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Creating a lasting impression for small business

The Rules (of Engagement) are Changing…

I was sitting down Friday the 13th, having a cup of coffee at Bad Ass Coffee Co. in Estero with a friend, discussing different ways of using text messaging (SMS), blogs, social media and so on in a large, corporate environment when she says in amazement “The rules of engagement have changed!” Not only do I agree, but I had to write down “Rule of Engagement” so I didn’t forget to write this post!

Think about today’s consumer. How are decisions made? How have things changed? Remember the days when advertising and marketing would drive the consumer to use or try a product? Ads would be created touting each product as #1, The Best, New & Improved (btw – if something is new, how could you improve it already?) and Innovative. This trend was followed by “news worthy articles”, under the guise of a third-party, in an attempt to educate the consumer about a product. A brilliant step into consumer education, but like all things, this process was abused and the consumer became jaded. Then it was any product from a foreign land was the best, whether it came from the Amazon, German Engineered (BTW – German Engineering is indeed fantastic, but the phrase has become overused) or from some ancient secret recently unearthed. Consumers have been constantly bombarded with these marketing styles and in most cases, are able to pick up and tune out the message before any valuable information (if there is any) is received.

Today, the rules of engagement have changed. The purchasing cycle has changed – and here is an example that happened to me yesterday… My Sony TV died. I love my TV. Center-piece for family entertainment. Turns out it was just the projection bulb. OLD WAY: Drive to parts store and pay $250 for a bulb, $100+ for service call (Or buy a new tv). NEW WAY: Google “Sony Wega 50 TV DLP bulb” and find the instructions for replacement online and find multiple outlets to buy the bulb ($79 including shipping). I am grateful to have found the bulb, from a supplier that provided instructions and a 6 month warranty, for about 1/5th of the cost to do the same thing locally.

business handshakeThe Rules of Engagement have changed. Today’s consumer has more information at their fingertips than ever before. Learning how to engage your customer at the point of inquiry is key. Your advertising dollars need to stop being spent on flashy ads that are ego-centric and start driving consumers to the point of education for your company. Your client doesn’t want to see your ads. They know they are interested in your widget. What they want is the information they need to make the right decision. Welcome to the the new era – Digital Word-of-Mouth…

Editor’s note:  I found this post today – very concise and right on topic. Be sure to take a look!

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February 18, 2009 Posted by | Business tips, Marketing in SWFL | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Evangelist or Shepherd?

message from heavenAn Evangelist is one that travels from town to town and from church to church, spreading the gospel…

Interestingly enough, many people become evangelists of products, services, business and the like because of an experience so outstanding, so unique and so wonderful that they can’t help but “spread the good news”! Isn’t that what we are trying to create – evangelists and raving fans to create a level of trust and to strengthen our referral and word-of-mouth business? But how do we nurture these relationships once formed? Does it get old hearing the same message over and over again?

A FLOCK OF GOATS AND SHEEPOn the other hand, we have the shepherd, guiding the flock from infancy to maturity. The shepherd’s job is to lead, protect, educate and so on. The shepherd cares for the safety of the flock – often times putting him/herself into harms way. The flock develops a level of trust for the shepherd that is difficult to break, following wherever they are lead, under any circumstance. Maybe this is how we should be treating our customers.

Or – is there a time and place for both? Aren’t our marketing and sales efforts both evangelical and shepherd-like, depending on the situation? Most businesses want a steady stream of loyal customers they can depend on. Consistency, after all, makes planning easier (not to mention less sleepless nights!), budgeting easier and the overall business atmosphere more pleasant. The evangelist’s job is to get someone excited – to try a product once and then move on. They want to “get the ball rolling” or create the inertia in a relationship and then pass it off to the shepherd to be handled and managed.

If you are an evangelist for your business, your chances of repeat business is slim because you are great at getting the ball rolling, but no so great at keeping the momentum. If your a shepherd, you can cultivate a loyal following, but may have a hard time generating new business.

