• Home
  • About
  • Archives
  • Authors
  • Contact
  • Polls
  • Small Biz Interviews

Archive for 2009

2009 KikScore Blog Greatest Hits

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

As 2009 quickly winds down, we see “Best of 2009 Lists” pop up for everything from movies, books, songs and football games to name a few. This year being the end of a decade, we get the added benefit of a bunch of “Best of the Decade” lists.

As many of you know, we started this blog this fall. It has been a lot of fun and we have published a lot of content on many different issues relating to small business. It has also been interesting to learn on the fly as we began blogging to experiment with different styles, a variety of topics, some videos, interviews of other small businesses and stories about our KikScore product launch.  So narrowing down a list of my greatest hits of 2009 is not the easiest thing to do because we had so much fun putting together the posts on nearly a daily basis since the blog’s launch.

Well I have to make my picks and so here is my best of list for our 2009 KikScore blog posts.

1. A transparent look into a KikScore internal debate related to our product in Diary of a Tech Start-up: Disagreement Over Product Features.

2. A great practical piece on businesses picking smartphones in Choosing the Right Smartphone to Manage Your Business While You Arent in the Office.

3. A good two part list of top small business blogs in A Few Good Blogs: Our Go-To Small Business Blogs KikScore Likes Part 1 and Part 2.

4. Our first two small business interviews of Rick Shoop from Oregon Seafoods and Shiv Verma of Astro Swami.com.

5. One of my favorite’s of 2009 has to be the post on small business optimism where we drew the parallel of being optimistic with a spilled margarita titled: The Glass is Half Full Because the Other Half is On My Pants!

6. Ok, this one is a little selfish but my bonus pick for this list is the post that announced the introduction of our free KikScore service that helps online merchants demonstrate that they are trustworthy and reliable to online shoppers in: Sell Online? Signup For KikScore’s Free Beta Service.

Please tell us which post would make your top list of blogs.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

  • Share/Bookmark

Archive for 2009

This Just In: Marketing to Your Own Social Network Works and it's Cheap!

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009
I was just reading an article in the Denver Post today that talked about how social networking sites, like Twitter and Facebook, may have played a part in boosting retail sales this holiday season. In my opinion it is a no-brainer for all retailers, but especially small-to-midsize retailers who tend to be more local and closer to their customers, to use these social networking tools to promote their current sales and to distribute marketing information through.  Who is going to be more interested in coupons or promotional materials for your company’s products than people who have gone out of their way to include themselves in your social network using these online tools?
Not only is marketing to these individuals more effective but it is also more cost efficient when done through these channels.  The article in the Denver Post mentions that ad spending in the U.S. was down 14.7% in the first 9 months of 2009, due in part to these retailers spending more time and money on these non-traditional marketing techniques.  I would think that this type of social network marketing would be especially effective for online-only retailers since consumers could easily follow a link in the marketing materials directly to the storefront to purchase the advertised product.  Another astonishing statistic that I saw today showed that online sales increased 15.5% during the period from November 1 to December 24th when compared to the same period last year and online sales now account for 10% of all retail sales during that time.  I know that I personally did about 90% of my holiday shopping online this year and don’t plan on having that number go down anytime soon!
Retailers are also finding new creative ways to use social networking and blogs to interact with their customer base. As referenced in the same article above, Best Buy has a new group on Twitter referred to as “Twelpforce” that customer service agents use to tweet various product-related tips and suggestions.  Qwest Communicationshas a Twitter team that scours tweets for issues that customers are having with their phone or internet service and contacts them directly via Twitter or e-mail to resolve them. Also, some online retailers (like Simply Astro and Oregon Seafood ) have chosen to use this very KikScore blog to promote their company online by letting us do a short interview with them so that you can learn more about their products and future initiatives.
Finally, in news related to a post I made on this blog a couple weeks ago, Google just announced yesterday that they are holding an “Android-related press conference” on January 5.  Speculation is high that they will announce plans to roll-out their highly anticipated Nexus One phone (otherwise known as the G-Phone) that may have some features not yet seen on a Smartphone and this phone may be sold directly to consumers through their website without a dedicated carrier.  I guess we will find out more next week!

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

  • Share/Bookmark

Archive for 2009

2009 Blog Recap: My Favorite Postings of the Year

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

It’s the end of the year…a time for reflection and evaluation.  In this spirit, a few of us are going to highlight some of our favorite postings from the year.  Here are my favorite five postings we’ve done (I promise they won’t just be the ones I wrote):

1.  2009 Trends in ECommerce— Typical Raj posting, very informative and a great list of tools available for ecommerce businesses.

