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WordPress, a Leader in the Open Source CMS Market

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When beginning the process of developing a content management system (CMS), businesses have a number of options to choose from based on the requirements of each individual type of business. While custom designed sites are available not all businesses require the complexities and capabilities of a custom designed CMS platform. Several open source website platforms are available but WordPress accounts for thirty percent of all websites and it has a 60% share of the overall CMS market.

An open source content management system, WordPress has captured the majority share of the market by offering a platform that is free to those who are savvy enough to navigate the technical aspects of setting up their own site. While there is a cost associated with selecting a custom theme, WordPress offers many standard themes at no charge. Adding special features may require technical and creative support from a professional developer and designer in order to enhance the elastic architecture and horizontal scalability or allow for more flexibility, traffic volume variations, multiple machines or an existing infrastructure or a cloud-based system.

WordPress makes it easy to keep the site’s software up to date, a critical benefit to keeping hackers and cyber criminals from invading your site. Software and plugins can be updated automatically. Structured to be simple for search engine crawlers to navigate, WordPress also is compatible with Google’s new criteria for mobile-friendly websites. Scaling for the workload is beneficial for all types of businesses with fluctuating needs, but critical for eCommerce websites that may have seasonal or continual spikes in demand.

WordPress has established a reputation for being a widely used platform, not only for small to mid-sized companies but for larger enterprise organizations as well. Search index plugins are becoming increasingly sophisticated with features like voice search, automatic index and custom taxonomy, making WordPress an attractive method of website development for companies of all sizes.

Junction Creative Solutions’ (Junction) developers and designers are adept in utilizing the WordPress platform for smaller digital projects as well as fully-executed, customizable platforms. “Junction has built hundreds of WordPress websites for small businesses and larger enterprise organizations. WordPress allows our team to provide our clients economical, smart, attractive and executable content management systems across a broad spectrum of industries,” say Julie Gareleck, founder and CEO.

For more on how Junction’s experienced team of developers and designers can assist you in building an effective web presence, call 678-686-1125.

Adaptive Risk Advisors Reveals New Online Presence

When Adaptive Risk Advisors (ARA) was formed earlier this year, co-founder Miles Parker’s goal was to create a full service company focused on providing customized insurance solutions for high net worth business owners and individuals. Specializing in Commercial Property and Casualty, Workers’ Compensation, Fleet Vehicle, Liquor Liability, Cyber, and Luxury Home and Auto insurance coverage, ARA is a full service, independent agency focused on serving clients who desire a value-added relationship, competitive insurance rates and the best policies for unsurpassed price, coverage, and service. Based in Raleigh, North Carolina, Adaptive Risk Advisors is strategically located to provide services to Wake, Durham, Chatham, and surrounding counties.

“We believe personal contact and service will become the cornerstone of our success,” says Parker. “Our focus is on establishing client relationships rather than on client transactions. ARA’s success will be measured by our clients choosing us because of their belief in our ability to meet or exceed their expectations of price, service, and expertise.”

Junction Creative Solutions (Junction), an award-winning hybrid agency, was selected to design and develop an online experience to support the growing business.

“At Junction we share the belief that forming mutually beneficial relationships with clients is essential to business success and that honesty and trust are foundational to a company’s continued growth,” says Julie Gareleck, Junction’s Founder and CEO. “We appreciate the opportunity to be selected to work with Adaptive Risk Advisors on the launch of their website. We look forward to following their success!”

Adaptive Risk Advisors is ready to provide customized and affordable insurance solutions. Their knowledgeable, friendly staff can empathize with clients and their needs and create policies that meet or exceed their expectations. Call 984-212-8000 or visit https://adaptiveriskadvisors.com/ to learn more about Adaptive Risk Advisors.

Will Your 2019 Annual Strategic Plan Take You Where You Want to Go?

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With the booming economy, most businesses are entering the time of year when just keeping ahead of the day-to-day demands of the consumer is daunting. Just like that it’s time to start strategic planning for 2019.

For those who say they are ready to get out in front and get started on planning for next year, the news is not so good. If you haven’t already begun the planning process, you are no longer out in front. Entrepreneurs are, by nature, an optimistic lot. It is a required trait if endless obstructions and road blocks are to be overcome and success is to be achieved. The vision is important, but the euphoria that often accompanies the vision can sometimes cloud and delay the planning process. Progress, as a result, can be stymied.

