Category Archives for Planning

Planning

Do You Really Need a Marketing Plan?

It’s tempting to try to run your business without a plan. It may seem like you can just get up each day and do what you want to do and the business will be successful. While that sometimes does happen, it’s not likely. The main reason most businesses fail is due to the lack of a plan and lack of follow-through. It doesn’t matter how large or small your business is; you really do need a plan.

If you really want to have a successful business, then you will need to go through the effort to create a marketing plan.

Here are 9 things marketing plans help with:

Answer Questions

While doing the research for the plan, you’ll answer a lot of questions that will help you in your business. You’ll get to know your audience, understand the different marketing methods, and purposes, and more.

Assist with Decision Making

The facts you uncover with the research that you do will help you make good decisions about your business on a daily basis. Without the plan, you won’t be able to make good choices easily.

Help You Create Goals

The plan will automatically help you define the goals for your business and the marketing that you do for your business.

Identify your Unique Selling Proposition

This is what makes you different than the competition. Discovering your USP will inform all future marketing efforts.

Help Set Budgets

While creating the marketing plan you will also be able to determine a good budget for your marketing efforts.

Define the Market

The research that you do will also help you define the market so that you can figure out where you fit in.

Access the Competition

As you create the marketing plan, it will give you the opportunity to get to know your competition. When you do that, you can identify gaps in your products and/or services and fill them.

Help You Stay the Course

The marketing plan that you make will keep you on the road toward success.

Change with the Times

You can change it over time, but having the plan ensures your arrival to a planned destination.

If you think you can do all that without a marketing plan and get anywhere in your business within a reasonable amount of time while making a profit, you are likely to be wrong. If you want a direction, want to know what you’re doing and where you’re going, and how to get there, then make a marketing plan.

A successful long-term business needs a marketing plan, even if it’s just one page long. Writing out the steps you plan to take, and how you plan to take them when marketing your business will not always ensure success - but not doing so will likely result in failure.

The Importance of Establishing a Good Workflow

The Importance of Establishing a Good Workflow

Improving productivity is a necessity for a contractor who services multiple clients. Without a system in place that establishes good workflow, it can be really difficult to keep up the momentum and take on enough clients to earn a good living. But, if you can establish a good workflow for the type of work you perform you will be able to take on more clients, work faster, smarter, and make more money.

Develop Package Rates

One of the best things you can do for your business is to try to develop, as much as possible, package rates for your work. Then, you will avoid, most of the time, having to track your time. Time tracking for multiple clients can be a big interruption that you don’t want to have to do if you can avoid it.

Create Checklists for Each Project​

When you do the same types of projects over and over again, creating a checklist to help guide you and others who work with you through each project will help keep you on task and avoid forgetting aspects of the project. Remember, pilots, use checklists every single time to avoid forgetting something. You should too.

Deliverables First​

Before crafting your workflow, focus on your deliverables first and then work your way backward to today to figure out what needs to be done first. Then start with first things first, using your checklist to ensure you don’t forget something adding what you need to do to the calendar.

Draw Your Workflow

Seeing a workflow visually can help you identify areas that you left out or forgot. You can actually use the checklist for a generic project to create a workflow. For instance, the workflow for publishing an eBook might look like this: Research the niche > Develop a topic > Craft a title > Outline the book > Write the front matter > Write the end matter > Design a book cover > And so forth. When you draw it instead of writing it, you can more easily see the things that can be done simultaneously and what has to be done in order.

Use a Project Management System

Using a project management system like Basecamp.com, Asana.com, or Teamwork.com is a good way to get yourself and your clients organized from day one. The system already has some ways to organize the work so that you don’t have to actually create everything from scratch.

Use Other People’s Workflows

Do a quick Google search for “workflows” and then fill in the topic such as self-publishing, writing an eBook or writing, and publishing, and you can find workflows that are already written. While you cannot sell those, you can use them and modify the ideas for your own use privately.

Try Out Your Workflow

Before considering a workflow set in stone, try it out from step one with a real project of your own to ensure that you didn’t leave something out. This is your chance to improve it before asking someone else to try it.

