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Q: How can I find ways to acquire more and better clients and customers? Should I get football magnets and send them to a farm area, or spend $2,000 on a video to send to people.

A: What you really need is to commit to a six-month or yearlong marketing plan like this one.

Personalize Your Brand. Distinguish yourself by deciding what you’re going to build your point of difference on and then making an emotional connection in your marketing. “Think about most real estate marketing: Does it pull on your heartstrings? No, not really. It’s all about ‘Call us because we’ll give you the best service.’ If every single page I turn is telling me the same thing — maybe I’m going to call him because he’s holding a dog.”

Find and Mail to a Farm. Picking an area you can mail to on a regular basis, a farm of 500 or 1,000 homes in an area where you can relate to the people on a personal level. Mail them a marketing piece a week for eight weeks. I guarantee the first piece is going to get thrown away, but by the end of eight weeks, people will recognize the name. After that, mail two or three pieces a month. Never mail anything in an envelope because people won’t take the time to open it. An oversized postcard is ideal because in the two or three seconds it takes to throw your piece away, you’re still building name recognition.

Prequalify Prospects. Develop a high-quality buyer questionnaire: If someone takes the time to fill it out and return it, it’s a real indication of interest. The questionnaire should ask about the buyer’s special needs, such as favorite activities or critical personal services, as well as the home profile. Always include a high-quality cover letter that thanks them for their call and introduces yourself and your philosophy about real estate.

Meet the expert:
Greg Herder, is cofounder of Hobbs/Herder Training and an expert on the topic of personal marketing in real estate. For more information e-mail him at or visit


Q: I’d like to sell my services to the Hispanic community in my area. What can you suggest ways I can better connect with the culture and the community?

A: Cultural connectivity is the ability to reach consumers through their cultural context such as their values, community, lifestyles and language. “If you’re in a foreign country and you hear someone speaking English or [singing] the national anthem, those things connect with you culturally,” says Oscar Gonzales. That same affinity, he says, is true of the American Hispanic market.

As with any cultural group you want to serve, carefully study your market and its relationship with your product or services prior to launching an initiative. For example, there are important Hispanic cultural nuances you need to understand before you start.

 “You’ll want to partner with someone who has this expertise, who knows the demographic info,” says Gonzales. For example, he explains, “If your area is mostly Cuban, but your office has a Cinco de Mayo celebration, then that won’t work. Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican celebration. You have to know your audience.”

He says there are several valid generalizations about the Hispanic market that can help you get started:

Personalismo, roughly translated, means “personalism.” Personalismo communicates the profound emphasis that Hispanic culture places on the subjective experience and quality of person-to-person interaction. Hispanics are socialized to place great emphasis on this aspect of human interaction. If you are serving a Hispanic client, it’s very important for you to be aware of the quality of your interactions.
Pasión means “passion.” Hispanic culture is known to facilitate the free expression of emotions in certain contexts. One of these contexts is the ability of the quality of interpersonal interactions to indicate that the individual with whom you are dealing is “safe” and won't reject you. In other words, he or she has passed muster by being friendly, thoughtful and polite.
Lealtad means “loyalty.” Once an individual has proven him- or herself via personalismo and the client or customer has invested the relationship with pasión, loyalty follows. An excellent example of this that particularly applies to real estate is the loyalty — repeat business and referrals — that Hispanics show to real estate professionals who have provided quality service.

Gonzales says, “The Hispanic culture is known for being high context and indirect. Information is not communicated in explicit words or messages.” This applies to other cultures as well, such as those in Japan, the Middle Eastern countries, Spain, China and the Latin American countries. He says, “Hispanic clients will be tuned in to the quality of your energy, emotion and enthusiasm. They’re more oriented toward being in relationships [than not], and they’re likely to place a premium on flexibility in relationships.”

Meet the expert:
Oscar Gonzales, Ph.D, founder of the Houston-based Gonzales Group and a nationally recognized expert on the Hispanic market.


Q: I’m new to the business. How can I stand out from the crowd in this highly competitive industry?

A: Face the facts. Real estate associates are everywhere. And most of these salespeople have been in the business a lot longer than you. So what can you do to stand out in such a highly competitive industry even when you're new?

