Customer Experience: What It Is and How to Create It

We all have certain stores and brands that we keep going back to time after time. They consistently provide us with great products and services. When our friends and family ask for suggestions, they are a name we quickly and confidently provide. We love these companies, but what brings us back for more?

Yes, they provide quality and a product. Yes, they have great customer service. But it’s more than just those things. They create and maintain an excellent customer experience. What exactly does that mean, though? How do you create it? Is it just something that happens with time? Can it be improved? Let’s discuss.

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I bet you’re thinking, customer experience, that’s just a fancy way of saying customer service. WRONG. Though it does include customer service, customer experience is a mix of many things. Think about when you walk into your favorite store, there’s something about the atmosphere and the ease of finding or ordering what you need. Also, you can’t forget about the product or service. You get quality at each turn and you keep coming back.

So, how do they make it happen? Customer experience does not just happen (though if you have a good business plan it may seem like it does); it is created. It’s in the branding and package design, it’s in the materials that go into making the product, and that product’s design. It’s the look and feel of the brick and mortar location. It’s your online presence. It’s in the message the brand exudes. It’s the people and the training they receive. It’s planning. Whether you have an established company or are working to establish a new organization, here are some ways to create and/or improve your customer experience:

Keep It Cohesive

Make sure everyone and everything are on the same page. You take time crafting your mission and message, so put them to work. These should go further than just something employees read in their handbooks; be more than just a catchy tagline. They should mean something to the company and the customer. Everyone in the organization should buy into these messages, and they should carry through all facets of the brand. Also, don’t forget to make sure all branding and imaging carry through the brand as well. You want to be recognizable; make sure your theme is integrated through all platforms.

Make Things Easy

Who doesn’t like easy? Millennials and Generation Z have short attention spans. If it takes too many steps, they are moving on. We are also seeing in the retail world a move from shopping at brick and mortar stores to online shopping. If you don’t have an online presence, you are in trouble. So many locations extend their reach and experience for the customers to multiple channels; online, apps, social media, and physical locations. Each providing ease of access to products and deals. Companies that cannot convert the experience to multiple platforms are faltering. For example, The Limited has just closed all of its physical retail locations–just one of the many recent retail casualties. Though they provided good in-store experiences, The Limited was slow to transition to multi-faceted selling platforms. Only in the past several years did the brand start to offer computerized in-store online ordering, something many other brands had established long before which calculated into their demise.

People Power

Now, I know I said this wasn’t about customer service, but it is part of it. You can make sure that your online platform is easy to navigate, bug-free, and rarely down, but if your customer service is horrible, then forget it. Invest in your people, in their initial training, in their well-being, and their advancement. Happy employees carry their enthusiasm to those they interact with. I am currently planning a wedding and working to interview different “Big Day” vendors. It’s exhausting, but one thing I will say is that all of these vendors get what it means to create a customer experience. I recently said “yes to my dress,” and the experience and service there was amazing. They made sure my pregnant bridesmaids always had water and snacks; the woman who helped me find my dress even gave me her personal cell phone number so I can keep her updated on my wedding planning progress. They added the personal touch and made me feel special. If you can instill the importance of making a connection with your clients to everybody in your organization, you will have them coming back for more time and time again. Make them see the value in your people as well as in your product.

Customer experience is an expansive concept that includes, customer service, good products, easy online navigation, and more. Competition is everywhere. Make a plan that will help you stand out and connect with your client base. Plan for customer experience; don’t think it will happen magically.

Health and Wellness: Super Bowl Recipes, Tips, and a Workout!

super bowl atlanta falconsAre you ready for some football? Although our Pittsburgh Steelers will not be playing this weekend, many of us will be attending or hosting a Super Bowl party for the food, commercials, and Lady Gaga! Here at ABG Capital, we are not quite ready to give up our healthy New Year’s Resolutions for the big game. As an organization, we focus on creating a culture of health and wellness; for example, check out our other healthy blog posts here! Before this weekend’s festivities, we would like to share with you some ways to stick to your resolutions while still having fun.

Let’s start with the food! Here are a few of my favorite healthy party recipes:

Sweet Potato Bites with Bacon and Guacamole

These are a great alternative to the potato skins, chips or fries. They have just the right amount of protein and fat without all the excess starch and carbs. They’re sure to be a hit at your Super Bowl party.

