Be Here First: The Future of Voice-Interface Marketing

Emily Binder is Founder and Voice Marketing Lead of Beetle Moment Marketing, a voice-first marketing agency focused on helping companies develop branding strategies for when voice is the primary interface for interacting with technology . . . a strong trend now and for the future.

Voice-activated devices (Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Home [which recently gobbled up Nest], Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana Home Assistant and Samsung’s Bixby are some of the bigger players in this highly competitive and rapidly growing market) are “new,” but will be increasingly used for making purchases. Emily recommends that companies should have their basic content—website and Amazon listing—optimized for voice search. She encourages companies to optimize for Google if they are only going to do one thing and for Alexa if the company is doing ecommerce on Amazon.

Voice search itself has a lot of kinks that need to be worked out . . . but the abilities of these devices are expanding daily. Voice-assistants (developed primarily by men) need to get better at recognizing and processing women’s speech patterns. Text-based search bar queries rely on key words. Voice search needs to be optimized for natural language patterns.

Emily believes that all brands should at least “play” in Alexa’s ecosystem—and get into the action right now with a flash briefing and a custom skill—a very powerful combination.

Flash briefing provides quick daily news bites, typically hourly or daily, covering “weather, local news, daily motivation, productivity tips, gardening tips.” With 100 million Alexa devices and only 8,600 briefings, there is a great scarcity of content. If companies put out a quality message on a regular basis, they can climb to the top of the rankings for their niche . . . fast.

Flash briefings should be no longer than 10 minutes. Emily would not go over 2 minutes and considers 30 to 60 seconds to be “the sweet spot.” Emily also recommends, “If you skip any day, make it Sunday,” and notes that listenership is highest in the early morning or early evening, at “moments of transition,” when people are getting ready for work, making coffee . . . preparing dinner and their hands are busy.

In the past year, Amazon Developer has simplified its user interface and provided templates, making it easier for people, even those who are not developers, to build custom skills for voice-activated devices. A WYSIWYG free Alexa skill-building and publishing tool, Storyline, was the foundation of up to 60% of early Alexa skills. Storyline pivoted at the end of 2018, changed its name to Invocable, and now provides prototyping for voice UX designers.

Emily also talks about some the leaders in the development of voice technology and the revolutionary developments that could come out of voice interfaced devices—from practical applications to the ability to have cross-generational conversations with people from the past.

Emily can be reached on her company’s website at:, on Twitter @emilybinder or on Instagram @beetlemoment.

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Putting Headlights on the Business

Ben Kunz is Executive Vice President of Media Associates, an independent media planning, buying and analytics agency working with clients with $2 to $30 million advertising budgets. Although the company “does media,” its primary focus is on tactic and channel selection and on predicting, controlling, and maximizing advertising investment results.

Ben explains the structure of advertising as having three prongs: the creative/branding/message piece; the increasingly-fragmented media channel piece (social media, Twitter, mobile devices, over-the-top (cable free) television, satellite radio); and data. Ben feels data is critical to targeting, understanding, and optimizing advertising return.

Ben’s company uses predictive analytics, modeling outcomes before starting an advertising campaign. He says, if you can measure what happened, you can turn it around and forecast what will happen – use data to get ahead and put some headlights on your business so you can see where you are going. He gives this as an example: If you are going to spend $10 million on an ad campaign, is it going to drive $30 million back in sales? If you don’t know, run some predictive models . . . this is the only way to control outcome.

Ben says that barring the time and expense of gathering a lot target audience information, the best way to change or influence consumer behavior is to advertise on 3 very different channels over a period of time. He cites Rex Briggs, author of the book What Sticks, who analyzed billions of dollars of marketing spend and concluded that, if a brand presented advertisements on television, billboards, and digital ads, customers responded much more than if they just saw a bunch of Facebook ads. Digital may be “hot,” but it is not everything. Channels should be selected based on the target audience.

Attending South by Southwest for the 10th year, Ben commented on how fast technology had changed. But, he added, human psychology has not changed. Too often, advertisers or marketers get caught up in the “bright and shiny,” when they need to balance their efforts across all channels.