“I typically advise my clients to develop a Unique Selling Proposition (USP),” says Brian Hilliard, new agent coach in Atlanta. “This (USP) is a sentence or two that clearly articulates what you do and how it helps your prospects.”

For example, a USP could be: “I specialize in helping first-time homebuyers find the home of their dreams.”

Think of it as a response to the age-old “So what do you do?” question, says Hilliard. Ideally your USP will be intriguing enough to get that person to respond with: “How?”

Using the USP technique is a great way to make a name for you and help first-time homebuyers get into the home of their dreams. After the potential clients follow-up on your USP statement, you can direct the conversation and educate potential clients or referral partners about your business.

Meet the expert:
Brian Hilliard, new agent sales coach, Atlanta.


Q: Can you give me a quick high tech-marketing tip that I can use for my business?

A Technology is spreading into every facet of real estate and is sometimes the determining factor in getting the listing, says Toni Schrager. Toni creates a Web site for each property she lists, and her sellers love it.

“In addition to maintaining Toni’s personal site, each property has its own domain name (usually the address),” says Schrager’s marketing assistant, Chris Karamalikis. “The sellers feel catered to, and it’s a great tool for [getting] inquiries to preview the property.”

On each of these property Web sites, hosted and designed by Powersites by Agency Logic, Schrager includes photos, details about the home and open-house dates. “They [prospective buyers or sellers] can also print brochures, get directions and [obtain] local area information,” says Schrager.

“The site even offers us the option to upload documents as .pdf files for the client,” she says. Sellers are given a password to enable them to log in to this private area. “It’s a great tool on both sides,” says Schrager.

Meet the expert:
Toni Schrager, broker of Avatar Real Estate Services in Coral Gables.


Q: How do I know which questions to ask potential buyers and sellers? Is there such a thing as a good sales-related question?

A: A good question should always facilitate the discussion of your service, without directly talking about the solution you provide. Sometimes, as a new Realtor®, you’re excited to be talking to a prospect, so you focus the conversation more on the company you represent and yourself (who we are and what we’re all about) than on the prospect’s goals.

When asking the right questions, you’re uncovering the clients’ challenges and understanding their situation. And here’s what not-to-do: Don’t ask a series of thinly veiled attempts to have them work with you right away. Prospects hate that.

To get started on the right path, jot down a few good questions to use at every prospect meeting from now on. Then, after you work these questions into the conversation and start hearing your prospects’ buying (or selling) motivations, see if they help you come across as an insightful Realtor – the one most worthy of their business.

Examples include:

• “Why are you interested in buying a new house? What events led up to this decision?”

• “Where were you living before (e.g., apartment), and have you looked at any other neighborhoods before contacting me?”

Meet the Expert
Brian Hilliard, new agent sales coach, Atlanta, Ga.


Q: They’re married, 46 years old and have a median income of about $67,000. After touring eight properties, they buy a 1,729-square-foot home for $217,600. Who are these people?

A: These people are the typical Florida homebuyer, according to the 2006 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers Florida Report, now available on

The 20-page report examines the characteristics of first-time and repeat buyers as well as sellers.
Q: How many potential homebuyers use the Web to search for properties and neighborhood information?

A: According to a survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), 80 percent of homebuyers use the Web to search for properties and neighborhood information, but only 7 percent locate agents online.

The survey also found that 14 percent of sales associates said more than 60 percent of their leads were obtained through the Internet last year. Almost half the number surveyed said they generated at least 10 percent of the leads on the Web.

Tom Merigan of Keller Williams in San Jose, Calif., offers advice to Realtors who are looking to the Web for leads.

First, simplify your Web sites, he says, to make it easier for prospective clients to find what they want on your site. To make Web sites more user-friendly, try offering basic search tools to help buyers weed through listings. Finally, help the consumer and potential client by including general information about the home-buying process.

Of the Realtors polled by NAR, 44 percent said they came into contact with clients who had more information than they did about a particular house. According to Merigan, "Most Realtors have been slower than their customers in learning to use technology.”


Meet the expert:
Tom Merigan, Realtor relocation specialist with Keller Williams in San Jose, Calif.


Q: I’m new, and I have lots of energy. How can I focus my efforts to establish a network of sales leads?