Greek Lemon Chicken Skewers with Tzatziki Sauce

Who doesn’t love chicken on a stick? This recipe packs a lot of flavor while being healthy. They’re also easy to make for a big crowd as they can all be marinated and grilled easily.

If these recipes aren’t enough for your party, check out this list of 20 Healthy Super Bowl recipes from Pinterest!

Another source of calories on game day comes from your drink choices. If you can’t possibly have fun while drinking water, here are some suggestions. If you’d rather keep it simple try to stick with flavored vodka, water, and ice or diet coke and rum.

Lastly, get off the couch! Use this football workout to get your exercise during the game!

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Do you have a favorite game day recipe or cocktail? Will you be trying to lighten them up? If so, share your suggestions in the comments.

The 4 Best Books about Entrepreneurship

The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well these days, but what exactly does that mean? And what does it mean to be an entrepreneur? In general terms, entrepreneurship refers to the beginning of a business, but there is a lot that goes into making that happen. To delve into the process of becoming an entrepreneur, and a successful one at that, check out some of the below writings. These authors quite literally “wrote the book” on entrepreneurship or they have inspired well-known business gurus.

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The $100 Start Up – Chris Gillebeau

How many times have we heard “find a job doing what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”? This book outlines how you can actually do that, be your own boss, and do it for minimal start-up money. If you have a hobby you are passionate about check this book.

The Effective Executive – Peter F. Drucker

Maybe you already have your business off the ground and running; this could be a great resource for you. This book is actually recommended by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. It discusses time management and decision-making habits that will help you be a successful leader and continue to grow your business.

The Third Wave – Steve Chase

Many recent start-ups are tech based. This publication examines where tech is going in its “third wave” of evolution. Written by AOL co-founder Steve Chase, it looks to the future of tech and how it can be further integrated with established enterprises like healthcare and finance. If tech is your thing, this a great read to see what may be ahead.

Seven Habits of Highly Effective People – Steven Covey

This is an oldie but a goodie I think. I remember this being taught in my 9th-grade Civics class, and though I didn’t understand its usefulness at the time, I understand it now. Developing the habits outlined by Covey like “Be Proactive” will assist in making your new venture effective and successful. It’s also probably the reason we are all sick of hearing the word synergy.

Throughout life, there are many things that shape our outlook on how we view the world and many times those things are books. These four texts can help shape how we look at business and entrepreneurship.

What are some of the books that helped shape you? Do you have a favorite book about being an entrepreneur not on this list? Let us know!

6 Best Apps for Business

Now that 2017 is here, it is time to get more organized, set new goals and enhance your professional experiences. Let us help you get the most out of your smart phone and tablet this year by recommending the six best apps for business. Let us know your favorite business apps!

business apps

Expensify

Do you constantly forget to turn in your expense reports? Expensify can help you keep track of your expenses, submit them, and get reimbursed. This app has features for employees, supervisors, and administrative staff to enhance your entire organization.

Scanbot

Scanbot is both a document scanner and QR code reader. This helps combine two essential business functions into one great app. If you’ve ever been on the go but had to get a document to the office ASAP, this app can help you. Business professionals can use this app to scan documents, receipts, business cards, labels, or QR codes.

Avaamo

Who else hates to be included in an e-mail conversation about something that could be easily discussed with one or two words? I know that I do. Avaamo is an app that can help you avoid those situations. This messaging app allows you to message groups and individuals internally, externally, or one-on-one while on a secure server.

Hot Schedules

This app is great for hourly workers and those who manage them. Hot Schedules allows managers to create schedules easily on any mobile device. Employees are then able to switch shifts, share messages, and communicate better with each other and management.

iTranslate

Whether you travel for business or live in a diverse city, iTranslate can help you communicate in over 90 languages. This app allows you to translate websites, voices, and e-mails. They also have another app called iTranslate iMessage which allows you to translate text messages as well.

Fiverr

Everyone knows someone who will do anything for $5. This app allows you to access a world of business professionals who can contribute to your organization for $5. Fiverr is a community of professionals looking for freelance work. The categories are diverse including, writing, design, video, translation, and marketing. Next time you are looking for someone to contribute to a project or if you have the skills to contribute, check out Fiverr.

