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A good time to evaluate progress

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So today is the last day in January in 2013, the year that wasn’t supposed to happen according to some.  Amazing how all of that Mayan hype sprang up and consumed some people, and now its even dustier than the fake Y2K disaster.  One whole month of the new year has slipped by, and to me it has passed in the blink of an eye.  So much has happened to me since then, and most of it has been awesome.  Hopefully you feel the same way.

When I was a kid, all I can remember was how slow time seemed to pass.  Except of course in the summer when I got to relax and learn what I wanted to.  School seemed to just plod endlessly.  I used to divide up the day into 5 minute blocks and count down how many more of them I had to endure before I was free.  It seemed that life would take forever to get to the good parts.  My parents always used to warn me, enjoy it now, because it will race by when you are older.

HOLY CRAP!  THEY WERE RIGHT!

To me this isn’t a bad thing, because it must mean my life is pretty good, but they really were right.  Life has a nasty habit of slipping past when you aren’t looking.  So it’s good to stop and take a look at it every once in awhile.

We are at the end of the first month of the year.  We are 1/12th of the way through another one.  Have you made progress on your goals?  Have you taken steps to change your life?  What new people have you met?  What books have you read?  What have you done differently to make this year unique?

There is a value in stopping as we go to see how we are doing.  Far too often people get to the end of the year, and realized they have squandered an incredible chunk of their lives.  If we divide it up into smaller chunks to keep ourselves focus, we are less likely to lose all of our time.

There is no such thing as stasis in life.  Life is change.  You are either becoming richer or poorer.  You are healthier or sicker.  Freer or deeper into bondage.  So time lost, is often change for the worse.  Stop now, and see where you are.  Is this year progressing the way you want, or is it time to kick it up a notch?  Better to ask now, than after all your time is gone.

Successfully casting your sales net

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Today is the last day for our mini-sales boot camp.  If, you haven’t read the other two, scroll down a bit and read those first.  Today’s once again builds off of them, so it gives you the best footing to start from.  It’s kind of funny, when I started the first post I wasn’t sure I had enough content to make a decent dent.  Then it turned into three days.  Who knew.  The first day was about your mind set in sales.  Yesterday was about some tips to help you make it easy for your customers to buy.  Today is about casting your net.

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Casting a net, if you don’t know, is an image often used in sales to describe the process of bringing in your customers.  Your customers are like fish, and you want to hook them (although hopefully not club and gut them, that would make repeat business difficult).

Reach Out:

So as with the net theme, your initial focus needs to be reaching out to others that would be interested in the product or service you are making.  At the time of this writing, you can no longer just make a site, and hope people stumble across it.  Get out there and interface with people that you can offer your products to.  You are an expert on what you do, so its time to leverage that capital.

Of course you want to have a Facebook page, so reach out to other pages in the field.  Post a quick greeting and introduction on their wall.  Say who you are, what you do, and why they want to know about it.  Then, invite them to come like you.  That invitation at the end is huge.  Call them to action.

Next, find some forums relating to what you do.  So for example, if you sell chicken food, find chicken websites.  Answer a few questions on the forum each day, and have your web information in the signature file.  It doesn’t even have to be questions relating to your product.  Just interface with as many people as you can in a positive fashion, they will naturally want to come see you.

Lastly, find some people of influence in your field.  Maybe people with successful pages, blogs, or non competing businesses.  Ask them if you can submit a product for review, or a guest post on their blog.  When approached with humbleness and gratitude, most people are more than willing to help.

You are the brand, build it every day:

Now I mentioned this the last few days, you are selling you, just as much as you are selling your widgets.  So you need to focus less on what your product can do, and more on how you can help people, most likely by using your product.  This does tie in the with suggestion above with the message boards.  Your answer’s aren’t “goat soap will help you skin” they are “I can cure that skin problem with my goat soap”.  This makes you the solution, not a Google search for goat soap.

