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Your Annual Email Audit in a Box

Your Annual Email Audit in a Box Simms Jenkins
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With the recent end of another challenging yet growth-filled year for most email marketers, 'tis the season to take a deep and close look at your successes and failures within the email marketing universe.


Like most key areas in your business, it is productive to be honest with yourself and review what is working and what needs to be improved. With email marketing always changing, why not use the beginning of the year to evaluate your overall strategic and tactical email marketing operations?


An audit of your email marketing operations is a relevant and timely process for most marketers, and we have dug deep to get insight from some of the leading email marketing experts in the country. Our email marketing experts -- some of them, like me, regular iMedia Connection contributors -- are:


Reid Carr, President of Red Door Interactive
Jeff Hilimire, President of Spunlogic
Bill Nussey, CEO of Silverpop
Scott Preacher, Vice President at Avenue A / Razorfish, Atlanta
Tricia Robinson, Chief Marketing Officer of Accucast, Inc.
Isaac Scarborough, Manager of Market Intelligence for Chapell & Associates


Our purpose in this iMedia In Focus is to gather helpful tips and thoughts on how to make 2006 the best year yet for your email marketing programs.


Here are the topics we'll be covering:



Let's dive in.





Author Notes:
G. Simms Jenkins is Founder and Principal of BrightWave Marketing, an Atlanta-based email marketing and customer relationship services firm. He has extensive relationship marketing experience on both the client and agency side. Jenkins has led BrightWave Marketing in establishing a large client list, including marquee clients like ACS, BellSouth, CoreNet Global and GMAC Insurance. BrightWave Marketing has become a leader in the Email Marketing outsourcing space by using their expertise in strategy, design, list management, segmenting, campaign delivery and analysis. Jenkins has been recognized by many media outlets as an Email Marketing and CAN-SPAM expert. Prior to BrightWave Marketing, Jenkins was Director of Business Development at two high-tech start-ups and headed the CRM group at Cox Interactive Media, a unit of media giant Cox Enterprises.

Start with the big picture. Why not redefine the goals of your Email Marketing campaigns? Are your emails aiming to drive revenue or build relationships? If revenue oriented, are you attempting to drive online or offline sales or acquire leads? Are the emails designed to enhance the user's relationship with your company, build loyalty or increase brand awareness? A good view from 1,000 feet is a great place to start.









Tricia Robinson, Chief Marketing Officer of Accucast, Inc.

has these tips when reshaping or evaluating your email marketing strategies.

For marketers to be successful and improve their ROI they must first set goals. But keep in mind that no two marketers' goals are alike.


An audit of your email marketing operations is a relevant and timely process for most marketers, and we have dug deep to get insight from some of the leading email marketing experts in the country. Our email marketing experts -- some of them, like me, regular iMedia Connection contributors -- are:




  • Are you looking to increase revenue, expand your list size, drive traffic to a Web site, or all of the above?

  • Set a departmental meeting to fully understand the overall goals of the organization.

  • Be sure to include a representative from the sales, marketing and public relations teams to gather as much information as possible.


Next, create a strategy that not only meets your needs but also meets the needs of your recipients.



  • If your overall goal is to drive revenue and your recipient has signed up for an informational monthly e-newsletter that details decorating on a budget, provide it. You can include a link to your product if it is relevant, but don't turn this outlet into an e-mercial.

  • If your overall goal is to increase your list size, consider including a "forward to a friend/colleague" option and a link for that friend or colleague to sign up for the e-newsletter as well.

For whatever goals you set for your email campaigns, remember it is the tiny details of your overall strategy that will define your success.





With experience in marketing communications, marketing strategy, publication and magazine editing, as well as government affairs, Accucast's Chief Marketing Officer Tricia Robinson has used her expertise to lead the Accucast brand to the forefront of the e-marketing industry. Robinson brings to Accucast extensive media relationships and press experience. Prior to joining Accucast, Robinson served the Georgia Press Association as lobbyist, editor, and member newspaper liaison. Before entering politics, she spent three years with Forbes Magazine. Robinson holds a Bachelor of Science in Political Science and Marketing and served as Chairman of the Southeast Chapter of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), and on the board of directors of the Atlanta Chapter of the American Marketing Association and Association for Interactive Marketing (AIM) Responsible Email Commission.

