How Do I Know If I Can Trust This Tax Relief Company? March 3rd, 2014

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hcitThere are many ways how you can find out if you can trust a tax relief company. A reliable tax relief company would give you the proper services to give you. Let us say for example, there is one tax relief company that says they are one of the top rated tax relief companies. It’s pretty much self-proclaimed but you decided to give it a try to see if you can really trust this company. Here are some steps how you can try this company and how you can rate it according to its performance. Of this company passes all these then it really is one of the top rated tax relief companies.

When you give them a call, a way to tell if they are a good company is when they have good customer service. A good customer representative will take note details of every single thing you say and if they have a good customer service, which can tell that they really want to have a good name because they only hire the most comprehensive representatives. Another way to tell if they are good is when they pay on time. If they claim to be one of the top rated tax relief companies then they will act like it.

How Do I Know If It Is Necessary To File IRS Tax Help Or Not?

It is important to know when you should file an IRS tax help or not. Filing an IRS tax help by mistake or unnecessarily can’t be undone so you have to carefully think about the decision you are about to make. You also need to do a little research and computation about the details you have gathered so far. By gathering details and analyzing what will cost you less will be the most helpful to your situation. Why and how come?

Here is an example of a situation that you might to put yourself in for you to be able to visualize how it is important to gather details and think wisely. Imagine that you recently launched a new business and the tax payment is nearing. Your business is new to the public and it hasn’t attracted that much attention yet. Your problem now is the tax. The tax remains high even if your profit is not even half your goal for the week! What do you think should you do?

You need to choose between filing a tax relief form in advance or saving up until the day of the tax payment comes.  You need to thoroughly think about the decision since it could either save you money or waste your money.

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How The Internet Killed Expensive Beta Testing November 11th, 2013

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Progressive networks launched RealPlayer last month amid much hoopla. With a huge New York press conference and strategically planned media interviews, the company unveiled a new component that could become the standard for Web video.

Except Progressive didn’t actually release a new product. Instead, it officially launched the beta version of RealVideo.

Until a year or two ago, beta testing was a relatively sacrosanct area that marketers did not discuss. Software beta testers were a cherry-picked elite group who signed nondisclosure agreements in exchange for testing products.

Web sites open up betas

ikebdNow, companies such as Microsoft Corp., Netscape Communications Corp. and Progressive are putting up beta versions of products on their Web sites for everyone to try out, almost reducing betas to just another sales tool.

The question is, if a product is being widely released in beta, is it still technically a beta? If not, say technology trend watchers, blame it on a shifting marketing paradigm brought on by the speed of technological change.

Says David Callahan, editor of Crossgrid.org, an online newsletter covering technology marketing: “At one time, beta test programs were secret. Now executives of software companies are buying $100,000 in magazine ads to talk about the cool applications they are giving away.”

“They really aren’t betas anymore, so you have to wonder how is the software getting tested,” he adds. “But with the Internet, you need to get your product in front of millions of people, so you’re churning product release cycles out so much faster than the long beta cycles of a few years ago.”

As a result, Mr. Coursey says there are two kinds of betas: Marketing betas, which address user interface issues and allow time for last-minute fixes, and technical betas, controlled tests with selected groups of people who often must sign non-disclosure agreements.

An increasing trend

Public marketing betas are an increasingly prevalent trend in the industry. “In terms of features, we still try to keep betas as betas. Not all the features will be complete,” says Julie Herendeen, group product manager in the client division of Netscape, Mountain View, Calif.

“We like to get the features [of our products] out to the public as soon as possible. From that standpoint, betas serve two functions – testing the software and getting heightened awareness through the building of a broad audience,” she says.

From a price and technical standpoint, Netscape and other companies hedge their betas by excluding features and support normally built into full-release editions.

Most so-called public betas are built with “time bombs” – bits of code that render the test software inoperative after a period of use.

Also, Netscape gives very little customer phone support for betas, steering inquisitive callers to the help areas on the Web site. The life of Netscape’s betas generally is 90 to 180 days. Presumably, after the beta expires, users will be so enamored of the particular software they will purchase the complete version.

