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Ten Ways Marketing Services Differs from Marketing Products

November 7, 2012

Linda Holroyd, CEO and Founder of FountainBlue

The following is a guest post by Linda Holroyd, CEO and Founder of FountainBlue.

Read this blog’s related posts on product marketing.

Introduction

Back in the day when Sun workstations sold like hotcakes and everyone was waiting with bated breath for Windows 95 (98, 2000), product marketing managers for technology products were well respected for what they did:

Define and drive the product development cycle in collaboration with marketing, sales and engineering.

This is not so long ago, but times have changed to the point where products are becoming more commoditized, where software solutions are in the cloud, where services rein over products, and where even companies like Microsoft are looking at how to provide customized services to their network of customers.

Product Marketing for Service-Oriented Solutions

What does this mean for today’s product marketing managers, who are focusing more on service-oriented solutions? We interviewed Dr. Juan P. Montermoso, President at Montermoso Associates and Professor of Practice in Marketing at Santa Clara University, who spoke at the October 3 SVPMA event titled “Marketing the Experience: Applying PM Concepts to Services and Events.”

The program description notes that more than 70% of GDP in places like the United States, the Netherlands or Australia is service-based, while 60% of revenues for companies like IBM are attributable to services. For tech product managers and CMOs of tech products and services companies, the message is clear: designing, marketing, and delivering not just profitable services but memorable experiences will be the keys to success.

10 Tips for Marketing Services

Here are the top ten keys for doing just this. Product marketing a service has the same fundamental qualities as marketing a product: its focus on products, pricing, and promotion.

  1. Know your product details, market segment and your customer niche, and communicate your offerings based on the needs of your customers.
  2. Your promotion and pricing should speak to the needs of the customer and your product offerings should be designed to serve their needs, not the other way around.
  3. Continually seek feedback from the customer about the value of what you are providing and get their input about how to make it better for them. It is essential to gather this feedback to refine product features and definitions, pricing strategies, promotional plans.
  4. Create a community for your clients, partners and other stakeholders and provide value-added information, connection and services to them. This is an efficient way to build deeper relationships, connect with your customers, and add value beyond your current offerings.
  5. Work in conjunction with the marketing, sales, engineering and management team to address the needs of the customer, for knowing what the customer wants, in isolation of what a company will deliver is only half the solution. The new way users are selecting products and services is no longer about the sales process and funnel, but has evolved into a complex, multi-faceted, multi-directional stages of evaluation, consideration, advocation, experiencing and buying, as well as bonding with others throughout the process. (See McKinsey Quarterly Report article’ The funnel is dead. The new consumer decision journey,’ http://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/The_consumer_decision_journey_2373). So as we evolve into the marketing of services, and address the decision processes for the more empowered user, we must still consider the products, price and promotion, but also look further into the overall user experience:, the process, physical environment and people who impact the users and the choices they make.
  6. The experience a user undergoes to evaluate, adopt, advocate, endorse, recommend a service must be seamless and elegant, and should be easy to communicate to friends and groups. And collaboration between marketing, sales, management and engineering is even more important to deliver this experience.
  7. There must be an efficient process for customers to easily adjust and communicate parameters and requirements, as well as a process and methodology for providers to efficiently and sustainably deliver these customized services.
  8. Bonding is now an element of the decision-making process, so it is more important to identify and speak to the needs of niche customer groups as well as individual customers, and creating and leveraging social media and community development and support abilities will be more important as you do so.
  9. Content matters. Service marketing must communicate the core technology offering, as well as the range of customized adaptations of what you could do with the core technology, and speak in a vocabulary and voice a customer will understand. And this must hold true for each niche audience.
  10. Social media solutions will be an integral part of success service marketing efforts. Leaders in this space such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are strategizing on how to create and support niche communities of many different colors and stripes, and creating a value to these individuals and companies, a value worth charging for. Product/service marketing professionals would benefit from following what’s happening with these social media leaders as they consider the privacy, policy, outreach, integration and other challenges and opportunities for creating and developing these niche audiences.

Conclusion

Regardless of where you are in the product/service continuum, product marketing will continue to play an essential role in the success of any tech company. I invite you to share your thoughts in the Comments section below. You may also contact FountainBlue via email.