Which are you? How can you learn to put your evangelical hat on and change roles into the shepherd? Keep in mind the situation: spread the good news whenever it truly is news to the target. Nurture those relationships already familiar…

February 12, 2009 Posted by | Business tips, Marketing in SWFL | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Impromptu 10-Minute Presentation…

Rolling the dice with some random ramblings..

dice on white tableAt this morning’s BNI meeting I was discussing different Social Media ideas with some members when I was asked to fill in for our 10-minute presenter because her material wasn’t prepared.  Never being one to turn away the opportunity to speak, I said “Sure – I can cover for you” without having any clue what to speak about.  Then it hit me – continue the discussion about blogging, Twitter, Facebook – maybe even talk about last night’s post.

Here are the random thoughts(in no particular order) I penned at BNI.  I would love your input!

There is a HUGE difference between Baby Boomers and Gen Y – besides age!  As an early Gen-Xer, I can tell you I was raised with a certain level of modesty.  However, today’s younger generation (Gen-Y and Millenial) are less modest.  You can tell by what they post online (both text and pictures).  They appear to be more comfortable with the “transparency” that the internet brings.

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility“(Ben Parker – SpiderMan).  As noted in my previous post, anything digital must be assumed to be permanent.  Anything you do, say or post is subject to immediate and perpetual scrutiny.  The power of Social Media is tremendous – use it wisely.  Knowing that we are rapidly moving towards “Big Brother” may actually create a more morally-conscious society, while at the same time, creating an underground society that is darker and more secretive than ever before.

What are the consequences if you hire a “ghost writer” to handle your blogging, Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter accounts?  Think about how well received you and your company would be at a cocktail party or networking function if you sent the equivalent of your sports agent or PR firm in your place…

All of these topics are blog-worthy (if not research paper fodder).  Thanks in advaznce for chiming in!

February 11, 2009 Posted by | Business tips, Marketing in SWFL, SWFL Hodge Podge | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Dangers of Poor Planning…

A very short discussion broke out on Twitter tonight (ok – maybe 3 or 4 total comments – more of an extended thought than a discussion really). I commented on how poorly-planned Social Media campaigns can be just as fruitless as their traditional-media counterparts. However, it was quickly brought to my attention by @pattyg23 that a poorly planned SM campaign will probably be worse. After thinking about it for a few moments, I tend to agree – and here’s why…

Everything done via SM is digital – and therefore unlikely to be destroyed. Think about it for a moment. Open up a separate window and go to Google. Type in your Twitter ID, or your Facebook or Myspace name (or alias) and see what you find. Your tweets are public (in fact I had one of mine used recently in a newscast in AZ – thanks @Careypena3tv) Nothing done on the internet is private anymore. NOTHING. Not just the pics you wish were never posted when you were drinking too much at a nightclub (or taking a bong hit in SC), but every word you type – no matter what your mood, reasoning or context, is saved somewhere in this surreal place known as CyberSpace. Any mistake you make may come back to haunt you in the future. It’s very difficult to put a spin on any written mistakes, but easy to spin other mistakes. An example would be Alex Rodriguez’s recent apology for steroids. It was easy for him to say “I haven’t taken anything since 2003” when he hasn’t been tested since then (no “paper trail”). However, it would be much harder to overcome this little PR nightmare had he told someone online he was juicing in 2007.

So – what does this all mean? First – don’t just jump into a SM campaign haphazardly. If you don’t choose to hire a professional to guide you through the maze, take the time to learn how SM works. Learn what makes members of each community tick, learn what the expect, learn how to earn their respect. In this digital age, news really does travel at the speed of light – and you never get a second chance to make a first impression, so make yours count…

Editors Note: As luck would have it, Marc Meyer posted on his blog (and subsequently on Twitter) some examples of mistakes he has made throughout his career.  He and Mack Collier both make the point that no one knows everything, and my post isn’t meant to deter anyone from participation, rather to think before you write(speak).   Thank you both for your insights! (BTW Mack – if you’re reading this, I still need to figure out the Tweet This code for WordPress!)

Just a quick follow-up…
We have all heard stories of someone getting in trouble for their antics in public haunting them online…
Here is a great example provided by Tamar Weinberg in her Social Media Etiquette post.  Tamar – great info… Thanks!

February 10, 2009 Posted by | Business tips, Marketing in SWFL | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

History is Destined to Repeat Itself…

…especially when we repeat ourselves. Not just the mistakes, but the triumphs as well.