2.  Diary of a Tech Start Up: Idea to Soft Launch — Ok.  This is my post, but I like it because it starts our Diary series and it summarizes two years of our company.

3.  Making the Grade — Kristen’s first post and a really detailed view of what KikScore’s algorithm looks at when sizing up a business.

4.  A Few Good Blogs Part 1— A great list of blogs relating to ecommerce and small business.

5.  Brett Favre and Business — Despite the December let down, a got to love a post dedicated to the Minnesota Vikings’ quarterback.

That’s my list.  Feel free to let us know if you agree/disagree.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

  • Share/Bookmark

Archive for 2009

Small Business Interview with Simply Astro Founder Shiv Verma

Monday, December 28th, 2009

Simply Astro

Today’s KikScore Small Business interview is with Shiv Verma, the  founder of SimplyAstro.com. Shiv is a serious entrepreneur and runs multiple websites including the SimplayAstro.com website.  He is also a nights and weekend entpreneur so KikScore has a special bond with Shiv because we know the long hours that he pulls on a regular basis.  Shiv has just recently launched a very cool iPhone app and has received a lot of media coverage about that.

Tell us about “SimplyAstro.com – Your AstroSwami” and who you focuses on serving?

AstroSwami is the Brand Identity of SimplyAstro.com. AstroSwami Pro & AstroSwami Lite are the first every iPhone App bringing your personalized horoscope predictions AND remedies at just a click away! Merging today’s most popular technology and the ancient, scientific knowledge of Vedic Astrology, a pioneering concept “ASTROSWAMI PRO” offers solutions to your life’s problems on your iPhone. SimplyAstro.com is an online portal for astrological services providing the widest range of astrological and divination services in India and in western countries. SimplyAstro.com provides services to the people who believe in astrology as the science that may guide their path in life. All products and services offered by SimplyAstro.com reflect the philosophy that the purpose of Astrology is to stimulate the personal growth of individuals and create inter-personal harmony. Our services include online consultations and counseling built around Western Astrology, Vedic Astrology, Tarot, Numerology, Chinese Astrology, Vastu, Feng Shui, etc. backed by an internationally renowned panel of astrologers from across the world. SimplyAstro.com is a full fledged online astrology service provider and a platform for astrologers to export their services to Indians as well as Western people and all other people worldwide who believe in astrology as the science that may guide their path in life.

How did you get your started selling online?

The objective of the flagship company Vital Acts Inc., is to provide an easy, simple and user-centric online service that touches people’s Vital Acts of life! Keeping that in mind, SimplyAstro.com was started with our valuable and vital set of online services that is driving to create a community in itself. Vital Acts Inc. is growing to become the leader in service oriented online services catering to the needs of people through Internet and mobile. Our Series of website services ensures that an average individual is able to use the internet in the most effective, affordable and easy way! What we mean by that is well demonstrated by our website product services, product quality, customer service and one of the key items that are most affordable and beating the competition in regards to pricing that we have to offer or the amount of FREE services we have to offer!

Where will “SimplyAstro.com – Your AstroSwami” focus most of its energy in 2010?

SimplyAstro.com is growing to become the leader in service oriented online products & consulting catering to the needs of people through Internet and mobile.

If you had 2 lessons learned from your business that you could pass on to others about selling online, what are those?

  1. Get clear understanding of what market segment you want to focus  on and determine if  you want to start by having a local or global focus.
  2. Have a marketing game plan lined-up to test the market via at-least five different marketing strategies. Don’t spend put all your resources in 1 marketing strategy. Instead divide your resources between the 5 strategies and have a way to track the effectiveness of each.

As 2009 closes, what do you see as 2 new trends in your business this year?

  1. Like any other business, more players are entering the market although they may not be mature businesses and also do not deliver the same value!
  2. People have become more and more price sensitive due to the economy and needless to say no other site providing similar values can beat our pricing!

If your business/store could be any movie or movie character, what movie/movie character would it be and why?

Can I pick 2 here? Star Wars & Star Track (Trek), well for one simple reason, SimplyAstro.com – Your AstroSwami, guides your path in life towards success by means of predictions and remedial suggestions using the ancient science of Vedic Astrology, Western Astrology, Numerology & lot more! As you can see Astrology is all about Tracking the Stars (Star Track!) and giving solutions to the problems of your life by means of remedial measures which is like fighting the Star Wars!  And yes, both these movies have been very popular and highly successful, so you can see where I am going with this!

