Posts Tagged ‘Sterling Cross Group’

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The Tipping Point: When Do I Need A Mobile App For My Event?

April 2, 2014

Here is the article that I wrote for the April 2014 Issue of RSVP MN Magazine. You can read the article here.handmobile-300x259

 

The future of computer and social interaction at events is definitely seeing an explosion in the use of mobile devices as the primary tool for your attendees to interact with the Internet and the environment at your event. Social media channels are a common communication tool for events these days, and there is also the option of creating a custom mobile application for your event. Many companies are investigating the creation of such apps for their events but are struggling to justify the expense. Here are some tips that should help you decide if a custom event application is a worthy investment for your event:

What are the demographics of your attendees?

In 2013, 64 percent of all American Internet users between the ages of 18-60 are accessing the Internet primarily through a mobile device. In any case, you will need to accommodate both mobile and non-mobile users at your event until the day where 100 percent usage is achieved.

Can you provide the same benefits of a mobile application with existing tools?

Mobile applications tout things like expedited check-in, schedules, event maps and directions, and promotional materials via a mobile device. Many of these services can be delivered via social media platforms such as Eventbrite, Facebook, Twitter, and more. It would make sense to make sure you are maximizing your efforts on these channels that are free, familiar to the attendees, and duplicate the services of a custom mobile app.

Can you offset the cost of the application with sponsorships or event partners?

A benefit of mobile apps is the space and area in the application for an advertiser, sponsor, or event partner to promote their brand. If you are partnering with an A/V or technical partner for the show, many of these firms are offering their own custom event applications as a service. The opportunity to sponsor the event app could be part of a package offered to larger sponsors of the event which would provide them a greater opportunity to have their brand promoted to the attendees.

The bottom line is that this technology is nice to have at this point, and not a need to have yet. That allows some flexibility in wading into custom mobile applications. The technology of most applications is definitely an amenity appreciated by attendees, but in today’s economy it is always nice to have a path to adaption that won’t drive up the costs of your events.

 

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Real Time Marketing is a Myth

March 24, 2014

here is the article I wrote for the march Issue of RSVP MN Magazine. It originally appeared here.debunked

It has been the hottest marketing jargon tossed about since Oreo jumped on an opportunity at the 2013 Superbowl when there was a power outage to let their audience know it was still “OK to dunk in the dark.” The tweet went viral and was the most retweeted post (15,000 retweets) by a brand during the Superbowl. Everyone was super excited, especially marketers. So much so that brands spent hundreds of thousands, and even millions, to be the brand with the Oreo moment at the 2014 Superbowl.

Company’s like Papa John’s, Doritos, Verizon, Jaguar, JC Penny, Butterfinger and Reese’s all tried to get into the real time game. They tried to post about plays as they happened or predict outcomes, really without much success. The winner apparently was the Esurance commercial after the Superbowl which announced a million dollar giveaway in exchange for retweeting a hashtag. While the benefits of buzz and awareness do have some value—more social media followers were gained—the bottom line, from Oreo to Esurance, is what has been the conversion of new business dollars from this? Something no one seems to want to measure.

There is of course a better tactic. I propose you do the one action on social media that actually could drive your business forward: perfect the art of real time listening. As of 2013, according to PEW Internet, less than 50 percent of brands and businesses monitor the online activity that mentions them. How can you ever respond to and service your audience if you are not listening to them on the channels they prefer to communicate?

The same PEW report also indicated that more than 90 percent of consumers using the internet for business transactions expect not only that the brands and businesses have a presence online, but that they can interact with them online as well. For too long social media’s focus and intrigue to the C-suite has been its potential to drive sales. The real value of social media though is the ability to perfect and enhance your customer service. There are three steps you can take this year to perfect your real time listening skills:

1. Monitor the channels where you have a presence.

You need to listen, engage and respond to followers on all of the social media accounts you have set up for your company. All of these channels have the ability to push notices to the person managing your account. There are even management tools that will pull all your accounts into one tool, such as HootSuite.

2. Monitor review sites and the general internet for mentions of your brand or business.

Whether you use free tools or hire an outside firm there are different levels of monitoring that can be done. For some brands 24/7 monitoring is needed. For others it can be a daily or weekly situation. The tools can provide you with information as frequently as you would like it to give you reports.

