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Getting Better at Getting Email

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is MaryAnn Bekkedahl. – Enjoy!

Do yohome-pageu ever wonder how we functioned before email? At work, at home, or on the go, a vast majority of us can’t go 30 minutes without sending, receiving or reviewing our emails (I’m guilty of checking through the night, too). For many highly connected people, the allure of opening up an inbox isn’t just a necessity, it’s becoming an addiction.

That’s why I can’t stress enough the importance of “getting better at email.” It’s in everyone’s best interest – senders and recipients; brands and consumers – to deliver an email that the intended person wants to read. Otherwise, you’re just wasting time and ticking people off (which, for brands, means potentially losing customers).

Getting better means getting to the point of the message you’re sending, and only reading and reacting to those emails that you really care about. The rest is just digital noise.

To give you an example of that noise, brands, social networks and other organizations sent a record number of marketing messages in 2012, up 19% on 2011. You’re now probably thinking about all of those solicited emails you deleted without even reading, or as a marketer, all the email blasts you sent to hundreds or even thousands of subscribers. Whichever side you look from, it’s interesting to note that 77% of consumers said they prefer to interact with brands via email compared to any other channel, such as social networks, text messages, post and phone.

Email is getting pretty good as a marketing channel.

These days, many of the subscription emails in your inbox are real-time customized based on past purchases, recently viewed items, geography, and the device you open the message with.

Are you getting good at email?

With the trend of email overload more than likely to continue in 2013, the time has come to clean up, prioritize and organize your inbox so that the emails you do receive are the ones you want to keep. Marketers should see this as great news, because if someone chooses to continue subscribing to your alerts, you’re doing something right and the chance of making sales increases exponentially.

Fortunately, there are innovations taking place in email management to help consumers get better at email. One new and free solution is theSwizzle, which was designed for the mutual benefit of consumers and marketers alike. theSwizzle leads consumers through a quick process to easily unsubscribe from the commercial mail they no longer wish to receive, helping to reduce clutter and the overall volume of messages they receive each day (you’ll be surprised just how many subscriptions you’ve collected over the years).

Then, once the clutter is gone, consumers can roll up all the subscriptions they want to keep into one daily or weekly digest, grouping their favorite brands and alerts together in a neat and easy-to-consume package.

theSwizzle puts the consumer in control and, ultimately, makes them more marketable because they aren’t dividing their attention between hundreds of other brands every day.

Headshot_3MaryAnn Bekkedahl is Co-Founder & President of theSwizzle and an expert in email organization. She was named Adweek Media’s “Publishing Executive of the Year” in 2009. She has earned spots for her brands on the prestigious and highly coveted trade lists including AdWeek’s Hot List, and Advertising Age’s A-List. min magazine named her one of the “Most Intriguing People” of 2004, Gotham magazine named her one of its “40 under 40” in 2003, and Advertising Age named her a “Woman to Watch” in 2003. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan.

Maximizing Your Earned Media for Sales and Lead Generation

This guest post is brought to you by Outbrain – Enjoy!

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photo credit: aussiegall via photopin cc

Third-party endorsement or exposure of your brand can be a powerful tool in spreading awareness and reaching audiences to  drive new leads.  But one earned media placement only goes as far as the immediate audience, and for all you know it may not be the right audience.

If leveraged correctly, earned media can be an effective source of qualified leads and other benefits,  rather than vanishing into the ether or otherwise going to waste on the wrong audience.

Here are a few tips to making the most of your earned media to benefit  sales and lead generation:

1. Keep Track of It

You may find a number earned media placements are not the result of your direct PR efforts, in which case are you certain you’re aware each time your brand is mentioned in the press?  Set up a mechanism for routinely gathering this information (daily, if possible).  Google Alerts is a simple solution.

2. Amplify It

Think of content marketing like oral storytelling; once the story’s been told, it can be passed on to other audiences in ways organic and paid.  Let your goals dictate which channels you pursue for each piece of earned media.  If your goal is to drive conversions, that means attracting the most qualified audience and you can use traffic acquisition platforms like Outbrain to get your earned media in front of that qualified audience.  The more people engage with it, the longer the shelf-life for your content and your long-term potential to bring in leads

3. Repurpose It

One of the undervalued aspects of earned media is that the parties producing it have different ideas than you do — not just about the nature of your brand or product but the landscape of the market, who your competitors are, etc.