If “SimplyAstro.com – Your AstroSwami” could have a dream spokesperson for your company who would it be and why?

Our own customers & community, because their word of mouth is what creates the difference!

Do you have any parting thoughts for our readers and the small business community?

Absolutely, pursuing your hobby or passion in the form of a business is the best thing one can do in life and make a difference, so go for it! But always keep a good check on your budget and always apply a formula of multiply by 4 for any initially estimates when it comes to budgeting and time required for an activity/initiative. And yes, hurdles are part of the game, learn and adopt to get passed them and even if you hit couple of them, it’s ok, don’t stop or give up! Believing is achieving half the goal!

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

  • Share/Bookmark

Archive for 2009

Your Holiday Gift: 30 Second MBA from Fast Company

Friday, December 25th, 2009

One of the truly creative and ingenious ideas I saw this year to help small, medium and large business was Fast Company’s 30 second MBA.  What is it?  Fast Company gets industry and business leaders from Digg, Accenture, Ford, Pandora and many other companies to give tips and guidance on key areas of business such as Making Better Decisions, How to Change a Company’s Culture, How Should You Think about Failure, How Do You Retain and Nurture Talent, and many other topics.  Its really a top notch faculty covering key business areas in a short period of time!  Each week there is a new subject matter and five leaders speak on the subect Monday through Friday.  Here is just one excellent 30 second clip from the CEO of Digg, Jay Adelson on making better decisions.

So spend your holidays learning with these 30 second clips.  A great gift to all of us from Fast Company.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

  • Share/Bookmark

Archive for 2009

Happy Holiday? Do You Take Time Off From Your Business?

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

This week, my parents are doing something that they never do…travel to my house for the holidays. As far as I can recall, I have always traveled back home (balmy Minnesota) to see them. This has been true for the past 15 years. This year, we convinced them to come out.

Why the drought of visits. Is it because they don’t like me? Of course not. Why? Did you hear something? No the real reason is because 25 years ago, my Dad quit his corporate job to start his own business. He doesn’t have a lot of help running the business, so almost every holiday season, he didn’t have time to get away. As he would say, “the longer I’m away, the more work I have waiting for me when I return.”  The Wall Street Journal just touched on the same issue, giving a guide to small business owners on “How to Take a Vacation“. The advice is solid (the best has to be “Accept the Fact that You’ll Lose Money”).

Since we all have day jobs, and our nights and weekends are dedicated to KikScore, I’m getting a sense that it may be quite sometime before I start doing a lot of personal travel during the holiday season.  Just as sure as I’m going bald like my Dad, I’m inheriting his work schedule.  And I’m not alone (with regard to the work schedule…I mean I’m also not alone on being bald).  Simply searching “Small Business Vacation 2009” reveals a wide variety of blog postings about small business owners talking about the difficulty in taking time off.  Here’s a good one from Newsweek.

So, are you taking time off this holiday?  Any plans for a 2010 get-away?  Can I go with you?

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

  • Share/Bookmark

Archive for 2009

The Holiday Birthday… How do you separate??

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

XmasIt’s almost Christmas and yet we’ve been inundated with presents since the 18th due to it being my daughter’s birthday, she just turned 2. My husband and I have a strategy in place (or so we think) to make her birth “day” special and still keep the holiday spirit. On the 18th (we started it last year) we go to pick out the family Christmas Tree… there’s a great tree lot right in our neighborhood, so we don’t have to venture far. This year, Tallyn seemed quite excited about the whole ordeal. We took the tree home, heated up some chili and started to decorate. After all the morning excitement, it was naptime, during which we actively assembled birthday presents to surprise her upon awakening. Our little plan worked and she immediately wanted to ride her new tricycle (fondly found on CraigsList for a steal!) and get messy with her Painting/Chalkboard easel (from Grandma).

Now the tricky part comes in… family from all over the continent then begins to send birthday AND Christmas presents and we (my husband and I) are forced to ‘decide’ which is for which holiday and when does the present opening stop? Toss into the mix her ‘friends’ party (seven 2-3 year olds running around for 2 hours at our house on Sunday) and all the gifts that go with that… which we ended up opening last night since Sunday was much too chaotic. So now she gets 4 days separation between Birthday and Christmas and we are running out of room and wrapping paper…perhaps we are destined to a week of present opening for the next 16+ years… should we be more diligent on the separation of holiday at this early an age?