It has been said that the only true absolute is change, and today’s technology is accelerating the rate of change exponentially. Anticipating a dynamic competitive environment and initiating proactive steps to position products and services to meet the pace of consumer needs is paramount to remaining relevant.  Are you ready with a strategic plan for 2019 that positions you to capitalize on emerging trends and that supports your vision?

Begin now by taking stock of this year’s successes and failures. What has worked and what has failed to meet expectations? Remember, we learn the most important lessons from our failures. Why didn’t it work? What are the options to turning a loss in 2018 to a win in the coming year? As you form a strategy for 2019, establish reasonable and measurable short and long term goals. It may be time to shed a bit of the euphoria and focus more on the mundane aspects of reality. What are your goals and what do you want your organization to achieve for 2019? Build the future on those things that have worked in the past. While some believe that if it isn’t broken, you haven’t looked hard enough, the truth lies more often than not in the adage, “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” Tweak it, polish-off some wear and tear, and move on.

Take some time, even if only a few minutes a day, to look outside the confines of your world. What is your most successful competitor doing? What are other industries doing that is working for them? Don’t be so quick to say “it can’t work here.” Seek out others’ input in the planning process. Not all the world’s best answers originate from inside your head. Expand on your circle of business associates and develop and broaden the diversity of professional opinion and perspectives.

Strategic planning is the first step in a progression from vision to reality. It should clearly align the organization’s focus and efforts on achieving the goal. Be committed and unwavering to the planning process and even more committed to its engagement.

Junction Creative Solutions (Junction) can provide an external perspective to align your internal goals and objectives and prepare a strategy for continued growth. Contact us at 678-686-1125 for additional information regarding our strategic consulting services!

How the GDPR Implementation is Impacting Marketers’ Relationship with Consumers

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Since its passage in May 2016, the European Union (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has resulted in many companies questioning the need to comply or what the far-reaching regulation would mean to their organizations. Initially many firms failed to understand the global reach of the regulation and that they would be required to respond to the demands of the rule. The GDPR creates strict requirements on how companies who collect, maintain and market consumers’ data must handle the use of that data. The regulation, which comes with severe financial penalties and liabilities when breached, went into effect in May of this year.

Under Article 4 of the GDPR, “any consent to the processing of data must be freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous.” Data subjects need to voluntarily submit data for processing. Consent should be guided by a clear, plain English explanation of what specific processing will be done, why its collection is necessary and who the data is shared with. If there will be multiple processes, consent is required for each. At the outset, many predicted that the sweeping regulations would be the end of marketing as it is generally practiced, particularly digital marketing, but many others believed that the new regulatory environment would simply rid the marketing landscape of poor marketing practices and less-than-honest practitioners.

While migration to the GDPR requirements have been a challenge, progress has been made for companies who recognized the importance of compliance. Now four months into the launch, major changes among marketing professionals have occurred. Previous conduct of buying email lists, pre-ticked consent boxes and convoluted terms and conditions are becoming activities of the past. So how do consumers, or subjects as they are known in the EU, feel about the new data handling regulations?

A survey commissioned by Marketing Week and performed by Toluna, indicates that 57% of people feel
that they better understand how companies are using their data, but merely 27% of respondents feel that the overall experience with brands is better. “Most people (65%) believe GDPR has made no difference at all, while 8% suggest things have actually got worse.” With more than half of the respondents indicating that the GDPR has had no impact on them it may be that many consumers do not even know about the GDPR standards and what benefits the new rules may play in their digital lives.

Perhaps it is too early to effectively measure the impact of GDPR on companies’ marketing tactics or how consumers perceive brands’ handling and use of personal data. With a proliferation of media accounts of how some major organizations have mishandled customer data and trust in the past, well entrenched attitudes prevail. The GDPR is capable of having a positive impact on the consumer/marketer relationship for those organizations that embrace the opportunity. Only time will reveal the effectiveness of the best of intentions to resolve the past bad acts of data management.