Usability is one often overlooked area within email marketing messages. But isn't this one of the mission critical points of email marketing? By reviewing all aspects of your emails from the user side, you can gauge the basics of what is and what isn't working from a functionality standpoint.








Jeff Hilimire, President of Spunlogic,

offers up these usability instructions:

There are several key usability issues that can impact the results of your email campaigns. In order to address usability issues, you must first understand the way that people use email.


Email users want their information quick, brief and easy to read. Resist the urge to try and communicate too much information in your emails. Companies often will put as much content in an email as they possibly can, which only frustrates the user.




  • Stick to a few main points and a few secondary points.

  • Be as brief as possible with your content. Bullet points and small paragraphs work best.

  • Linking to your website for the full content not only improves the usability of your emails but also encourages users to explore your website further.

  • Large images will also distract users from the real purpose of your email, so don't overcomplicate the issue.


Stick with clean, user-friendly emails and you can be sure to receive better results in 2006.


If content is king on websites, then relevance is king in email. If the user does not find your email relevant as they are reading it, then it is bound for the junk or trash folder.



  • Keep in mind that relevance is established immediately from the Sender's email address.

  • Review your campaigns to make sure the user can recognize who the Sender is and that you have used a consistent email address throughout the year. A good rule of thumb is to stick with your company name as the Sender.

  • You should also review your subject lines to see if they are helping to establish relevance with the user.

  • If you have set up tracking in your emails, go back and review what subject lines worked the best and which ones were not as effective.

  • If you haven't set up tracking, then make that your first goal of 2006!

For more on relevance, see Bill Nussey's Relevance:






As President, Jeff Hilimire leads the Spunlogic team with his passion for interactive marketing and experience built on a long track record of client successes. Since co-founding Spunlogic in 1998, he has seen it mature from a small agency to one that many Fortune 500 and 1000 companies seek for its marketing expertise and fresh approach. Under his direction, Spunlogic has been recognized for a number of awards including three national awards from the prestigious Web Marketing Association, as well as gold and silver AMYs from the Atlanta Chapter of the American Marketing Association.

Hilimire's background includes spearheading and developing interactive marketing campaigns for companies including InterContinental Hotels Group, Cox Enterprises, Anheuser Busch, Honey Baked Ham and Georgia Pacific. His expertise in strategy and business processes has also landed him on the Boards of the Atlanta Interactive Marketing Association, the American Marketing Association's New Media Special Interest Group and Brand Atlanta, a marketing campaign created to distinguish what makes the city unique.

Always a hot topic among Email Marketers, the ongoing discussion of whether to send your campaigns via HTML or text is an important decision that has implications on both the sender and recipient side.








Bill Nussey, CEO of Silverpop,

offers his take on this subject:

The format of the emails you send should be dependent not on your own preferences but those of your customers.


Ask them which format they prefer. Unfortunately, Silverpop's "2005 Retail Email Marketing Study" found that only 14 percent of companies give registrants a choice.


While HTML-based email provides a richer product experience for consumers, the issues of blocked images and deliverability problems inherent in this format can make it challenging. Silverpop found a growing number of companies send HTML emails, up to 69 percent in 2005 from 47 percent in 2002. But alarmingly, fully 40 percent of emails reviewed during the study contained missing graphics.


Because spam-filtering features in many of the major email clients strip HTML and graphics from messages, confirmation messages sent to recipients shortly after registering should include a request to be added to address books. And yet, Silverpop found that 78 percent of retailers who sent confirmation messages failed to ask to be added to the recipient's address book.


Clearly a few simple steps can go a long way to improving campaign results.





Bill Nussey is the president and CEO of Silverpop. Under his leadership, Silverpop helps marketers cultivate and maintain long-term strategic relationships with customers by maximizing the potential of email as a relationship tool. The company differentiates itself through strong technology, strategic services and the industry's most flexible service model. In late 2004, JupiterResearch ranked Silverpop #1 in nearly every category of its annual review of email service providers.

