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Archive for August, 2010

Video: Business & Management Lessons from the Girl Scouts

Monday, August 30th, 2010

Here is a great 4 minute video from the Harvard Business Channel from YouTube on some great management lessons from the Girl Scouts.  Check it out and let us know your thoughts!  Who would have known that the folks that bring us Girl Scout cookies could teach us so much about managing a business.

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Archive for August, 2010

Customer Service 2.0: Is the Phone Number Dead?

Friday, August 27th, 2010

First off, you know you’re getting old when you begin a blog post with the phrase “this new generation”…and then comment on how things used to be done.  Of course, you’re probably not that old if you’re writing a blog post in the first place, but my point is, when you start noticing differences, you’re aging is noticeable.

But this new generation has a different view towards customer service.  In my day (ahhh, the 90’s…Nirvana was popular, there were new “Twilight” books, and I had a full head of hair), customer service meant an 800 number.  A big break through was an email address, but you never really relied on getting a message back…so you called customer service to get an answer.

As our customer base at KikScore grows, there is something very noticeably absent — that would be phone calls.  Instead, people are looking at our product videos, sending us emails, asking questions on Twitter.  It’s great in many respects — phone calls are time consuming to process and that costs money.  But the written word and videos often don’t convey specifically the information what a customer is looking to get…so it can either result in a frustrating customer experience or it results in a lot of interaction to get a question answered.

So, I’m getting older and I can roll with the punches and not complain about how things have changed…but I’m not sure if the extinction of the phone number is a good thing.

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Archive for August, 2010

McIntel-Intel buys McAfee

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Unless you really live under a rock( or you’re in a place where you don’t have a cell signal[but, really who doesn’t nowadays? On vacation recently, my father and I saw this one man hiking in El Yunque, Puerto Rico(the U.S’s only rain forest) talking on a cell phone]), you’ve probably heard about Intel buying McAfee for about $7.68  billion(figure courtesy of news channel 8 Portland). Now why would Intel buy McAfee? To get into the security market of course. Traditionally Intel’s core market has been PC processing, however due to the recent economic changes, Intel has decided to branch out into the security market.

What does this mean for us consumers? Apparently Intel has indicated that the impact of the purchase won’t be felt until 2020. Why? Well Intel is most likely planning on putting McAfee’s software on it’s chips. This would better protect cell phones, tablets, e-readers other mobile devices that can connect to the internet. That would make it easier to protect user’s personal data, on those devices where security products can’t be installed easily.

What does this mean for small businesses? Well, according to Intel, it’s to better protect the systems from threats.  After Operation Aurora, Intel decided to up it’s  security measures. Operation Aurora revealed gaps in how protected one’s data really is and Intel has made the deal to step in and try to fill that gap. Therefore down the road, with McAfee software on Intel’s chips, small businesses could assure their customers that their data is well protected.

With this deal, Intel has made security a top priority and has sent our the message that security is more important than ever. Since the internet is changing minute by minute, companies are beginning to change the way they view security and are taking measures to update and upgrade their security measures. And as for the consumers, tools such as McAfee and Kikscore are helping protect against hackers, identity thieves and all the other bad guys out there.

So what are your opinions on the deal and what does this mean for small businesses and consumers?

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Archive for August, 2010

iTunes Shopper Fraud, Overstock News, New Denver 4G Service and Another Sign the World May be Coming to an End

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

iTunes Shopper Data Leak – I was reading in TechCrunch the other day about how some fraudsters apparently hacked into the iTunes accounts of some customers that had their accounts attached to Paypal for payment and purchased thousands of dollars worth of music, videos, and applications.  It sounds like this was due to a glitch in the iTunes software and that Apple has agreed to make things right with the customers that were impacted but this is a reminder that money sitting in a Paypal account is essentially the same as a debit card attached directly to your bank account.  If someone gets a hold of your Paypal credentials, your actual money can be stolen instantly so shoppers should be very careful where they allow their Paypal information to be stored.

Overstock Starts a New Shopping SiteOverstock, a publicly traded company, announced yesterday that they are opening a new “private” shopping club site that will offer exclusive deals on certain brand-name merchandise on a rotating basis every 24-72 hours.  This new online store called Eziba should compete with the likes of Vente Privée, Beyond The Rack and One Kings Lane.

