Archive for December, 2010

What’s Your Best Innovative Marketing Idea for 2011?

Friday, December 31st, 2010

2011 calendarDuring 2010 we saw many amazing marketing campaigns that creatively pulled together communities, used social media in new and cool ways and innovated on marketing as we know it. We covered many of these on HubSpot.tv including some of my personal favorites such as, Old Spice Man, WePay Icing of Pay Pal, Bing Decoding of Jay Z and Posterous’s Mobile Bloggers.

So the question is, what will be done in the 2011 to top these? Here at HubSpot, we expect the following trends to take hold or continue changing the way marketing is done.

Social Media’s Influence on SEO Will Grow

In just the past few weeks, LinkedIn Groups have been opened to the public and Bing announced they are going to enhanced their search algorithm so your friend preferences affect what results you see. As search engines continue to include social media in search results, your participation across the social web will become more and more important in helping your business get found. 

Mobile Devices Will Become More Important to Marketers

In March, Nielsen predicted that 1 in 2 Americans will have a smartphone by the end of this year. The year end numbers aren’t out yet, but Apple announced in October that they had sold 14.1 million iPhones in their fiscal fourth quarter alone. The importance of mobile in your marketing campaigns will only continue to grow in 2011 as adoption continues to rise.

Social Media Will Become More Integrated with Mainstream Marketing and Business

 Social Media was off and running in 2010 with everyone from mainstream organizations such as Gap, Sears, Amex, McDonalds, Ben & Jerry’s and NASA, to the Mayor of Newark NJ embracing it. Customers expect companies to be more transparent and engaging online and have shown this in everything from the BP oil spill to the Dominos pizza turnaround. If you aren’t talking with your customers online, answering their questions and engaging with them on a regular basis, they will go elsewhere to get the information they need.

Here at HubSpot, we want to know what you are planning for 2011 in order to take these changing trends into account. And we’re willing to offer up a prize in order to hear about your ideas. 

Leave a comment telling us about something new and different you are going to do this year in order to embrace the changes in marketing. If we get 100 comments before midnight (EST) on January 2, we will randomly select 5 lucky winners of Inbound Marketing books. If we get 101 comments we will give out an iPod touch and if we get 500 comments, we’ll give out an iPad as well. 

So, tell us about your biggest marketing plans of 2011 and have a wonderful new year!

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Final Prize! Play to Win an iPod Touch with Marketing Surprises

Friday, December 31st, 2010

iStock 000014657469XSmallHappy New Year’s Eve, inbound marketing friends!

Today is the final day of our Countdown to 2011, and we’re raffling off our grand prize: a free iPod Touch, pre-loaded with a couple fun marketing surprises.

Play now for a chance to to win. We will be announcing the winner tomorrow, on the first of the new year.

The folks from HubSpot wish you a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2011. Here’s to your success, and remember to keep learning and having fun.

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A Global Marketing Tradition: New Year’s Eve Ball Stats

Friday, December 31st, 2010

describe the imageAs the famous New Year’s Eve Ball descends from the flagpole on top of One Times Square, there will be an estimated one million people in Times Square, over a billion watching as the clock strikes midnight.

A global tradition, where did the idea start and how has it continued?

1. The tradition of dropping a ball started in England with the Royal Observatory in Greenwich.  They began the tradition of dropping a ball to observe time and it was then adopted by the naval industry as a way to mark the change of the hour.

2. There have been eight balls that have dropped in New York City’s Times Square on New Year’s Eve since 1907, when the ball dropping tradition began.  The previous four years had fireworks displays to bring in the New Year, also in Times Square.

3. The original ball weighed almost 700 pounds. It was made of iron and wood, but has since gone through many changes to become more lightweight and easier to maneuver.

4. Made of aluminum from 1955 to 1998, the ball was later replaced with Waterford Crystal and metal.

5. The ball was replaced by a giant apple in the early 1980′s and was changed back to a ball after much debate.

6. The current ball, on duty since 2008, measures 12 feet tall, is embellished with 2,668 Waterford crystals, and has 32,256 LEDs to light its downward way. Too flashy for you?  Not in Times Square, where buildings are required to have at least one illuminated sign that stays lit until 1 a.m. 