Earned media can be a springboard for owned media.  If a piece of earned media highlights a problem, misconception, or even a positive asset related to your business that  you had never considered before, use it as an opportunity to generate your own content addressing those issues or demonstrating those assets.

4.  Arm Your Team with It

Prospects love to hear about other customers who have faced similar challenges and used your company to solve them. For this reason, case studies, testimonials and positive earned media are all great tools for your team when making their case. Look at how a local restaurant keeps their restaurant review in the window or a clothing boutique showcases their fashion magazine editorial coverage on their shelves. When you have great earned media, think about how your business can use it to generate leads or help drive new prospects over the sales line.

head shotBrandon Carter is a Marketing Manager at OutbrainOutbrain helps people discover the most interesting, relevant and trusted content wherever they are. Outbrain provides personalized recommendations across a network of premium publishers, including CNN, Fox News, Hearst, Rolling Stone, US Weekly and Fast Company. Through Outbrain’s all-in-one content discovery solution, publishers, brands and marketers are able to amplify their audience engagement by driving traffic to their content – on their site and around the web.

3 Simple Steps for “Makin’ It Rain” On Your Website

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is from Aaron Houghton – Enjoy!

rainmakerThe term rainmaker is often used to describe highly productive members of sales teams. These individuals have a special talent for communicating the value a business’ products provide.

What impact would adding a new rainmaker have on your team? What about one that only costs you a few bucks each month? Even better!

For many small business owners, that rainmaker is their website.

Today I’m going to talk about how to easily capture more sales leads from your website. But if you sell directly from your website, you can use the same process to drive more online purchases too.

Don’t Make This Mistake

Think for a second about the last 100 visitors to your website. Will you ever be able to interact with them again? In most cases, that chance is gone.

That is, unless you captured their contact information while they were on your site. To follow up with someone all you really need is their email address, phone number, or maybe their social media handle.

There are many ways to capture contact information from your website visitors. These include social media login, email newsletter signups, real-time chat, header bars, and embedded web forms. Among these options I prefer web forms.

Collecting sales leads through web forms works great because most people are comfortable typing their information into them. They also require less commitment than account sign-ups and shopping-carts that ask for credit card details.

Savvy business owners use web forms to convert more website visitors into new customers.

How to Use Web Forms to Generate More Sales Leads From Your Website

Convertingmistake more sales leads from your website using web forms is easy when you follow these three steps.

1. Give Visitors a Real Reason to Submit a Form

“Submit our form and we’ll contact you.” Seen that before? This is probably what your competitors’ web forms actually say. Your visitors are used to seeing this.

Let’s make it worth their time to submit your form by giving them a real incentive. You’re asking them to share their personal contact information with you. What are they going to get in return? Make it good.

A few common incentives include discounts like a 10% off coupon, a one-on-one demo, or access to something like an e-book.

Make sure to mention what they’ll get in the text right at the top of the form. But save the reward for after it’s submitted. Include the reward in the confirmation message or in your follow-up response.

A great incentive sentence looks like this:

Request a quote and we’ll send you a 10% off coupon for any products you purchase this month. Complete the form below to get the coupon.

2. Pick a Form Tool That’s Easy to Use

computer tech servicesTo collect your users’ contact information, you need a good form builder.

A good form tool makes creating forms easy. Editing forms should be easy too. And finally it should send submitted data somewhere convenient for you like an email in your inbox, your email marketing system of choice, or a Google Docs Spreadsheet.

Other nice-to-have features include the ability to send confirmation emails to visitors and to redirect visitors to a specific thank you page after they submit the form.

I have personally used Gravity Forms for WordPress before but I also hear great things about WuFoo and FormStack too.

All you really need is a nice short web form. Super long forms scare people away so only ask for information that you’re going to do something with. For instance, you probably don’t need to collect a fax number!

Important fields usually include name, email or phone, and maybe an open-ended field where the user can type a question or explain what they need.

3. Track Conversions and Optimize

Having a strong incentive and having a short web form are a great start. But it’s actually impossible to guess upfront which incentive or form will perform best with your actual website visitors.