Downtown Denver has 4G Service Through Sprint – Like I mentioned in a previous post, I have been the happy owner of a Sprint HTC EVO 4G for almost 3 months now and have been waiting with baited breathe for Clearwire and Sprint to activate their 4G network in Denver that they promised “before the end of 2010”.  Well, nobody is really saying anything yet, but I now get 4G service throughout the downtown Denver area and am loving it!

The Situation Commands $5 Million this Year – I try to stay away from tabloid-type news in my posts here but I just couldn’t stay away from this…in a sign that the apocalypse is near, Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino from the MTV reality series “Jersey Shore” is reportedly pulling down over $5 million this year from endorsements and salary.  Something is wrong with the world when a guy can make that kind of money for making out with trashy women in hot tubs and getting drunk in night clubs!

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Archive for August, 2010

Small Business & Entrepreneur Tips from Whitney Zimet of I Am The Maven

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Today’s small business interview is with the fabulous Whitney Zimet of I Am The Maven. Whitney runs a really cool site that connects moms with local deals.  Some of these great deals include offers at cool restaurants, fun family activities, shops and even online deals on a range of items.  Whitney has taken her super diverse professional experience including a stint as a corporate marketing executive at Redken and she over the last 14 years has lived in LA, NY, DC, Ann Arbor, Atlanta and now Miami.  It was during these last 14 years that people started calling Whitney “The Maven.” So in 2008 she tapped into her small business, startup and entrepreneurial roots to start I Am The Maven.  Her motto is simple: connecting savvy moms to fabulous local deals at the best places! Whitney’s story is a great read for the small business community and she gives us all some great tips in this interview.

1. Tell us about I am the Maven and who you focus on serving?

I Am The Maven connects savvy moms with fabulous deals at the best places.  We find the best local shops, food, services and activities in the Miami area and provide coupons, behind-the-scenes videos and all the scoop to hook moms up with exceptional local businesses.

2. How did you get your started selling online?

After I graduated from Emory University, I was a pretty successful executive recruiter until I found my niche in corporate marketing/advertising with Redken in NYC.  I met my husband, then moved several times (Los Angeles, Ann Arbor, Miami) for his career.  Along the way, people started calling me their “Maven” (a.k.a. a go-to girl for recommendations on just about anything).  I wanted to meld the things I enjoyed and was good at at into my own business.  This would allow me to attend ballet recitals and generally be present in my children’s lives while keeping my brain sharp and my confidence as a woman and professional.  As a mom myself, I saw a need to cut through the clutter of traditional advertising and compel action amongst the mom community– specifically directing them to fabulous stuff that caters to their lifestyle (whether a doctor, a donut place or an eco-friendly carpet cleaning company).

3. What inspires you to grow the I am the Maven business?

Firstly, I feel that there are wonderful local businesses that many moms don’t go to or even know of because they are so busy running around and being totally overwhelmed.  Why not go to a local shoe store that really knows how to fit your child’s feet & carries the brands you want and some new ones you might not know about?  My dad had his own retail store for 27 years, so I have lots of empathy for small business owners.  Secondly, I want to create a winning formula for a business that can be franchised to other local mavens.  I believe there are a large number of smart, savvy women out there who may have put their own careers on hold or to the side to raise a family.  The standard 8-5 of corporate America is NOT friendly to moms and some of the other opportunities for flexible employment are not inspiring to me or make me feel uncomfortable about having to sell stuff to friends and family.  I feel that I Am The Maven is an unbelievable brand that, with the right local maven, can be a fulfilling and rewarding opportunity both for the maven herself and for the local business community.

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

I don’t actually sell anything online, rather I provide information, coupons, contests, videos and other fun stuff.  In March 2010 my website was relaunched after a year of development.  It was incredibly difficult and time-consuming but ultimately extremely successful.  My advice to people about an online presence is to keep it simple and clean and VERY easy to navigate AND to have a Content Management System (CMS) so you can update your site yourself.  Also, don’t neglect the SEO stuff.  If you send out emails to a distribution list, tailor the message for the groups.  For example, I don’t send emails detailing a special new patient rate at a Miami dentist to the people who elect to receive my “Online/Everywhere MavenDeals.”

5. Where will I am the Maven focus most of its energy this year?

We are expanding our presence to 35 local schools (offline we distribute reusable grocery bags called MavenBags filled with custom gift cards to Maven-Approved businesses) and will be attending more community events that focus on the family. Additionally, we’ll be leveraging the Maven-Approved brand by creating cross-promotions with non-conflicting featured businesses that allow them to get more bang for their buck!  Lastly, we’ll be adding staff locally so that I can begin to focus on franchising opportunities and other corporate initiatives.