Ben recommends using the 70/20/10 rule, where 70% of the marketing effort focuses on what you expect will work because it has worked in the past, 20% uses innovative, emerging ideas that you have confidence will work, and the last 10% is “the crazy new stuff.” That “new stuff,” could prove to be the source of the big ideas for your clients. He describes TV as “the James Bond of media right now” – a very powerful, but blunt instrument. He notes that 37 million Americans (a number which is rapidly increasing) have cut the (cable) cord and are using other means to access programming. Ultimately, this will make market segmentation much more granular and facilitate market targeting.

In this interview, Ben also discusses the importance of culture, team-building, empowerment, and motivation. Employees need to know “the next rung on the ladder” and how to get there. They need to feel empowered if they are to be motivated. Invest in ongoing learning opportunities. You have to nurture your employees if you want them to continue to be engaged.

Ben has found it helpful to have non-competing partners who can provide the skills his company does not provide. He also touched on the risks of the Internet of Things, a topic presented by past chess champion, Garry Kasparov, at the South by Southwest conference.

Ben can be reached on Twitter @BenKunz or on his company’s website at (One ‘A’ in the middle)

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Artificial Intelligence: Trust the Machine to Master Marketing Automation

Magnus Unemyr, Marketing Automation Expert, helps companies install and set up website-based marketing automation systems. He recommends using site lead magnets (calls to action, buttons, banner ads), caging some content behind landing pages with registration forms, offering incentives to register information e.g., a PDF that can only be downloaded in exchange for contact information, and adding nurturing sequences with follow-up emails. (He uses Tripwire.) Each piece of content should drive the customer or potential customer one step closer to making the purchase.

In this interview, Magnus clarifies the difference between today’s narrow AI software and strong AI. Narrow AI learns from data and self optimizes over time by iteratively improving its original function. Narrow AI in email application might learn the optimal time to deliver an email to  an individual customer to increase the likelihood of that email being opened. Strong AI has the capability to learn things outside of its originally targeted function . . . to reason on its own, to start to get feelings . . . which is still the stuff of science fiction.

Traditional marketing automation systems; e.g., HubSpot, ActiveCampaign, or Act-On, are fairly basic in autonomous decision-making. Magnus sees a natural progression from using AI-powered algorithms/marketing automation systems to automatically harvest data, eventually moving toward more complex functions – developing “insights,” and, eventually, making autonomous decisions about and triggering individualized marketing outreach initiatives without human intervention.

This future AI will be able to do highly personalized outreach – to send the right content to the right person at the right time, in the right channel, and at the right frequency – improving the customer experience and minimizing the “spamminess” of cookie-cutter automatic responses.

However, when deploying new marketing automation systems, companies need to budget for content production, and each piece of content should send the reader or viewer one step further toward the purchase. Also, major marketing automation tools are not standalone solutions – they need to be integrated with additional specialized smaller marketing automation systems – webinar platforms, proprietary databases, etc.

AI can fail. For instance, AI algorithms are trained by historical data. Without enough historical data, any AI system will not be able to make accurate decisions. If the data is skewed or flawed, the AI algorithm will produce flawed predictions or behavior. The software supplier needs to be able to prove that the software is behaving and producing accurate results.

Magnus describes his book, Data-Driven Marketing with Artificial Intelligence, as the definitive guide to understanding and using AI in marketing. He has also written: Mastering Online Marketing, Internet of Things, Turn your Knowledge and Skills into a Profitable Online Business, and eBooks and Beyond. Links are to Amazon.

Every marketing automation system vendor provides video courses to teach users about their product, but invariably fails to discuss the features that should have been included . . . but weren’t. Magnus created a detailed marketing automation course (about 70 videos) that explains concepts, strategies, use, and what comprises a good marketing automation system – without covering proprietary instructional material. The credit-card accessed course is available on his website at:

Magnus can be reach on LinkedIn or on his website at:, where you can find his blog, his video episodes, and his training courses.

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Why Shoe the Cobbler’s Children

Mike Popowski, CEO of Dagger, is The Marketing Agency Leadership Podcast’s first repeat guest. In this interview, live at the 2019 South by Southwest Interactive Conference in Austin, TX, Mike explores the direction his company, Dagger, a strategic content agency, has taken over the past year.

