How putting employees first boosts your brand

If a company treats its employees well, what does that say about a brand?

Recent studies show that consumers are more likely to purchase from brands if employees are treated well. Further, they may even be willing to pay more and recommend the company’s products or services to friends. Should a business aim to bolster its brand through better worker policies and practices? If you’ve ever experienced the challenges of recruiting and retaining great people at your organization, a better question might be: can you really afford not to?

A study conducted in 2016 with Cone Communications  intereviewed 1,000 adults uncovering some compelling data on what motivates employees, and it’s not just about financial gain. About 85% were looking at making a meaningful difference through their career. About 76% were looking for meaningful personal experiences, such as meeting new people and exploring new places. Breaking down the survey data looking at the Millennial segment responses, a full 79% consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work. They are also more likely to be loyal when they feel they can make a positive impact on issues at work.

79% of Millennials consider social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work Click To Tweet

When a brand takes a stand and is not shy to share its environmental and social commitments, this goes a long way toward attracting and retaining great employees. It attracts consumers and influences their purchases. A study on global corporate responsibility showed that 84% percent of consumers consider a company’s social commitments, including employee treatment, before deciding what to buy or where to shop, and 82 percent consider them when it comes to which products and services to recommend to friends.

Leading Brands: B Corporation examples

To find examples of how leading brands put employees first, I looked at certified BCorps, a network of over 2,000 companies that aim to use business as a force for good. Assessed by a third party, these companies are ranked on their policies and actions related to governance, workers, community and the environment.

Beau’s All Natural Brewing, based just outside of Ottawa, has had incredible year-over-year growth since its inception in 2006. At its 10-year anniversary, the company announced that it would sell the brewery to its employees, shifting to 100% employee ownership. The company decided that keeping the operation independent and Canadian owned was important and it wanted employees to have a shared responsibility in the company’s future and plans for expansion across Canada.

Fairware provides promotional products to North America’s leading change makers. Every product meets the company’s strict environmental and social standards while manufacturers are held to a code of conduct. Fairware’s 12-person team is based in Vancouver and 100% of its employees are paid living wage. It also covers 80% of individual and family health insurance premiums. The company culture reflects its commitment to community and the environment. At its a bike-friendly office in a 100-year old building, the team hosts monthly collective lunches and happy hour with some of the local breweries around the corner in East Vancouver.

Outdoor retailer Patagonia was a pioneer in on-site childcare, being one of the first companies in California to offer it. It extends health care benefits to part-time, retail, and warehouse staff with 80% coverage of health insurance premiums for full-time workers. About 50% of full time employees participate in external professional development, an important incentive that encourages loyalty.

There is a strong business case for investing in your employees and going beyond the bare minimum mandated in our national and provincial employment laws. To build a respected and trusted brand that people love, you need to look within and ensure your employees respect and trust your organization.

Whistler Open Forum Event February 1

Learn more about how putting employees first boosts your brand at the February 1 Whistler Open Forum. Here’s what we’ll cover in this evening session:

  • Clarify how your brand is a reflection of your employees along with the benefits of building synergy between them.
  • How a ‘living wage’ impacts our local communities and why it is considered one of the best local economic development strategies businesses can implement.
  • Ideas on best practices for small and medium sized businesses that you can use to optimize your recruitment and training dollars for an effective retention strategy.

Don’t miss out on the chance to build a stronger brand. Register today.

Open Forum Event

REGISTER FOR THE WHISTLER OPEN FORUM

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PR may be dead, but it’s taking on a new life

Is THE PRACTICE OF Public Relations really A done Deal?

Guest blogger Sandra Nomoto of Vancouver-based Conscious PR weighs in…

In the last few years, people have been saying that the Public Relations practice is dying. In fact, Robert Phillips, author of Trust Me, PR is Dead, declared the practice “dead” after a career spanning 23 years, eight of them working as a President for the largest PR firm in the world, Edelman.

After I put off reading the book for a year, I finally took the plunge and was surprised to find myself agreeing with most points in the book. But before I go into all that, we should define what PR is and how it relates to Marketing.