Because of this it’s crucial to measure your conversion rate – the percentage of form submissions to unique website visitors – to determine how effective each incentive and form is at getting visitors to submit their contact information.

BoostSuite and Informly are two free tools that can be used to measure your sales lead form conversion rate. Sales lead forms on small business website usually have a conversion rate of about 5%.

If your conversion rate is less than 5% you should test various incentives and forms. Use one incentive for a month and then measure your conversion rate. Next month try swapping in a smaller form.

Solar panel installation company Southern Energy Management tested various incentives on their website and found one that produced 419% more sales leads than their original incentive.

The higher performing incentive drove in 160 new sales leads for Southern Energy in just one month. Compare that to just 38 sales leads from the original incentive – with similar website traffic – in the previous month.

A Little Bit of Work, Lots More Sales Leads

You work hard to get visitors to your website. Don’t make the mistake of letting them pass you by forever.

Build and test some incentives and forms on your website and you’ll find a winning combination that turns more window-shoppers into new customers for your business.

Aaron HoughtonAaron Houghton is a serial entrepreneur who builds web marketing products for small business owners. Aaron is currently co-founder and CEO of BoostSuite.com. BoostSuite is a product that helps small business owners get more marketing results on their own. Formerly Aaron was co-founder of email newsletter leader iContact.com that was sold to Vocus in 2012 for $180M. Aaron was an Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year winner in 2008, was listed to Inc Magazine’s 30 under 30 list 2010, and was named as a Top 10 Most Influential CEO in 2010 (behind Zuckerberg, Andrew Mason, and Matt Mullenweg). In his free time Aaron is an avid wakeboarder and outdoor adventurer.

 

 

6 Ways to Uncover Highly Targeted Referral Prospects

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is from Matt Anderson – Enjoy!

PresentationOne of the most important elements of getting more highly targeted referrals is to make it EASY for others to open the right doors by being crystal clear about what you want.

Stop saying “if you can think of anyone else who might benefit from my services, please have them give me a call”  because it hardly ever works and, if it does, the referrals will likely be unfocused at best.

Since no strategy can work every time, here are six ways to excel in uncovering the best referral prospects:

  1. Pre-planning

Before you meet, do some homework on who your client is connected to:

Google them, search LinkedIn contacts and think through what other people, groups or interests they have already mentioned in their life.

Before every meeting, ask yourself: what would I love to ask this person for? This is the one of the best referral habits you can have.

  1. Listen differently

Make it a goal in every meeting to identify 1-3 names of people who fit your ideal target prospect.

When you do, you will find that you pay more attention to conversation that in the past may have seemed frivolous or unrelated to your agenda for the meeting.

You already know that there are times when you don’t listen closely to everything someone says. When you make a point to listen closely for names, you’ll start to notice that sometimes they do mention specific people.

  1. Ask different questions

If you don’t know yet what people are in their personal and professional world, ask different questions! Remember the goal is to identify specific people or opportunities for you.

“What do you love to do?”

“What are you working on right now?”

Let them tell you. If something comes up that you believe you could help with: “How do you think it would be best for me to help you with this situation?”

“Who’s your ideal client?” This ought to then give you a chance to respond too.

“If you were me and building a business in this area, who would be the important people for me to know?”

Ask your clients:

“I’m curious: What do you tell other people about the work we do?”

  1. Use generic specifics

If have yet to identify anyone: instead of 30 family members say ‘siblings’ or ‘parents’; ‘best friend’ beats ‘friends’; and ‘favorite colleague at work’ beats potentially dozens of anonymous ‘co-workers’; “who do you most like to (e.g.) golf with that you discuss this kind of thing of with?”

For business owners ask about favorite clients, favorite vendors that they outsource to, and referral sources.

  1. Memory jogging stories

Educate people about the different types of work you do by sharing stories so they know all that you’re capable of. During general conversation, start weaving in more stories of how you have helped other people in different situations. The goal is to hear: “I didn’t know you did that. You know, you might want to talk to…” Look for flickers of recognition.

You could even legitimately ask: “Do you ever run into people in that situation?”