Beware the Office Time Wasters!

Look out! This Friday is the first of two Friday the Thirteenth’s the year. The second is in October (because that’s not ominous or anything). Many people get wrapped up in the superstitions on days like these and are throwing salt over their shoulders left and right. However, there is something we should beware of more than Friday the Thirteenth; office time wasters! You know, those little things that derail your concentration throughout the day–stay away from them! Here are a few superstitions you should be mindful of on Friday and every day so you steer clear of bad luck and office time wasters.

img_0027Don’t let a black cat cross your path: I love animals, especially if they are fuzzy, but superstitions say that if a black cat crosses your path on Friday the 13th that’s bad juju. I think black cats get a bad rap (Thackeray Binx was a pretty sweet and helpful black cat); but watching cute kitty videos that are ubiquitous online can be a major time waster. Resist the urge to get sucked deep into the void that can be YouTube videos while at work. Don’t open that silly text, or email titled “I haz hamburger.” Save that for weekends when it is below zero outside and you can snuggle under blankets and binge all you want.

Don’t break any mirrors: Ever break a mirror? It’s a chore to clean up; those shards can go everywhere. So, this is more a PSA than a superstition I think. But, people think its unlucky nonetheless. To avoid any bad luck try and avoid the bathroom (and the bathroom mirror) at work. Now, I’m not saying not to go when nature calls, but maybe you should avoid that greasy burrito you know will give you bubble gut the rest of the day. By planning healthy lunches you can avoid you running to the bathroom multiple times a day. You also will save time by not running out for said food and have more time to enjoy your lunch break.

Don’t walk under any ladders: I think this is just a common sense rule right? Apparently, this particular fear is linked to an antiquated belief that walking under a ladder is blasphemous; as it is an insult to the Holy Trinity, and means you are in league with devil. Though we don’t believe this these days, it’s just not safe to walk under ladders. In the office try to avoid walking under metaphorical ladders by getting involved in water cooler gossip (the devil of the office). Not only does this distract you from your work, we all know how damaging gossip can be. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be friendly with those you work with, but we all know that one person who always has some “juicy” news about someone in the company. Don’t engage this person; simply smile, exchange pleasantries, and move on. And by no means should you repeat their stories!

Don’t start any new trips: It’s also bad luck to start any new trips on this superstitious day. Though I don’t think traveling on Friday is a bad idea, it can cut into your productivity. Be it wasting time in traffic or in airports, if you can lessen your travel time and concentrate on work more you can get more accomplished. Instead of flying back and forth for meetings try to have them virtually if possible. This will save time, frustration, and money.

There certainly can be many things that distract us during the day and pull us away from our work. What are some the time wasters that trouble your work environment? How do you avoid the temptation? Do you have any superstitions around the work place? What are they and why do you have them? If you are looking for some good ways to avoid distractions in the office check out our previous post “No Interruptions Day” for more tips.

4 Social Media Trends for 2017

One of my favorite end of year trends is the Google Year. In my opinion, this is a great way to summarize the year in technology, social media, and the public. You can check out the 2016 video here.

Now that you’ve looked at the year in review, let’s discuss social media trends for 2017!

trends in social media 2017

Virtual Reality

2016 has been the year of VR. Many major companies are releasing VR devices, including Sony, for use with their Playstation game console and Samsung for use with their Galaxy phones. Although these were released with gaming in mind, the rise of social VR is coming. It is beginning with 360-degree photos on social media platforms and will only keep getting more involved. Be prepared to feel like you are at all of the hottest events in 2017!

Live Video

Live Video is catching on with companies much faster than individuals. Recently, I’ve seen quite a few television commercials demonstrating how to go live on Facebook. This doesn’t seem to be going away in 2017. Live videos are a great way to interface with customers and have customers connect with each other in real time.

Social Fundraising

Kickstarter, Go Fund Me, and Crowdrise have gotten a lot of attention in 2016. Social fundraising has become a great way to get ideas funded by individuals who can get behind those ideas. Individuals, start-ups, and nonprofits have all found great success in social fundraising campaigns. Look for this trend to keep getting more popular in 2017!

