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Plan Ahead (and Behind)

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Plan Ahead ( and Behind) 

It’s always a risk to see my mug on video first thing in the morning – but here are two short ones to jump start your day with messages about planning.

The first one can help you like, today.. 

This next one can help you like, forever…

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

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Platinum Question(s) Are Better

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platinum

Longer post today, but I think worth it.   Scroll worthy for sure – maybe even print worthy.  Hang in till the end but only if you want to be more successful.    

If you are in sales or marketing, you’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase the “Golden question”.  It’s usually a crafted discovery question in which the answer tells you the sales person, whether the client or prospect is “ripe” for a sale, cross sell or upsell. 

Golden questions are fine.  Many aren’t that golden however.  [Although I do remember one from a pet supply mail order company where the agent asks the inbound caller “Are you going to get little (insert pet name here) something for Christmas this year?” and if the caller says “yes” – then release the hounds ( pardon the pun) of sales pitches, cross sells and upsells now!!!  That one wasn’t bad.]

Golden questions are fine but have drawbacks.  They usually come out of no where, reek of “Here comes the sales pitch” and have no perceived immediate value to the customer or prospect that has to answer them.   Platinum questions are much better. 

Platinum questions are a term I use for questions that give you the same valuable information as a golden question but do so in such a way that does not raise sales tension or customer fatigue in the interaction. 

In more detail … Platinum questions are presumptive discovery questions that make sense to the customer or prospect. They make sense because the answers are beneficial to them and the reason they called, stopped by or visited your site.  In addition, Platinum questions give you the seller, vital information and credibility to leverage and transition from in the sales process. 

That’s a mouthful so let’s put it to real life.  Let’s say you work in a print shop that does lots of things for a small business like a wide range of print, to designing logos, to providing websites, to offering online marketing products etc etc.

In walks a customer who wants to reorder some business cards.  Perfect.  Now, you could do what you’ve always done and say “Is everything staying the same on these on these cards?” and then (unless you feel like getting rejected) you could start pitching all of your other services.

Or you could ask a Platinum question or two.

  • “You’re ordering more business cards.. Great. Since you last ordered these have you made any changes to your website, your email address or social media sites you use for the business?”

Anything the customer answers is valuable.   Even the simple “No – nothing’s changed” (which tells you a lot) to “Um…I don’t have a website yet” to “..What social media sites do you mean?” to just asking “Why do you ask?”  are awesome answers.

And the answer to “Why do you ask?” of course is the truth – you ask because you are a pro and know that many small businesses put their website address via a QR code and all their Twitter/LinkedIn/FaceBookr logos on the business cards these days (I’ve even seen them on printed checks).  So these questions make sense to the customer as to why you are asking them – these questions are in their interest to help you get this business card order done just right.   And the answers give you amazing, as good as golden information with half the pain. 

Here’s the real beauty of the question; It’s presumptive ( “…have you made any changes?”)  – it assumes the client already has a website and uses social media generously.  You ask it like you’ve been there before and that other small businesses do this all the time.  That’s brilliant on your part because you are educating and teaching at the same time.  It also tells you in an instant; (in a way that does not sales stress or fatigue the customer) whether they even have a website (or ever thought of a QR code)  and how they feel or don’t feel about online marketing (i.e. if they use social media for business that’s a good hint they may have interest in focusing more calories there).  In so many ways, you have a painless transition point to talk about other services much more easily than by just pitching and praying.

You’re not done with Platinum questions just yet in your print shop.  Let’s go for two.   

  • “Any major changes in your business since last time you ordered business cards – any new services, products or anything?”

 “Why do you ask?”

  •  “Oh, well sometimes folks want to call it out on their business cards, or even update their logos to reflect the changes”.

Ding Ding.  You get it.  You asked a presumptive question in the interest of the client’s need to get the business cards done right. Makes perfect sense.  And you learned if you have inertia to talk about a logo refresh.