A: Here’s how five Florida sales associates became the go-to professionals for real estate needs:

Host events:
Position yourself as a leader and a generous contributor who brings everything together.

To jump start her career, LaShawn Norden in Lake Mary orchestrated parties and events for her top 100 clients so that she could network with them consistently. “They already have had a good experience with me. Why cold market when you don’t have to?” she says.

Norden targeted most events to women because, she says, “They typically decide the house.” Activities included pottery and jewelry making, progressive dinner parties and wine tastings.

She also invited her top 100 clients, including spouses and children, to an annual client appreciation event at Wet ’n’ Wild Water World. She paid for parking, admission, lunch, and drinks for the day, plus a half-price discount for admission in the future.

Warm up to walled-off groups:
Sarasota has a huge retirement community. So when Matt Orr moved there in 2002, he found the age span between himself and his potential clients burdensome. In short order, he discovered a local young professionals group.

Their goal is to get involved in the community. Some, like Orr, are board members for nonprofit organizations and government entities. All members are required to do a minimum of five hours of community service per year. This introduces them to formerly unattainable clients, Orr says. He adds that 95 percent of his business comes from his community involvement.

Mingle with peers:
The only people Richard De Ceglie knew when he moved to Palm Coast were his parents. De Ceglie decided to use other sales associates as his primary networking tool. He developed his business around the seller market. As a result, sales associates who were representing buyers weren’t his competition anymore.

“I treated them, in my mind, as my best employees. I’d look up their mailing addresses and send them my listings. Then I’d ask them to send me theirs so that we could establish a networking system,” he says.

Show that you care:
St. Augustine is a small town whose residents are close-knit, says Peggy Gachet, a Watson Realty sales associate. In 1992, when she first arrived in town, she met a financial planner who was “extraordinarily involved” in the community. “She sat me down and said, ‘What do you plan to do? I [will] tell you that you’ll only be successful if you get out and show people that you care,’” Gachet recalls.

She got involved with Communities in Schools—a nonprofit that works with at-risk children and champions community involvement in schools. Group members help with after-school programs such as tutoring and reading programs.

She estimates that 80 percent of her sales come from networking with people in the group and with other charitable organizations.

One caveat: Don’t volunteer solely to generate business, because people will see through your motive and resent it, Gachet says.

Capitalize on family networks:
Your current clients have a host of family members, says Cyndi Andrews. More often than not, they rely heavily on each other for business recommendations.

Andrews received referrals that started with one buyer. “Once you have trust from one or two family members, they will not hesitate to use you as a [sales associate] and recommend you to everyone else in the family,” Andrews says.

Meet the experts:
LaShawn Norden is a sales associate with Keller Williams Heritage Realty in Altamonte Springs; Richard De Ceglie is a sales associate with Watson Realty Corp. in Palm Coast; Peggy Gachet is a sales associate with Watson Realty St. Augustine Beach.


Q: How do I reach non-tech-savvy customers?

A: Even non-techie consumers will find it easy to search for property on the Internet with a little help from their friendly sales associate.

Here’s how:

Define your audience: If your potential client is technology-challenged, you can differentiate yourself by showing them the easy technology that will help make their homebuying process less painful.
Start with a technology audit: A place to start with buyers and sellers is a client technology audit. Find out what the person knows about technology and what he or she would be comfortable using in the buying and selling process. The best time to do this is after you’ve established rapport with the prospect, maybe even on your first appointment. It’s best to have questions ready such as “Do you have Internet access? Are you familiar with real estate search sites? Do you have email? How often do you check your e-mail? Would you like to receive listing information by e-mail?” Just asking these basic questions will set you apart from your competition.
Train yourself: Real estate professionals need to know how to search for properties on the Internet effectively so they can teach their non-techie customers. Seek out the best sites for property searching, and determine which are “friendly” to you. Being prepared to help and teach customers about technology is a value-added service and an essential differentiator in the “me-too” business of real estate.
Walk the talk: All sales associates need to own their own domain name and have a permanent email address. Associates need to use the Internet to guide buyers to listings and help owners see listings to keep up with the market. After all, owners become sellers.

Meet the expert:
Saul Klein is a Realtor, president of, an Internet education and development company, and a partner with the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) for the e-PRO® online technology certification program.