Filters and Photos

In 2016, we saw a lot of pictures of our friends with dog faces, reindeer, funny voices, explosions, and glitter thanks to Snapchat’s filter feature. 2017 will bring filters to Facebook and Instagram due to the public interest in expiring media. Look for Snapchat to be the trendiest social media platform of 2017.

 

As we look forward to what will happen in 2017 one thing is for sure, social media is here to stay. What are you most looking forward to happening?

It’s No Interruptions Day!

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The last days of the year are ticking down, soon it will be time to ring in 2017. I bet you’re thinking, “But I still have so much to do in 2016!” and are rushing around to finish up those last few projects. We all have so much on our plates that time just tends to get away from us. Some days we get so distracted we can’t remember what the original project we started on was. If this sounds like you join us in celebrating No Interruptions Day!

No Interruptions Day celebrates the last work day of the year and aims to help us all concentrate and round out the year feeling accomplished, as well as allow us to walk into the office in the new year with a clean slate. This year, No Interruptions Day is Friday, December 30 (unless you work weekends too, by all means, celebrate on the 31st). So let’s take some time to get centered and finish this year out right!

Here are some ways you can celebrate in the office this year:

  • Make it an office-wide event–Get the word out and let the office know about No Interruptions Day. Broadcast it through your company intranet and encourage clients and/or family to take part as well. By making it a group effort you’ll be able to accomplish more. This also lowers the likelihood being distracted by co-workers, family, or others (unless it’s an emergency) as you’ll all be focusing on year-end projects.
  • Turn off your cell phone–Our cell phones go everywhere with us, even to bed. On the 30th (or whatever day you decide to celebrate), leave your phone at home, or shut it off and keep it out of sight. This way you won’t be tempted to check any of your social media accounts or personal texts that tend to derail your focus.
  • Shut your door–If you are lucky enough to have an office door, shut it and place an educational note about No Interruptions Day and how you are celebrating on it. This way others will be less likely to intrude on your “work holiday” and you’ll be able to concentrate better by having the noise of normal office commotion deadened by the door.
  • Noise canceling headphones/Music–Not lucky enough to have an office door? If you are distracted by background noises consider bringing in some noise canceling headphones to help you focus. Are you motivated by music rather than silence? Bring in your headphones and shuffle your favorite playlist. If you are looking for playlists that will help you concentrate check out this list for some inspiration.
  • Make a plan–Much of our day in the office is taken up by replying back and forth to emails or returning phone calls. Try and make a plan to best manage your time and optimize it. Set aside a specific time period when you will check your messages, address them, and then move on to your next project.

We wish you all productive last days of 2016 and hope you have a successful and prosperous 2017. If you are planning on celebrating No Interruptions Day let us know! If you have suggestions on ways to participate share them with us!

A Festivus (at work) for the Rest of Us!

Festivus! A holiday celebration created by Seinfeld writer Daniel O’Keefe, which became a popular culture phenomenon when it was written into a 1997 episode of Seinfeld. Seinfeld fans, as well as, those who have never seen the show celebrate the unofficial holiday annually. Typically celebrated on December 23rd, Festivus is celebrated as an alternative to commercialism and the pressure of the traditional holiday season.

Keep reading to learn about traditional Festivus activities, and how to make them safe for your workplace this year!

festivusFestivus Pole

In contrast to your fully decorated office Christmas tree, a Festivus pole is a plain, unadorned aluminum pole. This is the ultimate symbol of Festivus, with no glitz or glamour. You can buy an official Festivus pole for the office from FestivusPoles.com, or go to your local hardware store and pick up a plain aluminum pole. However, in the anti-commercialism spirit of Festivus try to find an aluminum pole in an office closet or storage room.

Festivus Dinner

The official dish of Festivus is meatloaf! Although meatloaf might not be practical for your office Festivus celebration, why not turn it into a potluck. Ask everyone to contribute by bringing a dish. After all the importance of the meal is to prep for the Feats of Strength!

Airing of Grievances

Now this part of the celebration, although it created many comical TV moments, may not be work friendly for some. A few tips for including this in your work celebration are to remember to keep your grievances light-hearted, try to focus your grievances on celebrities and politicians and most importantly, remember that you need to keep your job!