As a Times Square alternative, Scotland celebrates Hogmanay on December 31.  Hogmaney (no one is certain of the holiday’s origin) traditions include fireworks and torch-lit processions in the cities and bonfires in the rural areas.  “First footing” is still observed; it is believed to be good luck for the first foot over the threshold to be that of a dark-haired stranger bearing a piece of coal, shortbread or whiskey. 

What are you doing to bring in the New Year? 

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Which charities do you donate to?

Friday, December 31st, 2010

Each year I like to ask what charities people are donating to. There’s still a couple days left in 2010, so I wanted to ask readers about their charity or non-profit giving.

I’ll mention the main organizations on my giving list this year:

  • charity: water brings clean, safe drinking water to people in developing nations.
  • The Poynter Institute is a school that trains journalists and would-be journalists, both in person and online.
  • The Committee to Protect Journalists defends press freedom and the rights of journalists to report the news world-wide without fear of harm.
  • MAPLight.org provides tools and data to investigate the influence of money and politics.
  • The Sunlight Foundation focuses on using technology to make government more transparent and accountable.
  • I don’t think I’ve mentioned my Mom’s charity on my blog before, but I did donate money this year to it, so it seems appropriate to mention it. Blessing Hands provides scholarships and other help to students in China. Side-note: in the same way that I don’t accept gifts or free things, if you ever decide to donate any money to Blessing Hands, please don’t tell me; I wouldn’t want a donation to create the appearance of any conflict of interest with my job.
  • The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) defends everyone’s digital and online rights. The EFF has stopped more bad ideas online than I can even count.

Those were the organizations that I ended up giving some money to. Now it’s your turn. What charities would you like to mention, support, or call out?

By the way, I’d still like to find 501(c)(3) organizations with low overhead costs that support open-source software. And I’d still like to find an organization that teaches the basics of journalism online for free. The training could cover the history of journalism, research and fact checking, ethics, legal principles, rights, how to investigate, libel and slander, off the record vs. on background, and so on. Sort of like The Khan Academy, but teaching journalism. If anyone knows of such organizations or non-profits, please leave a comment!


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7 Proven Facebook Marketing Tactics

Friday, December 31st, 2010

facebook likeIt’s been quite the year for Facebook. The company is nearing the 600 million user mark. It announced its new email messaging system. And Mark Zuckerberg was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year.

Throughout 2010 companies and organizations of all sizes have taken advantage of all that Facebook has to offer. Most encouraging of all has been the degree to which companies have integrated Facebook – and other social media – into their marketing mix.

I’ve read a number of success stories about companies that have used their brand pages on Facebook as landing pages and as a result have converted thousands of fans.

There are a number of lessons that we can learn from these stories. Here are seven.

7 Proven Facebook Marketing Tactics

  • Be interactive, fun and helpful. When people get on your Facebook page they are looking for some kind of interaction. Don’t disappoint them. A hardware company offered their Facebook links, applications, and engaging information, and within a short time added 26,000 fans.
  • Embed videos on your Facebook page. There is no reason you have to send people to YouTube to watch your videos. Keep ‘em on your page.
  • Create a connection between Facebook and the outside world. I read a case study where sales reps worked with local retailers and promoted their events through Facebook updates and photos.
  • Create contests on Facebook. In order to enter one contest, a company made people comment on a thread announcing a giveaway in Facebook.
  • Integrate traditional advertising with Facebook. The Facebook icon/logo is well known and it should appear on more print ads. It’s a great way to promote contests that encourage people to sign up on your fan page.
  • Use Facebook to grow your email list, and visa versa. One company used their email newsletter to boost awareness of their Facebook page. They then promoted their email newsletter to their existing Facebook fans. The end result was growth in their email list and in their fan base.
  • Introduce a new product on Facebook. People who sign up to be fans on your Facebook page are your most loyal customers. Reward them by giving them the information about a new product before everyone else. If you do it right, they will help you promote it to others.

