Saturday, December 31, 2016

Call Me

Nearly all B2B marketers (94%) plan to use content in 2017, according to a new survey by SnapChat.

But 40% lack the resources to create enough content to make any difference to their success.

B2B marketers have flocked to content because it works.

In 2016, as a result of using content, 50% of B2B marketers saw open rates increase by at least 20%; and 65% saw click-through rates increase by more than 5%. Substantial improvements!

B2B marketers' failure to produce more content puzzles me.

Time and again, I see them waste good content—or, more accurately, ignore opportunities to extend or repurpose that content, and profit from what they already have on hand.

The remedy's pretty simple.

Pick up the phone and just call me. You don't have to go without.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

While You Were Out

Tuesday, 1:59 PM...

From: Rush Newsjack

To: Chuck Manners
Subject: Please approve Tweet

Please approve the attached Tweet before I send it. Thanks.

Rush Newsjack
Social Media Director

Tuesday, 2 PM...

From: Chuck Manners
To: Rush Newsjack
Subject: Automatic reply: Please approve Tweet

I am away on a well-deserved vacation through next Tuesday, and not checking emails or accepting phone calls. If you need to send a Tweet while I'm away, use your best judgement. Thank you and may the force be with you.

Chuck Manners
Vice President, Good Taste

Tuesday, 3 PM...

Tuesday, 4 PM...

From: Kat Cole
To: Chuck Manners
Subject: Today's Tweet

Chuck, don't bother coming back. May the reduction in force be with you.

Kat Cole
President & COO

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Mighty Copywriter's New Rule for Gender Marking

Among the "lessons" recited at church on Christmas Eve was the annunciation to the shepherds.

My wife complained on the sidewalk outside about the lesson's loss in euphony.

"Glory to God in the highest," the angel proclaimed, "and on earth peace, good will toward all people."

King James had been neutered.

The inclusive "good will toward all people" sounds wrong for a reason: it's too stately. "Good will toward men"—like a shepherd—is plain and unadorned.

"Prose is architecture, " Hemingway said, "and the Baroque is over."

The King James editorial crew should have let it stand, as the US Navy has sagely done, for example, with "messman," letting it stand over the gender-neutral "culinary specialist."

And so here is The Mighty Copywriter's new rule for gender marking:

If it ain't baroque, don't fix it.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Just Add Water

Once in a while, people complain about Goodly—namely, that my posts are obscure; that, in my effort to be terse, I ask readers to connect dots that can't be connected.

To those folks I reply: I offer not sermons, but summaries.

I do so because most other bloggers write long, offhand posts. They do so, mainly, to save themselves time, or to satisfy Google's absurd preference for 1,800-word articles.

That serves their purposes well, I'm sure. I'm not sure it serves yours.

Offering summaries, on the other hand, is my way to be different—brief and to the point.

Short story writer Raymond Carver nailed it. “Get in, get out. Don’t linger. Go on.”

I hope you'll think of my posts as bullion cubes. There's a whole cup of soup condensed into these tiny foil packages.

Unwrap what's inside.  

And just add water.

These Are Days

Christmas Day 1776.

General George Washington assembled his troops on the Pennsylvania bank of the Delaware, in preparation for a sneak attack on the Hessian mercenaries garrisoned across the icy river in Trenton.

As the men waited for flatboats to arrive, through the roar of the wind their officers read aloud Thomas Paine’s new pamphlet, The Crisis:

These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.

Remember, as Gandhi said, tyrants in the end always fall.


Opinions are my own.

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Magnificient Seven

On her blog, B2B marketing maven 
Ruth Stevens ranks seven channels by their power to acquire customers. In order, the channels are:

SEM. "The hottest of the hot," because buyers head to Google first to solve problems. "Marketers can hardly find more targeted media," Stevens says. The key to success, of course, is to pick keywords buyers use.

Telemarketing. The "workhorse medium of B-to-B direct marketing" and "the closest thing to a face-to-face selling environment." Beside selling, telemarketing is ideal for lead discovery, qualification and nurturing.

Letters and postcards. "The ol’ reliable," direct mail delivers. Buyers want information to help them do their jobs, so postal pieces are likely to be read.