Feats of Strength

Lastly, the Feats of Strength should follow your meal and Airing of Grievances. Although the traditional Feats of Strength wrestling match isn’t work appropriate, you can choose from some of these suggestions; arm wrestling, thumb wrestling, staring contest or board games.

 

The most important thing to remember when celebrating Festivus in the office is to be safe! We hope that you enjoy your Festivus celebration and have your share of Festivus miracles.

 

 

New Year, New Office: 5 Resolutions for the Workplace

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Looking out my window, the snow has finally begun to fly. In a few weeks, Christmas will be upon us and after that New Years. With the ringing in of 2017, we all want to start fresh. New year, new you, right? What about new year, new office? Here are five office New Year’s resolutions to help get you started with your list.

1. Get and stay organized–If you are anything like me and your desk looks like a tornado hit it, this might be a good idea. I am always digging through piles hoping the document I need hasn’t been thrown away. I can’t imagine how much time I’ve wasted just looking for a Post-it with a phone number I wrote down days ago. By taking the time to organize your desk each evening before you leave and developing a better filing system, you can help save your sanity and save time.

2. Stay Positive–We all have days that try our patience, and sometimes all we want to do is complain. Though venting serves a purpose, it can spiral out of control and create a culture of negativity. This hurts productivity and quality of work. By trying to look at challenges in a different, more positive way it can change your mood and your work. When presented with a challenge instead of outwardly expressing your irritation, take a second to breathe and reform your thoughts.

3. Get Healthy–Many people include a health goal as part of their resolutions so bringing that to the office is only logical. If you have snacks in your desk take inventory and try to remove any bad temptations. Take it a step further and organize a workout challenge group in the office and cheer each other on towards your goal.

4. Give More–There’s something about giving a present to someone or contributing (time or money) to a good cause that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. Taking time to give more in the workplace can help build better relationships with your co-workers and create a culture of caring. This can be a two-part resolution, internal and external. Part one: Start by giving more within the office and making small gestures among co-workers. If you know a co-worker is having a bad day, buy him or her a snack to help cheer them up. Part two: Take things outside of the office and volunteer as a group for a non-profit of your choice. For help and ideas on how to do this visit the Tapolci Foundation.

5. Focus on the Mission–The new year is always a great time to evaluate and re-focus your mission, be it organization-wide or just departmental. Getting everyone on board and moving in the right direction will help you conquer the year ahead effectively.

Making New Year’s Resolutions is a tradition. We’d love to know what you have done in the past and what you are planning for in the future. What office resolutions did we miss? Do you have any suggestions on how to successfully keep them?

Looking Back on INBOUND16

Cold calling is dead.

It’s just that simple. We now live in a time where marketing no longer reaches out by annoyance but by content filled with rich stories, SEO, automation, analytics, and so many other intuitive methods. Generally anything besides making those awkward phone calls in hopes of securing a customer.

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That’s the beauty of Inbound Marketing. The barriers have been taken down. The opportunity for creativity and passion to be instilled in the way we choose to represent our brand is endless. Inbound brings forth a new frontier where captivating attention–and day trading it–becomes the holy grail of our marketing efforts.20161108_175314

INBOUND16 brought together over 18,000 attendees who live and breathe in the world of marketing, sales, and CEO-land, as well as HubSpot customers and agencies who understand the mentality and passion behind inbound and organic reach. All of us scurrying from session to session, taking notes and absorbing as many thoughts and tactical tips as possible to bring back to our organizations.

A few INBOUNDers from our marketing department flew to Boston to be a part of the gathering and came back full of insight. Upon landing, these three scattered throughout the convention center to gain the best marketing knowledge in the industry.

In the three and a half days of attendance Cherie, Cody, and Mark witnessed powerful keynote presentations from marketing gurus such as Gary Vaynerchuck, the “eloquently” spoken founder of VaynerMedia and host of #AskGaryVee, as well as Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, Founders of HubSpot. Celebrities filled the halls of INBOUND as well. Stories of the rise and grind were told by Anna Kendrick, Michael Strahan, and Serena Williams. Even Alec Baldwin graced INBOUND16 with his presence one morning! The passionate life-tales and insight didn’t end there. Hundreds of breakout sessions filled all 80 rooms of the Boston Convention center as well as both of their grand ballrooms.20161110_141831_001

To summarize INBOUND completely is almost impossible. To experience this wealth of powerful knowledge and standout mentors, as well as those sharing the field of inbound from around the globe together in one location is something you truly have to be there for.