Dagger’s trademarked statement, “Content at the Speed of Culture,” reflects the company’s focus. Mike describes content as a rallying touchpoint and lists content strategy, brand strategy, analytics, and media as “flanking disciplines.”

Mike notes that modern brands that appeared to be doing very well and staying culturally relevant almost act like media companies. He gave the example of Red Bull, where much of its marketing content is not about selling cans of energy drink, so much as it is focused on the thrill of adrenaline junkie activities that its customers enjoy . . . but have a Red Bull first.

Flat on his back for six weeks after surgery, Mike conceived of the idea of creating a “differentiator.” He and his team loved what Red Bull was doing and decided to launch a media company, dedicated to the culture of Atlanta, and funded through funneling company profits . . . back into the company . . . and into the community. Mike finds Atlanta’s energy dynamic . . . with an exciting influx of talent and brands. @Butter.ATL features articles about topical issues in Atlanta – from emerging artists and restaurants to repeating episodic features such as SneakHer Heads (covering women sneakerheads) or Atlantipedia.

This project has proven to be the differentiator Mike sought. Now, instead of telling clients what Dagger can do for them, @Butter.ATL shows them. Dagger, a cobbler and a cobbler’s child, has a pair of fine shoes! @Butter.ATL has been quite successful, with about 22,000 Instagram followers in the first 6 months and recent recognition at the ADDY awards. Dagger is already reaping ROI results, which Mike did not expect until 2020 – ROI in terms of @Butter.ATL being a door opener. Unlike similar work that Dagger might do for its clients, Dagger is free to say what it likes on @Butter.ATL, and free of the constraints of client agreements and NDAs. Some of the coverage is not laudatory, but Mike places great value on authenticity.

What Dagger does for its clients, it is now doing for itself with @Butter.ATL serving as a learning lab, a “work sample,” an influencer, and a draw for new brands that are now reaching out to Dagger. American rapper, actor, and activist Killer Mike, a big fan of Atlanta, follows Butter.

Mike Popowski can be reached by email at:, or on his company’s website:

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Cracking Carbon: Making a B2B Brand a Household Name

Megan Cunningham is CEO of Magnet Media, a vertically-organized strategic studio that uses storytelling and data to drive business results. Megan feels the best way to engage customers or clients in meaningful, lasting ways is to tell stories that matter, that touch both head and heart. To accomplish this for Magnet clients, small, nimble SWAT teams (pods) pair an account strategist (head) and a creative lead (heart) along with subject matter experts familiar with a client’s industry and specialists with the capability to deliver on the desired platforms—so each team is customized to meet the client’s business objectives.

Megan believes that a company has to have a process in place in order to scale, but too much “don’t color outside the lines,” can be demoralizing. There has to be flexibility and enough “blank canvas” on the creative side that employees can feel ownership and find meaning in their work. Clients and colleagues comment that Magnet Media has cracked the code on scaling branded content.

Magnet Media has been structured with a “think, make, reach” – “We’re going to be strategic, we’re going to produce content, and we’re going to distribute it at scale in a way that’s measureable.” That process, coupled with properly-leveraged technology enables hypergrowth power. It works. Clients and colleagues comment that Magnet Media has cracked the code on scaling branded content.

Megan developed a Global Trends Report, which addresses where storytelling is going, and started as a whitepaper. When such companies as Google and Mattel found value in Megan’s insights, the report morphed into its current form of a series of 1-hour webinars and downloadable eBooks.

The first four trends Megan projects for 2019 are:

  1. A greater concentration on brand purpose and addressing the idea of the belief-driven buyer, who used to be a “fringe buyer.” Today, beliefs about what a company stands for contribute in a major way to people’s purchase decisions.
  2. Influencer marketing and next generation influencer marketing strategies—the use of brand ambassadors, customer stories, brand representation.
  3. Podcasting and smart audio is a massive trend. One of Magnet Media’s more aggressive data partners forecasted that over 50% of searches by 2020 will be voice searches.
  4. Delivering experiences and distributing content.  how it’s being distributed and measured when it comes to storytelling.