Dimensional mailers. "Lumpy” mailers gets past gatekeepers, so are even more likely to be read.

Trade shows. Face-to-face performs spectacularly—when the audience is qualified. Big "horizontal" shows can be wasteful.

PR. "Simply the best bang for the buck," PR delivers awareness with high credibility. Contributed articles and news “manufactured” by original research work well.

Your website. "Your own website is the tool that can provide the cheapest, and the most qualified, sales leads," Stevens says. To work for you, your site must feature an offer and a call to action. That offer can be as simple as a white paper or e-newsletter.

What channels aren't gang members?

Print advertising. "Solid direct response ads can work brilliantly for lead generation," Stevens says. "The problem is that most ad budgets are controlled by marketing communicators who are unschooled in direct marketing."

Broadcast advertising. With the sole exception of some radio buys, ads run on broadcast and cable outlets are expensive and wasteful.

Email. "Despite its promise, email has failed business marketers as a prospecting medium, due entirely to the scourge of spam," Stevens says. "We are seeing better cost-per-lead results using direct mail."

PS: Ruth Stevens is a featured speaker at DARE, next June in Baltimore. Don't miss her!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

How to Make an Evidence-based Ask

Social science findings should guide fundraising appeals, says Esther James, "The Happy Fundraiser."

James sifted the peer-reviewed papers of social scientists throughout the English-speaking world.

She uncovered 10 tips for forceful fundraising letters:
  1. Always tell one beneficiary's story, both in your letters and follow-up materials—especially your thank-you notes.

  2. Include at least one "sad-faced" photo of the beneficiary. Avoid group shots, because they'll trigger "compassion fatigue."

  3. Describe the consequence of inaction. When St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital told the story of a baby it treated for leukemia, donors were informed 70% of the other babies with the disease would die without their help.

  4. Ask for money. And do it all year.

  5. Partner with a foundation, corporation or major donor to offer a matching gift. It need not be dollar-for-dollar, but it must be at least $10 to work.

  6. Leverage social pressure. Spur donors by saying “people like you gave $_____."

  7. Test different forms of social pressure. Donors respond well when their identities (gender, race, Zip Code, etc.) match.

  8. Spend more on letters for new donors, less on letters for repeat donors.

  9. Send "signals of trustworthiness." There are many. Longevity. Prominent board members' names. Grants received. Affiliations with other trusted organizations. Audited financials. The breakout of your administrative and fundraising costs. Lists of your past achievements. Testimonials. Media mentions. And charity watchdog ratings.

  10. Talk up your awesomeness when writing to big donors; don't when writing to others.
PS: Esther James is my daughter. For more fundraising tips, follow her blog.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Regime of Humbug

Want to know where government's heading?

"Read Ayn Rand," says the chair of the world's biggest hedge fund firm, Ray Dalio.

"This new administration hates weak, unproductive, socialist people and policies, and it admires strong, can-do, profit makers," Dalio says.

"It wants to, and probably will, shift the environment from one that makes profit makers villains with limited power to one that makes them heroes with significant power."

Spirits, where are you when we need you?

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Content Marketer's Dilemma

If I'd asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.

— Henry Ford

What's a content marketer to do?

Scrape the web for feedback to create content customers search for?
Or create content based on your vision of a better future?

We all know the merits of creating content based on web feedback.

Study upon study shows customers begin their "buying journey" by Googling familiar keywords... prefer those brands whose content they find... and find that content because it's stuffed with those keywords and conforms to their notions of a "buyer's guide."

And we all know the pitfalls of creating content based on a vision.

That kind of content isn't stuffed with all the keywords customers know and doesn't otherwise meet their expectations of a "buyer's guide." So they never find it; or, if they do, don't click on it. Like the tree that falls in the empty forest, content based on a vision makes no sound.

How do you create content?

Monday, December 19, 2016

Justice. There's No App for That.

The sides are forming: a union of haves versus a confederacy of have-nots. As Yogi Berra said, it's like déjà vu all over again.

So, during the holidays:
  • Enjoy a little peace. Come January 21, peace is over.