If you don’t have a blog, or some sort of blog function on your website, you need one.  You also need to update it regularly.  Static web-pages are out.  They will get torn off of the Google rankings over time, and on a more basic level, if you site never changes, why do I ever need to visit it more than once.  Pick a time interval to update your site on, and stick to it.  Daily updates would be best, but the most important thing is consistency.  We want to give people a reason to come back and see you over and over again.

Your updates don’t just have to be about widgets.  Remember, we are building your brand.  Look at me, my goal is to sell books, and maybe a physical product at some point.  I don’t just write about one thing.  I write every day.  Some posts are really good, sometimes I don’t capture the magic, but there is always something new, and that encourages people to come back.  The more times they come to see you, the more chances you have to help them.

Asking for the sale:

The last tip I have is probably the most universal failing of  new sales people everywhere.  They are afraid to ask for the sale.  They somehow think what they are doing is a great thing.  They have invented the amazing widget, or written the perfect book.  With this thing, they shall change the universe.  Yet if they ask for money for it, it somehow becomes dirty.

First off, the old myth is true.  If you don’t ask for the sale, your odds of completing one go down by at least 50%.  If you as a sales person feel weird about asking, its much weirder for the customer.  Most won’t do it, and just wander away.  So mathematically, if you want to sell something, you need to ask people to buy it.

Secondly, I feel that people look at this wrong, and that goes double in this particular homesteading community.  We do these things because we want to make a difference and change lives, especially our own.  So if we have a product, or a service, that we truly believes solves problems and helps people, aren’t we doing a disservice by not offering to sell it?  If I have a great new chicken food that makes birds happier and healthier, aren’t I damaging chickens by not selling it?  If my soap makes you look 10 years younger, aren’t I being cruel by keeping it to myself?

If you have followed everything I layed out, you have built value in, and a brand around, your ability to help people with something.  Whatever that thing happens to be.  The right thing to do is go out and spread that thing to as many people as you can, and the way to do that is to sell it.  Otherwise, you can’t afford to help people anymore.  So go out there and succeed.  Win with your business, because a win for you, is a win for everyone you help.

Sales tools to sell you better

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Normally the sequence of my posts doesn’t matter much, but if you are reading this, and haven’t read yesterday’s post about a sales mindset, you should go back and read that one first.  That one was the call to action and mindset change, this is some actual tools and tips you can use to boost the sales of any business you have started.  Remember, it’s your business, and the key to your business is you.  You are the only thing you do that can’t be replaced or outsourced, so leverage the crap out of you.

Social Media is the new communication:

When was the last time you received an email that was critically important?  In the last 6 months, I have only received 1 email that I didn’t initiate, that was important, from a non-family source.  I am clearly in the majority, look how every email box company in the universe talks about how great their spam folders are.  How many e-marketing books have you read where the goal is to build a big robust email list?

Why?  What does that email accomplish for you?  It gets you chucked off into a spam folder never to be heard from again.  You just went through all the time and effort to convince someone to connect with you so you can squander the opportunity to talk to them.  People communicate on social media now.  That’s where you need to engage them.  It bridges the gap between advertising, which is one way, and a conversation, which is two ways.  You want to be able to engage your customers, hear back from them, and find out how you can serve them better.  Most importantly, you need to make it easy for them to do your hard work for you and spread your message.

Everyone needs a business card:

Whatever it is that you do, you clearly like doing it, or you would choose something else.  I am willing to bet that comes up in conversation when you are out and about in the world.  So you have just done a great job of pitching your widgets to me, and our conversation is at an end.  Which of these two is more likely to work?

Yeah, go check out my blog.  Its http://www.reallylonguniquename.wordpress.com/posts/extrawidgets/orderfromme

or

I would love to hear from you again on my site.  Here is my card.  I will be on later today around 5, hop on and say hi.

Bam.  You hand them a card.  In their mind you just went up a level in professionalism.  You have taken the burden off of them for remembering the long site name.  You should also have all of your social media outlets listed on there so they can interact with your community.  Most people, with the best intentions in the world, won’t remember your site name until they have been there a few times.  Help them give you money.