6. What do you see as 2 new trends in for small business and in your business?

I feel that small businesses are recognizing that they can’t do everything themselves.  Like my business, there are others out there who are motivated to work with smaller businesses and are tailoring programs to meet their needs.  It used to be that it was all about the big accounts– big national names.  Now marketers, website designers and other professionals are coming up with ways to help smaller businesses in more sophisticated ways, that don’t cost an arm and a leg.  Another trend I see is that local businesses are teaming up to drive customers into their location– whether with events, cross-promotions, business improvement districts & local chamber of commerce.

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

I guess I Am The Maven would be a cross of a less vicious version of Meryl Streep’s magazine editor character in “The Devil Wears Prada” (specifically her intolerance of anything sub-par) and Michelle Pfeiffer’s struggling career mom in “One Fine Day” (who made a costume out of duct tape and shoulder pads that were in her purse; also the romantic interest of George Clooney- yummy!)

8. If I am the Maven could have a dream spokesperson for your company who would it be and why?

This is a tough one as I am the maven.  Literally.  But I guess Oprah is a close second, although I don’t think she has kids.

9. What is the biggest challenge that I am the Maven faces as a small business and how do you work to overcome that challenge?

It’s absolutely critical that the businesses we promote meet the certain quality standards for value, convenience, the fun factor, price, selection, service, eco-friendliness (if possible), etc.  This is the cornerstone of the I Am The Maven brand.  Particularly when I began the business, it was a struggle to get certain businesses to participate because they were either already successful/awesome (which is why I approached them) or because they didn’t “get” what “Maven-Approved” would grow to mean in the community or the only businesses that were interested weren’t suitable for our audience.

It’s always difficult to turn away a shop or whatever that just doesn’t meet our standards.  But can you imagine if we worked with a shop that was totally disorganized with bad lighting in the fitting rooms and a salesperson who was no-where to be found?  That would compromise the integrity of our brand.  Another challenge is there is a certain amount of exclusivity to I Am The Maven, depending on the level of promotion the business elects.  For example, you won’t see 5 pizza places in the same general area on our website.  This limits the number of businesses we can promote, which of course limits our revenue.

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

I never thought I would be an entrepreneur (although if you ask my friends and family they would tell you they aren’t surprised) but the stay-at-home mom thing just wasn’t enough for me.  I looked at my professional strengths and what I actually ENJOY doing.  Sometimes those don’t mesh, but for me they did.  I thought about a problem in the marketplace that I could solve (moms finding out about good local places and being incentivized to go to them).  Then I put my nose to the grindstone and planned the heck out of my business concept. When I launched in October 2008, I began rather small and incrementally grew, never allowing my growth to outpace my revenue except on rare occasions (like my website re-build) when I knew I could re-coup.  I have stayed true to my voice and my brand and, with only a few unpleasant exceptions, followed my gut even when all the other signs pointed the other direction.  Being a successful small business owner and entrepreneur means you must be relentless in your pursuit of excellence. I love being my own boss!

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Archive for August, 2010

How Do I Trust That my Hotel Isn't Infected with BedBugs: The Internet/Social Media

Friday, August 20th, 2010

Business travel is getting worse every day.  There are fewer flights, more screaming kids on the plane, and less leg room.  I thought we had hit the bottom, but I was wrong.  Instead, business travel includes another perk — the resurgence of bed bugs.  Apparently New York City is filled with these horrible creatures.  They are in the hotels, the apartments, the movie theaters, and probably in the Nuts4Nuts stands. 

Of course I have to travel to NYC occassionally for business.  This isn’t great, because the thought of bugs crawling around in my room will keep me up all night (I’m not really an enthusiastic camper).  Want a creepy fact about bed bugs?  They only have to eat once a year!  They also hide in your furniture.  These a patient, efficient monsters.

So what should I do?  I could refuse to travel and stop making money.  But then I’ll be homeless, which is fraught with many bug-filled nights.  Instead of taking a job in sterile lab, I turned to the Internet and found several blogs and websites that give you a heads up if there have been reports of bed bugs.  The best one is the Bed Bug Registry.   

I know it’s commonplace to turn to the Internet to find information.  But this particular offline problem is ideally suited for the web/social media.  It has to be constantly updated and rumor is as valuable as fact.  I don’t care if there has been a conclusive determination of bed bug existence.  If there is a whiff of any type of bug sighting, I’m not going to that hotel.