Megan was a featured speaker at the 2019 South by Southwest in Austin, TX. In her presentation, “The State of the Story: How Carbon Won the Big Game,” she discussed a win-win partnership between Carbon , a 3-D polymer printer, and Adidas shoe and clothing brand. Carbon has developed a revolutionary process for printing high-resolution 3-D polymer parts with consistent, engineering-grade mechanical properties. This technology revolutionizes product capabilities and is an integral part of Adida’s lattice-soled 4D shoe line. Working with Magnet Media, Adidas partnered with Carbon to launch the printer’s B2B brand at the Super Bowl. Carbon continues to use its associations with such companies as Adidas and protective helmet manufacturer Riddell to make its brand a household name, so that customers will associate greater value with consumer products “Powered by Carbon.”

Megan can be reached by email at: or on her company’s website at:

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Non-Obvious Trends that will Turn the World

After an 8-year stint at Ogilvy, a New York City-based British advertising, marketing, and public relations agency, and 3 more at Leo Burnett in Australia, Rohit Bhargava left the agency world to write. He blogged the Non-Obvious Trend Report (January 2011) to share some unexpected insights about business for the coming year. That blogpost became a digital report that morphed into an e-book that, in 2015 became a hardback, made the Wall Street Journal list, and took off. For 2020, the 10th year, Rohit intends to do a retrospective of the big themes/megatrends across more than 100 trends, and then ask what these trends tell us about the future. Non-Obvious Megatrends is scheduled to come out in December 2019.

Rohit’s “signature book,”The Non-Obvious Guide to Small Business Marketing without a Big Budget provides a wealth of information for companies that can’t afford to hire the “big guys” – how to position a business against competitors, create a good tagline, pick a website URL and what a company should know about search marketing and buying search terms.

Non-Obvious, Rohit’s company, is a consultancy that provides workshops, trainings, and keynotes to try to get people think in non-obvious ways, to spot patterns, to be able to see what other people don’t see, and to be more innovative. Non-Obvious, the brand, is a “point of view on the world.”

Rohit spoke on a variety of topics at South by Southwest 2019 in Austin, TX. He discussed “Why Trend Predictions Suck and How to Fix Them.” Rohit believes that “trends often indicate wishful thinking” and don’t actually forecast anything new or provide insights. Futurists may make predictions, put them on the market, and talk about them. Individuals may look at trends, synthesize them, and distill personally useful, career-trajectory valuable information or even use that information to help individual’s clients.

Rohit described innovation envy as a future trend in his South by Southwest presentation, “7 Non-Obvious Trends Changing the Future in 2019.” Innovation envy happens when a company looks at what other companies are doing in the way of innovation, and then tries to adopt the “trappings” of these innovative companies . . . the beanbag chairs . . . the flex time. Yeah. That will work.

Another trend he discussed is the creation of Instagram-postable strategic spectacles, “bright, shiny” events that attract a lot of attention. These spectacles need to be created in a strategic way to provide value. In all trends, are they actionable? And what happens with the trend?

In 2017, Rohit identified a trend he saw as “fierce femininity.” Rohit sees the counterpart to that as “muddled masculinity.” When women can be anything, but men can only be one thing, the challenge is one-sided. As women are freed to embrace new outside-of-the-norm self-definitions, men, likewise need to be freed to develop those human facets that have been denied them (feeling pain, showing emotion) in the name of “classic masculinity.”

Rohit runs IdeaPress, a business book publishing company, which operates more like an agency than like a publishing company. He is publishing a guidebook series, The Non-Obvious Guide to multiple things, which will provide “smart advice for smart people.” (not for dummies and idiots.) To keep the books “up-to-date,” information that may become dated within 10 years will be posted online for download.

Rohit can be reached on his company’s website at:, on his personal website at:, or by email at:

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Neuroscience, Behavioral Science, and Boosting Your Brand

Neil Davidson is Managing Director of Hey Human (London), “the behavioural communications agency.” Hey Human started five years ago – the world was changing, brands were changing, and people were changing (and all of them still are), but agencies? Same old, same old.

Neil questioned, “What could be done to change the way agencies work . . . so they could effect change in the way brands behaved?” Hey Human is an attempt at an answer. The company may be structured by classic relationship strategy and creative skillsets, but team members are not siloed in their roles. Anyone can contribute to the client relationship building, to strategy development, to the creative piece . . . the work is done through collaboration.