#PR is the management of #relationships between a company and its public, through #communications,… Click To Tweet

PR AS THE NEW MARKETING

I have been saying for years that instead of PR dying, it’s become the “new Marketing.” With the exception of direct mail and sales promotions, every Marketing Communications touchpoint can now serve public interest and involve a customer responding directly to a company’s call to action.

Marketing teams can no longer just think about push campaigns, but rather what’s going to engage their audiences the most. When I participate in PR chats on Twitter, I’m surprised to see that peoples’ examples of “Best PR campaigns” are simply advertising campaigns that have a good message. Not necessarily PR, but Marketing campaigns integrating PR tactics into them. Many marketing practices are now blended together.

PR AS PART OF CSR

Now, onto the Corporate Social Responsibility part of my premise. In Trust Me, PR is Dead, Phillips iterates that PR will be replaced by open, honest, and explicit relationships between a company and its customers, a sort of “citizen capitalism” relationship. Leaders will earn trust through honesty, transparency, and accountability, and businesses will only be able to achieve success through social responsibility, becoming a “social movement corporation.”

@citizenrobert: Business can and should be an agent, a catalyst for societal change. – Trust… Click To Tweet

A big part of PR is the concept of Internal Relations and how employees engage with each other and the outside world. In the era of transparency and workers wanting more than just a place to earn a paycheque, what goes on inside a company is becoming just as important as the stories they share externally with their target customer. Enter CSR.

Last month, I presented on the concepts of CSR and Public and Media Relations, and my research on CSR reaffirmed what I’d read in Phillips’ book. Companies must not only have CSR policies or programs, they need to implement these through engaged employees. Otherwise the CSR plan is just a document, and disengaged employees could potentially breed bad stories for media (think Glass Door ratings).

In PR strategist and author James Hoggan’s latest book, I’m Right, You’re An Idiot, he talks about his observations and insights following his 30+ year PR career. Like Phillips, he argues that in this age of excessive messaging and ego, we should get back to basics and learn how to connect, engage with, and genuinely care for each other in order to practice good business and move the world forward.

This idea of human love before PR is pretty wild, but also foundational. Companies that have genuinely integrated CSR and take care of their workers will have employees that become ambassadors for their companies. Authentic stories are then amplified through the employee network. Related story

RE-LEARNING HOW TO FORM RELATIONSHIPS

Today, instead of clients asking us to help them with social media, they manage their channels in house, understanding that their own voice is the best one to represent their brand.

The Media Relations aspect of PR still remains a mystery to businesses.  I find that companies are aware that it takes relationships with media in order to get good story placement, and this is a big part of our client service. Unlike other companies: we don’t use news releases. We target messages to each person, make phone calls, and use Twitter or whichever means of communication they prefer.

Even if PR tasks get swallowed by other departments within companies, media relations is one of those practices that you just can’t just manage off the side of your desk or assign to an intern. It’s so much more than having a media list; it’s being able to pick up the phone and have a real conversation with a media person. Not leaving a message on voice mail. Relationships, baby.

While it’s easy to say that PR is already dead, without good relationships – the basis of good communication – it will be very hard to change the status quo and create a world where all will prosper.

Trust is forever fragile and attempts at control futile. Robert Philips #transparency… Click To Tweet

If building relationships with media interests you, register for Conscious Public Relations’ Be Your Own PR Star in 90 Days online course and use the code SEEDS10 for 10% off.

A fellow B Corporation, Conscious Public Relations Inc.’s mission is to positively change what we see in the media and online by passionately embodying Positive Relations in all aspects of our work and lives.

If you’d like to learn more about James Hoggan’s approach to PR, join Diana from Seeds Consulting at the Whistler Chamber’s Power Lunch on October 27.

http://optoutside.rei.com

Build Authentic Holiday Experiences

How to live your brand this holiday season

On the busiest day in the American retail calendar, over a million of REI’s most loyal brand advocates are choosing to #optoutside and play in the outdoors instead of shopping on Black Friday. The outdoor retailer has closed every one of its 143 stores on Friday, so that the co-op’s employees can have a paid day off to head outside. This move may cost them millions in lost revenue for the short term, but members will take notice that it put purpose before profit, and that will really resonate with REI’s core customer. While tweaking seasonal campaigns to grab a piece of the holiday spirit, how about adding a dash of your brand’s authentic purpose and personality? What will make the giving season a little warmer and fuzzier, while creating a buzz with your target audience?