When the size of images, amount of content and various other issues must be contemplated, why not take advantage of the footers and headers that may not have been reviewed for months, if not years. These may seem like legally-mandated sections, but great emails use every inch of the page to achieve all goals, whether they are legal, marketing or cross promotional in nature








Reid Carr of Red Door Interactive

advocates a stronger usage of footers and headers:

In 2006, email is going to become more and more complex to manage, and lists are going to be more difficult to cultivate. List managers will need to be near-perfect in their email marketing practices. This not only includes the content of the email (both marketing and legal), but also how the email is delivered, when it is delivered and who receives it.


A couple key components of the email marketing checklist are the headers and the footers of each email that is sent. Many marketers don't pay enough attention to this anchor real estate. Each has the power to capture the user's attention, leverage the brand, educate and build trust through consistency.


In the few moments that an email is viewed, it has to be clear that it is being sent by someone trustworthy enough to have been granted keys to the inbox. To do this, the email has to clearly show who is sending the email, offer options to allow users to opt-out or change their preferences and highlight CAN-SPAM compliance. It also needs to be consistent in its branding in order to build on any trust the user has in the sender, and it needs to be forthcoming with information to maintain a user's ongoing messages.


On the other side of the battle of the inbox, IT departments and web-based email providers continue to tighten their IT policies in order to protect their users and maintain members, respectively.


Senders must continually use their headers to educate their recipients with new techniques in continuing to receive their email, should a user want to do so. This would include teaching users how to manage their filters, as well as potentially providing users with other delivery options, such as RSS.


With inboxes being more difficult to crack, headers and footers should be treated as critical finishing touches that will help your email get received and your lists fight attrition.





Reid Carr is president of Red Door Interactive, helping clients -- such as the San Diego Convention Center, SkinMedica, BeneTrac and Sharp Systems of America -- to lay out strategies for their online presence and interaction activities. Before founding Red Door Interactive, Carr formed the interactive arm for the San Diego-based PR agency, McQuerterGroup. Prior to that, he was chief operating officer and accounts director at PBJ Digital, a bi-coastal Interactive development and incubator shop in Los Angeles; before then, Carr handled account management in both the Venice and Playa del Rey offices of TBWA/Chiat/Day. He has a BA from the University of Oregon's advertising program.

The hype surrounding the impact of this legislation has died down, but the importance of complying will never go away, as long as this law stays in effect. Most marketers are aware of the law, but anyone responsible for the operations of email marketing should have all aspects of this law down pat.


One of the most frequent questions we get at BrightWave Marketing from clients and prospects is "Can you make sure we are CAN-SPAM Compliant?" Most clients want to make sure they are compliant but don't care to know the specifics.


However, the basics of compliance are fairly easy and essential to review and audit on an ongoing basis, so we can't leave it out of the annual audit components.


If you have not already done so (and you really should), sign up for some of your company's emails with personal accounts and go through the motions as a recipient would to make sure you truly are CAN-SPAM compliant in practice, not just in theory.


This is what you need to check for:


Accurate From and header information. Make sure you have an accurate from line -- your company, your CEO or something or someone that is valid and recognizable by the folks who opted in to receive your emails. You might as well use this as a time to also reconsider the From Line strategically as well. Does this drive open rates? Additionally, is the email address a standard and valid one in the From line? A safe bet is [email protected] or [email protected].


Clear subject lines. Does this subject line reflect what is in the body of the email? You want to ensure (and enforce) that the subject lines are not deceptive in any shape or form. For example, don't even tease with a promotional offer if the email does not include any promotions. This also is one the most important aspects of engaging readers and prompting them to open and read your email.


Provide recipients a clear and working opt-out method -- and one that actually removes unsubscribe requests promptly. Go ahead and actually unsubscribe one of your accounts and keep track that you do not receive an email again outside of the 10 days that are allowed for unsubscribe removals. I know I often receive emails from companies I have unsubscribed from well after the 10 day grace period. Be sure that this is not the case for your emails.


Identify commercial email as an advertisement or business solicitation. This is a touchy one and a part of the CAN-SPAM Act that is often not followed. If your primary goal of the email is to sell, then you should consider it an ad. If it is dual purposed and the email seems to have a majority of the content devoted to commercial/sales purposes, consider it an ad. If you are not sure if your email is considered an ad, include the disclosure to be on the safe side of the law.


Include a valid physical postal address. This should be the easiest thing within the CAN-SPAM Act to implement. Amazingly, this is one that many companies fail to include. If your company has multiple locations, include the headquarters address. The FTC has said PO Boxes are acceptable at this time.