Q: I’m new. How can I make the best use of my time and efforts to become successful fast?

A: Put these "Six Es" success strategies to work in your business, you’ll set the course to reap financial and personal rewards associated with this profession.

1. Education
When starting a career as a real estate salesperson, don’t be afraid to jump into everything, from receptionist to advertising manager to bookkeeper. This will give you an insider’s view on how the most successful agents operate.

While pre-licensing education helps you stay out of trouble, it doesn’t teach you how to run a real estate business. Continually enrich yourself by enrolling in updated and new designation courses. These designations will help to set you apart from an otherwise crowded field.

2. Experience
The early years can be daunting as you might be sitting in a busy office sending out announcement cards and wondering how everybody around you can be so busy. To maximize your time and help set a firm foundation, volunteer for “overflow” business from the office’s top sales associates.

By involving yourself in the daily office dynamics, you’ll soon learn there is no substitute for experience. As your business matures, the experience gained from exposure to multiple real estate scenarios and advice from seasoned veterans will help you become a confident, knowledgeable sales associate.

3. Ethics
Most are upstanding and ethical by nature, but there are some real estate professionals who are oblivious to NAR’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice publication. They might get away with this behavior for a while, but it eventually catches up to them.

Ethics should be a lifestyle choice. The Realtor Code of Ethics simply defines and reiterates what you should already know is proper business behavior.

4. Energy
When someone calls from Oklahoma looking for a home in or around your hometown, you should be ready to serve as an ambassador. You are their link to your home area, and if you’re not upbeat and energetic, it shows.

Whether you work 20 hours a week or on a 24/7 basis, you must have energy in order to prosper. Eat right, take care of yourself and be sure to balance your workday with enough personal enjoyment to stoke your fires for selling real estate.

5. Enthusiasm
You must constantly remind yourself that you’re in a “helping” business rather than a “selling” business. So every time a former customer calls, or another sales associate sends a referral, get enthusiastic because that means those people like and trust you.

6. Empathy
Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes isn’t always easy. But you have to be empathetic to a wide range of client situations – good or bad. When I have empathy, I can help clients manage life situations while remaining professional and ethical.

Meet the Expert:
Broker Associate Mary McCall, CRS, works with RE/MAX ACR Elite Group in Tampa.


Q: Which is the better wireless connection: Wi Fi or cellular?

A: Wireless data transfer allows people to surf the Web away from home or office. Two of the most popular wireless connections are Wi Fi and cellular.

Both options rely on radio waves and the same sort of special chip to transmit information. Many of the newer laptops come equipped for both options. But there are some big differences between the two.

The first and most important is cost. Cellular connections require a contract and monthly fee. Fees will vary according to the cellular provider but may average between $40 and $60 a month. Wi Fi connections range from free in certain venues to a $5 to $15 fee for short-term usage at places such as hotels and airports.

So on the face of things, Wi Fi would appear to be a better bet. But if you travel a lot and pay a fee for Wi Fi five times a month on average, a cellular connection may be less expensive.

The next difference is availability. Cellular data connections have a clear edge here. Data connections are already available in many cities, and coverage is constantly expanding. Your cellular connection will work just as well in your car or on the beach as it does in your office. Wi Fi, which has a shorter range, doesn’t allow as much mobility or flexibility.

Meet the expert:

Ian Smith is a senior technical support analyst
at NAR. Reach him at


Q: How can I make my marketing investment of $2,000 really count?

A: Spend some money on developing your style so that it relates to your particular niche in real estate. For instance, Roger Ek of ERA McPhail Realty in Lincoln, Maine, is known as the Northern Maine Land Man. He’s built a niche out of selling land and recreational properties. His outdoorsy look, he says, reflects his target market of buyers who share his enthusiasm for nature.

Ek dresses the part, wearing a fluorescent orange hunting cap and a fishing vest embroidered with his Land Man tagline. The same slogan appears on the GMC Crew Cab truck he drives.

Here’s how he helps solidify his image with marketing.