Business cards don’t have to be expensive, or super flashy, just functional.  You can get 250 of them for “free” at vistaprint if you are willing to subject yourself to lots of ads.  Then you just pay $6 for the shipping.  Go order some today, and always have a few with you.  You never know when you need one.

Have a specific call to action in mind:

The purpose of all sales is to get someone else to do something you want them to do.  Whether its buy a product, like a Facebook page, comment on a forum, etc.  The first step to getting someone to accomplish that mission, is to know what you want them to do, and work towards that all the time.  Do you want people to Like your Facebook page?  Then work on that today, and nothing else.  Do you want to sell bars of soap?  Try to close as many bars as you can.  Do you want people to spread your page to others?  Do that.

There is a tremendous power in clarity and focus.  If you focus on one things, you will make it happen.  If you focus on 10 things, you will probably accomplish none of them.  That’s why multitasking is a myth by the way.  Its not possible to work on more than one thing at once.  Try multi tasking while cleaning your house.  You start 10 things and finish none.  Its a whole lot of work to accomplish nothing.

Sell a want, not a need:

This runs exactly counter to every sales book you have ever read, I can guarantee it.  They almost all think you should sell a need.  After all, if somebody needs something, they have to buy it right?

Well yes they do, but when someone is forced to do something, they look for the absolute cheapest way to get it done.  They are mad they have to do it, and it becomes all about the price.  Don’t believe me?  You have to eat right?  Go follow around a broke college kid and see what he eats.  Tell me ramen, beer and hot dogs aren’t involved here.  Do you want to try selling him on a grassfed beef burger with a free range egg on top?

When somebody wants something, they will do everything in their power to keep it, because to cut back is admitting defeat.  How many broke people keep their cable and can’t pay their mortgage?  My wife was in collections, its more than you think.  They will sacrifice the needs to keep the wants, so be a want.

Hopefully you found some of these helpful in looking at your business.  I actually have a couple more, but I am going to save those for tomorrow, as its time for my day to get rolling.  Get out there today and call some new customers to action.

You are in sales (Yes you are)

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The process of starting this community, this blog and in writing my book has given me a chance to interface with some of the most amazing people.  There is a huge and thriving homesteading world out there, and so many of us want to branch away from the mainstream, and just immerse ourselves in the homesteading life.  It seems so simple on paper.  I don’t want to work for The Man anymore, so I will just start my own business.  I will sell natural eggs, or plants from my garden.  The widgets change, but the basics stay the same.  Build a great product, mention it  little, and people will beat a path to your door to buy it.  If you are lucky enough for that to happen to your, that’s amazing.  Go for it.  In all likelihood though, that’s not how it will play out.

This is fresh on my mind because it has come up repeatedly in the last few days with some friends of mine, as well as some people I have met by chance.  They either have a product already, or they are thinking of creating one, and they are really doing themselves a disservice.  Whether its a book, or a business plan, or a product, you are all making the same mistake.  I don’t want to be specific with anyone, because I don’t want anyone to get offended, but you shouldn’t  be anyway.  So many of us are making the same mistakes.  I have a little bit of mindset adjustment for you today, then some more concrete tips for you tomorrow.

I have a great desire for any small business person to succeed.  I shop locally whenever I can.  I try to support businesses that give me good service.  I look for positive options when I can.  I have no greater desire than to see the dreams of all of my friends lead them to freedom from “The Man”.

I have been in sales for my entire adult life in one form or another.  Most of that time has been selling consumer electronics, but I have had stints in moving other large ticket items, including a brief failed experiment in selling insurance.  I have made a living for my wife and I, through my ability to sell a product.  I have acknowledged that I am in sales, and they pay me to be good at it.  More importantly, I AM good at it.  In a small moment of self adulation here, I recently crossed the $1 Million mark in sales at my current employer, which is pretty impressive.  That part isn’t important to the story, but I am damn proud of myself so I threw it in.

You are in sales too.  You just might not think of it.  In fact, you probably don’t.  What do you think of when you think of a sales person?

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Maybe this?