How is branding different today? Neil notes that the relationships between people and brands are shallower and more fleeting than in the past. Brand loyalty is tenuous. Brand LOVE is rare. Brands that are thriving in today’s marketplace connect with people in more human ways than legacy brands have in the past.

How can brands better connect with their customers? Neil discovered that what a brand could do depended on its category. Some categories, like sporting or alcohol brands engender high, positive emotional engagement. People are likely to feel less-connected/neutral to negative with other categories; e.g. financial services.

A new brand in a category where people are less connected may benefit by projecting more human-centric content in its marketing communications. Hey Human relies on behavioral sciences and neuroscience to identify ways to reinforce connections with people, and develop more connective content.

Neil presented “Advertising Detox: How to Reduce Cognitive Load” at the 2019 South by Southwest Conference in Austin, TX, where he and Hey Human’s neuroscience consultant, Aoife McGuinness, utilized brain monitoring equipment to “demonstrate the cognitive effects of different forms of advertising.” His company applies this knowledge with its clients, with the goal of “creating effective content that stimulates rather than drains [potential customer’s] brains.”

He feels strongly that companies need to recognize their key brand assets. Even though most people know that a logo is not the same thing as a brand, they often shortcut their thinking to that conclusion. The proof of that statement comes in those cases where a marketing communication is shown to be more effective without the company’s logo.

Hey Human won the Drum Agency 2018 Business Transformation Award and was a finalist for the Thought Leadership Award. The Business Transformation award recognizes Hey Human’s application of new ways of thinking and working to unlock growth for the agency and its clients. Their byline: “We grow Human Brands through changing behaviours” sums up their approach to working with clients.

Neil can be reached on Twitter and LinkedIn, through his company’s website at: or by email at:

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To Survive . . . ADAPT!

Joseph Jaffe, Admiral and Co-Founder of the HMS Beagle, a small consulting boutique agency, opens this interview with the story of how the HMS Beagle, the British ship that 200 years ago, carried Darwin to the Galapagos Islands, a voyage that inspired Darwin’s theories of evolution and the survival of species.

He then explains how the amazing pace of change in today’s business environment forces all businesses, from small startups to “large, lethargic legacy corporations,” to be in the “survival business.” Small businesses understand their vulnerability. Large institutions don’t. Joseph believes, if the government does not break up large corporations like Amazon and Google, the organizations will, ultimately, break themselves.

So, what is the fast track to survival?

Adaptability to change.

For today’s agencies, this means keeping a small, strong core of talent; creating a highly branded, scalable, expandable, cut-and-paste-able structure; and contracting with “armies of partners from mercenaries, freelancers, boutiques.” Joseph does not believe in “long contracts.” He feels effective change can result from a no longer that a three month “workshop” engagement, followed by small scale advisory interventions.

Joseph spoke at the 2019 South by Southwest conference on: “Built to Suck: The Inevitable Demise of the Corporation . . . and How to Save It?” He’s also the author of a book by the same name.

Joseph believes that corporations, by their very nature, suck and that the very things that helped large companies grow will bring them down:

  • Size: The size, scalability, economies and efficiencies of scale, and cost-cutting ultimately creates a strangling overhead of politicization, dysfunctionality, siloization, risk-aversion, and conservatism. The world is speeding up. Big corporations, dragging anchor, are slowing down.
  • Age: Companies that started before 1980 are less likely to last . . . the baggage of legacy is not always a good thing.
  • Public Ownership: Being a public company is the kiss of death.
  • Culture: The cultures in big corporations don’t reward failure and the ability to change.

Joseph foresees massive cultural disruptions as technological advances change our priorities and what we value. He predicts that the substantial shift from tangible to intangible, from commodities to services, will result in the cataclysmic collapse of the real estate market. He believes companies need to change their focus from “courting strangers (first time buyers) and prostitutes (a customer who arbitrarily switches brands) to strengthening loyalty and community with their established customers.

On his “Built to Suck” website, Jeff offers a free-to-download Survival Planning Canvas, a template that underpins the HMS Beagle process.