The beta version of Netscape Navigator 3.0 Standard browser software was rolled out on the site last spring, and remained in beta for approximately five months. During this period, Ms. Herendeen says, Netscape staffers regularly checked e-mail and postings to external, Netscape-oriented Usenet Newsgroups in search of user complaints about bugs or other product features that need enhancement.

Betas far closer to being finished

“When you release a beta these days, you are going to have 90% of your product built. In terms of fixing bugs, the last 10% is the hardest, but you can always fall back on ‘this is just a beta’ excuse,” says Tim Bajarin, president, Creative Strategies Research International, a San Jose high-tech marketing consultancy.

Alpha tests, once just for silicon lab rats, now are being conducted further in a product development cycle, with some moving into the realm traditionally occupied by beta. Alpha tests can range from the raw code state of product development to as high as a 75% completion threshold, Mr. Coursey says.

Although a few Web sites put up alpha tester solicitations, most of these people are still prequalified – at least for now. Generally, alpha tests remain small and closed.

Beta, on the other hand, almost defies closed testing, given the sheer number of beta testers now available through the Internet. Still, closed tests have their pluses.

“The advantage of a closed beta is the qualified feedback, but the disadvantage is all the record-keeping and filing of non-disclosure agreements,” says Phil Barrett, VP-software products for Progressive.

While at Microsoft in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Mr. Barrett was development manager for several betas, including a 7,000-tester closed beta of Windows 3.1.

The Seattle-based Progressive, known for its RealAudio Player, has had more than 1.5 million downloads of its audio- and video-enabled RealPlayer since it posted the program on its Web site Feb. 10.

Internet distribution gutsy

“We’ve recognized that utilizing the Internet as a way to distribute a beta test version is gutsy, but a beta test implies a level of stability for people interested in using a product,” says Mr. Barrett.

Microsoft also plays the beta game. Seven betas are on its Free Downloads page soft.com/msdownload/default.asp). Betas include Comic Chat 2.0 Beta 1 and NetMeeting 2.0 Beta 2, an Internet phone product.

Often, companies will release a succession of betas until a product is deemed ready for full release.

It may be a cat-and-mouse game, but Netscape’s Ms. Herendeen says this exposure more than offsets possible vulnerability to competitors.

“It’s important to get your product out in the field,” Mr. Barrett added.

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Management Changes Are Never The End Of The World November 1st, 2013

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Two months ago, when Joel Deceuster was the senior VP of International Data Group’s marketing services department, his office was right down the hall from the worldwide marketing group.

wwmgBecause of that, he knew the people working there well enough to say hello, but he was never involved with the group’s mission or the day-to-day responsibilities of the staff.

Today, after a promotion to senior VP-worldwide marketing for the high-tech publishing company based in San Francisco, Mr. Deceuster is their boss.

Those same people who used to greet him warmly are his new direct reports, and they weren’t too sure, he says, how to treat him when he first took over.

Mr. Deceuster found himself face-to-face with a situation that occurs every day at companies across the country: How to properly handle a change of marketing director.

Two sides of the issue

Obviously, the issue can be looked at from two sides. How should the new marketing chief handle the situation and what should workers do to make the transition more smooth?

Mr. Deceuster says it’s not easy from either perspective. “It’s interesting. Even though my predecessor and I are working to make this a smooth transition, the dynamics of the department seemed to grind to a halt at first.”

“There was always a nervousness and an anxiety present within the group and I’d notice it most whenever I’d sit down to interact with the individuals.”

That’s not unusual, says Roger Herman, CEO of Herman Associates, a management consultancy in Greensboro, N.C.

“Whenever leadership changes are made,” he says, “employees say to themselves, ‘I’m not sure I should still be doing this,’ or ‘I don’t know what to do next.’”

Mr. Herman believes the best tool to counter these debilitating effects is a strong mission statement.

“The primary focus should be maintaining the marketing message. The goal is to make this leadership change appear seamless to both clients and the advertising agency working with the department,” Mr. Herman says.

Keep marketing consistent

But what if the new director makes sweeping changes or exhibits a different leadership style?

Says Mr. Herman: “The interpersonal relationships will change, whether the new director comes in from outside or moves up from within.

“As far as changes in style, chances are good it won’t be too far afield from what existed before. There’s a relatively tight band of behaviors in which good leaders operate,” Mr. Herman says.