3. Integrate customer service into your social media team.

The final piece is the human element that can respond to the information gathered during the listening. Put into place guidelines for response to customer issues. Empower your team to take action to a certain point to satisfy your customers as quickly as possible, but also have a plan in place where problems that need escalation will receive attention in a timely manner. Larger corporations are forming communication command centers that can achieve this, or are outsourcing to firms that provide these services.

Real time marketing will have to be able to be measured as converted sales dollars if it will ever be successful. While we wait for that to happen, if you aren’t even participating in the conversations by listening to your channels, you will miss any opportunity that arises in those conversations. Are you listening?

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Five Tips You Can Learn From Food Trucks to Become a Better Tradeshow Marketer

November 4, 2013

This article also appears in the October 2013 Issue of RSVP MN Magazine. Click here to read it there.RSVP FOOD TRUCKS BLOG

Food Trucks have invaded your city. They park on busy streets in prime locations ready to serve their tasty wares, and have become quite successful in the last few years. Food trucks have been around since 1974 when Raul Martinez converted an old ice cream truck into a taco truck and set up in front of a bar. So why have they become so hot today? Their success is that by default, and the factors that shape their daily existence as a business, have forged them into razor sharp marketers. They leverage all the marketing tools available to them in their changing location each day. They have mastered the three tools that help them succeed in reaching their business outcomes through leveraging social, mobile, and local marketing. The following five skills they have learned can help you become a better tradeshow marketer:

Leverage or Overcome your Location It all starts in the planning. Food truck owners study maps of the cities before arriving, they determine foot traffic patterns, nearby attractions, and areas where people congregate during their hours of operation. You have that same ability in assessing tradeshow floor plans to determine where best to place your booth. If you are stuck in a poor location, you must use more tactics to draw your audience to you. You need to have a more disruptive or appealing presence to call out to your audience and draw them closer to your space.

Focus on Just in time messaging and Perfect the Limited Time Offer (LTO) You are in a tradeshow for a limited time. Messaging is best to capture attention or conversions right there as studies have shown that the further the time passes after the event before a sale or conversion happens, the odds of an actual sale or conversion decreases drastically. To a food truck, that means missed profit; what does it mean to your bottom line? If you are making a limited time offer for goods or services, make sure it is the best possible deal to induce the customer to become interested and buy right there. Many food truck operators know that missed sales on a day because of pricing may mean they can’t open their doors tomorrow. Imagine if that was your motivation during the show.

Maximize your presence locally on Social Media Channels Food trucks comb social media channels well in advance just like they would assess a map. They identify the powerful social influencers in the area they are going to be and try to engage and entice them to pass their messaging on to their followers. They follow local trends and keywords and try to leverage those in their messaging.

Align with like-minded businesses that won’t cannibalize your market Food trucks often partner to create their own mini event inside an event. Often creating a team effort to pull off creating a mobile food court. With the premise that a larger crowd of purchasers will be attracted, and that there will be a diversity of flavors and tastes, two or three will partner with the goal of raising the sales for all by attracting a larger group. The same tactic can work successfully in trade shows as well. Partner with synergistic vendors to draw a larger crowd and group of prospects to your area of the tradeshow. Banding together with others to cross promote, or sponsor a speaker or side event at the trade show will help you to stand out from your other competitors and can also allow you to have a larger presence than you may be able to have on your own.

Assess, Learn and Build relationships that will grow your Success Next Time Data is king. Building records and databases of places, vendors, venues and people in each city, will help you build quickly and exponentially each year. This is imperative in tradeshows that are stationary and annual. Learn what tactics worked, and where energy was wasted. You can change or replace these tactics for the next time. Food trucks build fan bases by returning often to locations that are lucrative for them to visit. How can your brand establish a fan base as well? Continue to show up with some sort of frequency. If one tradeshow is good for your company in an area, are there other shows there as well where you could have some form of presence? If so, then building your frequency of appearances in that market will increase your foothold there as well.