About Linda Holroyd

As CEO and founder of FountainBlue, Linda and her team produces in-person events and writes and speaks on market, technology and leadership trends. Linda also serves as a start-up adviser to Silicon-Valley-based high tech companies focused on delivering personalized services to clients worldwide.

Previously, Linda was co-founder and CEO for Galatia, a high-tech, service-oriented web consultancy in the emerging internet field, where she oversaw the development of dynamically-generated web sites in the financial services, government, high tech, and academic industries.

Prior to that, she engaged in similar marketing, alliance, operational and sales roles in three emerging start-ups in the document imaging, file security and web development space. Two of the start-ups were purchased and one of them is still running. Linda is a graduate of UC Davis with a major in Psychology and a minor in Education, and earned certificates in nonprofit management, executive management and program management through UCSC Extension and San Jose State.

She serves on the advisory boards for VLAB, WITI and WCA, as well as her client companies.

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The Second Life for Virtual Worlds: Vertical Solutions

September 11, 2011

Introduction

In 2007, Gartner predicted that “by the end of 2011, 80 percent of active Internet users (and Fortune 500 enterprises) will have a ‘second life’, but not necessarily in Second Life.”

As we approach the end of 2011, it’s safe to say that we’re far short of the 80 percent mark, as far as 3D avatars (in virtual worlds) go. It does seem clear, however, that the 80 percent figure is quite accurate if you consider the “second life” to be social networks. In fact, I then think the prediction turns out to be perfect.

Virtual Worlds: Where We’re Headed

3D virtual worlds (Second Life being the most prominent) never caught on in a mass market, the way that Facebook and Twitter have. I think social networks will see continued growth in adoption and usage, while the use of general-purpose, “open use” 3D virtual worlds continues to diminish.

I think “worlds” are dead. The future is all about self-contained solutions. And the future is now.

FountainBlue Virtual Worlds Panel

On September 30, 2011, I’ll be moderating the following panel for this FountainBlue event:

FountainBlue’s Third Annual Virtual Worlds Annual Conference

Topic: Virtual Worlds: Where We Were, Where We’re Going, What Does It Mean to YOU?

Date & time: Friday, September 30, from 8:30 until 10:30 a.m.

Location: EMC, 2831 Mission College Blvd., Santa Clara, in their San Francisco Conference Room on the Third Floor

Cost: $22 members, $32 partners, $42 general

Facilitator Dennis Shiao, Director of Product Marketing, INXPO
Panelist Andrea Leggett, Senior Product Marketing Manager, EMC
Presenting Entrepreneur Parvati Dev, President, Innovation in Learning
Presenting Entrepreneur Raj Raheja, Founder and CEO, Heartwood Studios

For more information and to register, visit http://www.svvirtualworlds.com.

My Premise: It’s All About Vertical Solutions

I’ll plan to float my premise to our panel and invite them to share their thoughts. The premise, of course, is that the “worlds” in “virtual worlds” is dead and the path to success (and profit) is to build focused solutions that directly solve business problems. Consumer-based virtual worlds told us that you can’t be all things to all people.

Consider the vertical approach that two panelists’ companies are taking:

Innovation in Learning: Solutions (Healthcare)

  1. CliniSpace™ – Virtual Hospitals and Clinics
  2. DynaPatients™ – Virtual Patients

Heartwoord Studios: Solutions (Military)

  1. Virtual Training
  2. Handheld and Mobile Apps
  3. Immersive Marketing
  4. Augmented Reality
  5. Simulation Ready Modeling

Conclusion

Do you have thoughts to share on this topic? Feel free to join us in Santa Clara, CA on September 30th. The event is meant for “Entrepreneurs, Intrapreneurs and Investors only. No service providers please.” In addition, I invite you to use the comments section below to share your thoughts on my premise.

 

 


Second Annual Trends in Data and Security Event

May 10, 2011

Disclosure: I’m a FountainBlue Program Adviser.

Introduction

FountainBlue’s annual trends in data security and storage event will feature the latest advances in technologies and business processes in the storage and security space. We will feature a corporate panel, speaking on its strategic direction and innovations, and an entrepreneur panel, featuring some up-and-coming technology in the storage and security space.