Finally, remember that it's illegal for you to sell or transfer the email addresses of people who have opted out, even in the form of a mailing list, unless you transfer the addresses so another entity can comply with the law.






G. Simms Jenkins is Founder and Principal of BrightWave Marketing, an Atlanta-based email marketing and customer relationship services firm. He has extensive relationship marketing experience on both the client and agency side. Jenkins has led BrightWave Marketing in establishing a large client list, including marquee clients like ACS, BellSouth, CoreNet Global and GMAC Insurance. BrightWave Marketing has become a leader in the Email Marketing outsourcing space by using their expertise in strategy, design, list management, segmenting, campaign delivery and analysis. Jenkins has been recognized by many media outlets as an Email Marketing and CAN-SPAM expert. Prior to BrightWave Marketing, Jenkins was Director of Business Development at two high-tech start-ups and headed the CRM group at Cox Interactive Media, a unit of media giant Cox Enterprises.

Never a sexy subject but one that has ramifications that go beyond email marketing. Always something that should be monitored frequently, at the very least, your privacy policy and email marketing content is an essential part of an email audit.








Isaac Scarborough, Manager of Market Intelligence for Chapell & Associates,
provides these guidelines to consider:

For email marketers today, privacy is as much about understanding your customer as it is about protecting their data. In fact, you really can't have one without the other: consumers see the two as part of a bigger issue -- what marketers are doing with the information they provide.


Addressing privacy issues often requires that you ask yourself some pointed questions.




  • What customer or prospect information are you collecting

  • Why is this data valuable, and have you clearly set expectations for how you will use that information?

  • Who is the information shared with?

  • Have you run any tests to determine if customers are more willing to provide you with data if they know it won't be shared?


Recent studies conducted by TRUSTe and others suggest that when consumers are reassured about an email marketer's use of their data, opt-ins and consumer engagement can increase significantly.


Your organization may or may not have the same experience -- but in this industry, its worth considering. It has become essential to test different copy, different creative, and different list segments -- and testing different data collection strategies could prove to have the same benefits.


For more information on privacy policies, please see





Isaac Scarborough covers market trends for Chapell and Associates, a consulting firm that helps companies understand privacy and incorporate consumer perception into product development. He has worked briefly in the offices of Senator Domenici (R-NM), where he assisted legislative aides with the Senator's role as Chairman of the Senate Energy Committee. Prior to this, he was with e-thePeople.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting deliberative democracy online.

Tough love happens in Email Marketing too. An often-overlooked conversation email marketers have is "should we get rid of this email, or why have we not eliminated this underperforming email with no synergy to our strategic goals?" Or maybe its time to consider adding new newsletters, promotional or just plain innovative email campaigns.









Tricia Robinson of Accucast

has some advice in this area:

To remove email campaigns or not to remove email campaigns, that is the age-old email marketing question. And the answer can be discovered when you begin to track and manage your bounces, open and clickthrough rates.


Successful email marketing relies on good, clean data coupled with relevant information. While you do need some critical mass to be successful with email marketing, think quality, not quantity.


Verify your customer preference data every six to 12 months, and trim recipients who have become inactive or disinterested. Your list size may shrink, but the quality of your database will increase dramatically and so will your delivery rates.


Once you have updated your database you can evaluate the content and timing of your current email campaigns. By understanding when recipients are opening emails and what information they are receptive to, you can develop an email marketing strategy that will fit their needs.


Would your customers benefit from an e-newsletter that provides best practices, tips or ideas? Ask them. Polling customers on what type of information they are interested in or how often they would like to receive that information is a perfect way to customize the information to fit the recipients' needs. Your organization will not only be seen as a vendor, but as a trusted source of information.





With experience in marketing communications, marketing strategy, publication and magazine editing, as well as government affairs, Accucast's Chief Marketing Officer Tricia Robinson has used her expertise to lead the Accucast brand to the forefront of the e-marketing industry. Robinson brings to Accucast extensive media relationships and press experience. Prior to joining Accucast, Robinson served the Georgia Press Association as lobbyist, editor, and member newspaper liaison. Before entering politics, she spent three years with Forbes Magazine. Robinson holds a Bachelor of Science in Political Science and Marketing and served as Chairman of the Southeast Chapter of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), and on the board of directors of the Atlanta Chapter of the American Marketing Association and Association for Interactive Marketing (AIM) Responsible Email Commission.