I’ve taken these tactics from MarketingSherpa’s Top 5 Facebook Case Studies from 2010, which is available as a complimentary download.  In it, you can read how five companies from very different industries found creative and practical ways to bring Facebook into their marketing mix.

If any of you have integrated Facebook into your marketing, we’d love to hear about it. 

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Gauging Online Influence with Jason Keath of @SocialFresh [Inbound Now #1]

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

Inbound Now twitter LogoHere at Hubspot, we are all about trying new things! So something that we will be ramping up for the new year is a brand new series, called Inbound Now.

Inbound Now will be a weekly interview series where we reach out and talk with industry experts to bring you the latest in inbound marketing, SEO, email marketing and social media.

Keep reading for an overview of today’s show and make sure to enter to win 1 of 4 tickets to Social Fresh Tampa.

jason keath

Or if you just want the audio click here!

In this episode, Jason Keath joins us to share some insights on some best practices for running real life events, some tips on how to build community around your brand and encourage guest posters on your site, and we dive deep into gauging online influence and how to identify and engage with those influencers.

Jason is founder of Social Fresh, a social media education company, that runs a series of social media conferences around the U.S.

Getting Guest Bloggers

Understanding why your blog exists and who your audience is a key component to figure out before going after guest posters.

Once you have your niche nailed down and you have a customer persona (who you are writing for) in mind you need to start thinking about what is in it for them (the guest poster). 

Why would they want to contribute to your blog? Are you going to pay them? Will their be affiliate opportunities? Will they be gaining exposure and credibility through your site?

The best type of people to get as guest posters are those who are passionate about your community and are invested in the future of that community.

Most importantly and an often overlooked step in gaining guest bloggers for your site is asking for writers!

Visitors to your site are not mind readers (unfortunately) and having a clear call-to-action that you are looking for contributors is a sure fire way to spark some interest. 

Gauging Online Social Influence

Using tools like Twitter Grader, Klout, and Blog Dash can help companies quickly identify people with significant online influence. 

Jason warns, however, that this doesn’t take the human vetting process out of the equation but these tools do help streamline identifying influencers. 

A real world example: The Old Spice Campaign. Jason had a chance to get a behind the scenes look at how the Old Spice campaign was run and share some insights gained in the interview.

Looking Forward Toward 2011

  • Influence will be a big buzzword in 2011
  • Agencies are on a huge social media talent hiring spree!
  • New career paths will emerge in the social space
  • Location based services will continue to rise and more specifically location-based services that focus on saving the consumer money will win.

Make sure to follow @InboundNow as we will be keeping you up to date on upcoming interviews and asking you for questions to ask the guests!

Win Tickets to Social Fresh Tampa

Social Fresh Tampa is coming up February 21st and has an all star cast of speakers lined up! Jason was kind enough to hook us up with some free tickets to give away!

How to win:

  1. Follow @InboundNow on Twitter and Tweet out the phrase:
    Enter to win 1 of 4 tickets to @SocialFresh Tampa Feb 21st from @HubSpot’s newest show @InboundNow http://bit.ly/edPq2X” Click to retweet
    (Note* each tweet counts as another entry, the more the merrier.)
  2. Like our Fan page
  3. Sign up to win via email.

We will be picking a two winners from Twitter, one from our Facebook Page and one email address, so make sure you enter on each!

The 4 winners will be chosen on January 7th!

Good Luck and stay tuned for the next episode featuring David Siteman Garland from the Risetothetop.com

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How to Create a Great Ho-Ho-Holiday eCard

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

happy holidaysHopefully everyone had a great holiday season and their inboxes didn’t expand quite as much as my waistline. As I attempt the never-ending task of managing my email, I’ve come across quite a few holiday eCards from various companies. Some of them are incredibly entertaining while others I discard after only a quick glance. Although having a catchy eCard is a great way to show your customers that you care, if you aren’t careful your holiday cheer can easily be mistaken for scrooge-like spam. As a holiday present to all our readers I’ve put together a few pointers for creating a quality holiday greeting and include some great examples that I’ve seen this year.