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Maybe if you turned off the 80s channel you are thinking of this?

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Yes, those are all sales people.  You have either been one of you haven’t, but I would say 99% of the people reading this right now have been through this.

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That’s a job interview where the woman sold herself.  If you have ever gotten a job, you sold yourself.  If you didn’t get hired, you sold yourself POORLY.  So yes, you are in sales.  Sales is simply another way of saying you convince somebody to do something you want them to do.  Married?  You are in sales.  Trying to get the kids to do something, but don’t feel like yelling?  You are in sales.  The moment you start thinking of it that way, the moment you will do better with your business.

The conversation that brought this up today happened in the most unlikely place.  I stopped to get some fresh alfalfa for the girls at the feed store today.  I stop at the same place about once a week, so the guys recognize me by now.  I got into a conversation with the loader guy, and I found out that he is an amateur photographer.

Now, he started off great.  I personally don’t give a crap about art.  If you do, awesome.  I just don’t get it.  Other than a mild interest in old propaganda ads, I don’t really care.  This guy though was doing a great job of getting me excited about his work.  He was telling me about his latest piece.  A picture of a cow, just alone and silhouetted against the backdrop of the Tucson mountains.  He described it in such detail, that I was actually intrigued.  He told me how he had this great site setup were it was really easy to order stuff and how he just uploaded it this morning.  He also told me the name of the site, and his username on there, which would probably allow me to look it up.

So why don’t I have a picture preview of his work in here, or a link to the site?  Because he didn’t realize he was in a sales engagement, and he failed at it.  I am not being mean.  I gave him some tips, which I will share with you guys tomorrow.  I straight up told him that I wouldn’t remember the name of the site, or his username.  He didn’t even have a piece of paper to write it down on.  My brain doesn’t hold that stuff, and neither does anyone else’s.

His problem is that he doesn’t realize he hasn’t harnessed his greatest asset.  Himself.  Every time you talk to someone about what you do, you have an opportunity to make a sale.  If you go into that with he intent that you will move some product, you are significantly more likely to succeed.  He doesn’t realize he is in sales selling his art, so he isn’t.  He is relying on a construct to do that for him, and that won’t work.  No tip, no trick, no website, no book will make up for that for you.

Like I said above, I have some tips and suggestions to help you succeed in your business, and I will cover those tomorrow.  What you need to realize today is that you are your greatest asset to making your business succeed.  Whatever you make or produce, I can find someone else who makes it.  What I can’t find, is another you.  No one else will convey your passion like you.  No one will pound the pavement like you.  No one will motivate to close a sale like you.  No one will deliver the same level of service as you.  IF, you realize that YOU need to sell it.  You are the single biggest thing that will make your business succeed, and YOU are the single biggest thing that will make it fail.  Realize that in your mind, an sell yourself to the world.

Passing on our bad eating to our kids

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I feel a deep sense of irony in my subject matter today, since this entire posting was brought on by watching a commercial that annoyed me last night.  Now that’s ironic given my post yesterday about how we should all watch less TV.  I stand by that, but as I said, I still watch TV, just less than the average.

So I was watching “Kitchen Nightmares”, which is definitely a trash TV guilty pleasure of mine, and Chef Ramsey just got done berating a restaurant owner who was serving nothing but frozen food.  Chef smashed the stuff on the table, and yelled at him “The first rule of cooking, fresh is better”.  As someone who loves to cook, and eat, I couldn’t agree more.

Immediately after that line, the show cuts to commercial.  Which is the V8 fusion Rip Van Winkle commercial, it’s only about fifteen seconds long if you haven’t seen it.  At first I watched it and I just rolled my eyes, then my blood started to boil.  V8 is basically saying, oh yeah, just drink our juice, its the same as eating vegetables.  Go run the veggies they use through a juicer and taste it, tell me it tastes the same as their product.

There is another one that I haven’t seen for awhile, which is for Pediasure sidekicks.  Basically the girl is playing soccer, and the other kids turn into the foods they are eating.  She drinks a bottle of Pediasure and whoops their butts.  Somehow not turning into a giant Pediasure bottle seems like an unfair advantage against the french fry kid.