Katharine Paine, founder and CEO of Delahaye Group, an international image and reputation measurement firm in Portsmouth, N.H., agrees.

“Stay consistent. Whatever campaigns you have going, keep them going – at least until they can be replaced by something better. Never let those messages become paralyzed by uncertainty.”

She points out that it’s the ad agency that is most likely to be affected by inconsistent messages from the marketing group.

Agency paranoia common

“Paranoia is almost always the agency’s initial reaction to news of a change,” Ms. Paine says. “They realize the moment something changes within a client’s marketing structure, changes in that client relationship will follow. The marketing group’s interests are best served by keeping the agency relationship stable.”

To do that, Ms. Paine says, “Communicate through familiar channels. Reassure the agency that it’s business as usual for a predetermined length of time, like six months. Let them know there will be a review of the relationship after that period has passed.”

She also recommends the agency provide the new leader with information.

“Pull together any statistical research that validates the existing marketing messages,” Ms. Paine says.

“If that data is unavailable, do a quick competitive analysis of the current messages: What’s being communicated, what’s being believed and by which audiences. Use this data as a tool for promoting consistency.”

Present a status report

That approach also works for the people who work in the marketing department, IDG’s Mr. Deceuster says.

“Provide that marketing manager with a complete status report,” he says. “Cover everything that’s happening in your area of responsibility, and do it either in writing or by e-mail.

“This information helps him understand three things: What’s been expected of you in the past, how you’ve fulfilled those expectations and what you’re working on now to help meet them in the future,” he says.

Proceed very cautiously

Mr. Deceuster does add one word of warning to marketing employees who consider adopting this strategy: “Avoid talking about promises made by the previous manager or interpersonal problems within the department. Airing the dirty laundry will only make your manager suspicious of you, not others. This is the time to be positive and professional.”

And don’t make the mistake of being too anxious to gain favor with the new leader.

“That’s the wrong approach because it’s blatantly transparent. Mr. Deceuster says. “That behavior makes me feel like I can’t trust the person’s insight into any situation because of the nagging suspicion that he’s parroting back what he thinks I want to hear. It ends up suffocating the working relationship.”

Alleviate employees’ fear

Mr. Deceuster knows people are nervous when a new boss comes in.

“I pre-empted much of their anxiety by developing a plan for dealing with it,” he says.

“I scheduled one-on-ones with each individual, asking them to spend the first half-hour telling me about their responsibilities. I then asked them to take the last six minutes of our time and brag about themselves, telling me all the good things they’d accomplished.

“At the end, we scheduled a follow-up meeting which would focus on their goals and aspirations. It helped them understand I was interested in supporting them and their careers,” Mr. Deceuster says.

For his part, Mr. Herman offers this advice: “Keep the focus off the subordinate-to-superior relationship. Recognize that you’re both important corporate citizens, but with different roles to play. There shouldn’t be any fear involved on anyone’s part.”

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Email Marketing Was So Innocent, Once October 9th, 2013

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While the fight continues over spamming and other issues of e-mail “netiquette,” technological advances are turning e-mail into an ever more powerful marketing tool, capable of delivering far more than today’s text messages.

Two key trends that are changing what people see in their e-mail: First, corporations are switching from mainframe or LAN-based packages such as Lotus’ cc:Mail to Internet mail programs such as Qualcomm’s Eudora Pro.

Second, Internet mail programs are now moving to support HTML (Hyper-Text Markup Language).

em“A number of products support HTML composition for e-mail messages,” says Mark Levitt, research manager for electronic messaging at International Data Corp., Framingham, Mass.

That means that as users upgrade during the next two years, the messages they send can look more like Web pages.

Already,millions of people who use the e-mail program included in the Netscape 3.0 browser can put embedded hot links in messages, says Ross Rubin, a group director at Jupiter Communications, New York.

For example, marketers can send Netscape 3.0 users messages with http://netb2b.com in them, referencing Business Marketing’s NetMarketing’s Web site.

People who have their Internet connection on can then reach the site simply by clicking on the highlighted phrase, explains Mr. Rubin.