Platinum questions take some crafting- so do those supposed Golden questions.  But Platinum is soooo much better.

It doesn’t matter if you sell forklifts for a living and are moving into propane delivery services or maybe you sell commercial insurance and are branching into risk and compliance consulting – when those customers call you for maintenance or to renew policies- you’ll have crafted those Platinum questions optimizing the customers current need and setting the stage for further help and sales.

It doesn’t matter if you are in customer service or technical support and have some obligation to upsell or generate leads – crafting Platinum questions works perfectly well here too.  Those discovery questions that help the client get their problem fixed well but tell you much about them and lead to great sales conversations are doable (I know, I’ve helped craft them before). 

In the end, you don’t have to do Platinum questions and can continue to do discovery the old fashioned painful way:  ‘Do you have a website?” “Ever thought of updating your logo”?  or “Who is your current propane delivery provider?” You can do that and raise sales tension, customer fatigue and get what you’ve always got right up to through your golden years.

Or, you can spend time right now by yourself or with your team – and go Platinum. 

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

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2 Videos, 3 Minutes and Grow The Business

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Two very short videos today.  One about doing something way better than the phrase “How I can help you?” and the other about the power of not always having the answer!  Take the 3 minutes and apply right away.  Business growth ahead! 

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

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Written by Mark McCarthy

November 15, 2013 at 8:40 am

Simple Remote Love

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neon clock

I have a ManCave.   Yep, I do.

It has cool signage like “Eat Bacon”, “Hydrate with Beer” and has an awesome neon clock.   It also has a classic table hockey game, a framed Jaws movie poster, a nice TV and of course, the DVD Tommy Boy (the Holy Schnieke edition). 

But what I love most about the ManCave is the TV remote control.   It’s so… simple.

I don’t have a sound system like surround sound or a sound bar in the man cave.  I have just the TV/ Cable and as such, just the one remote.

What a joy to sit back thinking of bacon and barley and when I want to turn the volume up or down—I just use the remote.  The one remote.  The simple lonely silver remote that turns on the TV, the cable, changes the stations and controls the volume.

Remote controls are by their origin, the birthplace of simple 40 years ago but as you all know, they have become anything but that (don’t tell me about the “universal remotes” out there—I’ve tried those—they don’t do it all no matter what you say).

Upstairs it takes no less than 4 remotes (TV/Cable, Sound, DVD & the TV Standard (to change Input)) to manage wasting hours and hours of your life you will never get back (upstairs is where stuff like “Bridezillas” and “Sex in the City” reruns play). 

Last night in the ManCave during the Red Sox game (Go Sox!) I turned to my wife (she is permitted into the Cave with advance notice) during a commercial break and said “Don’t you love that you only have to use one remote to do everything here?”  She about jumped off the couch and said “Like you would not believe!” She continued with “It’s so simple..I love simple..”

And that’s the lesson today.   In an effort to simplify we often create confusion, frustration and stress.  It’s great to have social media sites simple to use to keep us connected but to have like 11 of them where you need a bloody presence to get through your work or personal life day is maddening.  It’s great to have smart phones glued to your hands but the chargers, the connections, the storage, the email boxes and the updates are maddening.  It’s great to have a quadrillion websites with information, education and tutorials, testimonials, ratings, opinions and pontifications but figuring out which of these quadrillion you can trust is maddening. 

Every one of us I suspect longs for something simple that just plain “works” today.   Something you can find, something you can trust, something that is simple to use and something that doesn’t make you feel like there are 7 more things just like you I have to go check out or “I’m not doing it right”.    

If you can do for a business or consumer what my remote control in the ManCave does – you’ve got a winner. 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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Written by Mark McCarthy

October 29, 2013 at 12:34 pm

Funny Bus(y)ness

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Bumpus a.k.a. Snowball?

Bumpus a.k.a. Snowball?

Funny Bus(y)ness

It’s Friday and it has been a very busy week.  Time for something fun.  