The keys to success in these situations is remaining nimble, innovative, and have the ability to strike quickly when the opportunity presents itself. You can use the same tactics of food trucks to maximize your presence and success at tradeshows. You have a limited amount of time to drive as much business as possible, and the clock starts now.

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The Art of Apologizing Online

November 4, 2013

This originally was published as my article in RSVP MN Magazine for September 2013. Click here to read it thereRSVP MN MAG SEPTMBER ARTICLE

We’ve all had to say, “I am sorry” to someone at some time (at least I hope so). We’re human. We screw things up and we need to make things right. The same thing happens in business. Probably more than we ever want it to. The problem of today, in business, sometimes when we screw up, it’s online. Instead of only a few people seeing it, the potential is that millions of people have now seen it. It’s hard enough sometimes to apologize person to person, and now you have to potentially apologize to hundreds, thousands or millions online. It’s a pretty daunting task.

Apologizing online falls into a completely different aspect of apologies. It tends to be very public. It is hard to convey feelings or emotions via text and 140 characters. It can easily be assumed to be false or not heartfelt or true, and in the worst cases it can be seen as patronizing and condescending. There are some basic best practices that need to be followed to allow your online apology to be accepted and that you are able to recover from the mistake that led to the issue in the first place. Here are five best practices to help you say you’re sorry online:

1. Respond immediately when there is an issue. In today’s age of business there is no excuse for not monitoring your name and brand online. There are plenty of free tools like Google Alerts, and push notifications from Twitter and Facebook to let you know when someone mentions you or your company online. We live in a time of instant communications, and businesses can no longer “wait to formulate a response.” In the time you take to formulate that response, the issues can go viral. Remember the Domino’s Pizza video of employees doing crude things to food? The company found out about it on a Sunday night, but waited until Wednesday to take the first step. By then there were well over a hundred thousand views of the video.

2. Always apologize on the same social or online channel where the offense or issue is mentioned. If it is on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Yelp, etc., you need to respond to the report of the issue where it has been made. Even if you need time to investigate an issue, by responding quickly on the same channel helps convey the perception and thought that you care. Then keep the lines of communication open on those same channels until the issue has been resolved. Bystanders may see your efforts and at least understand you are responding to the situation. Going silent only hurts matters by letting the message and sentiment be formed in your absence. If there is no means to respond, such as the comment being made on a blog, website, or online publication which doesn’t allow for responses, use your own channels (blog, website, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to respond. Link to the original online remark (URL) to inform the audience to the details of the incident, when the issue is searched for in the future, your response will be tied to the issue that happened.

3. Explain what went wrong. It might have been as simple as someone sent out the wrong message or hit send without thinking. You need to let people know how you are reacting to the problem and taking steps to correct it. Without conveying any self-examination and action towards resolution, it will appear as if you don’t care and are doing nothing. Remember, online isn’t always as visual so convey these thoughts in words.

4. Explain what you are doing to correct the situation and what steps you are putting in place to ensure it won’t happen again. This goes hand in hand with the previous step. If there is no plan or evidence of changed behavior, it will appear you are insincere and not really doing anything about the problem, and hence you are thought not to care about it. Add links and evidence to show what steps are being taken if that would help. Copies of new company policies or guidelines would be great to post as would photos of corrections, and so on. Evidence goes a long way toward rebuilding trust in your actions.

5. Finally, use the apology as an opportunity to make amends. If you show that you truly realize the scope and magnitude of your actions has hurt your standing in the community, use this opportunity to become a better corporate citizen. Overachieve on your next endeavor, especially if there is a community benefit to doing it. Your brand is only as valuable as the audience that follows, supports and enjoys what you do and your role in their lives. It is all too easy to move on to the next brand. Don’t allow your brand to lose reputation credibility and following all because of a few missteps. The best companies in the digital age will plan for a strategy and policy that heads this off at the beginning rather than a plan that chases the tail end of the problem.

By mastering the art of apologizing online, you may be able to save your company, your brand, or hopefully at the very least, your job.