Ask Others to Try Out Your Workflows

Send the workflow to someone else that you know also works on the same type of projects that you do, whether it’s someone on your team or a colleague, asking them for feedback.

Refine and Improve

A workflow is actually never set in stone. As technology improves, and clients’ needs change, your workflows will evolve. That’s what’s great about drawing them out and creating them in the first place. Your workflows, over time, can only get better.

Workflow design is essential to your success as a contractor who takes on the projects of multiple clients. Ensure that you develop your workflows based on the services that you offer so that your project management practically runs itself over time.

Tips for Creating and Maintaining a Realistic Schedule

One of the hardest parts of being a contractor and performing services for others is creating and maintaining a realistic schedule for work and life. Most people start their business believing they will have at least 40 hours a week available as “billable hours” but soon learn that nothing could be further from the truth. But, you can organize and craft a schedule that allows you to make the most of the time you do have.

Know Your Audience

Like with most things to do with your business, you must know who you want to work with. What types of clients will you get along with best and what services can you realistically perform for those people? Start with the client, and then solve a problem for them with your services.

Know Yourself

Are you an early riser or do you like to stay up late at night? Most of the time people are one or the other. If you are a person who doesn’t like to keep to a particular schedule, you’ll need to develop tasks that are deadline focused instead of time centric. For instance, if you don’t want to have to do a task at 8 a.m. each morning, don’t offer that service.

Know Your Family

What kind of schedule does your family have and how much can you rely on other members of the family to take your work seriously? Even if they don’t take your work seriously right now, you can still create a business around your family’s schedule. Just go into it knowing upfront what is expected of you within your family and what you can expect from them.

Know What Hours You’ll Do Client Work

Taking all the things into consideration, it’s important to develop a set schedule of when you will be able to perform your clients’ work. Even if the time you come up with is midnight to 6 a.m. it’s still possible to have business servicing clients as a contractor. There is no wrong answer; you just have to match the work you will do with the time you can do it.

Know Which Hours You’ll Do Business Work

Don’t forget that you’ll need to save some of your working time for working on your own business. You will still have email lists to maintain, content to create, sales pages to craft, and so forth for your own business. Not to mention billing, invoicing, and bookkeeping.

Understand What Your Service Offerings Take

As you work on creating the services you’ll offer, go through what they take in your mind and then match them to the other things that you’ve figured out about yourself, your family, and the type of schedule you can maintain. Knowing what goes into providing a specific deliverable will go far in ensuring you create a business that works for you.

Schedule Everything in a Calendar

Don’t assume you’ll remember something, much less everything. When you have multiple clients you need to have a calendar. Not only will you need to calendar the work you are doing for yourself and clients, but you also need to include in your calendar anything you want to make time for - including date night.

Use a Project Management System

Don’t skimp on purchasing and investing in tools and software that will help your business run more smoothly. Tools like Basecamp.com, FreshBooks.com, and QuickBooks.com as well as others can help you do more in less time.

Maintaining a realistic schedule requires you to be realistic about the time you have available and the type of work you like to do. It might sound great to be “on the clock” 8 to 5, but it’s quite different in practice when working from home as a contractor.

Making Your Landing Pages More Targeted

Making Your Landing Pages More Targeted

When you send an email marketing message to your audience, you want them to click through to a landing page that is promoting something. There are a couple of ways you can do this. One is to click straight to a buy page, and another is to go to a sales page that helps further convince the reader to buy what you’re selling.

You can create very targeted and special landing pages based on each email marketing message that you send, using software like Thrive Themes. These tools help you to quickly and expertly create landing pages that convert. Not only that - if you create special pages for each email message, but you’ll also be able to know which email messages are working.

Here are 11 things your landing page should be doing...

Answer Any Concerns of Your Audience

If your audience has any objections, then you should be able to answer them on the landing page.

Provide a Good Headline

When you create landing pages that are directly targeted to specific visitors, you can create compelling headlines that mean something to that particular visitor.

Use Known High Converting Designs

When you use well-known landing page software, you can take advantage of using templates that are proven to work without having to reinvent the wheel.

Remove Distractions

Landing pages should only have one column to avoid cutting down on distractions for the audience. You want them to read the information that you want them to read, plus act on it. If you have too much on the page, they won’t do what you want.