Funny things happen when you’re really busy.   It’s true.   So here’s to this week’s funny moments (mine anyway), for they are precious levity in the crazy busy times.  Maybe a bit of levity for you too.

  • I so badly butchered the word “glorious” sending an email on my IPhone, that it autocorrected and sent as “halitosis” as in “Your daughter’s wedding must have been a halitosis day!”  The guy is only a valued partner of my company is all.
  • On Monday, there was a project kick – off meeting in the morning and then seriously, the first project meeting for that same project, was 5 hours later.
  • “Did Snowball go potty recently?” I asked my wife Tuesday night as I walked downstairs toward the back door.  Our dog’s name is Bumpus.  I don’t have, never had, and never will have an animal named Snowball or beach ball or butter ball.  And just look at him, makes no sense.
  • I watched “Bridezillas” by accident.  I don’t think I realized what was happening as I stared at theTV.    I’m feeling better now, thank you.  Though some things, once you see them, you cannot unsee them.
  • On a conference call with about 11 people Wednesday, a beep came on and the meeting owner actually said  “ I think someone else just joined the call, if you need to tell us who you are you can,  but we are gonna just keep going….’ 
  • Kellogg’s Raisin Bran for dinner Wednesday night.  Yes, it was awesome. 
  • In less than 2 hours Thursday my team created a 3 minute quality training video for hundreds of employees from concept, to design, to development, to production and delivery all with imagery, animation, voice over, and video because…..that’s what was needed. (Nothing funny here (except the timeline!) – (Shout out to simply the best L&D team in the history of the world!)

That’s my week (so far).  I think it would be awesome if you share some of your signs of a busy week – that would be fun today. 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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Written by Mark McCarthy

October 11, 2013 at 8:39 am

Lucky For Us

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Man silhouette2

Lucky For Us

I’ve only known him for about 10 years.

But I know today, a whole bunch of people are about to get lucky.

He’s worked on things he can’t talk about with his family that protect you, me and this country.  He’s worked on things we take for granted.  He was there at the beginning when we first started bouncing signals off satellites to tell us where the heck we are in the world.  Most of us can’t get to the next town today without frankly, him and the team back then.  He’s not stopping being smart.  More of us will get the chance to be a little bit smarter now.

He worked is butt off.  For his family I suspect mostly.  But for himself I think as well. There’s a cause that drives him or there’s a code, I’m not sure, but it doesn’t really matter – he needed to do.  There were too many hours on the job I heard, too many moves across the country for work but there really never was a choice for him.  Work is hard.  Work is rewarding.  Work provides. There’s no ‘feet up” for this man.   He’s not stopping working hard.  More of us will benefit from wherever he decides to work hard.   

I’ve heard the stories from my wife about how Dad and Mom would dress like a “king and queen” for the occasional Military Balls and how glorious that was.  Must have been a sight for those 5 young kids – as far as they knew they lived in a castle with Mom and Dad back then and sleeping all in the same bedroom was awesome.  He’s not stopping being a veteran or sacrificing.  More of us will get to see and emulate him.  

Selfless is a word that gets tossed around too much and smacks of hyperbole but I can’t help it here.  Life happens big and small and he’s just… there.  Most of us marvel at what he does after work and on weekends and think – could we ever, would we ever, is it possible for us to be so generous in time, support and advice for others?  It’s genuine.  If you let it slip you happen to be out of something it often magically appears that afternoon at your front door. When the bigger needs arise he’ll drive, fly or call you and listen.  And then without so much as a few words, he’ll just plain help. He’s not stopping being selfless.  More of us will feel that kind of generosity now.   

Like I said, I’ve known him for only about 10 years.  But I’m just one of 4 sons- in- law so what the hell do I know.   I’ve never lived in his home or worked with him every day but I’ve sat and talked and listened and watched.    He and his wife raised four girls (I got to marry one of them) and a son.  These lessons aren’t lost on the children, the grandchildren, the neighbors, his colleagues or the community.  None of that is stopping.  It’s not in him to stop.  More of us will get to learn now. 