So how do those tie in to chef Ramsey?  He was a convenient vehicle for describing my point.  Fresh food is the best.  We all know this to be true, yet somehow we get that point clouded up.  We have skyrocketing obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.  All of these are going off the charts in the last two generations.  Do we think that might have something to do with the processed crap we eat now?

It’s bad enough when we as adults lie to ourselves and eat horrible food, but now we are passing that on to our children.  Rather than building the basics for lifetime good nutrition, we are teaching them to reach for a magic bottle just as we do ourselves.  You don’t have to actually eat well, just down a bottle of this stuff with your hotdog and you Mac and Cheese and it will be fine.  What life skills is that teaching the next generation?

Real solutions don’t come from a quick fix bottle, especially when it comes to our health.  In the bible it refers to your body as a temple, and should be kept holy.  We are  a complex machine, that needs to be kept healthy, but the solution is to eat good whole foods, not to look for the elixir bottle.

I do realize simply by the nature of the fact you are reading this on a homesteading blog, and you probably found me through the homesteading community, that you already know this.  None of this is surprising to you, yet there is still value in studying the opposition.  This is the world we live in now, and in order to spread our message, we need to remember where the others are coming from, so we can talk to them where they are.  Otherwise, we will never change anyone’s mind.  Having good results is important, but being able to spread the message successfully is the key.

Writing a book, and where America wastes its time

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Good Morning everyone,

I have to say that I am in an amazing mood this morning, so hopefully I can pass along some of that energy to all of you out there in Tribal Land.  I was awakened early this morning (4:30am) to the delightful sound of rain drumming on my roof.  I wasn’t really able to go back to sleep, but I feel oddly energized from the sound.  I actually woke up before my alarm, which is good.  I am less likely to disturb the wife that way when I blunder around in the dark.  Most importantly, I released my first book to my Tribal Community yesterday, and I am beyond stoked about it.

Since most readers of this blog come from my Facebook site, you have probably already seen my book announcement.  If you haven’t, I have officially launched my first book “What the Cluck!?  An alternative view on raising chickens.”

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That’s my beautiful little Salmon Favorolle chicken Evian offering her services as a cover model, one of my Welsummer chickens photo bombing on the left, and an Orpington mooning the camera in the back.  It’s available free until Monday on Amazon.com, it will also be featured permanently in the column on the right of my blog if you want to share with friends.

Fear not though, this was not an entire blog about my book.  Plenty of time for those later when the free promo period is over.  This is actually more about how people find time to get things done that they really want to.

I have been blogging daily now for 26 days.  26 days ago the Tribal Future was nothing at all except a rough idea in my mind, and some old dusty posts from the Summer.  In 26 days I have written at least one post a day, often times 2.  Our community has grown into more than 300 people on Facebook.  Most importantly, my wife and I wrote a book.  All of this while still working full time and relaxing in the evenings with Jenn most nights.

So if I, one of the laziest people you know, was able to pull this off, why can’t everyone?

The truth is that everyone can, but not everyone does.  It takes sacrifice, focus and dedication in order to set the time aside to get these things done.  I used to get up at 7 every morning to get ready for work, when I started blogging, I got up at 6.  That gives me an extra hour in the morning to dedicate to my craft, that doesn’t take time away from work or my wife.  I got to bed at 11 every night, so I am not even really short changing my sleep.

As I explore the homesteading world, I find so many things that I would love to be able to do.  I want to grow my own food. Raise my own animals.  Build things more.  I find joy in doing the things for myself that most other people relegate to the dust bin, and that makes me proud.

Now this last one might be me, but when I explain how much my wife and I do things for ourselves, the excuse I hear from people most often is “I don’t have time”.  I say that we cook every night at home, they don’t have time.  I live an hour from work, that takes so long.  I built a headboard, how long did that take?  We are an entire nation of stressed out individuals whose biggest complaint is that we don’t have time for the things we love to do.  I would read a book if I had the time.  I would learn Spanish if I had the time.  I would write a book if I had the time.