Overview

FountainBlue’s Second Annual Trends in Data and Security Event

Date & time: Friday, May 27, 2011, from 8:30 until 11:30 a.m.
Location: EMC, 2831 Mission College Boulevard, Santa Clara
Cost: Register by May 25 at noon: $32 members, $42 partners, $52 general
Late and On-Site Registration: $52 for members, $62 for non-members

Members and Prospective Members can register at http://fountainblue.shuttlepod.org/hightech
Registration Link: http://www.sventrepreneurs.com

To add questions, answers and resources on this and other FountainBlue topics, visit our crowdsourcing resource at Quora http://www.quora.com/Linda-Holroyd/questions

Audience: Entrepreneurs, Intrapreneurs and Investors only. No service providers please.

Agenda

8:30    Registration and Networking
9:00   Welcomes and Thank Yous
9:15   Today’s Storage and Technology Innovations: An Update on What’s New and What’s Coming

Facilitator Sheri Osborn, MineSeeker
Panelist Sheryl Chamberlain, Senior Director, Strategic Alliances, EMC
Panelist Gerhard Eschelbeck, CTO, WebRoot
Panelist Nasrin Rezai, Senior Director, Information Security, Cisco
Panelist Prasenjit Sarkar, Research Staff Member and Master Inventor, IBM Almaden Research Center
Panelist from VMWare, to be confirmed

10:15  Morning Break
10:30  Entrepreneurial Storage and Security Solutions

Facilitator Sandy Orlando, VP Marketing, IP Infusion
Panelist Tyler Bengston, Director of Product Management, IronKey (secure thumb drives)
Panelist Anthony Gioeli, EVP, Sales and Marketing, PanTerra Networks (cloud-based SaaS services)
Panelist Andrés Kohn, Vice President of Technology for Proofpoint (secure e-mailing and archiving)
Panelist Ryo Koyama, CEO, YOICS (remote computer and network management)
Panelist from IronKey to be confirmed (secure thumb drives)
Panelist from WatchDox to be confirmed (secure file storage)

11:30  Adjourn and Further Networking until 12:00

About FountainBlue’s High Tech Entrepreneurs’ Forum

FountainBlue’s High Tech Entrepreneurs’ Forum was launched in March 2006 and provides ongoing networking and program benefits for 40-150 entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs and investors across Silicon Valley and beyond.

For this series, we run an annual high-tech funding trends panel in January, an annual cloud and security event in May, an annual virtual worlds conference in September and a bimonthly business analytics series, culminating in an annual business analytics trends event in December. Each event will feature either one or two panels of entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs and investors speaking on challenges and opportunities, providing advice for information to all.


“It’s All Virtual” On Virtual Worlds

October 3, 2010

Introduction

Given Microsoft’s rumored interest in acquiring Linden Lab (developers of Second Life), I thought I’d assemble some recent virtual worlds content.

Related: “Microsoft Buys Vivaty For New Project, May Be Looking For More,” from Virtual Worlds News

Virtual worlds have taken a hit, as Twitter, Facebook and other services have become media darlings.  And while I love social networks as much as anyone, I do think the market is under-considering (if that’s a word) the potential of virtual worlds technologies.

At A Crossroads: Where Does Second Life Go From Here?

I analyzed different directions that Linden Lab could take Second Life.  Of course, one that I did not cover was an exit – if the rumored exit (Microsoft) were to happen, I’m very curious to see how and where Microsoft folds the Second Life technology into its business.

On a slightly related topic, I wrote about how virtual worlds can be more like Twitter and Facebook – that is, more social and more open to the rest of the web.

Related: Guest Post from Pooky Amsterdam, “The Business Benefits of Second Life.”

Conference Coverage: FountainBlue Virtual Worlds (September 2010)

  1. 3 Virtual Worlds Technologies To Watch
  2. Trends In The Virtual Worlds Industry
  3. Hear From A Panel Of Virtual Worlds Entrepreneurs

Conference Coverage: Stanford Media X Virtual Worlds (August 2010)

  1. Stanford Media X Event: Virtual Worlds Entrepreneurs Show The Way
  2. Stanford Media X Event: IMVU’s Online Community

Hear From A Panel Of Virtual Worlds Entrepreneurs

September 30, 2010

On September 24th, FountainBlue held its annual virtual worlds conference.  This year’s event was hosted on Cisco’s campus in Milpitas, CA.  In the afternoon, a panel of virtual worlds entrepreneurs spoke about new developments in the industry.  The panel was titled “Entrepreneur Panel: The Tools, The Goods, The Immersion Experience”:

  1. Facilitator Nina Gerwin, The NRG Group
  2. Michael Gold, CEO, Electrotank: virtual world & virtual games development platform
  3. Steve Hoffman, CEO, Rocketon: virtual world for tweeners
  4. Albert Kim, CEO, Zenitum: Augmented reality with 3D displays
  5. Jim Parker, President, Digitell: SaaS 3D immersive virtual events and virtual training

I covered some of these entrepreneurs’ businesses in a separate posting about virtual worlds technologies to watch.

Adapting your business

Each panelist was asked to describe the genesis behind their business.  As is customary with web startups today, no one is working against their original business model or vision.

For Digitell’s Jim Parker, business began by assembling content for online libraries.  Then, he was struck by the notion of allowing consumers of the library content to meet and collaborate in real-time.

Zenitum’s Albert Kim experiments with a number of different technologies.  When one set of technologies differs enough from the core set, he looks to spin that out into an independent company.

Online gaming

Online and social gaming may be the hottest trend on the web today.  So of course the topic arose with Electrotank’s Michael Gold and RocketOn’s Steve Hoffman.  Gold and Hoffman highlighted technologies available to game makers today:

  1. Flash
  2. HTML5
  3. Objective C
  4. Unity

Note: Unity’s David Helgason spoke on the Trends Panel at this event.

According to Gold, HTML5 has its benefits, but you can’t yet develop a game using it.

Note: Michael Gold posted the following clarification:

“I just want to make a quick correction on a statement about HTML5 that was attributed to me in this blog post. What I said on the panel was that HTML5 is not yet practical for developing *virtual worlds* but has great potential in a few years.

Virtual worlds and MMOs present unique technical challenges that are distinctly different than those presented by the majority of social and casual online and mobile *games* Thus in my opinion it is completely possible to develop *games* using HTML5 at the present time. There are several developers focusing on these games right now. In fact, Zynga recently purchased one – Dextrose, a German development studio. I actually believe you’ll see a significant number of HTML5 games on the market a year from now. Just not so many virtual worlds or MMOs.”

Virtual worlds and engagement

An audience member asked how virtual worlds can track engagement – so that in a corporate setting, the meeting host can measure whether the content is hitting the mark.  Digitell’s Parker notes his clients often use his system for accreditation.  The system uses an idle timer – it renders a “click to continue” message and if the user does not click within 10 seconds, “you don’t get accreditation.”

Studies have shown that viewers of webinars often lose attention and multitask.  A virtual world forces users to remain engaged.  Parker notes that for some sessions, the instructor leads the “students” on a guided walk.  “If Jim doesn’t follow the rest of the group, then you know he’s not paying attention.”

Conclusion

Believe it or not, it’s not a bad time to be a virtual worlds entrepreneur.  As the panel demonstrated, the key is to be nimble and adapt to a changing marketplace.  Next year, it will be interesting to see how these entrepreneurs evolved – and, to see what new entrepreneurs appear on the scene.


Trends In The Virtual Worlds Industry

September 28, 2010

How do you keep up with industry trends?  You hear from the people setting the trends.  On September 24th, FountainBlue held its annual virtual worlds conference on Cisco’s campus in Milpitas, CA.  The event featured a session titled “Trends in the Virtual Worlds Industry: An Update on What’s New and What’s Coming.”

The panel:

  1. Facilitator Jeff Pope, Founding Partner, Spark Sky Ventures
  2. David Helgason, CEO and Co-Founder, Unity
  3. Chris Platz, Creative Director and Art Lead, Stanford Sirikata Labs
  4. Eilif Trondsen, Research and Program Director of the Virtual Worlds @ Work Consortium at Strategic Business Insights, SRI International
  5. Mark Wallace, Conversation Manager, Linden Lab

Related News: From Virtual Worlds News, “Unity Launches Unity 3, Wins Innovation Award

Terminology

The panel agreed that the term “virtual worlds” may no longer be applicable.  Eilif Trondsen noted that many technologies (e.g. Teleplace, Protosphere), provide virtual spaces (for corporations), rather than an entire virtual world.  Interestingly, at a Stanford Media X event, IMVU noted that they’re “NOT a virtual world“, either.  Chris Platz noted that he refers to the technology as a “real-time 3D collaborative spaces.”

Adapting to a changing user community

Platz noted that many virtual worlds technologies were designed for an older audience – one that will soon give way to a younger generation (e.g. Gen Y).  The technologies will need to adapt to a user base who grew up in a “virtual world” – they will have a different set of expectations.  An audience member noted that for some kids, their first experience online is in Club Penguin (or a similar “world”) – before they experience the broader web.

Platz encouraged virtual worlds to tear down the “walled garden” (e.g. closed system) in favor of an open system that integrates with Facebook, Twitter and other systems.  Platz developed and experimented with a Flash-based MMORG (massively multi-player online role-playing game) that ran as a Facebook app.  He predicted that some time soon, someone would develop a fully functional 3D virtual world embedded in Facebook – one that users interact with while on Facebook.com.

Avatar or no avatar?

The panel had an interesting debate on the use of avatars.  The debate was spurred from a point made about someone’s notion of an “ideal corporate learning environment”, which listed the following attributes:

  1. Ability to give presentations
  2. Virtual whiteboard
  3. Document collaboration
  4. Desktop sharing
  5. Use of avatars is secondary

What the debate really boiled down to is not “avatar or no avatar”, but “immersion or no immersion?”  Mark Wallace from Linden Lab took the “avatar stance”, noting the deep association between a user and her avatar – and the resulting impact of that connection.  Wallace noted that Second Life residents whose avatars participate in virtual weight loss programs actually lose weight in real life.

Audience member Laura Kusumoto noted that Wallace’s example referred to “Club One Island” on Second Life – I wrote about Club One in a posting about a Stanford Media X event in which they presented.

For me, it’s useful in a group learning environment to receive signals about the other members of the group (e.g. are they paying attention, are they engaged, are they asking questions, etc.).

There are non-immersiveness tools that can be leveraged (e.g. webcams, text chat, message boards, etc.).  However, I do see the value of immersiveness for learning – I’d compare it to an in-person team meeting vs. an audio-only conference call.

Augmented social graph reality

David Helgason made an interesting prediction with regard to augmented reality.  Helgason believes that the future of augmented reality includes your social graph overlaid onto your AR experience.  In the near future, your smartphone may be able to perform facial recognition on a person – and overlay your social graph connections to that person (on your smartphone’s display).

Perhaps the more immediate opportunity is already happening – via location based services as opposed to augmented reality.  For example, I arrive at a restaurant and find reviews from people in my social graph.  Reading my friends’ reviews lets me know whether I should go in to grab a table.

Second Life Enterprise

Linden Lab’s Mark Wallace was asked to comment on future plans for Second Life Enterprise.  Wallace noted that Linden Lab is taking a holistic approach to the entire platform – looking to make improvements to the user experience that apply to all users.  Wallace would not comment specifically on Enterprise, noting that the improvements underway would benefit everyone.

Conclusion

This isn’t your father’s virtual world any more.  From hearing this panel, I’d say that virtual worlds technologies (or, real-time 3D collaborative spaces) will continue to morph and blend immersive experiences with the social graph, social gaming and augmented reality.  As facilitator Jeff Pope noted, it will be interesting to gather again in 12 months to re-assess where the trends have taken us.


3 Virtual Worlds Technologies To Watch

September 26, 2010

On September 24th, FountainBlue held its annual virtual worlds conference.  This year’s event was hosted on Cisco’s campus in Milpitas, CA.

The event was attended by entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, investors and virtual worlds practitioners.  Several virtual worlds entrepreneurs spoke on the scheduled panel discussions and a few set up stations to demonstrate their technology.

I’d like to highlight 3 virtual worlds technologies that caught my attention.

RocketOn: A virtual world layer on top of the entire web

Presenting executive: Steve Hoffman, CEO

RocketOn takes my “Best in Show Award” for most innovative virtual worlds technology.  While Facebook and Twitter have propelled social networking to mainstream adoption, surfing the web is still a solitary experience.