There are countless blogs about marketing theory in recessions. Just Google it. You’ll see a ton of info out there. The case that I find most interesting is Proctor and Gamble…

P+G was founded in the 1837 by William Proctor and James Gamble, getting their start by selling soap and candles. Seeing as the company has survived every economic environment for the better part of 170 years I feel they are as good an example as any to learn from. P+G faced many obstacles as it grew into one of the largest and most successful companies of all time. P+G’s branding strategies encompassed everything from identifying markets and creating new brands specifically for those markets to creating competition from within (most notably in their line of soaps).

Even more interesting than how P+G managed to leverage it’s own brands to strengthen the entire company is their attitude toward marketing during recessions. P+G does not cut their marketing budget at all. Instead, they look for added value with current media and they look to new and innovative marketing ideas in order to break from the norm. An example of this would be the door-to-door surveys they did in the 1930’s. When the world was in the grasp of the Great Depression, P+G sent 3000 people to the streets to conduct door-to-door interviews with the consumer to find out what their concerns were, what products they were buying and why, and so on. The result was P+G was the only conglomerate to come through the Depression in about the same condition it entered it: STRONG!

Many things can be learned from their example. To me, the most important is this: Being Proactive is far better than being reactive. P+G decided to find advertising value by negotiating better terms and pricing with current vendors and taking the savings and investing into new programs. Sound familiar?

JustoutofHome and Wirespring have both pointed out a trap that many agencies fall into… “No one has ever fired an agency for buying 30-second tv spots” Not terribly exciting, and in today’s DVR world, not too smart either. Look at your current strategy and see where you can get better value for your dollar. Instead of saving, try new media like mobile billboards, digital signage, Facebook, Twitter, etc… You may find yourself pleasantly surprised!

If you are interested in learning details about Proctor and Gamble’s marketing strategies, I suggest Wikipedia is a good starting point

February 9, 2009 Posted by | Business tips, Marketing in SWFL | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Measuring the Effectiveness of your Marketing Campaign

The following analogy is courtesy of Darrell Brown, a good friend of mine in the financial planning world. 

measuring-cupImagine if you will, you’re trying to impress someone important, like say, your future in-laws, or a boss, or a new love-interest.  You invite them to dinner.  This one dinner is going to shape your life for the foreseable future.  There’s only one problem:  You Can’t Cook!

So you call up your mother and ask for help.  She gives you a shopping list and says “Don’t worry son, this is easy”.  On that list you have: chicken, tomatoes, cheese, coffee, salt, chocolate, flour, cherries, capers, lettuce, asparagus, cumin, rice, ham, onions and more.  Each element plays an important part in making the meal work.  What’s really amazing, is you can adjust the recipe one way or the other slightly – and really modify the taste, creating different, unique results.  But remember, you can’t screw this up – there is a lot riding on this meal.  So you start putting all the ingredients together – all of them – into the same pot and throw it into the oven.  You check on it after an hour or so and start to wonder where the chicken kiev, salad, chocolate cake, coffee and rice are.  You only have a pot of slop that you would have a hard time feeding the local stray dog!  It’s at this point you realize there is some art to cooking and there’s some science to cooking. 

Your marketing campaign is very similar in so many ways. First: Who you call for help.  Calling a friend that owns a succesful business is ok, but following what they do may or may not work for you.  Chances are, some tweaking, if not totally different ingredients are needed (a music store has a totally different clientelle than Medicare suppliment insurance agent).  You will get a good starting point (at best).  Second:  Choosing the ingredients.  Just because your friend gets calls from the Yellow Pages, doesn’t mean you will.  It doesn’t mean it’s cost-effective.  It’s tough to prepare a gourmet meal with Ramen Noodles and Busch’s Baked Beans.  Many ingredients are required – in just the right proportion. Third:  Mixing the ingredients.  One size does not fit all, and one strategy does not fit all.  Sure, you can look at the science behind marketing, analyze all the data and create a plan.  Or you can rely on the art, or “feel” of a campaign, drawing on your personal experiences.  Neither of these works well without the other.  The science gives us an idea how things work.  The art is fine-tuning – adding more in one media and taking from another, or perhaps venturing into new, uncharted media.  Fourth:  Timing.  Just as a cake needs ample time to cook, you can’t expect a marketing campaign to work if you don’t give it the time needed.