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The Keys to Success and Longevity in Business and Events

November 4, 2013

This originally was published as my contribution to the RSVP MN Magazine Article: Click here to read it therersvpmn-logo

In 2003 there was a huge transformation of the entire workforce in the United States as a whole generation of women bought into the mantra of a revolution known as “Opting Out.” Women were choosing to opt out of the job force to stay home and raise families and seek a balanced life. By 2013, with economics in their current state, women and men are choosing to “Lean in” to their careers and seem to be driven for success. Both movements became vastly popular, and have worked for several individuals, and that is where the problem lies.

These movements have had a huge impact on both our corporate culture and the dynamics of companies, but they have failed to last the test of time. I believe they fail because they have been focused on the individuals that make up a team or company. They fail to work on or have impact on the entire team and culture. The focus has been on the change of self rather than on the team, business or culture. While this has profound effects for individuals, the impact and benefits to business and events has been scattershot and in many instances has had a negative effect.

To go the distance and have longevity, an event or business has to pull together as a team and effect change for growth and success. They need to innovate. The key to all Innovation is that the people in charge are able to keep their vision focused on the Big Picture, instead of being sucked down into the mire and details that often leads to tunnel vision. We have two incredible examples of a company and an event here in the Twin Cities that are exemplary models of this: Target Corporation and the Minnesota State Fair.

Target was recently named as No. 10 of Fast Company’s 2013 “Most Innovative Companies” and is in the caliber of such companies as Nike, Pinterest, Square and Amazon. Its attention to the trends and needs of current shoppers and the future of shopping has lead it to re-imagine its “Big Box” concept to create CityTarget, a half-size store prototype that launched in Chicago, Seattle and Los Angeles.

This model focuses on a demographic that is looking for four-packs of toilet paper rather than a 36-pack, has furnishings more suitable to apartment and balcony dwelling, smaller packaged food proportions, and is more mobile friendly for research, e-commerce and speeding up checkout lines by having additional employees deployed with mobile register scanners.

Target’s focus on value versus volume has proven so successful that they will add three new stores, doubling their new concept and look to take this concept globally in the future. Target’s ability to continually transform and respond to the rapidly changing retail behaviors will keep its chain ahead of its competition at a time when its competition struggles to keep pace and in fact are downsizing the numbers of locations.

The Minnesota State Fair has had innovation at the core of its mission statement since 1859. An event that has continued and has thrived for 154 years has put in a lot of work to keep its offerings fresh, educational and entertaining. Each year, from attractions and food offerings, to events and displays, the Fair not only embodies and lives out its own belief of innovation, but encourages and challenges its participants and vendors to do so as well. Continual feedback and communication from attendees each year drives changes for the future.

Nowhere is this more evident than with the food vendors that innovate each year to come up with the newest flavor trends or gimmick “food on a stick” (candied bacon cannolis or deep fried pickles and chocolate anyone?). Not only does the food then become an innovation that is fresh, but the popularity of the inventive foods has driven media coverage, self fulfilling its ability to remain relevant and fresh year after year.

It is clearly evident that the companies and events that are built on a best practice that focuses on the entity or event such as innovation will far exceed and surpass any practices that focus on the individuals involved. If your team and culture can fully embrace a concept that leads to benefits for all, versus benefits to one, than it is a concept that can stand the test of time. It’s time to opt out of bad practices, lean in to a team concept and employ innovation to your business.

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Best Practices – Live Tweeting An Event

July 9, 2013

twitter-button-colorMary Lower, Founder and CEO of Sterling Cross Communications was recently asked to write an article for RSVP MN Magazine for the Meeting and Event Planner Industry on the best practices to use when live-tweeting an event. Here’s her article from the Summer 2013 Issue.

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Crowdsourced reviews can put local restaurateurs on the defensive

July 9, 2013

1yelp0302I was recently interviewed by Bill Ward of the Minneapolis Start Tribune for an insight into online reputation issues facing restaurants. We talk about Yelp and how clients I had set up with monitoring tools and training are utilizing those tools in every day restaurant operations!

Click here to read the article in the Star Tribune.