  • Subscribe to a source of real news. Deceit will be the government's weapon of choice.

  • Be kind to women, gays, minorities, refugees and immigrants. Most wear targets on their backs.

  • Prepare to mobilize. And I don't mean your iPhone.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Inch by Inch

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has always found ways to leverage technology—whether e-commerce, rockets, drones or cloud computing—to give his company's flywheel another jolt.

Who doesn't want to find the profit-turning flywheel Bezos runs, the one Jim Collins describes in Good to Great?

But the truth is, you don't find it; you cultivate it.

"No matter how dramatic the end result, the good-to-great transformations never happened in one fell swoop," Collins says. "There was no single defining action, no grand program, no one killer innovation, no solitary lucky break, no wrenching revolution."

A flywheel is not the creation of the fast-buck "mercenary" (Bezos' term), but of the "missionary"the patient, purpose-driven businessman or woman.

Saturday, December 17, 2016


Does your meeting need a chief experience officer?

Samantha Whitehorne answers yes in Associations Now, and identifies three roles for the CXO:
  • Attendee advocate. The exec who spots and fixes "small mistakes that could frustrate attendees."

  • Listener-in-chief. The exec who studies live audience feedback and recommends adjustments in real time.

  • Brand guru. The exec who polices branding before, during and after the event.
To Whitehorne's list of duties, I'd add:
  • Guardian of truth. The exec who goads planners to up their game.
Want the truth? Attendees have zero tolerance for mediocrity. proves that fact in its new study, State of the Connected Customer:
  • 80% of B2B customers say they expect real-time response
  • 75% say they expect providers to anticipate their wants
  • 70% say technology makes it easy to take their business elsewhere
  • 66% say they'll abandon you if treated like a number
It's easy for planners to pine for yesterday, when the audiences were pliant; the competitors, pipsqueaks; the margins, porcine. But today's audiences want more.

"Excellence, quality and good should be earned words, attributed by others to us, not proclaimed by us about ourselves," Disney animator Ed Catmull says in Creativity, Inc.

The time is now to appoint a CXO for your event.

Indeed, it was yesterday.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

B2B Marketers are Freaking Out

B2B Content has reached petrifying proportions. Marketers are freaking out.

As Rebecca Spary says in Smart Selling Tools, "the current content cycle is fundamentally broken."

Like food in America, millions of tons of fresh content are being shipped every day, only to wind up in the landfill (or what Gary Slack calls the "brandfill").

Salespeople—three in four, anyway—blame marketers: they produce content that looks tasty, but is irrelevant to buyers. In reality, that assessment is baseless, because nine in 10 companies don't own a searchable CMS. No one can search for content based on relevance.

And it doesn't help that most salespeople are numbskulls. Only:
  • 62% understand their own companies' products
  • 25% understand their buyers' businesses
  • 22% can position themselves as trusted advisors
  • 21% believe they have relevant content to share with buyers
CMOs are supposed to align the two parties.

That's no mean feat, considering each is rewarded for different things (marketers for accumulating vanity metrics like traffic, likes and followers; salespeople for closing business at any cost).

Until CMOs can hold both parties to new standards—marketers for their efficient contribution to pipeline and sales for closing profitable deals—little will change.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Trust Yourself

Trust yourself," Dr. Benjamin Spock told young mothers, by which he meant trust your heart.

Never contradict it, because it's usually right about the things that matter.

Some people have a knack for letting their hearts sound the alarm and save them from failures.

The rest of us use our heads, and take a lot of hard knocks.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

To B or Not 2B

Gary Slack provided today's post. He is chief experience officer of Slack and Company, LLC, a leading global b2b marketing strategy and services provider based in Chicago.

That’s the question for a lot of b2b…er, btob…er, b-to-b marketers.

What’s the right or at least the most accepted way these days to abbreviate the somewhat unwieldy phrase “business-to-business”?

Maybe the Business Marketing Association (BMA) has it right in just saying “business marketing.”

For many years, the accepted abbreviation was “b-to-b” marketing. When I started my career 30 years, that’s how we did it.