  1. Ideal client list

A few people have success presenting a list of prospects to others in their network. If you’ve got water in the well with someone, it is perfectly appropriate to say: “I’m curious to ask you about a list of area businesses that I put together the other day. (Show list) Do you have any decent contacts at any of these places? I’d love to talk to them about their (fill in the blank) because I’ve worked with a lot of similar organizations and they’ve turned into excellent relationships.”

Create an ideal client list of specific names, companies, locations or professions and life situations.

The results come when you make it very easy for others such that they do not have to think about it. So be very clear about what you want by knowing whom you want to meet.

Matt AndersonMatt Anderson, founder of The Referral Authority, is the author of Fearless Referrals. He leads seminars and coaching groups around the globe for business development professionals on how to develop the lifetime skill of getting referrals. Contact him at [email protected] or 312-622-3121.

3 Creative Ways to Grow Your Email List

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is from DJ Waldow  – Enjoy!

You can have the best offer, the most compelling copy, sent from a trusted source, using a subject line that has been optimized for your audience … and yet, if you don’t have a list of email addresses to send to, none of it matters.

Without a list of email addresses in your database, email marketing can be quite challenging. That is why email list growth is the single most important aspect of any sustainable email marketing program.

And it’s not enough to just focus on growing your email list as a one-time task. It’s imperative that list growth be ongoing. Why? Simple. Your email list shrinks by an average of 30% every year. This churn rate, as it’s called, is comprised of subscribers who unsubscribe, mark your email as spam, change employers (and therefore email addresses), and so on.

On top of the 30% churn rate, there is a portion of your list – in many cases a significant portion – who are unemotionally subscribed. This is the group of subscribers who simply ignore your emails. They don’t mark them as spam. They don’t opt-out. They want to receive your content, but just don’t want it (or have the time to read it) right now.

So with your email list constantly shrinking, you can see why it’s critical to focus on ways to constantly grow your list.

Most of us are familiar with the “traditional” list growth tactics – adding an opt-in to your homepage, asking for an email address on checkout or before someone can download a whitepaper or register for a webinar, and so on. Below are 3 creative tactics to grow your email list.

1. SmartPhone App: Smartphone usage across the globe has now topped one billion. Based on that number, one that continues to rise, it seems quite logical to leverage mobile devices – and specifically apps – to grow your email list. I’ve seen this done a few ways recently.

BabyCenter, an online resource for new and expectant parents, provides personalized, expert advice based on the age of your child. In addition to the content published on its site, BabyCenter also sends out weekly email newsletters to all subscribers. As you can imagine, they take email marketing pretty seriously.

When my wife was pregnant with our second child, I downloaded BabyCenter’s free “My Pregnancy Today” app. After entering in my wife’s due date, I was presented with the opportunity to opt-in to for weekly email newsletters about my (well, my wife’s) pregnancy. What I really love about this approach is that BabyCenter makes it very easy to opt-in (“only email address is required”) and they share what I’ll receive in return (“weekly newsletters about your pregnancy”).

Our son, Cal, was born on June 1st of this year. My wife and I are still subscribed to BabyCenter’s weekly email newsletter – and we read every single one!

Another company who is using smartphone apps to grow its list is Living Social. This example below shows what appeared on my iPhone while waiting for one of my Pandora stations to load. The messaging from Living Social says to opt-in to its daily email so as not to miss out on “tomorrow’s deals.” Similar to BabyCenter, the opt-in was clear, obvious, and quite simple – only email address was required!

2. QR Code: While adoption rates for QR codes are relatively slow – 9% of US adults have used a QR code in the past year according to a June 2012 eMarketer report – I still believe it is a list growth tactic worth testing.

However, if you are planning on using a QR code to drive folks to an email opt-in page, I suggest getting a bit creative. That’s exactly what Blowfish Sushi in San Francisco did when it put this poster (below) on the door of the Men’s bathroom!

Yes. Your read that correctly – a QR code on a bathroom door! I snapped this picture on my way into the Men’s room one evening.