Keep the Language Straightforward

Use clear, concise language in your landing page in order to not blow smoke, or trick your reader in any way.

Load quickly

You want your website to load quickly and not get hung up. This is very important because if it loads slowly people will not wait.

Avoid too many images

Images will slow down the page, and while they do help get your point across, too many images will distract.

Use video when appropriate

A video of you explaining your offer is a great way to make a landing page that is welcoming to your audience.

Avoid duplicate content

Landing pages should have unique content on them. If you clone one landing page to make a special one for your audience, be sure to change the language too and make it unique.

Test everything

If you’re getting a lot of click-throughs to the landing page but you’re not getting conversions, then you need to try to change things up to improve it.

Don’t waste your email marketing messages by sending them to boring, unfocused landing pages. Be sure to make it special, focused, targeted and relevant to your audience.

What You Should Include on Your Business Website

What You Should Include on Your Business Website

Your business website is often the first experience that your audience will have into your business. That’s why it’s important to include certain information that everyone will be looking for on your website.

A business website is there to give information about your business to your audience in very specific detail. You want to ensure that it's laser directed to your audience in such a way as to make the audience feel understood and safe at the same time. With that end, it's essential to include these elements on your business website.

Unique Content

Content consists of all the information you put on your website, from blog posts to the about page. Images, forms, contextual information, the words on a submit button and more are all content, and all opportunities to appeal to your ideal client. The more you can direct everything toward that client, the more results you’re going to have.

Overview of Benefits

A list of benefits of your offerings someplace or in many places on your website is a great thing to include. Your audience should leave your site totally understanding the benefits of your offerings, without having to question anything.

Contact Information

Some people seem to want to hide their contact information. Make it easy. Use your contact me page to offer multiple ways that your audience can contact you, including a phone number, email form, social media pages and more. Don’t hide; be open.

Simple Navigation

Nothing is worse than not being able to figure out how to get around a website. If you want your audience to not only stick to your website but also to use it to its full potential, make the navigation easy to understand and intuitive to your audience.

Comments Section

Whether via blog posts or an entirely new page for comments, make it easy for your audience to comment and read comments from others. This is a wonderful use of website space, especially because user-generated content is loved by search engines.

Clear CTAs

Don’t be shy when it comes to calls to action. Your audience has no idea what to do unless you tell them. Make your CTAs super clear and try to limit them to one or two per page of your website so that they don’t get confused about what to do.

Special Offers

A great way to draw people to read more information on your website is to always include some sort of special offer to new visitors. You can use plugins to time offerings as well as to only offer them to new visitors. This is a great way to increase customer loyalty.

Email Newsletter Subscription

Don’t let your visitors leave without offering them the ability to get updated about your offerings in the form of a newsletter or email list. Pop-unders and sliders are very common today because they work. Consider adding them to your business website for maximum impact.

Adding these elements to your business website will make your site work that much better within your marketing and sales strategy. Just remember to frame everything you do in terms of how your audience thinks and feels rather than how you think and feel.

20 Step Webinar To-Do List

There is a lot to do to host a successful webinar. But, if you arrange to do each thing in advance and have a cheat sheet or a to-do list to help you not forget anything, then you'll run through it with no problem. Let this be the start of your cheat sheet.