Success Depends on How Well You Know the Competition

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It may be arguable but fair to say that most businesses are either intimidated by or carelessly underestimate the competition. In most cases, it would likely be advisable to be a little more of the one and a little less of the other. Taking on a well-established market leader is cause for serious evaluation, particularly one who is attentive to potential market entrants.  Even the best run businesses, while careful to not open a wide door of opportunity for new competitors, often leave the door cracked open to some or all parts of their market segments. While intimidating, opportunity rarely presents an easy target. Fear is often overcome by fully understanding the dynamics of the challenge or challenger. As Walt Disney said, “I have been up against tough competition all my life. I wouldn’t know how to get along without it.”

Studying successful competitors’ operations gives important insight as to what is working and what is not. For a market interloper, learning from your target’s successes and failures eases the up-hill, new entry path. Resolve to make your own mistakes and not repeat the ones the competition has already paid for. Analyze what makes them the leader and copy their actions. Cloning an already effective strategy is not only flattering to the originator but advantageous to the newcomer. Don’t be afraid to learn and earn from the heavy lifting already accomplished. As Tony Robbins said, “The surest way to achieve success is to model someone who is already successful.”

Evaluating a competitor requires attention to the strategies and tactics of operations over time. Fully understanding the path to success will enhance one’s perspective and avoid the cost of underestimating the scope of the challenges that lie ahead. Mark Chussil, an adjunct instructor at the University of Portland and the founder of consulting firm Advanced Competitive Strategies, says “It’s tempting to say, ‘Obviously, these people are doing a lousy job, or they wouldn’t be in trouble.’ It’s also a little dangerous. You can say, ‘I would never make those mistakes.’ But we should remember that a lot of companies have gone bankrupt — not just small ones, but big ones. They weren’t being run by idiots, and they weren’t being run by people who wanted to fail.”  Successful intervention requires comprehensive knowledge about the product, the competition and the respective markets. Success dictates attention to all or none.

“Don’t bite off more than you can chew” is a time-worn sage and good advice when taking on an established market player. Existing players have the advantage of history, capital and market position. Identify underserved niche markets and focus on excelling with those segments. Resolve to identify those aspects of serving customers that the competition is unable or unwilling to perform. Be willing to be underestimated and seen as a non-threatening nuisance. Nibble away at the vulnerable edges of the beast until they are weakened and injured. Focus on capturing market subcategories and expand inward to the market core.  However, a challenger should remember that while it’s easy to identify and move against competitors’ shortcomings, you risk becoming a target through the process. “A lot of companies think their objective is to kill the competition, that it’s the path to profitability,” Chussil says. “That is not the objective. Your objective is to succeed.”

Filling a need not filled is the goal. Providing a solution to consumers not satisfied by existing marketers provides opportunity to new market entrants. Even the most astute businesses leave a door cracked open to new competitors, either out of complacency or failure to identify lucrative, unfulfilled market segments. Learn as much as possible about these untapped opportunities and reap the rewards.

For more on how you can seize the benefits of untapped markets, contact the experienced strategists at Junction Creative Solutions.

Reaching the Powerful Women’s Demographic Lives or Dies in Campaign Execution

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The knowledge that women wield the most influence over the household spending decisions is nothing new. For decades women have been credited with controlling the purse strings at a greater degree than their male counterparts. But as traditional societal male/female roles continue to evolve, the only difference for marketers is the realization that the numbers are getting bigger. Across the globe, women are controlling nearly $20 trillion in annual consumer spending. That number is likely to grow to $28 trillion in the next five years. Women represent a growth market bigger than China and India combined; verification that female consumers now drive the world’s economy. Over the next decade women will control two-thirds of all consumer wealth in the United States and be the beneficiaries of the largest transference of wealth in our country’s history.

Today more than 79 percent of women self-identify as the primary household shopper, making 70 percent of all the travel decisions and 90 percent of all the healthcare purchases. Nearly 60 percent frequent social networking sites and are the most likely consumers to use digital purchasing tools. The overwhelming majority (92 percent) pass along information about deals they have experienced online. Talk about influencer marketing!