What I love about this poster is that Blowfish Sushi nails the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me). If you scan the QR code and opt-in to its email list, they’ll give you a free sake or dessert in return. Additionally, if you are one of the 91% of US adults who have not yet scanned a QR code – either because you are not sure how or your smartphone doesn’t have the ability to do so – Blowfish Sushi provides an alternate way to opt-in to its email list. Well done! (Read more about bathrooms & QR codes here)

3. SMS: If you are someone who does a lot of presentations – both online (webinars) and in person – using an SMS short code can be an effective way to grow your email list. In November, I contacted my friend Justin Mastrengelo who owns JA.TXT – an SMS marketing software application. He set me up with a SMS short code that I started using to opt folks into my email list.

It’s quite simple. The first step is to text a keyword to a 5-digit number. For my email opt-in, that means texting “WALDOW” (no quotes) to 67463.

Then, as can be seen above, I automatically send a text back asking to reply with an email address. I also mention the “Bonus.” Once the person replies with a valid email address, I send one final SMS – a thank you.

The next step is the key – and one that I see missed too often. I integrated this process with my email service provider (Infusionsoft – the same provider used by Duct Tape Marketing) – such that an automatic thank you / welcome email is sent as soon as someone opts in.

Does it work? It has been very effective so far – for me. In the month of November, 30% of my total list growth came from this SMS option. To be clear, I also presented at two live events and gave one webinar in November. So it’s important that you have opportunities – and a captive audience – in order to use the SMS tactic.

However, just because a certain list growth tactic works for one marketer does not mean it will work for you. As I advise all clients, it’s critical that you test what works best for your audience.

Have you tried one of the three creative list growth tactics above? If so, how effective were they? What other methods are you using to grow your email list? Please share in the comments below!

DJ Waldow is an email marketing consultant, writer, blogger, speaker, and co-author of The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing. He is the founder and CEO of Waldow Social, a company that helps clients take their email marketing programs to the next level. DJ has spent nearly 8 years in the email, social, and community-building world, advising clients on how to optimize their email marketing campaigns. DJ can be found on most social networks under the handle “djwaldow” or by searching “DJ Waldow.”DJ is an alumnus of the University of Michigan and a lover of beer, coffee & people.

5 Key Ingredients to Charging What You’re Worth

I’m taking some vacation time this week and I’m actually going to stand waist deep in the Columbia River in Oregon and cast for Trout. (Don’t worry I won’t hurt any I’m strictly a catch and release kind of guy.)  While I am away, I have a great lineup of guest bloggers filling my shoes.  This post is brought to you from Sarah Petty.

Sarah is a highly-acclaimed speaker, author, MBA and coach who started her own boutique photography studio after working for Coca-Cola Enterprises and then meeting the marketing goals of a top regional advertising agency’s clients. It was at this ad agency where she taught small businesses the value of a strong foundation and how they would grow with a strong brand. She attributes the rapid growth of her boutique photography studio, which was named one of the most profitable in the country within just five years in business by PPA, to the creation of her own strong brand.

Regardless of what industry you are in, you probably struggle with having a competitor that is willing to do what you do (or claim they do) for cheaper. But how do you make sure price isn’t a sticking point with your clients?  It starts with having these five key ingredients right in your business and following the boutique business model. It’s a model that works in nearly every industry from insurance and retail to fitness and real estate.

Ingredient 1 – Protect Your Brand

Most small businesses fall down here. They have something wrong with their brand that attracts price sensitive buyers from the start.

Your brand is more than a logo. It’s how your ideal client feels about you. Your ideal client conjures up these feelings when someone mentions your business name. YOU are an integral part of your brand thanks to the enthusiasm, personal flair and individual attention you present to each of your clients. From your identity (how your clients recognize you) to your consistency, your niche, your reputation and your gush-worthiness, having a positive brand goes a long way to charging what you’re worth.

Ingredient 2 – Understand Your Numbers

There are a lot of ways to price your offerings, but most just don’t work if you want to charge what you’re worth. Copying your competitors is not the answer. Start by understanding the cost of each sale you make: this includes any packaging, merchandise and labor. An accountant can help you with this. You then mark up your costs based on industry standards. Once you understand these numbers, you have your bare minimum price. Then you can look at setting a price based on demand. The key is to create demand the right ways to attract clients who love what you do, not by attracting the wrong price-sensitive buyers with discounts.