I fear poor Tallyn will end up one of those horror stories where the birthday and Christmas celebrations get blended into one… I have a co—worker whose 2nd son was born on Christmas day and they’ve had to make a habit of reminding relatives to get him a Birthday present too… his mom almost forgot one year, poor kid. The Holidays are a magical time of year and still Birthdays are the #1 holiday for all of us… we hope to keep the spirit alive for both for our daughter. Are you a ‘Christmas Holiday Birthday Kid’? Or do you have a relative or child that is? How do you separate the celebrations? Have a Merry Christmas and HAPPY Birthday to any and all!

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

  • Share/Bookmark

Archive for 2009

A Small Business Discussion with Oregon Seafoods' Rick Shoop

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009


KikScore likes to profile small businesses from around the world so that our readers can learn from other small businesses.  In this post we interview Rick Shoop the owner of Oregon Seafood.  Rick is a passionate small businessperson who has a wide range of interests and a number of small business endeavors in action right now.  This interview came out of Kikscore coming across Oregon Seafoods on Twitter which within about 15 minutes led to a great 30 minute Sunday afternoon conversation.

1. Tell us about Oregon Seafood and who you focuses on serving? ~

Oregon Seafood is a retail seafood market in Hillsboro Oregon. We almost went out of business a few months ago. I had to do something. I turned to the internet to educate myself. I learned the real world is indeed in the toilet. See this video as an example of how the recession has impacted employment by county.  As you can see the decline of our Nation. It is very scary. However, I also learned there are people making money online hand over fist. So I spent the next 3 months in study. I learned just how to locally target my market and as of today my Seafood Market is doing very well. To see just how I did this, I am creating a series of videos explaining the process. I have the first two drafts here for review. More to come. Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here.

2. Where will Oregon Seafood focus most of its energy in 2010?

Local marketing and adding global marketing type products to seel off the website.

3. If you had 2 lessons learned from your business that you could pass on to others about selling online, what are those?

Be willing to change.  Always look at your business in a new way.

4. As 2009 closes, what do you see as 2 new trends in your business this year?

I think it’s a world wide trend. People are buying online more now than ever. We need to monitize this trend.

5. If your business/store could be any movie or movie character, what movie would it be and why?

Dare Devil. Instead of following most small business into the OUT OF BUSINESS trend. We Dared to change our antiquated methods and adapt to the future.

6. If you could buy a potential customer a drink, what drink would it be?

Cup of Coffee so we can be friends.

7. While having that drink with the potential customer, what would you like to talk about with them?

What makes them unique as a business and a person.

8. Do you have any parting thoughts?

Eat Healthy, Eat Seafood. Visit some of my other sites. I build WordPress Blogs and also am a Graphic Artist. Here are some of my other sites.  I encourage everyone to please check them out.

Let us know your thought on this interview of Rick Shoop from Oregon Seafoods.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

  • Share/Bookmark

Archive for 2009

7 Steps to Increase Trust for More Online Sales

Monday, December 21st, 2009

Do shoppers think my store is a safe place to make an online purchase?

Nearly all small businesses face a common challenge.  This challenge is demonstrating to potential customers that your small business is credible, trustworthy and has a track record of success and delivering products and services.  This challenge is typically derived from the fact that when someone gets to a small business website, they often do not have any indication whether they can trust that small business if the shopper wants to buy from that business.

Further complicating matters for small businesses online, is the constant threat of fraud and misuse of personal and financial information that weighs heavily on online users minds.  This fear of shoppers online is real and tangible.  In fact, a  Javelin Strategy & Research study found that the fear of identify theft and online shopping in general cost retailers over $21 billion in lost sales in 2008.

A June 2009 McAfee’s study showed that 92 percent of consumers are concerned about their security when shopping on new or unknown websites. Further, that study found that 63% of shoppers will not purchase from a web site that does not display a  security policy or other indications of trustworthiness.  A 2009 Verisign Security Report also found that nearly 50% of internet users avoid buying online due to concerns that their financial information will be stolen. The report also found that 83% of internet users want assurances that their information will be secure.

These concerns are getting the attention of all types of businesses, including industry giants like Microsoft.  Scott Charney, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President of Trustworthy Computing, said at the 2009 RSA Security Conference that  “When [shoppers] visit Web sites, they don’t know if that Web site is to be trusted or not. For all of these reasons we need End-to-End Trust.”