  • Choose Software - Write down the functions you want the software to have so that you can run a smooth webinar. Try out some different types of software, and then choose the software you want to use.
  • Define Your Audience - Who do you want to deliver your message to? It might seem weird to choose your audience first, but doing so will make it simpler to choose the topic. If you know who you're talking to then you can customize any topic to fit them.
  • Write Out Descriptions - When you know who your audience is, it will help to write down exactly who they are down to descriptions of them as individuals. Choosing two or three specific personas is very helpful moving forward.
  • Develop a Narrow Topic - Your topic should be something that solves one major problem for your audience. For example, perhaps your audience consists of home-based service providers like virtual assistants. What is one big problem that they have that you can solve? Summarize the topic and the event so that you can market it to not only attendees but also to potential JVs.
  • Set a Date - Setting a date early in the planning process is essential to getting it done. If you wait too long to perfect everything, you won't do it. Set a date, and then work your way backwards in your calendar setting everything up. The least amount of time you need to put on a successful webinar is six weeks.
  • Choose a Title - Using this information, develop a working title. You can also use the working titles to tease your audience a bit. You might develop a poll to let them choose one of the titles.
  • Set Your Goals for the Event - Set specific goals for your webinar, such as adding 100 targeted subscribers to your email list, or selling five new memberships to your exclusive inner circle club. Write it down so that you can look at it each time you start to develop copy.
  • Create an Email Autoresponder Series - When people sign up early for the event, it's great to have them on a list with an autoresponder series plugged in to keep them informed and excited about the coming event.
  • Build a Landing Page - Using your title and the summary of your event, add on to that and create a landing page that makes people want to sign up for your event. Make it as simple as possible; don't ask too many questions of attendees or they'll run away and you will miss out.
  • Develop Any Forms You'll Need - Both your JVs and your attendees are going to need forms. You'll need to use forms to collect information on everyone from both sides of the fence. You can use something like Gravity Forms or even Google Forms.
  • Invite Joint Venture Partners - Once you know the focus of the event, you can invite JVs to do the event with you. Decide on the rules and the speaker responsibilities ahead of time, and then invite about four times as many as you think you need to apply to be speakers.
  • Craft the Web Copy - Get to work on writing the copy for the event, or have someone do it. Even before the rest of the work is done you need to start marketing your event as soon as possible.
  • Get Art Created - Find someone to create graphics for the event. Consider graphics for the sales page, for the speaker information, for attendee gifts and more. For example, wouldn't it be useful to have a graphic to say an attendee is attending, which can easily be tweeted after they purchase their ticket?
  • Prepare an Event Page - Using that information, make your event page with all the information on the speakers, the topic, and benefits of attending.
  • Collect Speaker Information - As speakers turn in their information, which needs to have a strict deadline, add it to the event page.
  • Send Out Press Releases - As soon as the date is set, the title chosen, and the event is scheduled, you need to send out a press release regarding your event.
  • Invite Everyone - It might seem like something you'd think of, but invite everyone you know on your lists, and have the speakers invite people on their lists. Create a deadline by which to start doing that.
  • Create a Bonus for Attendees - Everyone loves unannounced bonuses and opportunities. You can use these bonuses as they come in to tease your audience that has not signed up, but keep them secret from people who have signed up.
  • Collect Speaker Slide Shows - You never know what can happen, so it's a good idea to collect the speaker slides. They are also great bonus material for webinar attendees who may want to download them to follow along with a speaker.
  • Practice - Have a practice run with the speakers about a week before the live event. Make it private, and just have each speaker show up, share their screens, check their volume and just take five minutes to make sure everything works.

Successful webinars are possible with the right advanced planning and with specific goals in mind. You can host webinars and add another income stream to your business fast.

Choosing the Right Business Entity

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hen you start up your business you’ll want to figure out your tax-related business identity. There are a few choices depending on where you live. In the USA you can choose to be a sole proprietor, partnership, a limited liability corporation (LLC) or a corporation. Each has different rules, regulations and tax consequences. It will depend on your individual business and what works best for you.

Some types of businesses are required to be in a certain category, but a large share of businesses can run as sole proprietors or LLCs easily.

Sole Proprietor

This type of business set-up means that there is just one owner who is totally responsible for everything. It's the easiest way to start a business, and how most people get started as long as they're not in a category that requires another entity.

One problem with this type of business is that if something goes wrong and a customer or other person is harmed in some way and brings a lawsuit, they can win your personal funds and even take your home. Taxes are easy in the USA with the schedule C on personal income taxes.

Partnership

If you are running a business with another person, then you may want to form a partnership. You don't have to in order to run a business with someone else, but it can offer another level of protection for both parties in the event of a disagreement or even a lawsuit. Income taxes are simple and somewhat like the schedule C reporting, with an additional information return filed. This type of business can be difficult at times, but it's just as easy to set up as a sole proprietorship.