Such references in messages aren’t distracting, says Mr. Levitt, they make a worthwhile addition to your e-mail marketing pitches. But it’s a mistake to go beyond that, he adds.

“If you send HTML to someone, they would need to use their Web browser to read that message,” he says.

Defining an Internet program

An Internet mail program can be defined as a program that supports TCP/IP protocols such as the Simple Message Transport Protocol (SMTP) for delivering messages, the Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) for attaching graphics files, and the Post Office Protocol-3 (POP-3), for running Internet mail post offices.

In a corporate environment, LANs and mainframes support Internet mail through gateways that translate messages and addresses from one format to another. In this kind of setup, users may have Internet addresses, but they can’t read HTML codes unless they save the messages, then open a browser separately to view the file.

For now, corporate mail systems retain some advantages that will slow the move to Internet mail programs, International Data Corp.’s Mr. Levitt says. They can download messages separate from headers, sort mail into folders and offer special services for mail administrators. They also offer better support for directories of users.

But Internet mail packages are catching up through the Interactive Mail Access Protocol (IMAP-4), which brings those sorting capabilities to Internet mail servers, and the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), which supports directories.

Microsoft Exchange and Lotus’ cc:Mail will support IMAP-4 later this year.

“Support for LDAP is expected to become widespread in browsers and e-mail clients this year,” says Mr. Levitt. “That will enable people to more easily locate Internet addresses and send messages.”

Back in the old days

Early Internet mail programs, such as Eudora Light, a free Qualcomm product that remains popular, were separate from early Web browsers. But integration with the Web and support for HTML codes in messages followed quickly.

Among the pioneers was Net-Manage, Cupertino, Calif. Its Chameleon browser had lost the Web market to Microsoft and Netscape, so the company moved rapidly to add HTML authoring capabilities to its Z-Mail Pro e-mail package, says senior product manager John Guertin.

In addition to hot links, the new capability lets you add Web elements such as tables, fonts and graphics to e-mail messages, Mr. Guertin says. “That’s what’s coming down. In a message body you can deliver those very same things.”

For large graphics, such messages could reference these files on your Web server, which would download and display them along with the message, he notes.

Notes Mr. Levitt: Unfortunately, Netscape reacted quickly to the rise of Internet e-mail.

The company added e-mail as a standard feature of their browser in 1996 and instantly became the market leader. “It was a major change,” he says.

Netscape’s success has moved Microsoft, which previously offered a separate e-mail program called Microsoft Exchange, to emulate it.

The next version of the Microsoft Internet Explorer, due later this year, will include an e-mail program called Outlook, with both the browser and e-mail program tied closely to the Windows 95 operating system.

Both Explorer, with Outlook, and the new Netscape Communicator, due for release this summer, will include full support for HTML tags in e-mail.

Mr. Rubin of Jupiter says Microsoft will also create an ActiveX Control for HTML e-mail, so users can embed the capability in other programs.

Other factors

While most of these changes will make e-mail a better marketing medium, other changes on the horizon make netiquette, or network etiquette, even more important to those sending marketing messages over the Internet, says Mr. Levitt.

Filtering will, in time, let recipients ignore all but the most important messages, reducing e-mail clutter by sorting notes before they’re read based on rules set by their users.

“Rules have been around a lot of years,” Mr. Levitt explains. “Rules continue to get better. Products that didn’t have rules now have them.”

Current filters are primitive – both ineffective and difficult to use, says Jupiter’s Mr. Rubin. But that’s changing.

“In the future, vendors will move to a friendlier, wizard-like environment for setting these things up,” he says. “It’s a feature vendors are working hard to put in.”

A second trend in new e-mail packages will be adding security, both encryption and digital identifications, which will identify senders.

“That’s easy to do when two people are using the same software,” says Mr. Levitt, but standards will make such protection commonplace.

What this means is that by early in the next century, marketing e-mails better be welcomed, even anticipated, or they won’t be read, says Rob Enderle, an analyst for Giga Information Group in Santa Clara, Calif.

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Just How Good Is Web Advertising? September 17th, 2013

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For most firms, making online buys is tough call

For some businesses it’s an easy decision to start advertising on the World Wide Web. But for most others, the question of when to add the Web to your media mix isn’t easy to answer.

waPut AT&T WorldNet Service into the first category. The Bridgewater, N.J., unit of AT&T spends about 25% of its ad budget on the Internet.