Commanding as this economic segment is, most companies continue to struggle to effectively tap into the potential opportunity, and despite the remarkable strides women have made in market power and social position they continue to feel undervalued in the marketplace. “Success in reaching this powerful demographic often lives or dies in the marketing execution, and getting it wrong can be serious business. Mistakes and gaffes can go public, or viral, all too easily, alienating the very people a campaign was designed to attract.” David Levithan, says “Pink is female – but why? Are girls any more pink than boys? Are boys any more blue than girls? It’s something that has been sold to us, mostly so other things can be sold to us.” If there was ever a time where simply using pink to attract the attention of women was a viable strategy, that time has passed.

Gender is often a blind spot, both within company campaigns and within the make-up of company marketing teams. The old adage, it takes one to know one is sage advice. Gender diversify your marketing team if you want to make a meaningful connection with your target audience. If not, your approach to attracting female consumers may come off as patronizing and passive.

Remember, no one-gender market sector does a complete marketing segment make. Women now occupy, in significant numbers, every social and economic level of society. Today women are embracing the differences in their identities and exploring more progressive interests. Marketers need to identify products and services that answer the multitude of female consumer needs and interest if they are to successfully develop a winning marketing strategy. The messaging needs to align in content and tone with the diversity of the market segment.

For information on how Junction Creative Solutions (Junction) can help you formulate a winning women’s market strategy, contact our experts at 678.686.1125.

Capturing the Attention of Consumers through Influencer Marketing

In the days before digital technology and the myriad of social media outlets, one of marketers’ most effective pathways to brand recognition and acceptance was through word of mouth advertising. Consumers have always sought the opinions and advice of those within a social community before deciding to spend money on a product or service that was new, untested or unproven. Seeking recommendations from family and friends has always been at the top of the list when it comes to influencing a purchasing decision. Consumers are looking for assurance that a purchase will be a good and rewarding experience and consistently turn to those individual influencers or trusted media outlets for a “seal of approval.” With the growing impact of social media on our lives, today anyone can be an influencer.

Influencer marketing has become a very popular and effective way for advertisers to connect with a target audience. Studies reveal that consumers are becoming annoyed and complacent with traditional online advertising, with 26 percent of desktop and 15 percent of mobile users employing ad blocker software to avoid advertisements altogether. The age-old question, “Is anyone listening to the message?” is being answered. No.

With 92 percent of consumers trusting recommendations from individuals before making purchase decisions, influencer marketing is becoming a proven and economical method to connect a brand to target markets. “According to a case study by Nielsen Catalina Solutions and TapInfluence, influencer content generates return on investment (ROI) that is 11 times greater than traditional digital campaigns.” According to recent research, nearly 70 percent of marketers believe that influencer marketing efforts are positively impacting their ability to reach each target audience.

This success is dependent on an influencer being able to reach large segments of social media users with original content that builds consumer trust. Authenticity is a key factor in building this trust and confidence. Original and creative content keeps followers, who are looking for trusted product information and reviews, actively engaged. With 88 percent of consumers trusting online peer reviews over traditional advertising, influencer marketing is a necessary and important channel for businesses seeking to connect with targeted consumers.

“Content is king in today’s digital ecosystem,” says Julie Gareleck, Founder and CEO of Junction Creative Solutions. “An effective and creative content strategy adds significant value to your marketing campaigns. Our content and marketing strategists have the expertise necessary to develop successful marketing campaigns that build influence and establish trust with consumers.” For more about how you can positively impact your ability to deliver an effective message to your target audience, contact the marketing experts at Junction Creative Solutions at 678.686.1125.

The Systems Behind the Growth of eCommerce are Evolving

Years ago, much of the Tech industry’s efforts focused on developing packaged software for business applications purchased by copy, or multiple license copies, and installed on organizations’ in-house computer systems. The process of upgrading to newer versions and updating in-house systems proved to be a disruptive process, fraught with frequent costs associated with the purchase of newer versions, and inconvenient installation down-times that generated unwelcome barriers to a company’s ability to be agile and responsive to constantly changing competitive environments. Today much of the interest and capital investment in the software industry is occurring in Software as a Service.

Software as a Service (SaaS), a software delivery model purchased through a license arrangement and accessed by the user through the web based internet cloud, promised to resolve many of the complexities of on-premise applications. Today the SaaS delivery model is the preferred method for office and messaging software, management software, virtualization, infrastructure, platform and desktop software.