In the end, the effectiveness of your campaign will be judged on the number of new clients and the cost to acquire them.  What you need to know is, there are many ingredients that can not be tasted, smelled or seen.  Without them, your meal is a disaster.  You see the cake, but not the baking powder.  Same with marketing.  Just because one piece of the campaign doesn’t generate direct traffic, does not mean it isn’t working.  In fact, it may be the most integral part – the unsung hero!

If you are not a chef and you need to impress, go to Roy’s.  If you want your marketing plan to work, hire a professional that understands science and art.  Hire a visionary!

January 17, 2009 Posted by | Business tips, Marketing in SWFL | , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

4 levels of competency

This post I dedicate to a mentor and Friend, Gary St. Martin, who is a REALTOR in Westford, MA. Gary tought me a ton about real estate and about just being a good person overall…

Sometimes, thoughts cross our minds and we don’t mention them because we assume everyone already knows what we have to say, or even worse, the fear of looking or seaming foolish. It’s ashame that many thoughts are squelched out of fear. So here I am, going to talk about something we should all already know, but hopefully the reminder will be beneficial and remind us all where we stand…

The Four Levels of Competency

Level 1: Unconcious Incompetence. This is basically being totally oblivious to your surroundings. You are so totally consumed and excited with something new, you can’t help but talk about it. You Don’t Know Wat You Don’t Know. This is a very dangerous place to be….

Level 2: Concious Incompetence. Here is where things get interesting. You start to realize there is more to this thing than you thought . You Know What You Don’t Know. A very important transition. Here you can begin to assess where you stand against your competetion and give the respect that is due (respect that may not have been given before).

Level 3: Concsious Competence. Well now the lights are going on. You Know What You Know(and sometimes you may tell too many people how much you now). You understand and are proficient at what you do, but may have a tough time articulating it. You can certainly do the job well – just not quite as efficiently as…

Level 4: Unconcious Competence. This is where we should all strive to be. Every professional pitcher, world-class swimmer, Hall-of-Fame athlete are here. You Know What You Know – and it is second nature. You are able to repeat with a level of consistency and confidence that is infectious. In fact, you are so good, you don’t even know it – you are just being you.

So I ask – where are you, and what are you doing about it?

January 9, 2009 Posted by | Business tips, Marketing in SWFL | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Advertising and Allocation… Learning from Wall Street

I have to admit, the world of branding, marketing, advertising and so on is fascinating (makes sense to be involved I guess 🙂 ). I have been spending a lot of time thinking about how advertising/marketing budgets- and how they’re spent – relate to my prior life as a financial planner for a large Wall Street firm. The parallels are striking.

There are some simple rules of thumb when it comes to investing, but the most basic is diversify. Sounds simple enough, right? well – not really. Models are developed for each client based on goals and risk-tolerance. A portfolio needs to account for both the long-term needs of the client (how much growth/safety-of-principle/etc…) and the short-term needs (from buying a home, to college funding, to being able to sleep at night). To accomplish this, the investor needs to buy different asset classes, multiple companies in each class, fixed income (bonds, preferred stock, etc…) of differing credit ratings, etc… One of the biggest challenges is convincing a client not to put too much into one sector (automotive) or one company (Enron). The days of investing in what you know are going away because, as we have all seen, no company, no industry is immune to financial problems. What’s worse is when an investor with little money wants to gamble on one or two companies, when buying mutual funds (albeit expensive) really give better diversification.

It is amazing how I find the same challenges when working with clients. First issue – the “My competitors do this, so I have to!” It’s like the golf buddy who speaks of the fortune he made on one stock, but leaves out the much greater losses on the others. Your advertising campaign needs to be designed based on your goals and risk levels – not on what your competition is doing. Second – Budget constraints. How many times have you seen this… “I have $5k to spend. I want to run a full page ad in the newspaper, or send out a mailer to 5000 homes from this list I bought.” Gambling with your businesses lifeline if you ask me. If you budget is low, you need to investigate mutual-fund-like marketing plans. Sure – you won’t get your full-page ad, but you will get what you really need – frequency and reach, which will invariably create a longer stream of new business. (Exception – if you are going out of business, tell everyone right away and short-term). Third – True diversification involves risky investments, so a truly diverse marketing plan will involve new media, different ideas, things that are out of your comfort zone. Anything from blogging, social media, mobile billboards, to digital sign networks are new to many marketplaces (especially mine) and are great ways to accomplish great things without spending a fortune.