Then in the late 1990s, with the growth of the Internet and the rise of all kinds of now largely defunct online vertical industry exchanges, the alternative abbreviation “b2b” suddenly came into being. In fact, well into the 2000s, Silicon Valley thought it owned b2b.

One school of thought has it that b2b is easier to text and takes a lot (to the time challenged) less time to type than b-to-b, what with those two pesky hyphens.

Whatever the case, though, the “b2b” moniker gradually came to replace “b-to-b” for all kinds of business marketing, and today you rarely see “b-to-b” used any more.

Do a search, and you’ll see what I mean. On the websites, and in the blogs, of almost all b2b marketers, they use “b2b.”

There are a few exceptions (not that there is anything wrong with that). One is the Association of National Advertisers (now the parent of BMA), which is fixated on “B-to-B” (yes, with capitals) due to some ancient style guide.

One other exception is or was Crain Communications and its BtoB magazine, but the magazine is now defunct, and no one else uses btob.

You might consider us one, too, as our agency’s tagline is “The shortest distance from b to b.” In this case, though, we felt we had to mirror the classic line we’ve mimicked: “The shortest distance from a to b.” We use b2b everywhere and everywhen else.

So that’s the quick, 30-year tale of the rise of b2b. Question answered!

5 How To’s in a [Blog Post] w/Photo. For Who? Content Marketers!

You've just encountered a viral headline. That's if you buy marketing maven Arnie Kuenn's tips in Chief Content Officer.

And it took a mere 30 seconds to write!

You can write a viral headline, too, Kuenn says. Simply:

  • Imply the post is a list
  • Include "who,” "photo," and "how to"
  • Make the headline no longer than 65 characters
  • Include your audience's favorite keyword(s), and
  • Describe the content that follows in a bracket ([slideshow], [blog post], [infographic], etc.)
Got it? Groovy! Now, I have a bridge that might interest you...

Monday, December 12, 2016

Please Say When You are Feeding the Fish

nOnly 2% of B2B sales are closed the first time buyer and seller meet.

The other 98% require the patience and persistence of a great teacher—anathema to most salespeople.

Remember Mr. Rogers' penchant for explanation?

No matter the activity, he took pains to explain what he was doing—a technique he adopted for the benefit of the blind, after a 5-year-old girl named Katie wrote to him:

Dear Mister Rogers,

Please say when you are feeding your fish, because I worry about them. I can’t see if you are feeding them, so please say you are feeding them out loud.

Do you have the knack for explaining your value proposition to prospects each and every weekday?

Or do you cast about for the 2% of deals you can close in one fell swoop?

Good luck with that.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Crap Content Portends Crap Customer Care

A friend once told me he paid a call on a prospect while battling a sudden-onset flu. My friend was ushered into the executive's office and promptly threw up on the man's desk. Not surprisingly, he didn't close the sale.

When you publish crap content—ungrammatical, tortuous and jargon-heavy—you kill sales, just as surely as my friend did.

Crap content portends crap customer care.

Need proof? Then consider the following, courtesy of the crap-content creators behind United Airlines' blog, Hub:

Top 5 things to know about the United Polaris experience

We're very excited about our brand new international premium cabin service—United Polaris first and business class—which offers comfort and relaxation for restful sleep in the sky. To make sure you know what to expect with United Polaris travel, see below for a few key reminders. You can learn more at

1. Service

2. Lounge

3. Seat

4. Amenities

5. Cabin names

What makes this crap content?
  • Prolixity. Why does the blogger use superlatives to excess? He's not "excited," but "very excited." The service isn't "new," but "brand new." It doesn't provide "comfort," but "comfort and relaxation." The blogger doesn't offer "reminders," but "key reminders."

  • Jargon. The blogger packs the 180-word post with jargon like "long haul," "roll out" and "soft-launched."

  • Nonsense. Planes fly, but since when do "seats take flight?" What the hell are "sleep-focused amenities?" And who really cares that United has renamed its first-class cabins?
Crap-content creators like United's will say: Who cares? It's only marketing content: here today, gone tomorrow. Their indifference reflects the brand's values to a T.