To squeeze just a little bit of this experience out of the conference we asked our three in-house-INBOUND-incumbents what moments of enlightenment, insight, actionable tips, and fun they experienced individually.

Cherie – PR & Social Media Specialist, ABG Capital: “INBOUND16 was such an incredible experience that it’s difficult for me to pick just one takeaway as my favorite. The initial thought I have anytime I reflect on INBOUND(16) is how amazing it was to be among other people in my field who just “get it.” The fellow attendees understand how crucial it is for us marketers to do what we do for a business. They also understand that while we have the “fun” jobs of the company, what we do takes hard work, strategic planning, analyzation, concentration, and creativity.

I’m downright giddy at INBOUND listening to others in my field “talk shop.”  And while my focus at work is on PR and Social Media, I have the opportunity to attend sessions on design, video, content creation, and storytelling, which aids in rounding out my expertise. If you want to be at the top of the sales and marketing field, a trip to INBOUND is a must for getting there!”

 

Mark – Product Manager, InspiraFS:  The Session titled: ‘The Science of Selling: How to Sell the Way our Brains are Wired to be Influenced and Form Buying Decisions’ really stood out for me.

David Hoffeld, The Hoffeld Group stated “63% of the behaviors salespeople deploy decrease the likelihood of a sale.” SAD! As marketers, we should care deeply about how prospects’ brains react to sales strategies. At the end of the day we are trying to drive sales, just in a different environment. There’s no reason we shouldn’t incorporate the science of selling into our content.

 

 

Cody – Inbound Marketing Specialist, ABG Capital: INBOUND showed me that your story matters. Something that outbound, or “interruption marketing,” doesn’t necessarily embrace. Interruption marketing is simply the interruption of someone’s activity to grasp his attention…it’s an annoyance. We’ve all seen in it with spam, pop-ups, ugly banner ads, cold calling, and even TV.

In Gary Vaynerchuck’s keynote he explained that the television networks we know and love are becoming extinct. What’s replacing them? Intuitive social media platforms that tell stories. Our iPhones have become the basis of our entertainment. They’re our new television sets. They’re filled with the networks we know and love–Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, Instagram.

We follow brands and celebrities by choice. Not by interruption. We “tune-in” to their stories, latch onto their content, and implement their output into our daily lives. Not because we were caged into watching a 30 second spot in the middle of the Walking Dead because our On-Demand isn’t working–but because we as a society, we as a human race, place emotional ties into what we view and love–the quality of story-telling.

 

Tactical Advice You Can Use Today20161109_144812

As I said earlier, summing up the lessons learned from INBOUND in their entirety is nearly impossible. However, we can give you few actionable tips that can improve your website and your conversions today!

 

 

Here are some tips you can incorporate right now:

  • Remove your slider/carousel hero banner. These diminish CTR (Click Through Rate) and take away from your value proposition.
  • A value proposition–you should have one! Peep Laja with ConversionXL has one of the best articles on how to create a great value proposition. Read it and test yours starting today. If you find this hard, just pretend someone asked you what you do and how you’re different. Once you’ve compiled that, organize it into a value prop and get it up on your site.
  • Define your conversion funnel assumptions. When someone lands on your homepage, where would he or she logically go next? Make that next step easier. That’s conversion optimization in a nutshell, and you can try that for each page. Use any data you have, or start with assumptions and test, test, and test some more.
  • Optimize your blog. Aside from your homepage, your blog is probably the second highest visited part of your website. You’d be surprised how your blog is leaking opportunities to convert.
  • Testing…Testing…Testing! So how can you do that? Add Hotjar to your site today. This will show you heatmaps, user recordings, and more.

Start using these tips today! We’ll be sure to enlighten you with more after INBOUND17. Grab your tickets for next years INBOUND with your company; you never know, we might just happen to see you there!