Limited Liability Corporation

Many people like to form LLCs because they have the opportunity to file taxes as a partnership, corporation, or even as a sole proprietorship. The LLC is mostly just to protect individual business owners from personal liability if something goes wrong and a lawsuit happens, or if the business goes under.

Corporation

There are many types of corporations such as an S Corp and an INC. These are the most expensive types of entities to form, and have many requirements such as having a board, separate taxes for the business and owners, and other issues. You'll definitely need to work with a CPA and perhaps a corporate lawyer to help you form a corporation and keep compliant with the laws.

The business entity that you choose will make a difference in how you file income taxes and run your business on a daily basis. You'll need to speak to a financial expert such as a CPA to help you determine which entity is best for you.

How to Position Yourself as an Expert

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ne of the best ways to improve your value is to become an expert. Positioning yourself as an expert requires knowledge, skill and perseverance. If you don’t have those things right now, you can develop them as you move to position yourself as an expert. So don’t worry if you’re not there yet; you can get there.

Determine Who Your Audience Is

Knowing who you want to work with and help is very important, because you will be able to create better services, products, information and education for them if you know who they are.

Decide upon a Niche

Once you know your audience you can narrow down your focus to one problem your audience has. That is your niche. If you can solve a major problem that your audience has, you're golden.

Develop Your Brand

Once you figure out who your audience is, and what your niche is, you can start developing a brand. Is the brand going to be you, or is the brand going to be the solution? One will always require your presence, and another might be salable. It's up to you.

Get a Professional Website Created

You can't present yourself as an expert with an amateurish website. It needs to be professional, and unless your expertise is web design it's not likely you can do this for yourself. The words on the site, the design of the site, the images on the site, all need to be created by individual experts.

Set Up Your Social Media Profiles

As you brand yourself, you'll need to set up each of your social media profiles so that your brand works throughout the internet. While each social media site has its own personality, yours should show through.

Start Blogging and Getting Your Ideas Out There

Even as your website is being perfected, you can blog to show your expertise. Write your blogs directly to your audience to educate them about their problems so that you can start offering your solutions.

Write White Papers

A white paper is a good intro to organizing information to educate your audience about their problems and your solutions.

Make Videos

Creating "how to" and informational videos and posting them on YouTube is a great way to position yourself as more of an expert.

Write eBooks

As you gather more material, you'll eventually have enough to put together an eBook without too much work.

Publish on Kindle

You can publish your book and sell it via Kindle free. It's a great way to get new customers.

Consider Publishing a Paper Book

Once you've successfully published a Kindle book, you might want to take it a step further as you get a large following and publish a paper book. You can do this with print on demand via CreateSpace.com and Amazon.

Go to Live and Online Events

Networking at live and online events will help you get used to the idea of being at these events so that eventually you can present at them. It will also help you build relationships.

Present at Live and Online Events

With your books you have a platform for your message, and you can now take that and speak at live events, both online and offline.

Get Active on Social Media

Don't just set up social media profiles and be invisible. You want to participate, share your knowledge and connect with others so you can build relationships.

Get on a Speaker's List or Two

Contact different groups and offer speaking services to them. Create a "one sheet" with the information about the types of talks you give.

Keep Going

Don't stop; keep going. Each thing that you do will build on the next thing, and before you know it you're positioned as an expert and the sky is the limit.

Becoming an expert is a process. At first you will feel as if you'll never make it, but everything you do builds on the next thing and eventually it will snowball to true success. Once it happens, part of you will feel as if it happened overnight, but in truth everything you did above built on the next thing and finally people started seeing you as an expert.

Making a Lean Budget for Your Business

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ou need to create a budget for your home business in order to know whether or not you’re making a profit, expanding your business, and achieving the goals that you want. Budgets help you plan for the future, manage cash flow, and even secure financing if you should need it in the future.

Research Your Business

When you've decided upon a business and a business, there are tools of the trade that you may need or want. See what is available so that you can research the tools and choose the ones that offer the most value to your business.

Avoid Traditional Office Supplies

It can be tempting to run out and buy a file cabinet, paper, printer, ink and so much that you relate to an "office," but today you don't need those things. Instead "think green" and avoid most of that stuff. You don't need it, and you're not ever going to need it. Even when it comes to printing, unless you have a position that requires it, you will save money buying a second monitor instead of printing things out.