They'd be well served to take the advice of critic Alexander Woolcott:

I count it a high honor to belong to a profession in which the good men write every paragraph, every sentence, every line, as lovingly as any Addison or Steele, and do so in full regard that by tomorrow it will have been burned, or used, if at all, to line a shelf.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Childish Things

May 1971

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

— Corinthians 13:11

As reported after the election in The Wall Street Journal, deans at Cornell, Tufts and the University of Michigan tried to comfort angry students with hot chocolate, Play-Doh and coloring books.

Good luck with that.

My gut tells me mollycoddling is out.

There's something happening here.

A new generation is about to do what a big part of mine did.


November 2016

Perhaps because I'm part Irish-American, resistance is near and dear. In fact, I came to live in Washington, DC, as a direct result of participating in May Day, a large-scale civil disobedience event held on the National Mall in 1971. It's remembered today because it ended with the mass arrest of a third of the 36,000 protestors (I avoided that fate, to my parents' relief).

For years, we have lamented the generation of "snowflakes" doted on by helicopter parents and their milquetoast surrogates. But the snowflakes' hour draws near...

Arrest may be the cure for arrested development.

NOTE: Opinions are mine.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Breakout Time

Marketers are highly susceptible to bias. Some forms—racial bias, for example—are easy to detect in their work (just watch the holiday spot from Securus); some forms are less so.

Generational bias is one of the latter—and a "silent killer" of customer conversion.

Pop theorists are the guilty party. While they underscore generational differences, scientists do not. Pop theorists would have you believe:
  • All Traditionalists are patriots who value only self-sacrifice.
  • All Boomers are optimists who value only wealth.
  • All GenXers are pessimists who value only ecotourism.
  • All Millennials are narcissists who value only praise.
  • All GenZers are entrepreneurs who value only... well, who knows?
But if you believe the scientists:
  • Claims of generational differences are based on faulty studies—always.
  • There are no practical generational differences.
Does pop theory imprison your thinking?

It's breakout time.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

B2B Buyers Rational? It Ain't Necessarily So.

The B2B Kool-Aid claims buyers don't behave like consumers.

But two new studies show it ain't necessarily so.

State of the Connected Customer, from, reveals how consumer-like many B2B buyers have become:

  • 83% say technology informs them about product choices
  • 80% say they expect companies to respond to them in real time
  • 79% say it's vital to have a sales rep who's a trusted advisor
  • 75% say they expect companies to anticipate their needs
  • 70% say technology makes it easy to take their business elsewhere
  • 66% say they'll switch brands if they're treated like a number
  • 65% say they'll switch brands if a company's communications aren't personalized
Turned Off, from Sprout Social, reveals why buyers "unfollow" companies on social media:
  • 46% say the companies annoy them by over-posting self-promotions
  • 42% say the companies post irrelevant content
  • 35% say the companies use too much jargon
  • 18% say the companies are don't post frequently enough
  • 15% say the companies fail to respond to comments
You say, so what, who cares?

Well, Turned Off also reveals 75% of buyers have purchased a product after seeing it on social media.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016


Uttering a word is like striking a note on the keyboard of the imagination.

— Ludwig Wittgenstein

That the boundary between the real and the imagined is porous was proven this week when a well packaged web of lies provoked a gunman to shoot up my neighborhood pizzeria.

Words are how we think, and how we think is "not just mildly interesting, but a matter of life and death," says historian Howard Zinn

"If those in charge of our society—politicians, generals, corporate executives and owners of press and television—can control our ideas, they will be secure in their power. If they dominate our thought, they will not need soldiers patrolling the streets."

Words are powerful.

Handle them with care.

"Outright media lies are easy to debunk," says Shoq. "It’s the lazy, fact-free, inside baseball analysis that’s killing us.”

Monday, December 5, 2016

Face Up to the Fact: It's a Jungle Out There

I'm appalled by most tradeshows I visit.

While every other offline marketing medium has transformed itself in the past 40 years, shows have stagnated.

They hardly differ in the main from the very first ones I visited (working as a decorators' laborer) in the early '70s.

