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Archive for October, 2010

20% Less Spam for Thanksgiving This Year!

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

To be honest with you, I actually really liked Spam when I was kid.  I don’t know what it was about that imitation, rubbery, ham-like substance but I am fairly certain that my Mom had me convinced it was real meat…either that, or I just didn’t know enough to think anything of it.  Jump forward 20 years, and Spam (emails) have become the bain of every Internet user’s existence.  Well, we are all in luck according to this article in the New York Times a couple days ago that indicates that these Spam emails should be decreasing by about 20% in the United States.

This article gives more details about how a major “spam kingpin” was recently arrested by Moscow police.  Apparently Igor Gusev was paying spammers handsomely to send emails promoting online pharmacies through his SpamIt.com domain.  The New York Times article goes on to talk about how known mass spammers and other cyber security threats have operated in public view for years but that recently the Russian government has started to try and clean up this image while also trying to partner with Silicon Valley to bring more commerce to the country.

While the reason for this Spam clean-up may be a little back-handed, I think that this is definitely good news for online security in general and a much needed step in the right direction.  Have you noticed a lower level of Spam email in your inbox over the course of the last 3-4 weeks?

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Archive for October, 2010

Happy Customers Want to Share Their Positive Experiences

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

This weekend I went to a Mexican restaurant that just opened in the area with a couple of friends. We were greeted by the entire wait staff and the manager when we entered. The food was good, not amazing, but because the wait staff was so kind and attentive we left very happy and satisfied. After leaving we all felt strongly that we wanted to post a positive review of the restaurant online for others to see. We were so appreciative of the fabulous service, that we wanted to return the favor by recommending the restaurant to others. We did post a glowing review online, we also recommended the restaurant to a friend who then ate at the restaurant the very next day.

A recent study by Harbinger found that women are more likely to share information about positive experiences over negative experiences that they’ve had with products/services. The survey asked women about several categories including ,but not limited to, information on food and beverages and appliances. Most women stated that the reason they were compelled to share positive experiences with others was because they wanted to “share the good experiences.” More women were inspired to share positive experiences rather than negative experiences. The survey found that women will share positive reviews with friends and family face-to-face and through websites.

So, people like to share positive experiences with others. If you are a small business owner, make sure that you’ve made it easy for customers who’ve had positive experiences with your company to spread the word. Encourage customers to submit feedback through your website by creating an area for customer to post reviews. Allowing customers to post reviews on your websites gives you a better understanding of what your customers like and don’t like about your product/services. An additional benefit of soliciting customer feedback on company websites was pointed out in a recent emarketer.com article that explained that as people contribute reviews on business website they “have a higher affinity and loyalty to the brand” and they feel that they’ve “left something behind of themselves” and so they will return to the site “more engaged”. So, if you’re a business owner and you aren’t soliciting customer reviews on your website..start!

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Archive for October, 2010

4 Changes you should be aware of if you are thinking of starting a small business

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

# All of these changes are from the book Finding Fertile Ground: Identifying Extraordinary Opportunities for New Ventures by Dr. Scott A. Shane, which you can buy here. We’re using this in my Entrepreneurial Opportunity Class right now and I thought I’d share. The rest of it is my own words.

Changes in Industry

  1. Part of an industry? Then this should be easier for you.
  2. Not part of an industry or been out of an industry for a while? Then just pick one or keep your eye on the one you left. Look at blogs, the newspaper(which is how I get most of my news), your contacts in the industry(if you have any. If you don’t, get some!)
  3. If there is, then you can start looking for ways to solve that need
  4. Once you’ve found the change, see if there is a need for something.
  5. If there isn’t, then either keep looking in the same industry, look in another industry or change your focus
  6. Start looking people! For this, go check out blogs such as engadget and other blogs that stay on top of new technology. Chances are that once the tech hits the newspapers or magazines such as Wired and PopSci it’ s old news

Changes in Technology

  1. Again, if there’s a need and you know , or have an idea, of how to fill it, the go for it! If not, keep looking, you’ll find something.
  2. Heard about the new Healthcare regulations. Who hasn’t? Regulations such as these, are good for making people need a product or service that lets them comply with the rules.

Changes in Regulation

  1. DoseSpot did this for prescriptions, which allowed doctors to comply with new Healthcare guidelines. If any of you went to the UMD Boot Camp thing yesterday, you might have heard the founder speak.
  2. So again, if you see a need then go for it! Otherwise keep looking

Demographic Change

  1. [For people in the US]Watch the census for demographic change. They have yet to release the results and I don’t think they’re done analyzing the data yet. keep an eye out for the results.
  2. [For people outside the US] Ask your government for your country’s census results.
  3. If there is major demographic change, such as one group becoming more prominent in one part of a country or an increase of immigration of a certain group, then you could possibly start a niche company that aims to fulfill the needs of that group.