Use What You Have

What items do you already have? You likely have a laptop, a desk, and other things that you can put into service already for your home business. There is no reason to go out and buy all new things when you are first starting out. Using what you have will enable you to spend money on things you don't have.

Keep Your Budget Simple

Don't get carried away in the beginning with adding extra phone lines, a new internet connections and things that you're not even sure you need yet. If you only add things when you're certain that you need them, you'll keep your budget lower and controlled.

Question Every Expense

Before you add a new expense to your business, ask yourself if the expense will create a return on investment or not. If not, ask yourself why you really need the expense. Does it play an integral part of your business to help it keep running? Do you really need it? You do have to spend money to make money, but you should be smart about it.

Work in Flexibility

One of the most awesome things about working from home today is the cloud-based technology that is available. You can essentially rent software instead of buying it outright, which means that you can deduct it fully each month from your income, and then if you no longer need it you can stop. Plus, most cloud-based software allows for flexibility in terms of features that you may or may not need.

Know Your Break-Even Point

Your break-even point is the amount of money you need to make just to keep the doors open without actually earning a profit. It's your cost of doing business. This is an important number to note because it will help you determine your fees in the future.

Reassess Yearly

Always take the time to look at your budget each year to make sure that it fits with your goals to maintain a lean business. Being lean with a home office is a lot easier than if you had a bricks and mortar business.

Your lean home business budget is an important part of running a home business. You have something a bricks and mortar business doesn't, and that is lower overhead and much more flexibility surrounding the costs to do business.

Tips for Success Working with Your Business Coach

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efore you get down to business with a business coach, it’s important to understand how the entire process works and whether or not you’re ready to work with a business coach. If you’re not ready, it’s simply not going to give you the results that you want. To have success working with a business coach, consider the following success tips

  • Hire the Right Type of Coach – The interview process is a good way to ensure that you’re hiring the right type of coach. You want someone who is experienced in your industry and with working with people of your temperament as well as your type of business entity. Just because a particular coach is popular doesn’t mean they are right for you.
  • Use Your Free Consultation Well – Almost every single business coach will offer a free consultation before getting started. They will use this time to interview you to ensure that you’re right for their system and you will use the time to ensure that they are right for you. But, you can also get an idea of what their system is and where they see your business going, as well as a few hints about how it will all work.
  • Be Prepared for Feedback – During the coaching process and the analyzing of your business, be ready for criticism and feedback. If you’re not the type of person who can hear that your website is ugly or that you’re doing something wrong, you may not want a business coach. While a coach can also act as a cheerleader, you also want someone who acts in your best interest - more like a mother or father than someone who just tells you that everything is perfect and holds you back.
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    Be Open Minded to Change – It can be very hard to hear someone telling you that you need to change something about how you run your business. Your business feels like your baby and you want to do it your way. But sometimes your way is not the best way. You’ll need to be open minded enough to change things but also able to think critically so that you know for sure it’s the right change to make.
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    Be Honest about Who You Are – Sometimes it can be really difficult to accept our own personalities. Are you a self-starter? Are you a loner? Are you an introvert? Are you technologically challenged? Are you organized or disorganized? What type of system helps you keep on track?
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    Know What You Want Going In – Typically how a business coach works is that they deal with one issue at a time. So you might have a 12-week coaching contract to deal with identifying your target audience, or you might have a 6-week coaching contract to help you break through some sort of block such as launching a product you’ve already created. Knowing what you want the end result to be before getting started is very important.
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    Get Ready to Roll up Your Sleeves and Work – During the time of your coaching contract, be ready to put in the extra time required to get the work done. If you don’t implement anything you and your coach work out together, you’re not going to have any results.
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    Track Your Results – If you know what you wanted the result to be, and have written and specific goals, then you will be able to know whether the coaching relationship worked the way you hoped. Without metrics to look at, you really won’t know for sure what worked and what did not work.

Working with a business coach can literally change your life. But, you must be truly ready to work with a business coach and do the work you agree to do, or it simply will not work. If you’re not ready to follow through, reconsider wasting your time and theirs.

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