**

As this post publishes today, no doubt Poppi is driving into the office for this, his very last day of work.  And when this day is over and he gets in his car and heads home on 495 perhaps a bit anxious or apprehensive, he needn’t worry.  Things won’t really change that much.  He’s not stopping being smart, working hard, sacrificing or being selfless.  Nope, not for a second.  Best I can tell, that’s who he is. 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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Written by Mark McCarthy

September 30, 2013 at 7:34 am

4 Minutes with Little Miss Dangling Arms

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next window please

4 Minutes With Little Miss Dangling Arms

I  am not one of those people.  I write about great service, not bad service.  If I write about bad service it’s usually about how we the consumers aren’t as saintly as we like to believe we are.

But then Monday happened.  4 minutes of shock and awe(ful)

It was so bad it was almost funny.  It was actually funny.  Like out of a movie funny.

I’m not sure of the lesson here today.  Maybe it’s to say that even in a highly competitive market with technology alternatives ( and really, isnt that true for all of us? ) that service like this still exists or maybe it’s just to prove the old adage that you will indeed tell 10 people ( or um..a bit more if you have blog :)) if really bad service happens to you.  Not sure, but here goes.

Monday 11:41 am.

I had to go to this unnamed place.  You’re familiar with it I suspect.  It is a place where you can get a package to someone who needs it.  And boy,  was that ever true.   My 16 year son who lives with his Mom during the week 80 miles away, left his Galaxy S4 Smartphone on my kitchen counter Sunday as we were leaving.  For my son ( and for many of his ilk), that’s like leaving your severed limb in the wood chipper and knowing that in mere hours, certain death will ensue.  

“Hi, I need to make sure I get this package to my son tomorrow, I’m not sure the best way to do it.”

 “Where does it need to go?” she said.

 I gave her the town name. 

“Do you have the zip code?” she said.

“No, I’m sorry – I don’t remember it.”  I replied.

She stared at me.  Slight smile.  Arms relaxed by her side.  She stared at me some more. 

Awkward.  Really awkward I thought.  I concentrated and gave her a zip code that came to mind.  She typed it in.  “Nope,  that’s not it.” 

She stared at me.  Those arms dangling by her side.  Dangling by her side.

Finally I said “Do you want me to look it up?” I asked, as I reached for my IPhone.  I didn’t know what else to do.

She just smiled.

I googled it.  It took 2 sites and 5 clicks to finally get the zip code and I gave it to her.   And yes, as I googled it,  the shocking irony occurred to me.  I am standing in a place where the Zip Code must be King, where The Zip Code is probably an Ebook with a 5 part ethics pledge employees must swear to and where TV shows like 90210 run continuously in the break room.   And I can’t get a bloody zip code from anyone but me. 

And it wasn’t over. 

“Just fill the out the To and From addresses right here on this and it will be $16 dollars. ” she said.

“And when you are done with that,  Ann can help you.” she added. 

Ann?  Who’s Ann?  I thought.   I looked up from writing and then past Little Miss Dangling Arms and saw no one.

Before I could figure out who Ann was,  Ms. Arms slid forward a big plastic sign under my nose that said “Next Window Please”.

I looked left and saw who must have been Ann at that next window with 2 customers in her line. I returned my gaze to my now staff-less service desk and realized my 4 minute transaction would be much more than that as I was about to be getting back in line to Ann.

Heading back to my car after finally getting my son’s smartphone shipped off in an ice packed cooler, I realized the effort Little Miss Dangling Arms took to overtly not help me and make darn sure no one and nothing was getting in the way of her 11:45 am break.  Wow.