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The Paula Deen Effect and your Business – The Perils of Influencer Marketing

July 2, 2013

rsvpmn-logoToday I contributed a guest blog/article to RSVP MN Magazine. Here is the post also a link to the post on their site:

The Paula Deen Effect and your Business – The Perils of Influencer Marketing

By Christopher Lower, Co-Owner and VP of PR, Marketing, & Social Media for Sterling Cross Communications

For many years we have come to learn of the power that celebrity influencers have on businesses. It’s one of the hottest terms in marketing today: Influencer Marketing. Businesses are looking for that lift that can be achieved when a person with a huge audience on multiple communications channels speaks fondly of your service or product and endorses it to their audience. In the most wildly successful cases, it became a phenomenon called the “Oprah Effect” due to the frenzy of business activity a company would receive when mentioned on the popular Oprah Winfrey show by the host herself.

On the negative side of the spectrum would be what has been happening in current events and could be ascribed as being victim to the “Paula Deen Effect”. In this case, the person of influence has become associated with a negative event and has triggered a wave of impact across several businesses that were connected to her, either as a direct working relationship, or in an endorsement relationship. Because of her negative online reputation, and current public perception of her, any brands that are tied to her are suffering. There has been a massive wave of companies scrambling to distance themselves from her brand, many of whom have been intrinsically tied to her popularity in the past.

To be completely fair, Ms. Deen isn’t the only influencer to have a negative impact on brands when a scandal has been tied to their reputation. How easily we forget those like Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods, and so on.

This current case is only greater proof of how important the public perception of your brand and reputation is online. It affects the bottom line, and can impact the stock prices in public companies. It could be your greatest weakness and many companies don’t even know how they can protect and defend their online reputation.

Because of the nature of social media users to have an extremely short attention span, people are more willing to perceive what they find on search engines to be the true nature of your business. You are what Google says you are. Sadly, you are also only as good as the latest and highest search engine ranked review.

As “The Deen Effect” demonstrates, you are also affected by the online reputations and perceptions of those people associated with you. These range from your vendors, suppliers, resellers, channel partners, employees, board members, and anyone else that impacts your brand. Their negative reputations can harm you online as well. You may not have “celebrity” endorsements, but you do have influencers inside and attached to your company. You no longer can afford to not monitor your own company and brand, and it would also be beneficial to monitor the reputations of those associated with your brand where you rely upon them to conduct your business.

Many businesses are scrambling to put together teams that can respond to these new crises situations. These issues may occur across multiple communication platforms in an instant, and can go globally viral in seconds. Traditional PR professionals who don’t have both the crises communications skills and a mastery of social and mobile technologies are obsolete. Using interns to solve the problem is fine for their knowledge of social media tools, but inadequate to deal with the crises communications. You need a team experienced in both that can respond immediately 24 hours a day, every day.

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Sterling Cross Communications Celebrates 10 Years of Cross Community Projects (Pro-Bono) for Non-Profits, Charitable Causes, & Faith Based Organizations

January 11, 2013

Sterling Cross Communciations logoThis has been both a great sense of accomplishment and pride for our firm and we hope to continue projects like these for many years to come:

Sterling Cross Communications Celebrates 10 Years of Cross Community Projects (Pro-Bono) for Non-Profits, Charitable Causes, & Faith Based Organizations

Minneapolis, MN – When Mary Lower first proposed the idea to her husband Christopher, that they should put out their own shingle and launch their own Public Relations and Marketing Firm, Sterling Cross Communications, in 2003, they knew they really wanted to put their own stamp on what it meant to be a firm or agency in the Twin Cities. They really wanted to be a firm that stood out from a very crowded creative field in the market. One of those unique differences was the creation of their Cross Community Project program.

There are many great stories that needed to be told to the public, but a lot of charitable, non-profit, volunteer based, and faith-based organizations did not have the budgets, know-how, or manpower to get the word out there to the media. The Lowers decided that no matter how their business would perform, it would always have the Cross Community Program offered.

Four times a year (once each quarter) Sterling Cross takes on a project from one of these groups that fills out a request on their website for help (http://sterlingcrossgroup.com/contact), and selects and provides a pro-bono PR or Marketing project. It started with just the Lower’s choosing projects, but as their firm grew and they added employees, contractors, vendor partners, and clients, the project grew to include recommendations and selections from the entire group.