Share Authentic Stories

When people put conscious thought into their gift giving, they love to share stories. Does your company have products that are Fair Trade, made by women-owned co-ops or produced by a local artisan? Is there a deep green angle or tree-saving feature to your product line? Selling a special-edition or seasonal item that is locally made? When your company takes time to carefully source products with meaning, make it easy for customers to help tell the story. Think of using point of purchase displays, stickers, holiday packaging, gift receipts, bag inserts, online pop-ups or images on social media to share this unique information. The story behind the gift will also be appreciated by the lucky person getting the present!

Create Community

Imagine the dreaded weekend run to the big box store to get that last item on your list… Is that how you would want to spend your precious holiday time? Instead, think of ways to build a community haven that is a festive, fun and efficient experience for your customers. Partner with the corner grocery store to serve healthy treats at the cash, serve hot cups of tea on the blustery days, invite a local musician to play in store. Online and through social media channels: ask your community to share photos of their special moments over the holiday season. Invite customers to comment and share their ideas of how to create calm through the holidays. Commit to surprising and delighting all customers to create a memorable and easy shopping experience.

Reduce Waste

The holidays create a mountain of waste from excessive packaging and gift wrapping. If your organization tries to tread lightly with a small footprint, make it easy for your customers to do the same. Ask vendors to send holiday shipments in reusable boxes and crates – chances are, it won’t be stored for long! Find packaging that does double-duty and does not need to be pitched. Share creative ways to wrap and reuse gifts, and ask customers for their crafty ideas. Could scraps and remnants be upcycled as one-of-a-kind gift tags or ornaments? Offer a discount to customers who don’t need a bag for their purchase. Invite customers to invest in special-edition packaging that becomes a keepsake for the lucky recipient.

Spread the Love

Already giving back through employee volunteerism or corporate donations? Why not invite customers to join in? Create a feature offer where a dollar amount for each purchase is donated to the charity of choice. Take it a step further by welcoming the charity to set up a retail or online store display. Cross-promote the charity on social channels to build awareness. Encourage partners and vendors to join staff on their volunteer days at the food bank or the toy drive. Build relationships between employees, customers, vendors and charities to spread the giving far and wide.

Acknowledge Employees

While everyone works hard to serve customers during the busiest time of year, don’t forget the employees who make it all happen. Promote staff picks for seasonal merchandise to help customers choose the right gift. Empower employees to make spot decisions and keep client satisfaction a top priority. Find ways to publicly acknowledge these rock stars who go above and beyond to keep things together and keep a stash of small rewards on hand for spontaneous thank you’s. A happy front line always means better service and satisfaction for customers while an efficient back office will make everyone else look good.

The holiday season is a great time to let customers get to know your organization, its purpose and values. It is also a golden opportunity to reach new customers and deepen customer relationships. Don’t forget… these customers may come to you to find something unique to give to the special people in their lives. The impact will be exponentially larger if it’s an authentic and memorable experience.

Seeds Consulting has designed marketing and communications strategies for some of Canada’s best known brands, including that fast-growing retailer that’s now a $7 billion dollar global brand. Contact us today to know more about our approach and our track record.

Image: http://optoutside.rei.com Photo © 2015, VisitTheUSA.com

B SCHOOL FOR SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURS

Creating impact beyond the bottom line

Social EntrepreneurshipA growing number of entrepreneurs are starting ventures designed to create a positive social impact. They are looking for authentic ways for their businesses to become the best for the world, not just the best in the world. These are for-profit enterprises that solve some of the world’s most challenging problems, often with a relatively simple solution. It’s a movement that’s worth watching in your own community and across the world.

In British Columbia’s Sea to Sky corridor, the Social Venture Challenge is an opportunity for social entrepreneurs to encourage, support and grow new social ventures in the region. After submitting a one-page application, shortlisted entrepreneurs learned how to flush out business ideas, were mentored from experts in their field and were coached how to pitch their venture idea.

Around the world, businesses are not only looking for bottom line financial success, but bigger picture impact. A study at the recent New Metrics Conference hosted by Sustainable Brands revealed six types of capital that can drive the success (or failure) of a business: Financial, Physical, Social, Intellectual, Human and Natural. If any one of these areas is weak (e.g. high turnover at a company that does not invest in its human capital), the whole enterprise can suffer.