“The reason we decided to do advertising on the Web is because it is our audience,” said Lane Best, director of product marketing for AT&T WorldNet Service, which sells Internet access services. “It didn’t take a lot of risk for us to decide it was the medium to use.”

AT&T, however, is ahead of the pack when it comes to spending ad dollars online.

Even Internet technology companies like Silicon Graphics still spend only a small portion of their ad budgets on the Internet.

And Bell Atlantic Corp., the regional operating company that counts among its many products Internet access services, is looking carefully at the value of Web advertising.

Bell Atlantic has been spending ad dollars on the Internet since 1995, last year placing ads for its Internet access, ISDN, long distance and corporate services on the Internet.

BEST WAY TO SELL?

However, said Susan Bell, director of media strategies, “We have not found that we are absolutely positive this is the best way to sell our products.”

For certain products, such as phone service, the challenge is identifying effective regional sites, such as http://washingtonpost.com, and keeping up with constantly changing technology, said Ms. Bell.

“The 1997 trials will have to show a significant increase in sales,” she added, before the phone company decides to allocate a large portion of its ad budget to the Internet.

And this from a high-tech company. Lower-tech concerns are even more hesitant.

The reason? Tools for usefully measuring Web advertising effectiveness just don’t exist yet.

“It’s still a new medium and it has not proven itself,” says Bob Storch, senior partner and media director at New York ad agency Poppe Tyson.

“One of the biggest drawbacks to the biggest advertisers is they’re used to numbers,” Mr. Storch says. “There is no source that says, if I buy a travel site, I’ll reach 55% of women ages 18 to 34.”

Companies that are serious about spending ad dollars online want to know how effective their ads are, and this means knowing not only what the click-through rate is, or the percentage of users that click on their ads from Web sites, but if their online ads are generating qualified leads or actual purchases.

OBSTACLES IN THE WAY

“The Holy Grail of Internet advertising is a system that can track banner-to-sale,” says Seth Goldstein, president and CEO of SiteSpecific, a New York interactive ad agency.

Unfortunately, he says, “Nobody has figured it out.”

However, clients with limited online ad dollars want to know what they’re getting for their money, so some media sites, networks and agencies are making strides in providing clients with this information.

For example, SiteSpecific placed ads last summer on the DoubleClick network, which provides packages of Web sites targeted at advertiser’s specific needs, as well as other Web sites, for an online campaign for 3M Co. (NetMarketing, October 1996).

The goal of the Internet campaign was to generate qualified leads for 3M’s $7,000 MP3080 video projector, and through November the program generated more than 2,200 leads, Mr. Goldstein says.

DETERMINING EFFECTIVENESS

Some advertisers that are buying space on the Internet say that as long as the Web sites can deliver traffic and click-through information, they can compile lead generation and buy-through data on their own.

AT&T WorldNet Service, for example, is able to determine how effective its ads are by tracking software downloaded from its site by users coming in from ads on other sites.

In the end, developing a standard measurement tool is going to require cooperation among media networks such as DoubleClick, which brings advertisers a network of Web sites, the big Web sites themselves such as Yahoo and C/Net, and merchants advertising on the sites.

Making Net advertising accountable

What advertisers get now:

* Banner impressions – number of times your ad will be seen by visitors to a Web site.

* Click-through rate – percentage of users who click on your ad from a Web site.

What advertisers are beginning to demand:

* Lead generation – number of qualified leads your ad generates

* Online buys – number of online purchases your ad generates

What advertisers want in the future:

* Tracking Internet behavior to one buyer – the ability to track a user’s Internet habits, including all the sites they’ve been to and their behavior on those sites before coming to your site.

Obstacles to meeting these objectives:

* Reaching an industry standard on banner-to-sale measurement

* Software and people resources to implement measurement

* Privacy issues

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Doing Up The Internet’s Big Boys August 28th, 2013

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SicolaMartin interactive is showing just how powerful the Internet has become as a business development tool.

ihbbtLast month, the shop – the interactive unit of Austin, Texas-based advertising and marketing agency SicolaMartin – pitched and won business to overhaul IBM Corp.’s eNetwork On-Demand Education CD-ROM without ever meeting face-to-face with any eNetwork executives.