Make it Yourself – Nothing says Bah Humbug! like paying someone else to come up with a holiday card for you. Don’t feel like you need to achieve perfection, as you’ve probably heard before, it’s the thought that counts and that is definitely the case as far as the holiday card is concerned. As long as your message is sincere and original your recipients will be appreciative.

Get Everyone Involved – The holidays are a time for everyone to come together and celebrate together. Not only is the holiday card a great time to connect with customers, but it’s a great opportunity for different departments within a company to have some fun spreading holiday cheer. Like we did with our card, getting everyone involved, is not only fun, but it also shows a personal insight into your company that your customers are sure to enjoy.

Get Personal – One of my favorite eCards I saw this year was First Round Capital’s “Is Your Term Sheet a First Round Capital Term Sheet.” The guys at First Round Capital (FRC) did an excellent job with their Old Spice style video, and after it was released they even followed up with personalized responses to the tweets their eCard received. This wasn’t the first time that FRC has included their portfolio companies in their eCard and I’m sure a lot of startups seeking investment would love to have received this sort of holiday warmth from their VC.

Send Them Early or Late – Mark Suster wrote a great post on the holiday eCard here and this is one of the tips that I really hadn’t thought of until I read it and then experienced the inbox overload this year. If you’re like most people you’re probably taking a little time off during the holidays and there are going to be emails that are going to be quickly discarded as marked as unimportant. If you send your holiday card during the peak holiday time (during the week of Christmas) you’er increasing the odds of this happening exponentially, so either send your eCard at least a week before Christmas or after the holiday rush has passed.

Here are a couple other examples of great eCards that I’ve seen:

Happy Holidays from Cornell

30 Years of Happy Holidays from LucasFilm

Hope these tips help you make a great holiday eCard next year and I hope you don’t forget to send me a copy!

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Marketing Lessons from Google’s Chrome OS Beta

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010
A few weeks ago I filled out a form hosted by Google to sign up to test out a Chrome OS beta laptop. Last week, when I got home from the HubSpot holiday party, I had a laptop sitting on my porch waiting for me. I promised to spend as much of my life as possible using Chrome OS, and figured a great way to do so would be passing along some insights I’ve noticed with the whole program.
Chrome OS

Search is Critical

This laptop doesn’t have a caps lock key. Its got a search button. Combined with the “AwesomeBar” that Chrome has (unlike Internet Explorer and Firefox, there is no separate search box), a person is a single keystroke away from starting a search to answer their next question or desire.

Sometimes it Takes a Brick to See Real Innovation

Chrome OS is an interesting divergence from the traditional model of an operating system. Generally speaking, since the dawn of the home computing era, we’ve become used to the concept windows and folders, and a desktop to organize them. With all the releases that we have seen for Windows and Macintosh OS, the core concepts have remained untouched in over 20 years. And then there is Chrome OS. I’ve found the quickest way to describe Chrome OS is this statement: “The browser IS the OS”. In the 72 hours that I have had this laptop, I have yet to see a single file or folder. As a user, I’ve never been exposed to the file system – just the Chrome browser.

Browsers are the New Desktop

While I was filling out form to register for one of the beta laptops, I was thinking to myself “Will I really be able to do it, to let go from my ties to a ‘desktop’ and embrace this?” Yes, there are certainly some things that I just can’t do on this laptop. But at the same time, I’m monumentally impressed at what I’m able to do with just a browser. There is a killer combination of cloud services (Google Docs, HootSuite) and Chrome Apps & Extensions (TweetDeck, Pandora, Evernote). which combine to serve about 90% of my computing needs. For that last 10% – coding, heavy photo editing, syncing my iPhone – well, I’ve got another computer for that. But Chrome OS isn’t designed to be your one true operating system – this is for the lightweight, long lasting laptop that you use to surf from the couch, or take on vacation. Honestly, next time I go on vacation, this Cr-48 is coming with me.

Marketing Takeaways

Plan for the web. If you’re trying to figure out whether you should make an App for iOS, Andriod, FireFox, or whatever – stop right now. Go HTML5. That will save you a ton of time, and will work on all of these platforms. Then you can further tailor the experience based on devices.