I could go on and on about this, but I what I really want is your feedback in Assett Allocation for Marketing Plans.

Remember, a business with no sign is a sign of no business!

Jon

January 8, 2009 Posted by | Business tips, Marketing in SWFL | , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

New Year’s Resolution…. How Original!

You know, I had a nice dinner tonight with the family and the topic of New Year’s Resolutions came up. Really, the topic came up as a way to try and help my daughter through a mental block at the swimming pool. She thinks she is working hard, yet it is obvious by her times (and her coach’s anger) that she isn’t working. Normally, I would try to discuss the practice, what she thought went right or wrong – and why. Like all parents, I am proud of my kids (11 yr old twins) accomplishments. However, my daughter has way too much natural talent and the temptation to be an over-bearing, vicarious-living fool is almost too much to handle 🙂

In trying to help her, without mentioning swimming, we talked about resolutions and habits. Personally, I think resolutions on New Years are a big waste of time – because most people never get near their goals. I’ll quit smoking, lose 20#’s, eat better, stop drinking, be nice to my dog – whatever – but theses self-made promises never seem to get fullfilled.

So – back to the angle… We talked about forming habits. It takes up to 3 weeks for a person to form a habit – whatever that habit may be. I used an example of a friend of mine, Bill Shikany, who lost 41#’s in 2008. We had lunch today and I asked him how he did it. “Simple. Eat better and workout consistently (Bill works out at Anytime Fitness in Bonita Springs)”. Seems easy enough. Endorphins kick in and the body craves the rush – like a natural high. I miss that high myself. I am wondering, am I setting a bad example for my kids by not training on the bike like I used to? Do they notice that I don’t go to the gym like I used to? (I spent way too much time there when they were infants and have 2 shoulder surgeries to show for it – ouch). Let’s see – I’m gonna go ask them both right now and come back with the answer…

Ok – 5 minutes later and a new revalation… 11 year-old kids are very observevent. Both my son and daughter noticed my lack of excersize (son did point out the waist line – thanks kiddo!). They also both said they were more likely to work at their sport if they saw me working out as well. Afterall, is it fair for me to ask them to work hard if I am not willing to?

Now for the most important part of this discussion. When your body is healthy, so is your mind. You are able to process information quicker, more accurately. You become a better listener. You become a better husband/wife/partner and so on.

I think one of the biggest reasons New Year’s resolutions fail is we don’t respect or care about ourselves as much as we think we do (hence the reason we give up so easily). What if the resolution was done to help out someone you care about more than yourself. Someone who affects you in ways no one else ever could, ever would, or ever will. In ways that can never ever be replaced. What if your resolution had the ability to help direct the life of someone other than yourself? Would that make a difference?

Ask me in 3 weeks…

Jon

January 6, 2009 Posted by | Marketing in SWFL | , , , , , , | 6 Comments

REALTORS and Marketing… How to differentiate yourself from thousands of “experts”

You know, there are many great and innovative things being done in today’s real estate world. The truly great REALTORS all have similar traits… They focus on their core competencies (listing and/or selling). They have chosen a particular marketplace to serve (first-time buyers, investors in single-family, commercial, rental and so on). They spend their working hours learning more about the business of real estate by surrounding themselves with like-minded peers. They mentor (but only a couple of students – they don’t take away from their expertise).