So time is valuable to us all, and we never have enough of it.  I wish I could find the study again, but I actually read how people are more willing to give you their money than their time.

So what the hell are we doing with the 10080 minutes we are ALL given in the week?  Why do some people get so much more done than others?

Well, the other day I read that the average American watches 35 hours of TV in a week.  That is an entire day and a half dedicated to just sitting on their butt intaking alpha waves directly into their brain.  And that’s the average.  That means some people are more.  Can you imagine a worse way to spend your time?

Now I don’t own cable, and haven’t in years.  I don’t miss it, but I am not going to lie and say I don’t watch TV.  I do.  By my math I clock in at between 20 and 25 hours a week, which in my book is still terrible.  It kinda makes me wish I had more will power to turn off my Xbox.  Maybe that’s something I will work on this year.  Still though.  How many better uses of our country’s time are there than watching TV?

We are already a nation that can’t build anything.  Our kids are a generation that doesn’t know anything.  They can’t even talk to each other without texting.  We run around all day, watching the minutes slip by and claiming we never have enough of them.  Maybe we should all just turn off the TV and remember where all of our time went.  There are so many more worthwhile ways to spend your day.

What about when a chicken adopts you?

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I think its time we had a serious discussion of potential etiquette and situational awareness here at The Tribal Future.  After all, we do such a good job with the raising and care of chickens, it seems almost inevitable that it will come up more and more in the future.  We can’t simply create these chicken oases and not expect this issue to come up.  What issue is this might I ask?  Is it a question of nutrition and health?   A question of being too noisy in a suburban area?  A question of rooster health?  Nope, its what the heck do you do when random wild chickens just decide they want to live with your girls?

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What do you see in this picture that doesn’t belong?

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How about here, photobombing at the top?

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Or here?

See that little white chicken?  That isn’t ours.  Or I should say, that WASN’T ours.  At least not originally.  If you remember a few weeks ago when I did the post on The Chicken Survivalist.  I was talking about a rooster that was in our yard.  Well he never really stuck around, but I think this one escaped at the same time, and she did stick around.

This chicken has absolutely been priceless, and our chickens reaction to her has been even better.  My yard is divided into three main sections.  My chickens live in the backyard, that’s completely surrounded by chain-link fencing.  I also have a side yard which is more open, and was where I had my garden and my raised beds.  There are also some cactus and palo verde trees over there.  It turns out this little chicken has been living and roosting up in one of those trees for about a month.

Initially she was very scared of us, and would always run away when we came out into the yard. I thought that she was running back towards whatever coop she had come from initially, but no, she must have been roosting in the trees.  We would see her messing around in the garden looking for food, and of course Jenn felt bad for her, so Jenn provided a water dish too.  She would come up to the fence and look in at our girls, and she would be so jealous of their food and their water.  Our chickens would see her over there, and just go on about their thing.  This has gone on for awhile, but in the last few days it got more hilarious.

See there is no food in the desert in winter.  Period.  The bugs are dead, the plants are gone, and the soil is sandy crap.  So she was clearly starving.  So two day ago I went out to feed our girls breakfast.  I let them out and put the food down in their spot, and go back to the house.  I hear some running and some flapping.  I turn around and this little chicken has jumped and heaved herself up over the fence, and made a bee line for the food.  And then she stayed.  All day.

That was two days ago.  Everyday she flaps up over the fence.  Hangs out at chicken day camp with out girls, and goes home to her tree at exactly five thirty at night.  She is absolutely adorable with our girls.  There is no fighting, they all just hang out together.  The Favorolles especially are best friends with this thing.  I actually saw them preening each other yesterday morning.  She is blending nicely into our group.  I am only waiting for her to follow our girls into the coop at night, and I will clip her wings.

We kept calling her Little Chicken, so my wife named her Elsie (L. C) to give her a more dignified name. I would have to say we must be doing something right, if random stray chickens in the neighbourhood are showing up at your door.

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