Gartner projects the SaaS market will grow 19% this year following a 20% increase in 2017. New and Mature software firms are reinventing and disrupting the industry. The move to cloud-based SaaS subscription software has made software more affordable and accessible, but many of the challenges of customer usability remain.  A recent survey of over 500 business and IT executives by TrackVia revealed that a lack of customization, mobility functionality, limited integration and compatibility was having a negative effect on the growth of businesses across the spectrum of commerce.

A new generation of SaaS application platforms is taking aim at the enterprise software paradigm by promising to simplify and speed up application creation, configuration, integration and deployment for enterprise software. These new low-code platforms are predicted to grow from $3 billion today to $15 billion by 2020 according to the technology analyst firm, Forrester Research. The traditional enterprise software market is struggling to keep up with businesses’ growing demand for faster, more agile and mobile solutions.

The greatest challenge is with slow application development and deployment, too little customization, and difficult integrations with other applications. According to recent research, current software solutions still don’t address businesses’ top priorities or pain points. In fact, today’s slow and inflexible enterprise software often hold businesses back by forcing companies to change operations and processes, which negatively affects enterprise agility and growth.

“While this migration to the ‘cloud’ in the form of SaaS addressed some of the distribution and financing hurdles associated with enterprise software, it failed to fully address the more fundamental end-user challenges,” says Julie Gareleck, CEO of Junction Creative Solutions (Junction). While eCommerce is expected to reach $4 trillion by 2020, the systems behind eCommerce are evolving as users demand the ability to transact in real-time with their customers.

Junction recognized the need to provide Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions to its clients. “As online purchase behavior shifts, it’s critical to understand the purchase path. Junction invested in developing a Custom SaaS Platform that its clients are able to customize and white label as their own system,” said Gareleck. “Benefits for our clients include a cost-effective approach to an otherwise costly platform and improved time to market. Our experienced team of developers and designers is able to roll out custom solutions in 3-5 months as opposed to lengthy development cycles of 12-18 months.”

Having a partner who understand trends in technology and who has the capability and agility to modify a system to meet customer demand is critical to developing a successful SaaS strategic engagement. The fatal mistake that many entrepreneurs make is assuming that once the site is live, the work is done. The reality is that the process takes consistent, ongoing effort to ensure that the technology works as the client’s business scales.

For more information on how the Junction team is experienced and adept at building and fully implementing smart and customizable digital platforms, call 678.686.1125.

Prepare to Take Advantage of Prevailing Trends in Marketing for 2018

At the beginning of each year, prognosticators and crystal ball enthusiasts practice the craft of forecasting coming trends in everything from the coming year’s sports champions to the price of all things necessary or extravagant. The field of marketing has its own bevy of practitioners providing perceived trends for the coming year.  Regardless of the direction taken to connect best with customers in 2018, the journey will be marked by continued advances in technology and shifting consumer acceptance and utilization of that technology.

Newspapers, magazines and other written media channels will continue to see significant erosion in influencing consumers in 2018. With the rapid advancement and consumer acceptance of digital communication technologies, hard copy collateral’s decline appears to be in a free-fall that will be difficult or improbable to stem.  The forecast for 2018 predicts another 6.8 percent decline for the embattled industry segment. However, the traditional print media are not the only marketing purveyors predicted to suffer set-back in the coming year.

As other social media outlets continue to experience growth in user base, Twitter was unable to advance the ball in 2017. Twitter sought to increase its number of users by increasing the popular 140-character limit to 280. It didn’t prove to be the key to differentiate itself among other social media leaders. Marketers are already using other social media platforms to connect with prospects in more than 140 characters. It is a trend of decline for Twitter that some predict will continue in 2018.

With more platforms incorporating big data capabilities within platform infrastructure, marketers will tap into the myriad of consumer data points in order to remain competitive. In addition, consumers are expected to continue embracing interfaces that require little or no physical inputs, such as the smart speaker.  People are interacting with these devices as part of their daily lives, using voice commands and listening to the results.  Thus, there is a substantial opportunity for marketers to communicate with them in a different way.