Now you know one of the all time lows in customer service.  Not sure how that helps but I think now I know why I wrote it -  I feel better having told um,  let’s call it 10 people. 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

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Written by Mark McCarthy

September 26, 2013 at 8:06 am

Got Training Request? Do These 3 Things First

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Training

Got Training Request? Do These 3 Things First

You are a Learning Professional and your client comes to you to request some training for her team.

Hallelujah, it’s good to be wanted.  But don’t blow it OK?  Training these days is vital – leaders need it, employees demand it and customers are begging for it. 

Here’s a little help – do these things first.

  • Promise Nothing:   Listen instead.  Ask a lot of questions.  Then say, “OK – let me give this a little thought ( or set up a little more time with you to  learn more) and I’ll get be able to figure out what I (we) can do.” An instant “Yes, sure I can do that”( or “no, I can’t”) gets you nothing but a snapshot of you not giving much thought or care to your craft or profession.  Training is complex ( and ever more so today), treat the request and the requestor preciously – for they are.  When you walk away to think,  (however briefly) about the request you show respect for the effort. 
  • Make Sure It Drives Revenue First.  Revenue is good.  Revenue is sexy.  There’s the old adage that says ” Take care of top line revenue and the rest will take of itself”.  A training request that drives revenue is awesome.  Help your requester and your company see it that way.  There’s nothing wrong with training that drives cost efficiencies or productivity improvements except that those terms are just not as fun to toss around the classroom or the boardroom.  Those efforts drive operating income and influence overall revenue and profit performance -so either way revenue is your lead story.  The “Training Drives Revenue” mantra is key for you and the business.  It influences all to create and deliver training with that in mind as well as coach and measure the impact of that investment.   Training to “teach people to use salesforce.com” is boring ( for the business, for you and for them!).  Training to “improve revenue with salesforce.com” is much better.  My Training team has a belief and mantra you can steal shamelessly:  We are ” A Sales Channel That Happens to Do Training.”  We say it because we believe Training should always drive revenue.  And,  it does. 
  •  Proclaim “One and Done is One and Dumb!” 8 times out of 10,  solely relying on “Event Training” is a waste of time.  Get a request, design and develop the content and deliver in a 2 hour classroom training for example, and then you and the Training department disappear.  That rarely works.  Ensure that in the earliest conversations with the person requesting training ( I’d suggest the very first conversation) include that the most effective training often has “beyond event” attributes.  These could range from an advance training for coaches, to on demand learning module sent to learners after the event training to reinforce the learning, to weekly role plays, engagements in social media, video creation or any other way to continuously educate over a period of time. Training needs to stick.  Effective Training likely needs support before and after any “event’ for it to work well.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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Written by Mark McCarthy

September 24, 2013 at 9:00 am

Tangibly Speaking

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Blue Sun

Tangibly Speaking

How timely. 

The Cool factor for this ad? A 10.  And psychologically smart too. 

Kudos to the Blue Sun.  

As it happens, later today I’m presenting six effective ways to teach and coach to selling products and services that are less tangible than others.  The audience is a group of motivated sales leaders.  One of those six ways was one I didn’t expect to see in seat 19B yesterday.

As my flight was descending into Minneapolis yesterday afternoon, I was forced to shut down (ok – hide) all electronics –so I picked up the Sky Magazine to read.  I flipped through the ads for the best plastic surgeon(s?) in the world and the many lunch dating services (I would definitely need the former before I could take advantage of the latter – and um..of course, er.. not be married.), but then I fell upon on page 58.  Oh Joy! 

Here it was!  An “in print” example of working around what many sales and service people face who try and create interest in, or sell, intangible products – It was a wonderful means to get people to actually just “try it”!

The TechnoMarine ad copy says “Lift here to experience Blue Sun on your wrist”.   And there gloriously lay, a perforated cut out you could lift out and place on your wrist.   

I know what the makers of Blue Sun are thinking- that it’s one thing to read about the watch and see nice pictures but to “see” the watch on your wrist? – now, that is something.