?Ingredient 3 – Make Marketing Decisions That Thrill

To charge what you’re worth you must have offerings that are not easy to imitate. Marketing starts with products and services that your customers can’t easily get elsewhere. Your clients should go gaga over you if you want them to pay more for you. To do that, you need to have offerings that are extra special, custom, unmatched, interesting or even shocking. They need to be special enough to make someone want to talk about them, and not just because of the price. Instead of searching for ways to raise prices, slash costs or become faster instead find the empty place for your ideal client where you can add a thrill for them. The more customized your offerings are, the more difficult it will be for anyone to copy you and your perceived value will continue to rise.

Ingredient 4 – Promote Differently

Promotion is what you do to tell people about your offerings – and it goes beyond paid advertising. For the most part, boutique businesses should steer clear of traditional advertising and focus not on reaching the masses, but instead reaching the right people who may be drawn to what you do. Boutique ideas for promotion include giving a presentation or educational session that highlights your expert status, partnering with other businesses who also reach your target audience to host an event or create a unique product, working with charities to help elevate their cause while attracting new clients to your business and developing a promotional piece that makes your ideal client gush about you to their friends.

Ingredient 5 – Sell Better

Boutique selling isn’t about schmoozing, high pressure or manipulation so if that’s what you’re doing this may be where you’re going wrong. In boutique selling there is high engagement between you and your client. You need to build rapport, get to know your customer and spend time educating them. Your first thought should be ‘What problem do they have?’ ‘How can I help them?’ The sales process should be relationship based and the service and experience should continue after the transaction. Instead of giving them a smooth talking sales pitch, you’re searching for solutions that will absolutely, positively satisfy their needs and bring them joy.

Image Credit: dougbelshaw

Is Direct Mail Dead or New Uses for Old Tactics

uzvards via Flickr

The first half of the title of this post is a question I get, in some variation, quite frequently these days. You could change the subject to email or face to face networking or press releases, but the implication is always that some long established marketing tactic has been supplanted by Twitter or Facebook.

My answer is always the same – nothing is dead – but the ways we use them have changed.

My take is that if you establish a strong marketing strategy, one that helps you build trust, and you fully understand the behavior and objectives of your ideal customer, then you can use almost any tactic to build your business.

In fact, some of the more “traditional” offline approaches have never been more effective when fused with technology and newer online approaches.

Digital has changed the customer communication environment fundamentally over the years and caused many to forgo the traditional broadcast tools.

But, smart marketers are discovering new ways to use old tools that are more in line with inbound marketing practices and are taking advantage of technology leaps to make a tactic like direct mail even more effective.

I return once again, as I do often, to my definition of marketing – getting someone who has a need to know, like and trust you – if you can find a way to use a tactic to do that, than no tactic is dead or even out of bounds.

Even the often maligned Twitter auto DM is fair game if you can find a way to use it to build trust – the fact is few can, but my point is there are no set rules or magic tactics in this game.

Here are a few examples of new uses for old tactics:

  • Use variable data printing on demand printing to create highly personalized direct mail pieces with unique images, stories and calls to action based on your customer database. The technology is there to do this in small batches with hundreds of variations.
  • Use technology to produce postcards that invite each recipient to a personal landing page that features information tailored to their interests and alerts a sales team to initiate a further contact.
  • Use traditional broadcast and print advertising to drive prospects to a series of free online videos that educate, entertain and inform – oh, and build know, like and trust.

Reaching markets and creating buzz about our products and services still requires an integrated approach – that part won’t ever change, but before you drop a proven way to reach your prospects from the mix consider how you might use it build trust instead of move product.

5 Reasons Why You Must Advertise

advertising

Image: brizzle born and bred via Flickr

Sending email is free, creating a Facebook page is free, Twitter outreach is free, cold-calling is free, publicity is free, referrals are free, and advertising costs money.

So why is it that even with all of these wonderfully low cost and free ways to promote your business I contend that you must make advertising one of your core lead generation tactics? (Actually one could argue if anything is free, but the items listed above don’t come with a direct cost.)

Advertising is in fact one of the marketing tactics that comes with an invoice. You must write a check to run ads or send direct mail, often before seeing any results. In my experience people shy away from advertising, not because of the cost, because they don’t know how to get results and they don’t understand the long-term residual effects. Think about it, if you knew that for every $100 you spent you could produce $200, you would get out your check book and spend away, right?

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