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Archive for August, 2010

The Magic of Metrics

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

As a small business grows and not only builds the customer base but also expands the solution offerings, a metrics tracking method should be developed. There are a wealth of options of different metrics to track across any business. The hype for small companies seem to focus on SEO and website traffic metrics, but there are other business and process facing metrics that can greatly help a small business grow and succeed.

This article promotesmetrics are magic.  Key areas that can keep all team members in-check are to outline metrics surrounding milestones with dates and deadlines, and tracking of metrics like calls, presentations, programming modules, etc.

Depending up on the size and complexity of your business, utilizing a tool set to track and report on metrics could be very useful.  This provides the business leaders an avenue in which to review and evaluate trends and to determine if new solutions are working as expected and increasing cash flow.

Metrics help to outline the quality and measurement of success for any given business, product or process.  As a small business owner, factoring quality into daily activities helps to keep the entire team focused on top quality solutions and practices

What defines a quality metric and tips how to determine where your solution measures up?  The key is to create a metrics roadmap early in your business cycle so that you can formulate processes and checkpoints throughout that adhere to it.

The metrics you track will change over time, as your business expands (or shrinks).  You must also be diligent in that tracking process and share out not only the positive metrics, but the negative ones as well with your entire team. The only way to improve upon your business processes and ensure quality is to define the metrics and make appropriate changes to continue to improve them.  And allow your business to evolve in a positive light by continuously reviewing the metrics and creating new benchmarks that define your business success.

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Archive for August, 2010

Disaster? Social Media can help save the day!

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010
Live from #crisisdata Red Cross Emergency Social Data Summit

Taken by Shashi Bellamkonda(yes there is a relation)

Everyone in the DC area remembers yesterday right….of course you do! Who could forget hearing, seeing or being in the flood that covered Rock Creek! (For those of you who have been living under rocks to get away from climate change or in the Denver area, you can read about it here) My father(most of you know who he is) and I were on our way to the Emergency Social Data Summit(hands up if you were there or following along on some social media website….*sees tons of hands*….good, good!) hosted by the American Red Cross when we heard that Canal Road was closed near Arizona Avenue(see map). Immediately(and he was driving by the way….the rest of you don’t text and drive!…thank you) he sent out a tweet(it wasn’t spelled properly, but it was understandable) saying that Canal Road was blocked, then later he got a reply thanking him for the help.

The conference focused on how to use social media(Twitter, Facebook, Google, Skype…etc) in times of crises and  to try and come up with a way to filter the information, get it back out into the social media network, and get it to the professionals .  There are about 6 million people using Twitter, more than 5 million use Facebook and almost everyone uses Google. That’s more information than there is water on Earth! And like water, the sheer volume is overwhelming, especially if a disaster happens. That makes it harder for the professionals(firefighters, police, medical personnel…anyone who is trained for disaster situations) to determine what information is the most relevant, needs immediate attention, can be acted on a little later…ect.

The case study most often referenced was the earthquake in Haiti. After the quake, there were texts, and tweets coming in from all over Haiti about people who needed help and where they were. Those texts and tweets got picked up by other social networks and spread all over the internet. However, many of those pieces of information were not verified and rescue crews who were following the information often went to the same place twice because there was no follow up saying that “yes, this problem has been taken care of”.

After hearing many speakers(the event was streamed live; sorry I have no idea what the weird diagram is on the right),  every table participated in a ’round table’ discussion. This was where many of the ideas about how to connect the  social media network to the already existing ‘disaster response network’ . The discussion was guided by a set of  questions; each table had a different set of questions(see the blog Emergency Social Data Summit for questions).  Our table came up with a very interesting idea for the question of what to do with the “emergency social data”(the red cross’ words , not mine) after it has been aggregated. Anyone remember the Ad Council? The group that’s responsible for public service announcements on TV and radio? Yes? No? Well, if you don’t that’s ok; I’d heard of them, but I didn’t know what they did until yesterday. Our group’s idea was to create a Social Media Ad Council, responsible for giving victims, professionals and everyone else accurate,  verified and up to date information about the disaster. There were many more speakers after that, but seeing as the ‘fun’ part of the conference was over, my father and I decided to leave.  You can participate in the ongoing conversation about the use of social media in emergencies on twitter, the red cross’ website,  the Emergency Social Data Summit blog and various other social media websites(see the red cross for more details).