Restaurant place mats: Even outdoor types like to eat out occasionally. Ek spends about $165 every six months on about 10,000–12,000 place mats that are displayed at three local restaurants. Those promotions include his tagline and contact information, along with general tips and property information on hunting and snowmobiling in the winter and on fishing and all-terrain vehicle trails in the summer. He pays about $1,050 per year to have host his Web site, which he uses to showcase his listings and promote himself as the go-to person for land in northern Maine. has been particularly useful for lead generation, he says. With the featured-agent package, his name and links to his listings and Web site pop up when a prospect looks for a REALTOR® in his area.

Business cards: Ek goes through about 1,000 business cards every quarter, at a cost of about $40. He always hands people two cards—that way, if they pass one along, they still have one. He also keeps his business cards available at gift shops, art stores and local gun shops.

Word-of-mouth advertising: To build referrals, he stays involved in the community. He’s a member of service organizations, such as Rotary International, and a volunteer firefighter. He also uses his expertise as a registered Maine guide to his advantage when interacting with residents and visitors.

The result: Ek has landed in the top 10 in commercial sales, of nearly 39,000 ERA brokers and sales associates, for six consecutive years. When he attends real estate conferences, he says, people remember his hat.

Meet the Expert:
Roger Ek of ERA McPhail Realty in Lincoln, Maine.

SOURCE: REALTOR Magazine Online, May 2007


Q: What are some affordable staging ideas to improve the kitchen and living room?

A: Declutter is the No. 1 and the cheapest way to go. A good cleaning is another. Other low-cost items are to refinish or paint the cabinets a gloss white and add new hardware. Appliances that are color miss-matched can be professionally painted to match. Floors in the kitchen and entryway can be tiled economically, especially if you do it yourself. Home centers often give free classes on how to tile. If the carpet is past cleaning, replacing with wood or laminate is a good way to go. And of course, a good paint job helps: flat in the living room, semi-gloss in the kitchen.

Meet the Expert:
Sid Davis wrote “Home Makeovers That Sell” (AMACOM, 2007).


Q: I’m setting goals for next year. What are some key attributes for success that I can add to my business plan?

A: Florida Realtor magazine polled several Florida brokers and asked them to list nine key qualities that they see in their best associates.

Here’s what they said:

  1. Tech-savvy, and willing to use technology to work smarter, faster and more profitably.
  2. Extremely thorough and detail oriented.
  3. Paying more attention to risk management and liability issues.
  4. Following the rules closely to avoid making mistakes that could cost them transactions.
  5. Providing excellent customer service to their buyers and sellers.
  6. Keeping their clients informed about the progress of the sale and/or the transaction closing.
  7. Doing thorough comparative market analyses (CMAs) for sellers, and not just looking at what sold down the street (and tacking on 10 percent to come up with an asking price).
  8. Getting their designations, such as CRS, ABR and GRI, and as much education as possible to compete in the current market.
  9. Using the 80-20 rule when developing business (80 percent of their business comes from 20 percent of their clients/customers).


Q: What are some of the tricks on the trade when it comes to effective direct mailing?

A: It’s no secret that Realtors use direct-mail postcards, fliers, newsletters and other materials to announce their presence in the market, to send notice of just-listed and just-sold properties, or just to say “hi” to a past or potential client. Get in on the secret of how to do direct mail well by checking out the tips below:

  1. Develop a Series
    “Direct mail for new associates is very important as it is =the initial mode of communicating with their farm area,” says real estate instructor Lamarr Seader. He suggests starting with a letter that features a color photograph of yourself as an introduction. Follow the letter with a series of four postcards (also with color pictures) to arrive at the farm addresses every two weeks.
  2. Get Good Lists
    To get lists of the names and addresses in your farm and any other subdivision you want to mail out to, use your local MLS’s labels program or turn to your county tax assessor’s or collector’s properties database. From that point, it’s just a matter of buying printer labels from your local office supply store and having the color postcards printed (a task made simpler with today’s graphic programs like Microsoft Publisher and color printers).
  3. Get Your Message Out
    Expect a 2 percent return on your mailing efforts, says Seader, but realize that the initial marketing postcard is less of a response mechanism and more of an introduction that gets you face to face with prospective clients. “Keep the message short and to the point,” he adds, “as you have five to eight seconds of the receiving party’s attention before they set it aside or throw it away.”
  4. Follow Up in Person
    Next, Seader says, new associates should walk the farm area, knocking on doors and introducing themselves. Have a giveaway item in hand (a postcard-sized list of emergency phone numbers for city offices, water department and police department is one good idea), and personally meet as many farm families as possible.