Indeed, those shows were better. Exhibitors used to unveil new products at them, and a large number displayed the products in pretty "hard wall" exhibits.

The next-level event has eluded most tradeshows,

Of course, organizers are quick to point out the medium doesn't need innovation. "Face-to-face" is all about faces, after all, and those haven't evolved much in 200,000 years.

That's like arguing the web is "all about electrons;" or direct mail, "all about stamps."

The real reason shows haven't improved lies in organizers' obsession with audiences.

"Most organizers are so focused on getting people into the venue that they have hardly skimmed the surface of understanding and influencing buyer behavior," says Stephane Doutriaux in a new white paper, The Smart Event.

Is that about to change?

Experience designers and event-tech suppliers insist it is, because the technology's costs have hit rock bottom.

I'm not so sure.

Technology doesn't deploy itself; it takes staff to oversee it. And audiences are as time-consuming to attract as they ever were, if not more so.

Time is the enemy.

But organizers need to face up to the fact: it's a jungle out there.

If you don't transform your show into a "smart event" now, you can bet a competitor will transform hers.

So get off your duff. Time's a-wasting.

When there's less of a cushion between you and failure, innovation becomes a necessity.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Lunch-pail Mentality

Playing the game for money produces the proper professional attitude.
It inculcates the lunch-pail mentality.
— Steven Pressfield

You can spot a pro a mile away. She carries a lunch pail.

The dilettante, on the other hand, carries a bag from Pret.

The pro shows up, rain or shine, and works her plan.

She persists.

The dilettante sits and waits—often in meetings—for the Muses (or the cavalry) to arrive.

He resists.

I love the name of conference planner Warwick Davies' company, The Event Mechanic! It perfectly—and authentically—describes Davies' lunch-pail attitude.

Journalist James J. Kilpatrick once likened the professional writer to a carpenter:

Our task is deceptively simple. It is as deceptively simple as the task of carpenters, who begin by nailing one board to another board. Then other boards are nailed to other boards, and, lo, we have a house. Just so, as writers we put one word after another word, and we connect those words with other words, and, lo, we have a news story or an editorial.

Jack London trained himself to write for money by copying other writers' phrases into notebooks, "strong phrases, the phrases of living language, phrases that bit like acid and scorched like flame."

And journalist Hunter S. Thompson trained himself to write for a living by typing for days on end the works of Faulkner, Fitzgerald and Hemingway.

That's persistence.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

No Wine before Its TIme

According to a study by Regalix, The State of B2B Content Marketing 2016, 73% of CMOs are dissatisfied with content marketing.

Crap content, of course, explains much of the dissatisfaction. Crap content won't give a brand a welcome seat at customers' tables.

CMOs' impatience explains the rest. They've spent all this dough. Where are the results?

Maybe they expect too much, too soon.

Content marketing isn't branding; but it sure as hell isn't selling, either.

To work, it takes time and amplification. Before results arrive, you have to cultivate an audience and win its trust.

Look at the number of readers you're getting. How large is your readership? How many readers are clicking from your blog to other value-added content? How many are sharing and recommending your content? If the numbers are low, you can't expect stellar results. Those take time.

So exercise some patience. Be like Orson Welles, who earned his "grocery money" in the 1970s by shooting TV commercials, the most famous of which has aged pretty well.  

Friday, December 2, 2016

Can You Dig Out of the Hole?

If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging.

Will Rogers

A new survey by the Association Research Board shows most association executives lack urgency and direction in their search for non-dues revenue.

The survey found only one in three association executives is “very committed” to tapping new non-dues revenue streams in 2017; the rest are only “somewhat committed” or “not committed.”

It also found one in four executives never discusses non-dues revenue-generation with her board.

While one in two association executives tapped a new revenue stream in 2016, the survey says, only one in four describes her revenue-generating activities as “highly successful.”

Association membership and dues revenue continue to decline year over year. So why do most association executives give non-dues revenue-generation so little priority?

Don't they see the only other way to dig out of the hole is to trim expenses—and members' benefits?

Journalist Michael Hart recently hosted a webinar exploring some alternative ways out of the hole.

Take a peek, if you're interested.

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