Steps for Small Business to Demonstrate Trust

Shoppers concerns with buying online are well documented and the data supports those concerns. The good news is that there are some simple steps that all small businesses can take to demonstrate trust on their website to shoppers:

1. Management/Owner Information:  Be transparent to your shoppers. Prominently display under a Management tab the names of the owners of your business.   Make sure you add some background information on that manager/owner.  You can even include  it in story form.   This information gives shoppers comfort that there is a real person behind your business and makes it more personal.

2. Use Online Video to Virtually Introduce Yourself: A hot new trend is using online videos, through a YouTube clip, that introduces the management of your small business to shoppers and potential customers.  Here are some good tips in this prior post on using videos to build trust and credibility for your small business on your website.

3. Contact Information: Another way to build trust is to clearly and prominently display contact information including phone number and email addresses for customer service and management contacts.  By showing shoppers that they can contact you in case there are any product or service issues, you give them comfort that your business is accessible.

4. Return, Shipping, Customer Service & Data Policies: It is important that you clearly provide a list of your return, shipping, customer service and data protection policies.  It is important enough that small businesses should consider devoting a whole tab or area of their website where shoppers can visit and see what are the policies for your business.  Again the goal here should be the more information about these policies the better.

5. Trust and Validation Marks/Seals:  The 2009 Verisign Security Report found that 86% of online shoppers feel more confident about entering personal and financial information with sites that have some type of security indicators, such as trustmarks.   A few seals provides much of the information that is covered in this post through just one seal that resides on an online store’s website. Look for those seals.

6. Customer Feedback: Show that you can be trusted and also let people know your track record with customers by publishing comments about your product, service and business.

7. Actively Engage Customers: Use social media sites and tools like Twitter, Facebook and a blog to profile your business, create a tangible brand and personality and also engage customers.  These conversations with your customer and the community give shoppers a more complete, in-depth and intimate look into your business.  These conversations and having them like we have covered in previously posts via Twitter and your blog only make your business more credible.

Also one of our favorites, Inc Magazine has a good article on this same topic of online trust and you should check that out too.

If you start using these tips, your business and your website will go a long way to clearly demonstrating trust to shoppers and thereby helping you increase sales.

Please tell us in the comments section below what you look for before you buy online.

*Image from Bill Mullins Blog.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

  • Share/Bookmark

Archive for 2009

Forget the Store, Lets Just Buy That Online!

Friday, December 18th, 2009

Bad Santa

As the picture above from the classic Christmas movie Bad Santa shows, the holiday season is generally a time to flock to the mall.  Many of us try so hard to overcome the crowds, the aggressive shoppers and the mall traffic to make sure we have all of our gifts for friends, families and co-workers.

My wife and I began this season spending a lot of time shopping at various stores.  A lot of the places were actually home improvement, department and electronics stores like Home Depot, Best Buy and Sears.   Much of the shopping focused around our never ending condo renovation.  And I am not the only person shopping from Kikscore. Others spent time shopping for items like coats for their brother!

Throughout much of our shopping, I kept saying to my wife, “Lets go get some Red Lobster because we can buy these items online.  Its easier, we can get more selection and we can pick it out while we are relaxing on our couch.”  One added bonus of not buying in the store is when you purchase online it gets delivered. Therefore I am saved from breaking my back trying to load the purchases into the Black Dragon (our 2000 Black Honda Accord – @157,000 miles).

Buying online is just so much easier than having to fight through the crowds to get what you want.  Its even better because then I do not have to face the challenge of my pregnant wife being able to outwalk me!

This season we are buying online much more because:

1) Buying online is easy;

2) Buying online is convenient;

3) Buying online allows you to shop at multiple sites from the comfort of your home;

4) Buying online allows you to do real time price and product functionality lookups and comparisons;

5) Buying online gets your products delivered to your doorstep; and

6) Buying online allows you to avoid the hyped H1NI germs, frantic shoppers, bad traffic and interesting characters that roam the shopping malls

Now buying online is not without its issues too. For example, we recently ordered a large sink for our bathroom.  Well the supplier of the sink decided to ship it via ground transportation.  What do you think happened when the sink had to make its way from St. Louis to Washington DC in the back of a truck along beautiful and scenic I-70?  Well that sink was delivered 3 separate times and each time there was a large crack in it forcing us to return the sink.  So watch out and make sure you use these 5 tips for safe online shopping when you buy online.

Let us know if you are avoiding the crowds and buying more online.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

  • Share/Bookmark