Big banks, investors and global brands are also paying attention to the social venture movement. Speaking at the World Economic Forum this year, Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, stated that

“Social entrepreneurs are role models, not only for young entrepreneurs, but, more importantly, for businesses like us. We can’t address in our business model many important societal issues if we don’t link up firmly with the creativity and passion and purpose-driven models of social entrepreneurs.”

More and more, we’re seeing that a company’s higher purpose is what gets people fired up to become loyal advocates for certain brands. This is evident not only for core customers, but a growing workforce that is looking for more than a paycheque. Research conducted by the Cone Millennial Cause group showed that 80% of young workers want to work for a company that cares about how it impacts and contributes to society. They also are willing to take less compensation in exchange for greater meaning in their work.

young workers willing to take less compensation in exchange for greater meaning in their work Click To Tweet

But passion and purpose are just some of the many elements that make up a successful venture. As a judge at a recent ‘Angel Den’ for the Social Venture Challenge in Whistler, I was able to help the cohort test their plan and perfect their pitch. Their enthusiasm makes it easy to love these ideas, but the business fundamentals surrounding the value proposition, revenue model and marketing approach are all essential to build a sound foundation and platform for a successful launch.

Their big event, the final pitch in the challenge, is coming up September 30 in Whistler. It’s being organized as a fun, fast-paced Dragons’ Den style event where participants in The Social Venture Challenge will pitch their burgeoning business ideas. Judges will be awarding the winning social venture with $3,000 start up cash, courtesy of Squamish Savings. Learn more at www.whistlercentre.ca

The entrepreneur’s journey is never an easy one. Embedding a social or environmental problem in the business model is even more challenging. Being able to tell the story of that journey and how the business can make a difference in the world is often the best way to market the brand and build your tribe. Need some help packaging that story to share with the world? Contact us to get started. We love working with purpose-driven brands that are ready to build a movement.

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How to Act on Marketing Lessons Learned from a European Vacation

GOT THE POST-VACATION BLUES? THOSE FRESH IDEAS NEED ACTION.

Some down time along with change in scenery is a fabulous way to recharge and get the creative juices flowing. As a business owner or marketer on vacation, do you look for those trends, unique ideas and experiences that might cross over to your market? Have you taken some of these ideas and put them into practice? After a spring vacation in Europe, here are some ideas and lessons learned, fresh perspective that can only come from some time away from it all.

IDEA: PULL, DON’T PUSH YOUR TARGET CUSTOMER.

Service standards are quite different in European restaurants. They often pride themselves on exceptionally professional service that isn’t pushy or invasive. They keep a low profile but just seem to show up at the right time to let you know they are there to serve.

Lesson learned: Thoughtful, timely customer service is appreciated. Having a professional approach to each customer interaction goes a long way to creating a memorable experience. In the marketing world, this approach could be effectively delivered with the help of marketing automation tools that are strategically timed at different phases to move prospects into action.

IDEA: GO LOCAL. THIS TREND IS NOT GOING AWAY; IT’S ONLY GETTING STRONGER.

Wherever we went, our hosts were proud to feature local ingredients, give the insider’s scoop or make a special connection that took our vacation to the next level. They understand the importance of sharing their insider’s tips and they took care to highlight unique aspects of the region to give visitors plenty of experiences and reasons to return.

Lessons: What aspects of your product or service are home grown or only found in a specific place in the world? Can this cachet can be inserted into the brand story? If you do partner with makers from abroad, have you shared insight on why you chose to work with them and how you work together to deliver a one-of-a-kind product?

IDEA: ADD LITTLE TOUCHES THAT COMPLEMENT THE FEATURE PRODUCT OR SERVICE YOU’RE SELLING.

At the nicer restaurants, glasses of house-made limoncello and honey grappa appeared at our table after a big meal. These little shots of deliciousness also helped us digest and fondly remember the tasty nuances of the local cuisine.