Additional marketing tactics predicted to be winners in 2018 include:

Influencer Marketing.  Influencer marketing is expected to remain a useful strategy. With nearly 95 percent of marketers touting it a successful strategy in 2017, brands are expected to continue utilizing influencers to connect with their customers through social media.

Apps.  The future of apps remains bright. A prediction for 2018 suggests strong growth in app utilization and capitalization.

Live Events.  Nearly 66 percent of marketers say that they will increase their participation in hosting live events in 2018. Live event hosting remains a reliable and highly effective marketing channel.

Social Media.  “Social media has undoubtedly become a critical platform for marketers,” said E.J. McGowan, vice president and managing director of Campaigner. According to a digital marketing forecast survey by Campaigner, 73 percent of digital marketers believe it was a top strategy in 2017. Using video to carry more of the message through social media is forecast to rise in the coming year. “In their easily digestible format, videos serve as an excellent way to convey a brand’s message in a creative and interactive way,” says E.J. McGowan. “As a result, social networks and other media have made it easier for individuals to consume and broadcast video. As video continues to grow at a prodigious pace, marketers must learn to adopt this disruptive technology or risk falling behind to competition.”

Augmented Reality.  Ground gains are anticipated in the utilization of augmented-reality (AR) content. As new devices like iPhone 8 and iPhone X populate and go mainstream, brands will begin to increase their exposure through AR-branded content.

In-Car Advertising.  As driverless cars begin to arrive on the roads of America in greater numbers, in-car advertising may be the new frontier in advertising.

The best marketers may be those who effectively blend multiple digital channels to engage with their customers. The trend in social media integration is to combine marketing strategies to impact a broader audience.  “The most crucial integration this year, however, is social media and email,” said McGowan. “When leveraged correctly, social media and email marketing can have a synergistic relationship for brands, with social media driving email subscriptions and emails bringing more followers to social channels. Marketers should coordinate the timing and content of posts and emails, and ensure congruent messages are being sent across all channels. Marketers can leverage these social networking sites in 2018 by crafting media campaigns that highlight the strengths of each site,” continued McGowan. “For instance, video may fare very well on Facebook; however, marketers should pivot back to text content when launching campaigns on LinkedIn.”

“While some industries have embraced the paradigm shift in how they reach, engage, and mobilize new customers, I predict that we will see even more attention and focus being placed on getting the marketing mix correct,” comments Julie Gareleck, CEO& Managing Partner, Junction Creative Solutions. “The buzz word used to be ‘contextual’ but we reached that stage when consumers adopted smart devices.  ‘Relevance’ is going to be the buzz word for 2018.”

How are your strategies stacking up in the New Year!?

Cost Management Group’s New Digital Presence

The Gartner Market Guide for Telecom Expense Management (TEM) Services in May 2017 reported a 45% increase in end-user enterprise enquiries concerning TEM since 2016. With IT costs rising, organizations need to more closely monitor and control the cost of technology. The report stated, “The continued growth and evolution of enterprise telecom services prompts many companies to evaluate TEM services for ongoing cost optimization and efficiencies, especially if they lack the internal resources to effectively optimize or have limited governance on telecom and IT procurement over a complex enterprise footprint.”

Being able to effectively scale solutions with the right balance of strength and agility, for enterprise-level organizations, mid-size businesses, and SMBs, is nothing new to Cost Management Group (CMG). Headquartered in Atlanta, GA since 1996, with additional offices in Virginia, North Carolina, Costa Rica and the Netherlands, CMG specializes in driving down the operating costs of its client companies by applying proprietary methods and tools, or those of its carefully chosen partners who possess a particular and uncommon expertise. CMG, as a leader in the industry, is committed to its vision, believes in its mission, and is driven by a set of core values.

When searching for a partner to assist in telling the CMG story, it was important to find an organization that shared a common set of core values and focus on quality, extraordinary attention to service and innovative solutions. Junction Creative Solutions (Junction) worked with the team at CMG to redesign its online experience that includes a wealth of content to engage prospective clients and partners.

Julie Gareleck, CEO and Managing Partner, Junction, says, “As the marketing landscape changes and consumer expectations evolve, it’s critical to remain ahead of design trends whether it is a website or a comprehensive set of solutions to support sales and marketing. We are proud to expand on our creative portfolio by working with an organization like CMG.”