Anyone have anything they’d like to add?

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Archive for October, 2010

Sexting and Supercookies: Two things that begin with the letter S

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

Did you hear about Apple’s new patent? No? Well, go here. Apparently Apple has created a device that would monitor the content of text messages.  This means that parents could set controls to stop their kids from sending sexually explicit text messages (referred to as sexting). But according to the post, it could be used to help kids with their vocabulary and other educational uses. What about the other implications of this? Apple could partner with the government to help them monitor employee text messages, which would help prevent employees from spilling State secrets and sending other text messages that could potentially harm the government. Or Apple could provide the intelligence agencies with access to customer data which may or may not help keep people safe.  (Remember wiretapping) Apple may have a patent on the device, but not on the idea, which means that someone out there could make software which would do the same thing as the device.

Speaking of coding (because you have to do coding to make software), did you hear about the guy who created a supercookie? No, this is not a joke, Samy Kamkar, you may remember him from the Samy worm-the thing that took down MySpace (who uses that anymore?), has created a cookie that’s very hard to delete. He calls it an Evercookie, but some other people and I are calling it a Supercookie (it sounds better) because it stores information in more places than a traditional cookie (wow, that makes them sound old). Kamkar, according to the NyTimes, has the blueprints (the code) available to anyone who wants to look at it. Beware of more supercookies in the future!  How did he create the supercookie? I have no idea, but I do know that he used HTML 5, which should be integrated into everything on the web soon, to do it.

This does not look that cool. They need a cooler logo.

What is HTML 5?  The latest version of hypertext markup language or HTML for short. Who remembered that HTML stood for that before reading this post or the NYTimes article? *Sees hands* Ok, a couple of people. Now you know. What does it do? It’s supposed to make it easier to view multimedia content without downloading all the plug-ins, add-ons, widgets…..etc. It’ll also make it easier to check email offline(how does that work anyway?), and find stuff on your smartphone. It’ll also make it easier to track data, which depending on how it’s done and what it’s done for may be a bad thing. Anyone, besides me, feeling paranoid or slightly nervous yet? The data is supposed to be collected in large amounts and stored on your hard drive while online. Wait a minute! If the data’s stored on your hard drive, won’t it take up space?…..I have no idea how that works and this PowerPoint doesn’t really help, but it’s great for explaining the basics of HTML 5.

The big 5 (Chrome, Explorer, Opera, Safari, Firefox) all support parts of HTML 5, but only Chrome supports most of it. (At the time the PowerPoint was created.) However, according to Google’s own JavaScript conformance test thing (called Sputnik, which is still in testing); Opera and Safari perform better than Chrome or Firefox. But, the test is performed for a computer running XP, so that might skew the results.

So what do you think? Please, only comments relevant to this post or the last post’s character contest (which is still open by the way).

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Archive for October, 2010

Manly Cupcakes and Tips on Finding, Understanding, and Appealing to your Target Market

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

I was flipping channels the other day when I stopped to watch a man who was promoting “manly cupcakes for manly men” on the Rachel Ray talk show. David Arrick started Butch Bakery after noticing how many cupcake businesses there were popping up around New York City. All the cupcake shops he noticed seemed to be marketing to the same audience. The stores offered pink, sparkly, frilly, pretty cupcakes. Arrick had an idea to create a cupcake business that appealed to a different crowd…men. Butch Bakery offers “manly” cupcakes with flavor combinations including beer, bacon and whiskey. They even have a cupcake that’s decorated in camouflage!

David Arrick had no trouble identifying his target market. He knew he wanted Butch Bakery to appeal to men who wanted delicious cupcakes, minus the frilly-factor. Have you found your target market yet? Have you been successful in appealing to them?

Here are a few things to consider about identifying and understanding your target market.

What purpose does your product serve and who might this appeal to?

What makes your product different than similar products, and who might benefit from the uniqueness of your product?

What are the people most likely to benefit from your product like? Where do they live? What do they do? How old are they? How much do they use the Internet and in what way? How large of an audience are they?

Are you trying to appeal to too large or diverse of an audience? Will your marketing efforts be more effective if you narrow or re-identify your target audience?

Once you have identified and developed a solid understanding of your target group, then it’s time to use this knowledge to appeal to your target group. There are several ways to do this.  I’ve include a few tips below.

Elicit feedback from members of your target audience. Ask them what they are looking for in a product like yours. Ask them where they would look for such a product.

Build a website that will appeal to your target audience. Do your research to figure out what design schemes/colors/content your audience will react the most positively to.