When the agent grows beyond the point of being able to handle the workload alone, an assistant is hired or duties are sub-contracted out, allowing them to stay focused on their main skill set (see above). The real estate market has been hit hard by many things – credit crunch, a massive collapse in values, consumer fear and much more. The way I see it, this is such a great opportunity for REALTORS to capitalize, grow their business and earn more money now than ever before. Let’s look at REALTOR marketing from a few angles and see if your business (real estate or not) can benefit from this…

First, Warren Buffet once said (paraphrased) “When people are scared, be greedy. When people are greedy, be scared.” This statement is very profound. Of course hindsight is 20/20 (those that know me know my thoughts on the collapse of real estate values – been preaching it since 2004) and everyone realizes now that all investments are subject to fluctuations in value. Real Estate IS NOT a short-term investment, however, if you are well-positioned to buy now, the cap-rates on rental property are looking much more favorable. REALTORS need to be catering to investors and first-time buyers. Listings are fairly easy to come by right now. However, not to differentiate yourself in business is virtually suicidal (William Bernbach). Try something different. LOOK FOR BUYERS! They are out there. There are agents making more money in SWFL today than in 2007, when prices (and commissions) were twice what they are now.

Leo Burnett said “The greatest thing to be achieved in advertising is believability, and nothing is more believable than the product itself”. Read that again and again, Then think about the product. What is the product? Is it the property? No – You are the product. Your marketing must be believable. Here is a great example. Back when I was in the industry, I was at a conference having a drink with a well-known real estate motivational speaker. A woman sat down next to him, introduced herself and handed him her card. His initial reaction (to put it mildly) was absolute shock. She was obviously in her ’50’s, but her card had a picture of her that was either 15 years old or had been so retouched you couldn’t recognize her. Truth in advertising my friends…. Lie about your looks and you have immediately broken the trust of your client. This has to be the single biggest mistake I have ever seen.

Of course, another pet peeve is pictures of you and your pet. Don’t do it – your client doesn’t know your pet, may not like your pet, might think your pet is ugly – whatever the case. You are promoting your services as a professional REALTOR, not a dog groomer or kennel service.

One last point before some ideas that do work… Professional REALTOR Associations. Every REALTOR must belong to the local Board. There are many clubs and other organizations available to join as well. Remember what you are good at. Use your time wisely. Before joining these other organizations, ask yourself exactly how this will benefit your business. Know the reasons, track them, and move in a different direction if it doesn’t work as expected. I have never met a top producer that spends any significant time at these other organizations. Most attendees are either affiliates (generating business with REALTORS) or agents that aren’t busy enough and would prefer to be social. If your goal is to be the best, consider how much time you invest here.

That being said, what works? First – look back at your client. Write down a profile of your perfect client. Age range, lifestyle, married, kids, etc… In most cases, you will find your prospects are educated and spend time on the internet. I would suggest stepping out of the typical marketing box for the internet and look at things from a new angle. First, don’t make the focus of your website “View All Listings Here” – boring! Every buyer knows every agent has access to the whole MLS system. They also know you, the REALTOR, knows how to locate their type of home faster. Your client is spending more time researching the area they are moving to. Chris Griffith in Bonita Springs, FL has a great angle that has been quite successful. Her Blog is not soley about real estate. She promotes what it is like to live in Bonita – from the perspective of an everyday person. Information anyone looking to move to the area wants. Not facts and figures, the EMOTIONAL aspect of living there. Linda Davis in Gales Ferry, CT uses a similar approach. People buying from these two do so because they reach an emotional connection with them even BEFORE meeting them. That builds a level of trust and loyalty that won’t be broken by the typical facts & figures REALTOR. Using a different angle, Chadwick Saunders has developed a unique niche catering to the short-sale marketplace and has branded himself as the expert in short sales. His clients not only realize he can deliver on the investment side, they also develop a personal relationship with each client, making him one of the most successful REALTORS in southwest Florida today.

Each one of these agents has developed a brand, an image and done so without spending thousands of dollars in every real estate publication known to man. Yes – you need to advertise your listing. But remember, just like an investment portfolio, you ad dollars must be spent in different media. Outdoor, out-of-home and internet are by far the most productive because they are different. Print, radio and TV will bring you calls, but are they the calls you are truly looking for? Be true to yourself, and that will carry over to your clients. Spend the time necessary to create a marketing campaign that will promote you and your core values/competencies. Consider hiring a consultant to assist with your brand (ask how by emailing me at jon@mobile-exposure.biz).

Finally, your emotions are easy to read. Believe 2009 will be prosperous, and it will. Believe it will be slow and you will surely fail.

Happy New Year!

Jon

January 2, 2009 Posted by | Business tips, Marketing in SWFL, SWFL Hodge Podge | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment