I Was Part Of A “Flash” Group During A Storm… And It Was Poweful

“Let’s go for it.”

Thy sky was threatening.  We faced a fifteen-minute walk to the car.  Accuweather predicted thirty minutes before the rain would arrive.

Two minutes into our walk the skies opened up and the rain came pouring down. We hustled to another building with a covered courtyard.

Within minutes a few dozen others joined us in seeking shelter. Together, we rode out the worst of the storm. I bet this sounds ordinary to you. I get it.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

After a few minutes, someone commented that predictions called for clear skies all day. A few others, including myself, chimed in. I opened up my weather app to look at the radar. I showed the screen to others so we can track the passing of the storm.

Some of our kids ran around and played with each other. The adults huddled around and complained.

When I wrote about this later, it hit me.

We Formed A Group

Yes, this was a brief group. It lasted for thirty minutes. Nobody exchanged contact information. Still, a brief bond formed in a short period. The adults socialized. The kids played. Our mutual distrust of meteorologists and disgust for our situation formed a group identity.

Once the rain slowed down we went our separate ways. A few us exchanged goodbyes and good luck wishes. That was the end of the group.

Creating A Lasting Group

Why does this matter?

You may already be familiar with the importance of in-groups and out-groups. In sales and marketing, we often call this us versus them.

My example shows how easy it is to create this effect. A group of random strangers huddle up under some shelter and form a group with a brief, but real identity. As a marketer, leader or influencer you can create these same conditions to build your own group or community. Here are the steps.

  1. Gather people. Use an event or idea to gather like-minded people.
  2. Stand for something. What are the values you stand for?  Your group needs a core theme they all rally around. I assume our random group held many conflicting values. I do know we all shared the belief that weather predictions suck. That was the glue behind our flash group.
  3. Be a cheerleader for your group’s values. Preach, prove and spread your group’s values.
  4. Identify the opposition – All groups need a “them,” an opposition group. The opposition can be an opposing group. It could also be an opposing idea. Without a “them” your group lacks the emotional firepower to become a cohesive group.
  5. Keep it going – Groups last only as long as the pieces stay in place. If the group’s goals lose relevance or the opposition disappears, so does your group. Groups often cease to exist once all its goals are met. Why? The reason behind their existence disappears.
  6. Creating labels help with group identity. A label that identifies the angst behind your group rallies support. You only need to look at Trump’s Make America Great Again label as proof of that.
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NEVER Use This Word To Greet A Customer, Prospect… Or Even A Friend

We never do anything like this. We grabbed a last minute deal, packed the family in the car and drove down to D.C. It took five hours to get there. The last five miles took over an hour. You know how frustrating that is after a long drive. We checked in and freshened up. All four of us felt famished. We decided to go eat. We picked the first nice looking restaurant.

As I approached the hostess, she caught my attention. She flashed a quick smile.

“I’ll be right back to process you in a minute.”

Did you catch that? She’ll be back to “process” us. Eek. What does that mean?

You can process me when I renew my license or check in the hospital for a surgery.

Maybe processing visitors to your restaurant is a D.C. thing? Does sounding formal attract more customers with money?

No Need For Formality

Here’s a tip for anyone focused on “formal” greetings. They feel fake. Stay away from it.

Welcome us. Don’t process us.

Here’s what the hostess could have said:

“Welcome. I’ll be right back to seat you in a minute.”

When you use formal words and phrases it sets the tone of a relationship.

Simple Alternatives

Compare these alternatives. Think of how you would react to someone in each comparison.

  1. Don’t say we’ll process you soon. Say, we’ll take care of you soon.
  2. Don’t say greetings. Say hello.
  3. Don’t say conditions are not optimal to start work today. Say the rain is making the foundation too muddy to start work today.

Using formal words makes the relationship with your customer formal. Using that kind of language tells your customer she’s a number, not a person. That kind of emotional distance makes it easier for them to ditch you for the next great deal.

The Secret To Avoiding Formal Or Showy Talk

Sometimes we use this language to show we’re smart, creative or business-like. Sure, it may show you’re smart. Nobody cares. Customers value clarity over creativity unless a problem needs a creative solution. As for sounding business like, that’s a turnoff.

There’s an old saying we use in copywriting. Pretend the person you sell to is sitting across from you in a bar or coffee shop. You wouldn’t use any of those “showy” words with a friend. Avoid them with your prospects and customers. They’re people too.

Here’s the best part. You already know how to do this. Using natural language requires no skill or practice. Remember these basic truths.

  1. Your customers are human beings
  2. They prefer to be spoken and written to like human beings. Leave the pretentious words to the lawyers. They’re the only ones who like it.


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A Man And A Woman Argue About Who Got On Line First. Who Wins?

One of the golden rules of persuasion states: Never tell anyone they’re wrong for what they think, believe, value or how they act. 

An episode at the coffee shop gives us a great opportunity to see this in action.

A guy waits on line to order a coffee. There’s spacing between him and the person in front of him. It seems a bit unusual. Either he’s daydreaming or daring someone to cut in front of him.

herAnother woman gets in line. She has no idea she cut in front of this guy.

“Excuse me. Sorry. The line is back here,” the man says with a coy smile.

She looks puzzled as she replies.

What? I just got behind this woman in front of me,” 

“I know. I was here. I just wanted to give her some space.”

She replies with a forceful “okay.”

After switching places, the woman flashes a look of disgust and shakes her head. She feels she’s been wronged. You can see it. She looks flustered. She takes out her cell phone. I have no idea what she wrote but I assume it was some rant on social media.

The guy steps up to the counter and reveals a new persona. He greets the people behind the counter with an abundance of charm and politeness.  The woman behind him sees this. She starts typing away on her phone again.

Breaking Down The Action

This guy felt he was wronged when the woman cut in front of him. The woman felt she was wronged too. I see her perspective. Since when do we give people extra spacing waiting in line? To the contrary, we limit spacing as a signal to others:

“I’m in line. Get behind me.”

Humans have a burning desire to be right. Even when we’re wrong we don’t like hearing about it. In this encounter, the guy got his emotional victory by calling out this woman. I’m guessing this woman got her victory too. I assume her feverish typing was all about the jerk who accused her of cutting.

Being Right Makes Persuasion Impossible

There’s a trap we fall into in any persuasion attempt. We feel the need to prove we’re right. By proving we’re right we’re telling them they’re wrong. Nobody likes being told they’re wrong. Even if you know this rule, it’s hard to remember it when you’re emotional. There’s an urge to prove you’re right at the expense of any other goal.

Even if you win, you lose. Just like the woman got her revenge by letting loose on social media, your prospect or opponent does the same in his own way. Maybe he refuses to buy or he cancels his order. Maybe he lets you win the battle but comes back twice as hard with his own “proof” to show you you’re wrong.

Fight the natural urge to prove you’re right. Instead, be curious. Be the seeker of truth. Use questioning to lead your prospect or foe to a decision you desire. Let him decide for himself that doing business with your or accepting your idea is the right move.

Unlock the keys to persuasion with my bullet writing guide here

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The One “Easy” Secret To Winning Unlimited Trust, Authority And Influence… All The Other Skills Take Practice

It’s Memorial Day weekend and I need a plumber. I always seem to need one on a holiday weekend.  I called my usual go-to guy. Voice mail picked up. This wasn’t an ordinary voice mail recording. It was one of these:

“Sorry. This voice mailbox is full. Goodbye.”

Computer voices are so impersonal.

I called the next one on the list. No answer.

Finally, I tried the third one. I never used this plumber before. This one too answered with a voice mail. But this time it differed.

“… Leave your message and I’ll respond on Tuesday. If it’s an emergency call me at … and I’ll see what I can do.”

Jackpot. I found someone who could help me.

A lot of us (myself included) always look for that angle. How can I differentiate myself? What will win their trust? How can I get attention and keep it?  How do I tow the line between persuasion and pushy?

It’s important to practice and execute on all these things. I practice these myself. I write about these subjects every day.

Put aside all the tactics and strategies to win trust, influence and authority.

I don’t want to diminish the importance of those goals. If I did, I’d put myself out of business.  Here is something I don’t write about enough.

The One Skill You Can Master… Without Practice

Just show up.Half the battle is just showing up.

Half the battle is just showing up.

Be there when someone needs you.

Respond when nobody else will.

Act when everyone else can’t be bothered.

At the very least, buy some extra storage in your voice mailbox.

If you can do that, you’re already ahead of the game. Those actions win you more trust than any strategy, tactic or “word slinging” anyone can teach you.

How To Show Up More Than Anyone Else

You don’t need to acquire a new skill You don’t even need to practice. It requires only willingness. Be willing to do the effort others avoid.

Get out a pen and paper or your notes app and start by answering these questions.

Who does your competition refuse to service?

When do they “stop taking calls?”

What subjects do they avoid talking about?

Are there truths do they avoid disclosing?

What are your policies that keep you from showing up?


Here’s one more truth I need to share with you. Something dawned on me while editing this piece. I need to follow this advice more often too.

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I wasn’t in the market for biscotti, chocolate or wine. I bought all three. All this happened in a span of one hour.

I hopped into the coffee shop in need of an afternoon jolt. I intended to buy only a coffee. Before I had a chance to order, I spotted a golden biscotti staring at me. I had to buy it. I enjoyed every bit of it with my coffee.

Before heading home I walked around the neighborhood. My twisted logic decided a ten-minute walk would “pay” for my decadence. I passed a liquor store. “I’m out of wine. Let me pick up a few bottles.”

On the way out, I noticed something unusual. They had 85% dark chocolate on sale. It took me by surprise. I never saw this at a liquor store. As a chocolate lover, I couldn’t resist. I bought a bar.

In less than one hour I made three unplanned purchases.

This is why I always discount the statement:

“I’m not in the market for …” 

 I wasn’t in the market for the biscotti, wine or chocolate. Seeing them triggered a buying impulse.  Of course, I failed to realize while it was happening. It was only on reflection that I put the pieces together.

Please Don’t Sell Me

Sometimes the statement I’m not in the market really means please don’t tempt me. It reminds me of the days I lived in New York City. I’d pass buildings with signs stating:

“No Menus” 

What that really says is:

“We order too much pizza and Chinese food. Leave us alone”

Just because someone tells you they’re not interested, doesn’t mean they’re not going to buy.

The First Purchase Sets The Stage

In my example above. I went on a mini buying spree. Yielding to the addictive Biscotti put me in a buyers mood. It made me susceptible to more buying.

We all experience this at times. We buy one thing and then we add onto it.

Marketers and sales people do this through upsells. First, they lure you in with their initial low price offer. The act of buying creates a rush of feel-good chemicals. It makes you more inclined to accept the next offer. When I had my walkway and steps done, I added other small projects. I would never have chosen to do these other add-ons unless without the first project.

Is It Ethical?

It’s often a tough question to answer. Sometimes it feels sleazy. Other times it feels natural. Here’s the general rule I go by.

If your upsell is something they would expect to be part of the initial sale, then yes, it’s kind of sleazy. Imagine buying a course on marketing. Then, the seller offers you an upsell. He says that first course you bought won’t work without the upsell. That happens a lot in the online world.

Here’s an ethical way to use the upsell. Sell your course and include everything they need to make it work. As an upsell, offer a consultation or personal coaching. That’s not something a reasonable person would expect in the initial product.

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Rude people have it easy. A small act of kindness on their part shocks us. Sometimes it shocks us into action. Yesterday, a normally rude person at the supermarket spotted me. She looked at me with a smile and said

“Pistachio’s are half price for today only.”

It shocked me in two ways. She was nice. And she remembered that I like pistachios.

The Punchline Effect

She used what I like to call the Punchline Effect. It compelled me to buy. How could I say ‘no’ after that?

It’s a powerful tool in marketing. You don’t see it used often.

Here’s how it works.

When a comedian tells you a joke, she leads you in one direction and then, at the last second, she goes in a different direction. It defies your expectation. We call that the punchline.

Here’s an example of this effect in storytelling.

My friend Bill wakes up each morning before everyone else. He makes breakfast for his wife and kids. At work, he’s the go-to guy when someone struggles with a problem. He always volunteers for the tough issues. People love him for that. After work, he spends a half hour volunteering as a mentor for troubled youth, unless his kids have soccer practice. On the weekends he coaches his kid’s soccer team. Yesterday, he got home early. There’s a knock on the door. It’s the father of his older kids friend. He says “your wife left her bag at Tim’s playdate today.” Bill smiles and says “thanks.” Before he closes the door he adds “Oh… and if you talk to my wife again, I’ll kill you.”

Everything I told you until the last sentence led you to believe one thing about Bill. Now, your opinion turns upside down with the last comment.

Shock Them Into Action

Creating the punchline effect in marketing requires some creativity. Think about your end goal. What do you want them to walk away believing? Once you have that, construct a story that leads them in an alternate direction.  With those two pieces, you create the punchline effect.

Your story should lead your audience to believe. Avoid telling them what to believe. I never said Bill was a nice person in the beginning. I never said he turned out to be crazy. You concluded that from his actions.

The Five Step Process

Follow these steps to create your own punchline effect

  1. Determine the end state you want your reader to conclude.
  2. Convey it through story or actions.
  3. End it with a bang. The ending should surprise the reader. “I never would have guessed that.”
  4. Important: avoid being blunt or “telling” – the reader must conclude the end state you desire. In my story above, I didn’t say Bill is crazy. I let you conclude that.
  5. Re-read your piece and ask yourself: How would a reader fill in the blanks? This serves as a check to your earlier work. It’s easy to go astray here. Better yet, ask someone else to read your piece. Make sure they come to the conclusion you intend.
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Could The Three Step “ABC” Process Be The Holy Grail Against FEAR?

At last, time to myself. My wife escaped for some time with friends. With my kids asleep, I had two hours of quality time to myself.

I decided to take a quick shower. I finished up, grabbed my towel and opened the bathroom door.

“Daddy. Daddy. Where are you?”

It was my older son. Something was wrong. Wearing only a towel, I ran over to his bedroom.

“What’s wrong? What is it?” I asked in a calm but stern voice.

He mumbled something through his tears. I couldn’t quite make it out. He pointed up at the ceiling.

“What? Is there a spider or bug crawling on the ceiling?” I focused my eyes but saw nothing.

“No. There’s a shadow. I don’t know where it’s coming from.” 

I let out a sigh. My body relaxed. I let out a brief smile.

The shadow came from a weird positioning of a night light. Once I explained it, he was fine.

Kids often fear absurd things like shadows and monsters under their bed.

We outgrow those fears as we age.

The Fears That Stick With Us

Some fears never leave us. Fear of rejection, embarrassment, failure and regret stick with us. In my twenties and early thirties, fear of rejection led to a disappointing career in sales. As a result, I found myself in a comfortable but unfulfilling desk job in corporate America.

Years later I jumped into marketing, copywriting and writing. Those same fears cropped up again.

I faced this with my writing last year. Fighting through it led me to a simple technique to deal with these fears.

Stumbling Onto A Solution

I’ve written and published work every single day for six months. For six months before that, I wrote every day too. But I limited my work to Google Docs.

“Nobody could reject it if they can’t read it.”

One day, I felt compelled to ask myself:

Why won’t I put my work out there?  I didn’t like the answer. At least I was aware of the fear.

From there, I took baby steps. I wrote every day for a month. I published a few pieces under an anonymous name. Each day I gained more confidence. Finally, I set a date of December 1 to put my work out there.

I woke up that morning and couldn’t pull the trigger. I invented reasons to put it off. I was at a crossroads. I knew if I failed to act, I’d regret it.

Before I went to sleep, I hit publish. I’ve been publishing every day since then.

The “ABC’s” Of Beating Fear

Reminding myself of these points keeps me focused and better able to combat fear.

  1. Awareness – Fear often operates on autopilot. We find justifications to avoid taking an action. Assume each action you avoid is fear based. Once aware, you look at it in a more objective manner.
  2. Baby steps – Before I published my first article (under my own name) I wrote on Google Docs. This got me in the habit of writing daily. Hitting “publish” was the only remaining step.
  3. Crossroads question – Ask yourself this question at each crossroads where you decide to act or not act. What will I regret more, acting and failing or not acting at all? Sometimes acting and failing leads to more pain.than not acting, That happens when I face a risk of financial loss. That’s why I love this question. It helps you avoid risks that keep you up at night. It also helps you take action on negligible risks.
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My Late Night Purchase. Here’s How They Got Me To Buy… While I Was In Bed

My heart pounded with excitement. Finally, a solution to my problem. It’s minutes before 11:00 PM. I could wait until the morning. It’s the weekend. It won’t ship until Monday anyway.

“Screw it. I can’t wait.”

My wife complained about using the computer in our bed. I ignored her. I powered through the slow website and completed my purchase.

For my entire life, I’ve been a horrible sleeper. Even as a child I struggled with sleep. I’m always on the lookout for new products that improve sleep.

Almost always, they disappoint. That never seems to dampen my enthusiasm for something new. You might call that desperation. It might be, but can you blame me?

Whenever something moves me to act like this, I take a deep dive. I want to find out what motivated me to buy. Keep in mind, I wasn’t looking for a solution. I wasn’t searching through Google looking for sleep remedies.

The Email That Triggered A Craving

Something in that email triggered a desire in me. It snapped me out of my normal routine and got me to buy late at night.

What got me to click on the link in the email? It came from BulletProof. They’re the ones famous for BulletProof coffee.

Here’s what got my attention:

“Have you tried Bulletproof Sleep Mode yet? It’s getting great reviews…backed by the latest science.

…measure your sleep before and after – I’m pretty sure you’ll notice the difference right away

I paraphrased those words from the email. I pulled out the relevant parts. They did three things well. They made one mistake. Did you notice it?

Attention Getting Question

The opening question drew my attention. It singles out people who struggle with sleep.

Social Proof

“Getting great reviews”

That statement piqued my interest. Great reviews? Maybe it’s working for other people like me?

Hints At Something New

“Backed by the latest science” added more curiosity. Latest is the key word there. It implies there’s something new that I may not know. A skeptical person might question that line. Someone desperate for a solution, like me, interprets it in a positive way. Why? We’re desperate. We want it to work.

Confidence, Authority

Finally, measure your sleep before and after implies confidence and authority. If I measure my sleep before and after it demonstrates the effectiveness. Demonstrations are the top of the pecking order when it comes to proof.

Uh Oh, He Screwed Up

The one flub in the email is in the last line. He writes “I’m pretty sure you’ll notice the difference right away.”

“I’m pretty sure” is one of those qualifiers that weakens your persuasiveness. I would have come out more forceful. By that point, it didn’t matter. They already sold me.

I clicked on the link. They brought me to the sales page.  I ignored the sales material. Why bother? I already decided to buy. I didn’t want to read anything that might change my mind.

Was It Really That Good?

Here’s a subtle, but critical point. It doesn’t take much to sell me a product in this market.

The piece that made it a sure thing is the positioning. It’s new. I never tried anything like it before. The “newness” inspires hope that it might work. Hope is the most powerful motivator.

If I struggled with occasional sleep issues or minor issues, he would have had to work a lot harder to sell me. It’s the difference between being a persuader and a cheerleader. You can read about that here.



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It’s The Small Mistakes That Kill Customer Love… It Happened To Me, Too

I came to a fateful decision. I gave up my favorite latte. In the scheme of world affairs, it’s meaningless. In my own little world, I lingered on this decision.

A few months ago I discovered the Coconut Mocha Macchiato. I fell in love.

There was one small problem.

Half the time I ordered the drink they gave it to me iced instead of hot. I then had to correct the Barista and wait for my new drink. Yesterday it happened again. I reached a critical point. I got tired being that guy. You know, the one who always complains.

This time, I accepted the iced drink without complaining.

I made the decision when I ordered. It was no longer worth the trouble. I would stick to regular coffee and avoid the chance of confusion.

I doubt I’m the only one to experience this. By switching back to regular coffee I save twelve dollars a week. How many other people did the same?

What’s the lesson here?

Complaining Sucks

Most of us hate complaining. At some point, we tire of it. Customers expect occasional mistakes. Even if they annoy us, we get over it. When it happens over and over we stop complaining. We avoid the uncomfortable situation. That’s exactly what I did. The mistake happened so often, I decided to avoid the circumstance that caused it.

Pay Attention To The “Little” Screw Ups

The big ugly mistakes get everyone’s attention. Customers demand permanent fixes. They never let you forget.

Small screw-ups often go unnoticed. When I miss a customer email or forget something small the other person gives me a pass. I gave the coffee shop a pass many times. Those little screw ups add up. They’re cumulative. At some point, your customer can’t take it anymore. That’s what happened to me.

Does Starbucks keep track of how many drinks they need to do over? I don’t know. Maybe they should start.

This experience challenged me to keep track of my own mini-mistakes. Our customers force us to fix the big mistakes. They give us a pass on the small ones until it reaches a tipping point. By then it may be too late.

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The “Mechanics” Of Creating Insatiable Curiosity… In Just 6 Minutes A Day

Arousing curiosity attracts people to your writing, marketing or stories. Done right, it handcuffs them to your piece. Click bait writers, bloggers and storytellers benefit from mastering this skill. As a copywriter and blogger, I set on a path to bolster my own skills.

Each morning I spend forty-five minutes on writing exercises. It expands my creativity and improves my writing.  A month ago I revised my routine. I added a simple exercise to turbo charge my curiosity creation skills.

It takes only six minutes a day of practice. Take a look at these titles. After each one, see if you can figure out the backstory.

Catering Hall Available Next Saturday. Menu And Cake Set.

House For Sale. Professionally Sanitized. Appointment Only.

Honeymoon Trip. Skip It Or Go Alone?

Funeral Postponed By Investigators. Family Questioned.

Did your mind search for a backstory on any of these?

I bet for the first and third one a canceled wedding popped into your mind.

In the second one, maybe some nefarious event that forced a house onto the market.

In the last one, your mind jumped to the possibility of a crime.

None of these stories are real. They are all part of a daily exercise I use to spark the creativity muscle. Creativity touches a wide range of skills. Curiosity is an essential skill in your creative toolkit.

The Six Minute Exercise

Each morning I spend forty-five minutes doing writing exercises.  The last six minutes focuses on creating curiosity through story ideas.

The rules are simple.

Take one minute to come up with a story idea that generates curiosity. Express the idea in nine words or less. Nine is a bit arbitrary. You want to create curiosity in as few words as possible.

Distractions overwhelm the audience. Creating curiosity in a few words gives you a leg up on your competition.

Components Of Curiosity

Up The Stakes

All curiosity needs mystery. Your mystery must stoke our imagination.

Who took the last cookie from the jar? Who is the husband having an affair with? Both are mysteries. I’ll forget about the cookie jar incident in a few minutes. I need to know who the cheating husband is sleeping with. The stakes run higher in the “cheating” mystery. Emotion runs higher.


Things that are out of place grab our attention. It creates a desire in your audience.

“I gotta know how this all turns out.”

Here’s an example.

Blind Man Lands Airplane. Passengers Questioned.

You would never expect a blind person to land an airplane. It creates curiosity. It triggers a craving for resolution. What happened? How did he come to land an airplane? The last two words “passengers questioned” create an extra dose of curiosity.


Simple stories work best, especially in marketing and copywriting. You don’t need to weave a story like Game Of Thrones.

Get Them Guessing

Reveal enough information to keep your audience guessing. Avoid giving away the secret. How much information should we reveal?  Let’s look at one of the examples from above

Honeymoon Trip. Skip Or Go Alone?

Without the word honeymoon would it generate as much curiosity? No. The word honeymoon ups the stakes. It adds more detail without revealing the mystery. What happens if we add more information?

Honeymoon Trip. Wedding Called Off. Skip Or Go Alone?

There’s still some mystery. We lack the details behind the canceled wedding. Still, it’s not as compelling as our first choice.

Test Your Creations

It’s difficult to test the curiosity value of your creations. Try running them by a friend. How do they respond? Use it as a title for a short story of a few hundred words. If you can create a quick story of a few hundred words from an eight-word title, you might have something.

If you struggle to come up with a story, the curiosity factor lacks power.

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