How do your emails look? Are they time intensive beauties or clunky cut and paste templates?








Jeff Hilimire, of Spunlogic,

gives us advice on how to evaluate email design:



  • When reviewing your creative, make sure you understand where the "fold" is in your email. The fold represents the area of the email that can be seen in the preview pane without having to scroll (typically 400 to 500 pixels in vertical space). Understanding the "above the fold" rule is one of the most important usability improvements you can make with your emails. Make sure your creative and calls to action are aligned so that they appear above the fold, allowing the user to see them without having to scroll.


  • Remember: when people are using email they want it to be as simple and fast as possible. Consequently, you also want to make sure that you have a call to action below the fold (as well as one above the fold) to allow the user to act on the email if they have scrolled down.


  • Another key area to review when looking back at your email campaigns is brand consistency. Although it's important to keep your emails fresh, you should also make sure that the branding is consistent so the user will continue to recognize and gain trust in your email efforts. A good rule of thumb to follow is to keep your logo in the top left corner, as that is the first place the user's eyes will look. You should also develop a template for your creative that will allow you to easily swap out creative elements without sacrificing the brand consistency.




As President, Jeff Hilimire leads the Spunlogic team with his passion for interactive marketing and experience built on a long track record of client successes. Since co-founding Spunlogic in 1998, he has seen it mature from a small agency to one that many Fortune 500 and 1000 companies seek for its marketing expertise and fresh approach. Under his direction, Spunlogic has been recognized for a number of awards including three national awards from the prestigious Web Marketing Association, as well as gold and silver AMYs from the Atlanta Chapter of the American Marketing Association.

Hilimire's background includes spearheading and developing interactive marketing campaigns for companies including InterContinental Hotels Group, Cox Enterprises, Anheuser Busch, Honey Baked Ham and Georgia Pacific. His expertise in strategy and business processes has also landed him on the Boards of the Atlanta Interactive Marketing Association, the American Marketing Association's New Media Special Interest Group and Brand Atlanta, a marketing campaign created to distinguish what makes the city unique.

If your email marketing team is not involved closely with the traditional marketing team, is that a good thing or a bad thing? That depends but you can't overlook the importance of ensuring some kind of consistency in your email efforts with your overall brand and marketing programs.








Scott Preacher, Vice President at Avenue A / Razorfish, Atlanta,

provides insight and helpful hints to make sure email isn't lost in the overall marketing mix in 2006.

Customers are not ours: they merely lend themselves to us for a period of time where we share similar values and provide relevant insight.


Your brands impression is found around every corner. Every time consumers see your ad, visit your site, or read your emails, they are exposed to your brand. Each touchpoint is an opportunity to create a lasting relationship. As with any relationship, it needs to feel comfortable and secure.


Consumers want to know what to expect and consistency is key to a successful relationship.


Yet, as companies and their interactive media departments grow, so do each of the specialties -- search, affiliate, media buying, and email. Already many companies have separated offline marketing departments from the online. Soon online departments will be further divided into each specialty.


As these silos grow and each "specialist" does his own thing, the look, feel, and message becomes more inconsistent and convoluted. The brand begins to break down and the relationship disintegrates.


The act of cultivating a brand relationship begins at the moment a consumer becomes aware of your company. It is at this moment that you must use all marketing channels to guide them on their journey to make a purchasing decision -- and then nurture them so they take the same purchasing journey with your company over and over again.


Email can be a key channel in this journey. When used correctly, it can help attract them to your product through relevant promotions, convert them to a sale with timely messages, give them the quick service expected, learn more about them, and then persuade them to purchase again.


Throughout the journey, it is reinforcing your company's brand personality and creating a relationship with the consumers. If your message is interesting, email makes it easy to click forward and pass it on -- now you are taking the journey with new consumers.


As you integrate email into your overall marketing effort, make sure to take the following into consideration:


Build your list. Bought is not built. Third party email is out (although more companies are starting to sell their lists) and permission-based email is in. As you build your multimedia campaign, drive people to your site, and give them a clear, compelling reason to opt-in to receiving emails from your company. Without permission, you look like a spammer which can negatively affect your brand. Oh, and keep your list clean. Dirty lists waste money and flag you as a spammer.