While many web sites have added community features (e.g. membership, comments, Facebook social graph integration, etc.) – it’s still the case that when I browse my favorite content sites, I have no idea who else is reading the same page at the same time.

RocketOn seeks to change that.  Using a Flash layer placed on top of web pages via an i-frame, RocketOn users can create their own avatar and have them walk atop any web page.  They can then see other RocketOn users who may be visiting the same web page.

Perhaps you’re reading a movie review and happen to bump into a friend, who’s reading the same review.  You decide to visit a site that hosts a trailer for the movie, so you both navigate to the trailer site, watch it there and continue your chat.

A Foursquare for the entire web

One of the captivating features of Foursquare is the ability to see who else is at the same physical location as you.  RocketOn has built a similar feature for the entire web.  While the service is focused on a consumer audience initially, imagine how this technology could be used in a corporate setting.

Browsing your company’s intranet could become much more productive and engaging.  Now, water cooler conversations could occur online, as you bump into colleagues at the employee directory page (rather than the kitchen).

Additional Information

  1. The “About Us” page for RocketOn
  2. More details on the RocketOn platform
  3. Neat 2-minute video about the RocketOn service

Zenitum: Bringing virtual worlds into the real world

Presenting executive: Albert Kim, CEO

I admire technologies that flip conventional models upside down.  While we visit virtual worlds from the real world, Zenitum seeks to have virtual worlds elements visit us in the real world.  CEO Albert Kim receives the “Jetsettter Badge”, having attended the conference from Zenitum’s home base in Seoul, Korea.

When publicly released (later this year), Zenitum’s technology will be supported on iPhone, Android and Symbian.  Zenitum will provide their app and an SDK (software development kit) for free.  They are encouraging widespread adoption of their technology – consumers use their app and device manufacturers develop services using their SDK. Zenitum will monetize their service via advertising (“augmented advertising”, perhaps).

Our reality will forever be augmented

When you run the app, your smartphone scans your surroundings, attempting to recognize images.  If it finds a match, Zenitum overlays a 3D animated object on top (or around) the real world object.  For example, let’s say a comic book publisher is running a campaign and loads an image of a comic strip into the Zenitum platform.

The same image is on a billboard on a city street.  When I walk down that street with the app running (and my smartphone positioned properly), Zenitum detects the comic strip image.  It then inserts animated 3D objects (perhaps other characters from the comic strip) around the real world object.  As I move my phone left, right, up and down, the animated objects adjust their positions accordingly.

Possible use cases

Imagine the use of this technology at a museum – as you walk past a painting, its “virtual artist” could appear on your phone and speak to you about the inspiration behind the work.  At a trade show or conference, walking down an aisle could cause executives (virtually) to spring up and give you a brief pitch about their product.

Neat stuff – I hope we’re able to keep the distinction clear, though, on what’s real and what’s virtual!

Additional Information

  1. Zenitum’s “Company” page on their web site

Digitell: Bringing a global audience to your next meeting

Presenting executive: Jim Parker, President

Digitell uses the ActiveWorlds 3D platform to bring you hybrid meetings, virtual events, virtual communities and webcasts.  Jim Parker, Digitell’s President, notes that a common client of his service is associations, who want to extend the audience for their annual meetings.  Parker notes that the immersive experience of Digitell makes attendees “feel like they’re there” (at the physical event).

Parker’s clients who run these hybrid events often charge the same amount on virtual attendance as they do for the on-site event.  In this way, the common objection of cannibalization goes away, as the virtual component generates additional audience – and additional revenue for the meeting organizer.

Dispelling the notion that virtual worlds are for the younger generation, Parker notes that the average age of a Digitell user is 44 (wow!).  Users are so passionate about the experience that they often comment, “when’s the next event, I want to use my avatar!”.

Parker has created 3D replicas of museums, which allows students (across the globe) to visit and experience the museum’s works, without having to be “bused” to the physical building.  Imagine how easy it would be to have a virtual guide take students on a tour of the museum’s main works, any time of day, with students participating from all over the world.

Additional Information

  1. More info on Hybrid Meetings from Digitell

Conclusion

While the term “virtual worlds” has a negative connotation in the minds of many, it hasn’t stopped innovative entrepreneurs from developing new and exciting services.  It will be interesting to watch each of these technologies to review their adoption, growth and monetization.


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