Mary Lower reflected on the 10 year milestone and said; “We may always be a smaller (size) agency, but we want to have a huge impact on our community.” She continued; “Some of these events reaped tremendous benefits from our effort, helping to make these events or news stories the best they could be and share great stories provided great joy and we felt that was payment enough.” Christopher Lower agreed; “Great stories need to be shared, and as that is a passion of ours, it has truly meant we were honored to be a small part of and to share the stories of people doing great things to impact their communities. Both Lowers hope to still be performing these projects and continuing the Cross Community Projects for many years to come.

For a partial list to some of the parties and organizations they have helped over the years, please click here: http://sterlingcrossgroup.com/industries (listed under the Cross Community Clients). To find out more or to submit your projects for consideration please visit their website here: http://sterlingcrossgroup.com/industries/cross-community-charity-and-non-profit-clients.

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The One Thing You Have To Do To Your Website In 2013

December 10, 2012

I am constantly being asked by clients and panels that I am speaking on, about how to prioritize the very limited budgets that are being forecasted for 2013 when it comes to what they can do for marketing that will give them the greatest ROI without costing an arm and a leg. Here is my best advice for 2013:

It’s no longer “good enough” to have a website and to be found on the internet. That website you invested good money into building and maybe even rebuilt once or twice in the last five years is obsolete. Visitors to your site are leaving in droves, or not even finding your site in the first place. Is it because of a lack of SEO (search engine optimization)? No. It is because you can’t be found on mobile devices.

Up until 2011 most website designers designed websites to be viewed on a 15” or larger sized computer monitor or screen. 90% of today’s Smart Phones (phones with the ability to access the internet) come with standard 2”x 3”screens, so at most, they are seeing as tiny portion of your website or your whole website in a micro-size.

Why is this so important?

According to pewinternet.org, in 2012 half of all American Adults (ages 18-60) will access the internet only through a Mobile Device such as a cellphone or tablet.

Mobile User's Frustrations

Mobile User’s Frustrations

When a mobile user visits a standard website and has a negative experience:

  • Most, over 61%, never come back
  • Almost all the rest, nearly 40%, go to YOUR competitor’s site

The top complaints of mobile users about websites are:

  • It takes forever to download.
  • It doesn’t fit on the screen.
  • The text is too small.
  • I can’t navigate the interface.
  • I have to pinch & zoom to view anything.
  • It takes too much time to use

So, what can be done to correct this? At Sterling Cross we have been researching these issues and at the request of our clients we have come up with a solution we have now added to our service offerings for 2013 and beyond! We’ve met with and surveyed over 12 of the top local, regional, and 2 national web design firms to create a solution that can meet the needs of our clients, whether they are looking for the most cost effective solution or as part of a redesign of their entire site.

The number one recommendation from almost every single website company was to do a complete website redesign and incorporate “responsive” technology where the website will detect what type of device is browsing the site (smartphone, tablet, or computer) and display that version of the site (essentially building you three sites). This is of course how all websites will be built in the future, and if you are looking for an entire rebuild of your site, we’ll gladly help you in that process.

If you are looking for a short-term or a more cost effective solution to modify your site without redoing the entire website, we now offer the following three solutions:

  1. For 95% of Custom HTML or Open Source code websites: you simply add a “Mobile Style Sheet” Which recognizes when a mobile browser is viewing the site and adapts it to mobile view. (This typically requires only a couple hours from a coder to adjust on your site).
  2. WordPress sites have a free Mobile WordPress “plug-in” that can be added to also discern who is viewing from a mobile browser and adapt the view (The WordPressbasic widget, truly is very basic. We would recommend 1-2 hours of a coder or designer to create a mobile interface template that matches your brand).
  3. If your site is not in these two categories, we can do the custom coding to do to provide a front end Responsive Bumper. This bumper recognizes the device browsing the site and seamlessly directs it to a mobile version of your website, which mirrors the data and info on your current site. We can do this on an hourly basis, without having to revamp the whole site, typically for a fraction of a total website redesign.

Please contact us for more information or if you are interested in any of these solutions. Your customers ARE on mobile, shouldn’t you be as well?

Make Your Website Mobile Friendly

Make Your Website Mobile Friendly

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