Meet the Expert:

Lamarr Seader is a retired real estate instructor.


Q: What’s one of the smartest marketing moves you ever made?

A: I make grandparents smile.

It took becoming a grandmother before I came up with a unique idea for marketing my services to seniors within my community.

I created this 4-inch by 6-inch postcard featuring my grandson. The first batch was sent to 1,000 residences in adult communities within my farm territory. I am currently working on a second batch for the same group with an updated photo. I will definitely be in their mailbox a minimum of four times a year offering my services with the “personal touch” of a proud grandmother! It’s a great tool to meet and relate to other grandparents.

Meet the Expert:
Millie Gil has more than 18 years of residential real estate sales and mortgage financing experience.


Q: People talk about podcasts. What’s out there for Realtors®?

A: There are tons of real estate podcasts available for Realtors and consumers, but they can be difficult to find. There's no single comprehensive podcast directory, but two of the best ones I'd recommend are Apple iTunes and PodcastAlley.

Apple iTunes has by far the most podcast listings, and it offers the ability to browse and search by keywords. The downside is that iTunes is a separate software program that must be installed on the computer. The software is free at Once it's set up, you can browse, search, sample and subscribe to podcast programs.

PodcastAlley ( has 91,000+ podcasts, and includes useful features to browse by genre (such as "Business") or search by keyword. It's an easy site to navigate, with step-by-step instructions for subscribing to each podcast.

One other worth mentioning is
Its layout is somewhat clunky and confusing, but the Browse feature offers some interesting options and the search function allows to your find "real estate Florida" podcasts.

As for individual podcasts, searching iTunes or PodcastAlley for "real estate", "Realtors", "housing", etc. will generate a lengthy list. You'll have to browse through the lists to find ones that Realtors might be interested in, but a few that caught my eye on iTunes were "Internet Marketing for Realtors", "Blueprint for Real Estate Success", "The Real Estate Story of the Week" and "Issues in Commercial Real Estate & Development."

IREM and the Appraisal Institute offers podcasts (both on iTunes), and there are some great ones covering general business topics from NPR, KCRW, Business Week, and Time Magazine. Also tap into the "Knowledge@Wharton" podcast, which offers business research and analysis from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business. Many major newspapers, such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Sun-Sentinel, also offer podcasts from their business columnists.

Of course, I have to mention the podcasts from NAR's library, available at

All of the podcasts I've run across are free.

Meet the Expert:
Frederik Heller,, is the manager of Information Central, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®
Visit the Virtual Library at


Q: How do I find the right person to be a mentor?

A: Looking for a mentor to help launch your real estate career? Consider these seven tips:

  • Find someone you respect and trust. Look for integrity and character, the most important qualities in a mentor.
  • Seek someone interested in a relationship. A mentor needs to be open and willing to relate to you, since you’ll eventually discuss both professional and personal issues.
  • Focus on a mentor who has the time and the willingness to spend with you. A lack of time is the No. 1 reason people give for not wanting to mentor others, says Barry Spencer, with Leaders Legacy Inc., an Atlanta company specializing in training mentors. You can help by being flexible and fitting into your mentor’s schedule.
  • Look beyond your door. Although a top real estate practitioner may be a great mentor, you can also learn about business principles, and perhaps get a new perspective, from an outsider.
  • Don’t expect the mentor to be a magician. Mentors can give you new insights, but they won’t solve all your personal or business problems. A good mentor will direct you to other sources of assistance for special problems.
  • Opt for openness. Good mentors let you into their world, sharing both professional and personal triumphs and failures.
  • Don’t expect instant results. Mentoring is a journey. As long as you’re learning something you didn’t know before, the mentoring relationship is working. Persevere. “Mentoring takes as long as it takes,” says Spencer.

Read more: For a detailed discussion of relationship-based mentoring, read David Stoddard’s The Heart of Mentoring (Navpress, 2003) or check out the "Field Guide to Mentoring" at

Meet the expert:
Barry Spencer, vice president of business development with Leaders Legacy Inc., an Atlanta company specializing in training mentors.


Updated January 2014

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