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Archive for August, 2010

Small Business Lessons from Alli Donofrio of Pre-Loved Consignment Boutique

Monday, August 16th, 2010

Today KikScore sits down with Alli Donofrio, the owner of the very cool boutique called Pre-Loved Consignment.  Her store is a very unique type of boutique that offers a variety of quality merchandise ranging from casual to formal wear, to accessories, handbags and much more.  Alli’s store is in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey, but she also sells online.  In this interview, she gives the small business community (and all of the shoppers out there) some great tips on small business life.

1. Tell us about Pre-Loved Consignment and who you focus on serving?

Pre Loved Consignment is a unique boutique……. far from your average thrift shop! I focus on serving everyone. I think with today’s economy… budgeting your money and saving is most important! My store is focused on value & style.. what more could you ask for !

2. How did you get started selling online?

I just recently opened up my store online- I did my homework first before doing so- searching for the best website designers I could find (Palmtree Creative LLC). We get a good amount of customers in the store- but I think to widen the audience and viewers of our selection of awesome stuff – opening an online store was the greatest idea!

3. What inspires you to grow the
Pre-Loved Consignment business?

Other successful stores and consignment boutiques – like my own.

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

Customer service is very important- Make sure you are there to help them at all times! Also make sure you use a secure website (such as PayPal)- people want to know they are using a secure site – which means they will come back to shop again.

5. Where will
Pre-Loved Consignment focus most of its energy this year?

It will focus on what my customers want and will focus on finding new ideas on how to grow!

6. What do you see as new trends in for small business and in your business?

Consignment boutiques are flourishing every where. They are the hottest businesses to open up today. Id say Consignment alone is a new hot trend! And this article on NorthJersey.com actually discusses the tend!

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

I think it would be Betty Boop – Shes Hip, chic , flirty and fun – which best describes my store!

8. If
Pre-Loved Consignment could have a dream spokesperson for your company who would it be and why?

I think any young or old woman into fashion- and not afraid to wear pre-owned clothing , handbags and shoes. It does not necessarily mean you are poor or do not have enough to buy new. It just means you know how to shop smart and you know how to get more for your money!

9. What is the biggest challenge that Pre-Loved Consignment faces as a small business and how do you work to overcome that challenge?

The biggest challenge is trying to get our name out there more! Advertising can be pricey but its the most important thing to get involved with when opening up a Small business!

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

“Don’t Underestimate consignment you’ll be surprised by the treasures you can find !” “Buy More Pay Less!”

Let us know if you have any thoughts for Alli and Pre-Loved Consignment.

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Archive for August, 2010

The Importance of Security in Online Payments

Friday, August 13th, 2010

As more and more fraud occurs in e-commerce, it is ever more important to provide secure payments for your customers. There are some things you can add to your website that will provide extra layers of security for your customers. You can use “https protocol” and “3-D secure protocol”. Also the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) has implemented strict standards (PCI Data Security Standard) for merchants that accept credit cards online. In the next sections, all of these types of security options will be explained.

HTTPS Protocol

Normally the website operates under a normal hypertext transfer protocol (http), but with https (hypertext transfer protocol secure), sensitive data that passes through the seemingly insecure network (http) will be protected by an added security socket layer (SSL). HTTPS has been approved by many certificate authorities, so it is a widely accepted security layer for online payments.

3-D Secure Protocol

3-D secure protocol is a form of virtual payer identification. The basic concept behind it is verifying 3 domains. Thus, the name 3-D. The first domain name to be verified is the acquirer domain. The acquirer domain consists of the merchant and bank to which money is being given to. The second is the issuer domain. This is the bank that issued the card being used. The third and final domain to be verified is the interoperability domain. This is the infrastructure provided by the credit card scheme to support the 3-D secure protocol. This is possibly one of the safest ways to accept payments on your website.  

PCI Data Security Standard

Merchants of all sizes have to abide by the PCI DSS’s rules in order to be able to accept credit cards. The PCI Data Security Standard was implemented in 2004 and has been updated several times since then to keep up with technological advances. Companies like North American Bancard specifically say that they offer internet merchant accounts that provide PCI compliant payment experiences. So it is not all on the merchant, since merchant account providers are there to consult and assist merchants with abiding by these rules. The main objectives for the standard is are to create a universal environment where payments are safe and to be able to identify cyber criminals more easily because of these standards.

As more and more people buy online, cyber crime will increase unless merchants become educated about securing data on their websites.

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