Instead, the agency used a password-protected extranet that only it and IBM could access to deliver its presentation. Only after IBM awarded SicolaMartin the job did the two sides meet to sign the deal.

Admittedly, doing everything online “was a first for us and for IBM,” says Pete Hayes, VP-general manager, SicolaMartin Interactive.

In the last several months, the company has won new business using similar pitch approaches. The division has picked up Citrix Systems, which markets multiuser application server software, and Du Pont Photomasks, which markets high-precision quartz plates that contain microscopic images of electronic circuits and are key in the manufacture of semiconductors.

But that doesn’t mean personal meetings are becoming less important, especially in the relation-ship-driven world of marketing.

“I don’t think that face-to-face meetings with the client will ever disappear, but this certainly showed the client our ability to do the job just by viewing the work site,” says Mr. Hayes. “In this case, it was just what this client needed.”

Within a week of receiving the project parameters from IBM, SicolaMartin posted its proposal, complete with primary market research, a breakdown of tactical phases and a detailed budget.

A happy client

“It’s like my own personal Web site,” says Carol Smith, manager of the IBM eNetwork Software Interactive Education unit, Raleigh, N.C.

“They clearly showed me they could work in the media I wanted, which was a Web- and Java-based implementation, as well as handle the content I wanted.”

Ms. Smith had previously heard of SicolaMartin Interactive from another IBM subsidiary and made the first contact with the agency.

From there, “everything was online,” she says.

“This is the first time we’ve done business this way, but I felt extremely comfortable for two key reasons,” Ms. Smith says. “Although they were not known to me, they had a good reputation within IBM. Also, they were able to respond very quickly to my bid, in a timely fashion and in a professional manner.”

For IBM, Sicola Martin is redesigning the existing Enterprise Communications CD-ROM. This includes new navigation, new architecture, interface and some content, culling 14,000 pieces of content down to about 5,000.

The new eNetwork On-Demand Education CD-ROM, aimed at both IBM employees and resellers of IBM software, will be designed as a hybrid disk, with access both to the Web and a direct link to the IBM site. Content updates will bedelivered to users via the Internet.

IBM declined to say what its budget is for the eNetwork CD-ROM; SicolaMartin Interactive accounts for 25% of the entire agency’s $44 million in billings, says Mr. Hayes.

Face-to-face still reigns

These Web-only pitches are still in their infancy, and clearly companies that are already immersed in high technology are more likely to feel comfortable using the Internet for such purposes.

“There’s absolutely no reason why Web-based pitches couldn’t apply to any client,” says Mr. Hayes. “What it comes down to is whether it is a convenient medium for the client. It’s not convenient if the client has to dial into the Internet or doesn’t use the Web in daily work, but for a growing number of companies, whether they’re in high tech or not, it’s standard to be on the Web during the day.”

However, there is no substitute for face-to-face meetings to establish relationships, and for this reason, Michael Donahue, exec VP, American Association of Advertising Agencies, says: “I don’t think that virtual pitches will become a major trend. I can see where the use of an intranet or extranet could be useful in the credentials part of a [new-business] pitch, where an agency needs to get a lot of information to a client quickly.

“It’s conceivable, too, that when bandwidth becomes greater than it is now, agencies will be able to transfer full-motion video and other sophisticated graphics. There’s no question that at the early stages of a pitch, a virtual relationship can save valuable time,” he adds.

Beyond Stage 1

“But once it’s beyond the initial stage, it becomes very much a relationship between the client and the agency,” Mr. Donohue says. “Many times work is done and pitches are made over the Web, but there is a previous relationship that exists.”

What the Internet truly does is allow projects to move forward rapidly, agrees Mark Templeton, VP-worldwide marketing, Citrix Systems, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., another SicolaMartin client, which is “virtually” working with the ad agency on a complete overhaul of the company’s marketing communications.

“Frankly, at first I didn’t think it would work,” he says “I thought it was just a trendy thing to do, that nothing substantive could happen nor could anything really replace face-to-face communication. I have been pleasantly surprised at what we can accomplish over the Internet and the telephone.”

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