Be relevant. "Dear Christine" is not personal. Personalized emails are out and precision emails are in. Adding someone's name at the top of the email isn't enough to make the recipient feel warm and fuzzy. Through the use of customer-created profiles, their purchase habits, and online activity you know a lot about your customer. Use this data to deliver emails with the information they need when they need it.


Share the love. Make sharing uncontrollable. Viral marketing will never be "out" and is truly a state of mind. You can create a "viral" campaign, but unless the recipient finds the information useful or entertaining enough to bother someone else with it, the campaign will not spread, which doesn't make it a very effective virus. Know your customer and give them a reason to share your love with others.


An effectively-executed integrated marketing campaign will guide your customers through the journey to a purchase and create a relationship over time. Email is the tool you can use to weave together all marketing elements…





Scott Preacher is Vice President at Avenue A / Razorfish's Atlanta office.

Why not test a campaign and the various components of it before sending blindly to your house list? In addition to the usual testing of creative, subject lines, testing out new email concepts is a great way to get real user feedback and response data before devoting additional resources to new ideas. Also, it is the best way to get your boss's buy in if you have test results rather than a hunch.








Reid Carr, President, of Red Door Interactive,

offers some additional ideas for email marketing testing in 2006:

When marketers are putting together their email plans for 2006, testing will likely play a critical part. One thing to bear in mind, however, is that email recipients are more protective than ever of their inboxes. Therefore, marketers need to be very careful how and what they choose to test to avoid inadvertently aggravating -- and thereby losing -- subscribers.


It is important to lay out test plans early in the process to identify specifically the top few things to learn from tests in order to keep campaigns tight and focused. Marketers should work to prevent overuse of their lists, pay close attention to the details such as CAN-SPAM and maintain the perception of continuity in creative and tone.


Improving the conversion in email campaigns should be the primary goal this year, not spending time wading in data from haphazard testing.





Reid Carr is president of Red Door Interactive, helping clients -- such as the San Diego Convention Center, SkinMedica, BeneTrac and Sharp Systems of America -- to lay out strategies for their online presence and interaction activities. Before founding Red Door Interactive, Carr formed the interactive arm for the San Diego-based PR agency, McQuerterGroup. Prior to that, he was chief operating officer and accounts director at PBJ Digital, a bi-coastal Interactive development and incubator shop in Los Angeles; before then, Carr handled account management in both the Venice and Playa del Rey offices of TBWA/Chiat/Day. He has a BA from the University of Oregon's advertising program.

Now that we have addressed many of the things that can elevate your email marketing, we turn to Bill Nussey of Silverpop to provide his advice on what every email marketer should be striving to achieve this year:








While I hate to beat the proverbial dead horse, relevance is still a strategy all marketers must focus on in the coming year. If you haven't already done so, read JupiterResearch's report, The ROI of Email Relevance. It shows with distinctive clarity the importance of relevance in boosting revenue and improving net profits.


Simply put, relevance equals results. Studies have found that six out 10 consumers make purchases as a result of receiving emails featuring products they were already considering. But JupiterResearch reports that only one out of three promotional email marketers places relevance among their top-three goals.


In 2006, make relevance your number one goal. It will move the needle on other important metrics. For example, the Jupiter report found that highly relevant life cycle tactics are twice as likely to deliver conversion rates of more than five percent compared to static, offer-oriented campaigns. And using web analytics to improve email campaign relevancy improves revenue a whopping nine times more than broadcast mailings.





Bill Nussey is the president and CEO of Silverpop. Under his leadership, Silverpop helps marketers cultivate and maintain long-term strategic relationships with customers by maximizing the potential of email as a relationship tool. The company differentiates itself through strong technology, strategic services and the industry's most flexible service model. In late 2004, JupiterResearch ranked Silverpop #1 in nearly every category of its annual review of email service providers.

Simms Jenkins is Chief Executive Officer of BrightWave Marketing, an award-winning agency specializing in the strategic optimization of email marketing and digital targeted messaging programs. He has extensive relationship and interactive marketing...

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