Plan for search. While the Chrome browser has long had the AwesomeBar, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the other major browser players start combining the address bars and search bars. Users are going to be searching more – are you certain that you are getting found organically?

Release early and iterate. I don’t have the release version of Chrome OS in my hands. I have a preview, running on some proprietary test hardware. I signed up, and asked for the chance to use Chrome OS as my primary machine, and Google granted that chance. Look around at your products and services, is there something that you have cooking that won’t be ready for another couple of months? Now would be the best time to ask your best customers if they’d like to try something new and exciting (with the full understanding that it just might not work).

If you have any questions about the Chrome OS and the laptop, feel free to ask them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer.

Photo Credit: þä½

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Top Online Marketing Posts for 2010 & 7 Year Blogging Birthday

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

online marketing blogFirst of all, please wish TopRank’s Online Marketing Blog a Happy 7th Birthday!

It was 7 years ago today that I started this blog as an experiment to document industry news and develop my writing skills. With the help of many different people, it’s turned into quite a bit more than that.

THANK YOU for reading, sharing and contributing your insights. They are all very much appreciated and help fuel the continued publishing of this blog after thousands of posts:  2,496 to be exact and I’ve had the privilege of writing 2,075 of them.

The year 2010 provided to be one of focus on Social Media and Content Marketing topics over our past emphasis on SEO and Online PR. All are great topics in the online marketing mix, but as you’ll see below, readers are eating up social media content as fast as they can get it.

Here are the top 10 posts from Online Marketing Blog published in 2010:
(according to visits)

1. 10 Ways to Create a More Engaging Facebook Page – Facebook marketing is hot in 2010 and with close to 600 million users, it’s only going to get hotter in 2011. These basic tips are a great starting point for companies that want to increase their reach and customer engagement on Facebook.
2. 22 Social Media Marketing Management Tools – With 1,495 retweets and nearly 200 Facebook shares, this post about social media was very popular. Due to the meteoric rise of publishing and sharing tools, the social web can be overwhelming for marketers. These tools are part of growing category of software that help marketers, advertisers and public relations professionals manage their brands’ social participation.
3. 11 Free Tools for Social Media Optimization - You can’t scale social media marketing or search engine optimization without tools and the intersection of social media and SEO offers a tremendous competitive advantage. These tools offer a range of benefits for creating and measuring search friendly social media content.
4. 5 B2B Social Media Winners - Social media isn’t just for consumer products and services. Content marketing and relationship building are key to longer sales cycles common to B2B marketing and social media offers an exceptional platform for engaging prospects with content and social media. These examples show how successful B2B companies are implementing social media into their marketing mix.
5. 25 Women That Rock Social Media - Let’s hear it for the women of social media. A response to a listing of (mostly men) top social media pundits on ClickZ by Erik Qualmann, this post lists 25 women who are rocking the social media world.
6. 5 Examples of Social Media in Healthcare Marketing - In line with our editorial plan that offers a matrix of tactical marketing tips intersecting with vertical markets, this post resonated with marketers part of the huge Healthcare industry looking for examples of social media in action.
7. Social Media Strategy – A Definitive Guide – Tapping into the amazing network I’ve been fortunate to develop of the past 10 years or so, this list of social media strategy advice comes from a range of industry luminaries. It also offers contrasting views between Guy Kawasaki and Chris Brogan on social media strategy vs. tactics.
8. Why Do So Many Companies Suck at Social Media? - This was another post about social media that did well socially, with 1,159 Retweets and 300 Facebook shares.  While numbered tips posts do quite well, personal observation posts like this one seem to connect with other marketers (and consultants) experiencing the stumbling of many companies and their efforts to make sense of the social web.
9. 5 Ways to Weave LinkedIn Into Your Marketing Mix - LinkedIn is on the rise with over 90 million users and every Fortune 500 company represented. A plethora of new features and integration with other social channels has made LinkedIn a place worth spending time on outside of recruiting.
10. 5 Steps to Build a Twitter Marketing Strategy - Sometimes the best blog posts come from answering people’s questions via email. That’s the genesis of this post on practical and first hand advice on building a successful Twitter marketing strategy.