Lessons: Being generous goes a long way. To help word-of-mouth promotion or customer loyalty, are there any small extras that might surprise & delight your customers? Without straying away from the core of your brand, where could you add a little touch to say thank you? A recent purchase I made for a photo album came with a pretty card from Artifact Uprising to express their gratitude and remind me of their satisfaction guarantee: a brand extension that strengthens their promise.

IDEA: SLOW DOWN TO ENJOY THE MOMENT.

Cobblestones and pedestrian-only streets forced us to chill, take in the ambiance and enjoy the scenery just a little bit longer. Meals were was savoured since servers bring courses at the right moment and never offer the bill unless the customer asks for it. Before making a purchase, we mulled things over and enjoyed the friendly, no pressure service.

Lessons: Don’t rush the sales cycle or customer service delivery unnecessarily. For many products and services, business owners underestimate the cost and time for the customer acquisition process. When customers have a chance to figure out their wants and needs or make a few comparisons, they’ll be more satisfied with their purchase. If a business is consistent with customer service and follow up, this will help to build a more loyal following and vocal brand advocates.

IDEA: PRIDE IN CUSTOMER SERVICE.

Boutique hotels and apartments were spotless, decor was authentic, service was delivered by local staff who were proud of their heritage and keen to assist us. Instead of cluttered stores, retailers used effective merchandising to ensure a select group of products stood out. Clerks are trained to genuinely help customers meet their needs so they can avoid having to rummage through the racks.

Lessons: Does your brand stand behind your products or services with a guarantee? Do your employees exude pride when interacting with customers? Is there pride coming through in your voice through marketing campaigns and branding? Don’t be shy, give your targets plenty of reasons why your company is head and shoulders above the rest.

Still planning to hit the road this summer for some time away? Keep your eyes open and see where the trends, ideas and experiences might help to refresh a tired approach to marketing. Need some assistance to breathe new life into your company marketing plan? Contact Seeds Consulting and let’s cultivate new ideas to grow your business. While you’re at it, sign up for our newsletter to receive a free template for a marketing plan on a page.

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5 INSPIRATIONAL MARKETING LESSONS FROM SOCIAL VENTURES

Brands that aim to create social good

Propelling Social Ventures is a one day event hosted by UBC’s Sauder School of Business that uncovers innovative ways to combine business with positive impact. The 2015 conference put the spotlight on social ventures that are re-imagining business for impact and mature businesses that are redefining models and strategies to integrate positive change on a large scale into their organizations.

The event featured start up social entrepreneurs along with more seasoned experts and business leaders, each of whom have found a niche where their business can make a positive impact in the world. While there was plenty of food for thought packed throughout the day, these were the five key marketing lessons that could apply to any type of business:

HONE YOUR TARGET MARKET

Brands for the Heart, an online branding and graphic design agency that brings together a virtual team, chose to focus only on a small niche of entrepreneurs and changemakers that are bootstrapping to build a business that makes a positive impact in the world. While the founders have experience working with global brands, they have developed a platform to help only new social ventures access talented branding and design professionals at a fraction of the agency rate.

BUILD YOUR TRIBE

Janie Hoffman, founder of Mamma Chia vitality drinks and snacks, started her business by building authentic relationships that had the potential to grow even before she had a product. When she wanted to bring energy-packed chia seeds to the mainstream and when she realized that the supply of chia seeds were only conventionally grown, she met directly with farmers in central America and enrolled them in the opportunity to switch to organic. She then surrounded herself with like-minded people who choose healthy lifestyles and believe in organic agriculture; a tribe who then became her first loyal customers and vocal brand advocates.

DISRUPT INDUSTRY NORMS

The entrepreneurs behind Wize Monkey identified a big gap in the coffee and tea industries. While most coffee plantations only operate a few months of the year to harvest ripe beans, they saw some low hanging fruit that would help keep employees working year-round. Instead of just harvesting the beans, they introduced a revolutionary new tea brand that is actually made by the coffee leaf itself. Not only does the tea have less caffeine, it is tasty, full of antioxidants, and it helps farmers operate more profitable plantations while providing stable job opportunities for pickers.

