leaders and staffers involved in the process. Your content person can help them express themselves through blogs and social media channels. If you're going to outsource, make sure it's with a firm or freelancer who commits to getting to know everything about your company, your people and your business.

Fear is the No. 1 public enemy of progress. This quality content thing is long past being a trend. It's a reality that isn't going away. Get on board before it is too late.



john mctigue blogAbout the Author: With over 30 years of business and marketing experience, John McTigue loves to blog about ideas and trends that challenge inbound marketers and sales and marketing executives. John has a unique way of blending truth with sarcasm and passion with wit. You can connect with John via TwitterLinkedIn or Google Plus.
 


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photo credit: Carolyn_Sewell

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Topics: john mctigue, quality versus quantity, outsourcing content, content marketing, kuno creative

Going Lean: 10 Ways Your Inbound Agency Can Strive for Excellence

Posted by John McTigue on Nov 14, 2012 8:59:00 PM

strive for excellence

To create successful inbound marketing campaigns, it's important to create processes to ensure that multiple lead nurturing efforts can be launched in the most efficient way. Furthermore, it's crucial to embrace continuous improvement so these campaigns bring in the greatest number of sales qualified leads possible. These practices help make your marketing agency, or any company, run more efficiently while attracting more clients and more talent.

As we continue to implement these standards and practices, we wondered what some specific things we—and you— could do to enhance these processes on a daily basis. First, let's identify some simple goals your team can rally around to make your shop a better place to work.

Goals to Help Us Strive for Excellence on a Daily Basis

  • Our team and clients understand what we are saying
  • We can clearly see the relationship between effort and success
  • Every day we seem to be getting better at what we do
  • We see ourselves as winners, and our customers do too
  • When we have problems, we fix them right away and move on

Here, we brainstorm easy steps each of us can take to achieve these goals:

  1. Resist the temptation to speak right away when asked a question. Think about your response and how to say it clearly.
  2. Create a plan, just a simple to-do list, for every day. Execute the plan and review your progress before you go home. Then create tomorrow's plan.
  3. When you run into a roadblock, add a to-do item to your list to solve it. You don't necessarily have to drop what you're doing now. Just commit to solving it later.
  4. Prioritize your to-do list, and don't let things slide more than a day or two at the most.
  5. Discuss your challenges and successes with your peers and bosses. Ask for their opinions and recommendations.
  6. Set aside time every day during work to think. Yes, think. Take your most challenging to-do item and go somewhere quiet and think. Let your work neighbor know that's what you're doing in case you're needed. Let your boss know that's what you want to do and negotiate a reasonable amount of time.
  7. Identify what's holding you back from becoming a genuine rockstar at your job. Talk to your peers and your boss about it and figure out a plan to get there. Work those steps into your daily plan.
  8. Blur the lines between work and play. If your job is challenging and rewarding, both personally and professionally, why worry about how much time you spend on each part? When work is stressful, play hard to balance it. When work is awesome, celebrate with your teammates.
  9. Own something. Strive to be a leader in your project, your field, your social network, your company. Leadership is hard to find and even harder to teach. You know what it means to be a leader, you just have remember to be one every day.
  10. Write a couple of blog posts every week. Your company definitely needs your help, so you'll make an immediate impact. The big benefit is personal. Expressing your ideas, getting published and getting feedback from outsiders is one of the most rewarding things you can do—and it's out there, on the record for everyone to see. Pretty cool.

Make Your Own Top 10 List

We wanted to let you know that continuous improvement isn't necessarily an organizational thing, nor is it simply a formula with statistical measurements. It starts with our own daily habits and attitudes. By working on just a few things each day, we can improve ourselves and be better team members, and those things have a profound impact on success at every level.

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About the Author: John McTigue is the Executive Vice President and Co-Owner of Kuno Creative, an industry-leading inbound marketing agency and certified Gold HubSpot partner.

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Topics: john mctigue, lean strategies, lead nurturing, inbound marketing, kuno creative

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