Joseph can be reached on his company’s website at: or at his email at:

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Tweet This! Experience Marketing—When B to B is B to C

Three years ago, Patrick Walldén sold of the majority of his 165 employee agency to a real estate billionaire looking to diversify his portfolio. Arena group was formed when Patrick created Engage, a new lead agency, and combined it with leftovers from his previous company: Kobama, a digital production agency; and Parapix, a film company. Engage works on building engagement within companies . . . and between companies and their customers . . . .to build brand loyalty. Patrick describes Arena as “where brands meet target groups and interact with them in some positive way.”

Rob met up with Patrick at the 2019 South by Southwest Conference in Austin, TX. The two discussed some of the differences and similarities between marketing in Scandinavia and in the USA—the most notable difference being the difference in market size. Arena does work with some large clients. Patrick describes Arena as an activation and communication agency which provides experiential marketing content and event marketing – theater blended with brands and events. A lot of what Arena delivers is product-based.

When Scandinavian Airlines faced constant pressure from discount airlines, Arena helped them establish House of Scandinavia, a physical and digital “bonding platform” where Scandinavian Airlines’ frequent flyers can interact with the company. The focus is on “all things Scandinavian” – food, innovation, and such trademark Scandinavian values as equality and diversity.

Arena creates big brand pavilions for such companies as Volvo and Ericsson in telecommunications. Before social media, it was difficult to get an ROI on huge event marketing platforms. Patrick believes that Social media spin provides the leverage that now makes these big events profitable.

Originally, people thought social media and digitalization would eliminate the need for physical interaction. Au contraire, Patrick claims. Social media actually drives the need to meet more in real life.

No longer are the high-priced marketing experiences targeted to VIPs. Social media has exploded the number stakeholders or influencers that can leverage this type of marketing campaign. So, business to business marketing is becoming more “personal,” – much of it is becoming business to individual or business to person.

How does Arena measure campaign impact? Patrick emphasizes the importance of setting clear targets from the beginning, knowing what you are trying to achieve, and knowing what you could lose. You not only need to know what you need to measure . . . but how you will measure it. If you don’t think it through from the beginning, you may be forced into “faking it” by clever post-campaign KPI placement.

Patrick has found the huge explosion of skilled gig freelancers in the past 10 years has greatly reduced the need for having a large permanent staff . . . agencies can now expand quickly to meet the demands of a large project . . . and easily reduce staff when the project is complete. He feels flexibility and the ability to quickly adapt will become increasingly essential for agency survival.

Patrick can be reached on his company’website at: or by email at

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Compassionate Capitalism

Michael Skolnik, co-founder of Soze Agency, a social impact agency selling compassion, equity, and authenticity, believes that, if his company is going to build creative campaigns about these values, then the company itself has to operate internally according to these values. How is that implemented?

Soze Agency is a worker-owned cooperative. Vacation time is unlimited. What? How does that work?

Soze employees are deeply vested in the success of the company . . . because, to varying degrees, they own it. Michael gave 62% of the company to his workers in the first 3 years and divests himself of 8% more of his ownership every year. In 7 years, he will be out. It is, he says, “an experiment in compassionate capitalism,” a model he would like to see in many more companies. He wants to see everyone win . . . and believes this is one way to make it possible. Employees at Soze don’t take unlimited vacations because they know the company they own and the bonuses they receive depend on their being there and doing the work.

Michael started his career and attended his first South by Southwest conference as a filmmaker, which is a medium for storytelling. Today, his company is rooted in storytelling. At South by Southwest’s March 2019 conference, he participated in a panel, “Moments, Momentum, Movement,” which addressed how cultural “moments become movements, what’s happening now in America and where we are, the work that we do and how that correlates to this temperature rise in the heat of this country, and how we hold onto that for the long term.”

Michael feels this country is in a “tough spot,” uncertain about where it is going and what it wants to become. In the marketing world, this is reflected in brands’ insecurity about how to interact with their customers in critical “moments.” Younger people, in particular, are demanding that companies respond. Michael emphasizes the importance of authentic and relevant communication.

Michael can be reached on his company’s website at:, on Twitter at: @WeAreSoze, on LinkedIn at:, or on FaceBook at:

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