ELEVATE YOUR IMPACT

Social venture entrepreneurs are not just looking to build followers, generate likes or sell trendy widgets. They are looking for authentic ways for their businesses to become the best for the world, not just the best in the world. These are for-profit businesses that solve some of the world’s most challenging problems, often with a relatively simple solution. Arbutus Medical developed a $400 alternative to $30,000 surgical drills to enable safe and effective treatments of patients in the developing world. Time Auction designed a website portal that allows you to trade volunteer hours to meet inspiring people. Wize Monkey and Mamma Chia are helping farmers in some of the poorest countries to build more profitable and sustainable businesses.

GROW CONSCIOUSLY

Each of the businesses featured at Propelling Social Ventures shared great stories about their challenges to scale up. Finding the right partners who share your core values is essential for any social venture to grow and thrive. Janie Hoffman of Mamma Chia summed it up by sharing that “money is energy”; cautioning business founders to be conscious of the partners they attract, who will ultimately shape the future of the business.

Finding partners who share your core values is essential for any social venture to grow +… Click To Tweet

Could your business learn more and gain inspiration from these social ventures? Looking for ideas to implement these lessons learned to grow your business consciously?  Contact Seeds Consulting to get started.

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HOW TO GROW AUTHENTICALLY FROM WORD-OF-MOUTH MARKETING

Why you should find and recognize brand advocates

It’s never easy… getting up the courage to make a public declaration of love. When it comes to loving a brand, it’s often made through a spontaneous shout out or these days, a quick click of a button to share feedback. Business owners need to pay attention: ignoring customer accolades and shout out’s may risk alienating a brand’s biggest fans and the valuable word-of-mouth marketing that follows.

Why pay attention to what advocates say about your brand? Aside from the fact that word-of-mouth marketing is essentially free promotion, there is evidence that these fans are big contributors to the bottom line. Advocates are typically 5x more valuable than an average customer in terms of their own spending and the referrals they generate, Zuberance. According to McKinsey, a relevant recommendation from a trusted friend is 50x more likely to influence a purchase.

Advocates are typically 5X more valuable than an average customer in terms of their own spending and the referrals they generate

A relevant recommendation from a trusted friend is 50x more likely to influence a purchase Click To Tweet

WHO ARE ADVOCATES FOR YOUR BRAND? ASK THESE QUESTIONS TO FIND OUT:

Who is sharing your content regularly? Do they cross promote offers and incentives with their networks? Are they Pinning images, retweeting tweets or forwarding your newsletter?

Who are the most influential advocates? How large is their network and are they considered authorities in their circles of influence?

Who is taking the time to create original content about your brand and which channels are they using to spread the word? Above and beyond sharing, original content is even more valuable when a fan sings your praises in their blog or in other articles.

What is the response to content that is shared? Are any themes emerging? What is being talked about the most? Check the comments in forums and read what others are saying and learn from this unsolicited feedback.

Are customers evaluating your product in public forums? Look at online discussions like Yelp reviews or Trip Advisor ranking along with mentions on your own digital platforms. These can be easy ways to find fans along with customers that need more convincing.

HOW CAN FANS BE ACKNOWLEDGED TO DEEPEN THEIR ENGAGEMENT WITH YOUR BRAND?

“Why not allow happy customers to speak on your behalf, and use the opportunity to create a dialogue that can improve your customer service, your product, and, ultimately, customer satisfaction?” Forbes

There are plenty of ways to reach out and give a high-five to brand advocates.

At a bare minimum, recognize their contribution:

  • Write a simple thank you and send it via email or right where they will see it
  • Share a shout out to highlight their comments / accolades
  • Send an invitation to provide feedback, fill out a survey or join a focus group

To deepen engagement, give them a special invitation:

  • Offer membership in a loyalty program
  • Send them special access to curated or unique content

Reward them or pull out the stops to surprise and delight:

  • Provide product samples or gifts
  • Ask them to test a beta version of a product or service
  • Send them branded product or swag

There are ways to estimate how an advocate helped the bottom line. Whether it be repeat purchases or product recommendations to a wide network, consider how the impact of an advocate’s endorsement could be measured. After adding this up, a bigger thank you might be due!

Remember, your customers are not: page views, click rates, email addresses or twitter handles. They are people – just like you and me. Chances are, they will appreciate the recognition for their efforts and be more inclined to share again in the future. Learn more about how to connect with brand advocates at a deeper level. Contact us today to capture new customers and grow a network of advocates.

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