Overall, the most visited pages for this blog included our famous BIGLIST of SEO Blogs and the best list of Blog and RSS directories.  Based on social signals, search referring traffic and other KPIs, numbered lists continue to dominate the format that gains greatest exposure for content we post here. I’ll continue to provide those kinds of insights in 2011 and also welcome your feedback

If you’re a regular reader, what were some of your favorite posts over the past year? What would you like to see more of? Would you like to see more posts form other TopRank Marketing staff? Industry news? Videos (besides my travel videos of course), interviews, conference liveblogging?

After 7 years of blogging the focus of this agency blog is still to document what TopRank Marketing considers as topics worth discussing with an emphasis on Content, Search and Social.  Advertising, PR and Email will also enter the mix a bit more as well as some new faces from the TopRank Marketing team.  On top of that, your feedback is especially welcome.

Thanks again for reading and Happy New Year to you!


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The 10 Commandments of Customer Support

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

4988548244 80b15c9bf9 mTo my customer.
I may not have the answer, but I’ll find it.
I may not have the time, but I’ll make it.

UNKNOWN

Matthew Stein, manager of the HubSpot Customer Support Ninja Team, believes strongly in the power of words to satisfy customers.  Because customer satisfaction is a measure of how products and services supplied by a company meet or surpass customer expectations, Matthew and his team have developed 10 rules that the follow when helping HubSpot customers. These rules are a great guide for any business who has a mission of making happy customers.

The 10 Commandments of Customer Support

1. Listen - Listening is the first step to understanding. Everyone calling support has a problem to report. If you don’t listen, you’ll never find out the customer’s problem.  Some customers can be frustrated and want to know that their pain is being heard. Allow them to vent, understand their frustration and let them know you heard what they said. After the emotions subside they’ll be in a more receptive mood for advice. 

2. Teach - Knowledge is power. Teaching our customers how to solve their own problem empowers them, and gives them a sense of control.  Our goal is to help people transform their own marketing. We help even the smallest businesses take control of their website and their marketing efforts.  Teach them how to edit their own website, and instead of a frustrated customer, you put them on the path to control of their own marketing destiny.

3. Pay Attention - Multitasking is great for productivity, but never forget that the customer you’re dealing with is your top priority.  If you miss the details of a problem, and the customer needs to repeat themselves, they will feel ignored.  Listening (see Commandment #1) isn’t just about hearing what they say, it’s hearing all of what they have to say.

4. Ask the Right Questions -  Getting to the bottom of the problem requires some digging.  Sometimes a customer will work themselves down a difficult path and only call about a solution for the immediate problem they see.  Find out what their larger goal is, and you can often make their life easier.  They may say they’re trying to add a single line to a table today, but what they really need is a format to display their content in an easy to edit layout.  Get a big picture view of the issue and a more comprehensive solution can present itself.

5. Don’t Interrupt – We’re here to help customers on their timetable, don’t rush a customer. 

6. Apologize - Even if it’s not your fault, apologizing and taking ownership of a problem is one of the fastest ways to defuse an emotional situation. You don’t have to assume responsibility to truly apologize.  Saying you’re sorry the screw-up occurred doesn’t mean it’s your fault, it says how you feel about what happened.

7. Focus On Solutions, Not On Blame - HubSpot lives and dies as one team.  Never blame another department, instead focus on finding a solution that will work.

8. Put Yourself In Their Shoes - Get to know the customer’s business. Sometimes looking at the problem from a different angle will reveal a solution.  Find out how the customer uses our products and their process might reveal a solution or new idea. Think about how visitors to their site flow through the pages and how that process can be streamlined.  Get to know the customer’s business. Our customers are all different. Finding the right solution to their problem starts with knowing their business processes, and how they can work best with our systems.

9. Treat Free Product Users As Customers - They’ve already found our product, their first phone call could be our only chance to show them how good the support is that comes with our software.  

10.  Laugh, Smile and Have Fun – When appropriate, have fun with the customer. If they’re smiling when they hang up, you’ve done a good job.

What other rules would you add to this list?

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