I know a “watch” is not intangible or abstract like my training focus later today but TechnoMarine knows that selling a watch in a magazine is for all intents and purposes an “abstract” timepiece trapped in a two dimensional pixilated prison.  And what I know about selling abstract products and services also applies here in that you have to often  “try it” or “experience it” before you make a decision or even move the sales process forward. 

Pretend you are selling a financial management dashboard or a social media business portal – you have to get your clients hands on the keyboard and immersed in her screen and that dashboard a bit first –like the ubiquitous test drive.  It’s akin to having that faux paper watch wrapped around your wrist to see how it fits

What I love about the watch ad is how quickly you can experience it. Boom!  Lift it and wrap it around your wrist.  Easy Peasy.  And there is a QR code on the back and you can learn more about it.  The Blue Sun ad is like the steroid version of the “scratch and sniff” print ads.- one swipe and you’ve got the experience – but in this case you can really wear it. 

The broader point is simple too.   “Try it” opportunities that allow you to test drive products – even when those products aren’t super abstract or intangible like a watch or a new car, (pardon the pun) are key.  They always were and they always are.   In the crazy world today where we have less and less time to get our prospects attention – it’s important especially when your product or service is not crystal clear immediately, to create those opportunities when a client can “wear” it.  

Keep creating those free trial apps, the Freemiums, the virtual realities and the test drives for abstract and intangible products and services.  And if you ever get a chance to put a perforated cut out of your product in an airline magazine – do that too. 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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Written by Mark McCarthy

September 17, 2013 at 7:56 am

Got Smarter Customers? No Problem

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internet

Got Smarter Customers? No Problem

If you’re in sales or marketing – over the last few years you’ve heard loud and clear some version of the phrase -

“Buyers now are now as much as 70% farther into the sales process by the time they contact a vendor because they can learn so much about your product and service online”

I don’t disagree.

But I also don’t give a hoot.  Neither should you.  

Instead of lamenting this truth – sales people need to adapt and do things differently.  Complaining that every lead you get “just wants pricing” or “already knows exactly what they want” is a sure sign things need to change.  Most important however is realizing that sales people getting involved early (and sometimes way early) in a sales process lessens the likelihood that your product or service is perceived as just another commodity.  People influence.  People persuade.  People add value. 

Here’s what you can do.

  • Your customers have better tools to help you now.  Bring back the focus on asking for, (and if you are a company) – rewarding, referrals. This gets you in the lead gen game before the lead “genee” even knows he or she is playing in the most powerful of ways.  And don’t lead gen for “someone interested in the service” but rather someone who “wants to know more”—Education first is a real step in the selling game.  Referrals have been afterthoughts and underinvested in for years. The customers now have easier ways via social media to brag about you and feed you referrals. Leverage that.

 

  • Remember that the successful people and companies rarely are the “one trick pony” types and have rather a suite of upgrades, products and services to cross sell into.  Real selling there begins after the sale.  Who better to teach (and to be the source of education like that darn internet!)  a new client than a sales person in say, those first 60 days? You should have as many touch points after the sale as you did pre-sale and in the inverse frequency. 

 

  •  Sales people need to be more like marketers. They need to be comfortable not just living and dying responding to a lead (where the prospect may already be down the path 70% of the way) but if they can, they should be entertaining (and educating) prospects with videos on their YouTube channel, conducting webinars, guest blogging, guest speaking at any and all trade shows or events they can either as an SME for your company or for yourself if you are independent.   It’s OK if a buyer is looking for information online, to bump into you out there.

 

  • Sales people need to “out-teach” the internet.  Sales people need to litter their inbound conversations, outbound conversations, email contacts, their LinkedIn pages, their Twitter feeds, Facebook Posts and more with compelling content that “creates needs”  ( and leads) not just “solves needs” (where it may be too late to be found) .  Buyers are looking for information from credible (and that’s key) resources.  Be one of those.    

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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Written by Mark McCarthy

September 11, 2013 at 9:47 am

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