Make sure that the image you are portraying about your products/services is consistent and clear to your target audience. Don’t send mixed messages about what your product is or who it is for.

Manly Cupcakes and Tips on Finding, Understanding, and Appealing to your Target Market

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Archive for October, 2010

All Things Small & Medium Business – Free Focus.com Interactive Summit on 10/28/10

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

On October 28, 2010 Focus.com is putting on a great FREE online interactive small business summit that is a must attend event for small and medium businesses, entrepreneurs and startups.   The agenda is jam packed with a list of heavy hitters and small business thought leaders like Fran Tarkenton (calm down Mike, we know he was your hero while you grew up in MN),  Anita Campbell, Brent Leary, Ramon Ray, the Swami Shashi Bellamkonda and many many more. The sign up information and full list of speakers and topics is available at Focus.com.   The FREE online event lasts from 11am-6pm ET.  and the range of topics is wide and covers items such as:

1) The Small Business Survival Guide;

2) Accounting and Finance Secrets;

3) Connecting with Customers through New Media Channels;

4) Socialization of the SMB;

5) Top 10 Web Marketing Strategies;

6) IT for SMBs;

7) New Revenue Streams for SMBs with Partner Marketing; and

8) Security for SMBs (Ok Mike and I are representing KikScore and are speakers for this presentation – by the way, we are not heavy weights, but just heavy!).

Anyway, this really is a very exciting online summit and is going to have a ton of valuable information for entrepreneurs.  We have to say a special thanks to Anita Campbell for recommending us to Focus to be a part of this presentation and also Courtney Sato from Focus.com who has been great with preparing for next week’s session.

So please sign up.  The event should be excellent and we are really excited about the opportunity to be a part of this great small business event next week!

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Archive for October, 2010

Does Your Business Name Really Matter?

Friday, October 15th, 2010

Like all new businesses, when we were coming up with a name for our product, we struggled a bit.  We had to balance the availability of a “.com” domain, making sure the name is protect-able from a trademark perspective, and that the name would actually convey a sense of what we do.  This may be wrong,  but we wanted to focus on a “.com” domain, and one that spelled out our product name (not “who you gonna trust.com”). 

We looked for available domains (because we didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a domain name), and then applied the next level of filter — conveying a sense of what we do.  We looked at a lot of “trust” type names, but none really seemed to work.  Then we focused on “score” and “scoring”.  There were many more options.

Finally we looked at the list in terms of what is the best from a trademark perspective.  If the name is too literal, it can’t be protected (e.g. www.transparencyseal.com”).  It has to be a bit unrelated (e.g. apple computers). 

There is no real surprise if you’re reading this blog that we wound up with KikScore.  But did all this brain damage over a name actually matter?  I mean, most of our traffic comes from other sources — like our partners, twitter or paid search clicks.  In other words, it feels like we could have named the product anything we wanted to and the traffic would come.  But is that really the case?  Maybe becaue of our name, people feel like partnering with us?  Maybe we wouldn’t have any traffic from Twitter if our name was “BreadScore” (though that just gave me a new business idea)?

What are your thoughts?  Does a name, in the beginning, really matter?

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Archive for October, 2010

The New Gap Logo = A No-go!

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

If you’ve watched the news or picked up a newspaper lately, then you’ve probably heard what The Gap did to upset its customer. The Gap changed their 20-year-old logo in a failed attempt to appeal to a younger audience. It didn’t take long for The Gap to realize that changing the logo was a big mistake stating, “we are clear that we did not go about this in the right way”.  The Gap quickly changed it back to the old, reliable logo that the public associates with the store and even publicly acknowledged their mistake in a press release this week.

So, what can small businesses take away from The Gap’s logo controversy? Well, if you have loyal customers, elicit their feedback before making major changes to your public image. Customers appreciate being involved in the decision-making process so utilize social media sites to interact with customers.

While most seem to think that The Gap made a huge mistake by changing the logo, others think it could have been a brilliant PR stunt. Gap has received a tremendous amount of press since changing the logo, and you know what they say…any publicity is good publicity, right?

What do you think?

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Archive for October, 2010

The turtle and the hare-revised! A cyber security fable

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Hello, everyone! How is your week going? Any of you SIS-U folks reading this? Yes? Great! Hi there!*waves* So,you’ve all heard about security problems on the internet and are probably going to click away from this post because you think it’ll rehash what has already been said. Well…you’re partly right, but only because it deserves rehashing, and you’re partly wrong. Did any other blog post give you the lesson in fable form? Yes? (Really? Where?). It all started when I read this post about experts urging people to ‘Stop. Think. Connect.’ I saw the word stop and immediately thought of turtles. [I think I had my university mascot on the brain.] Turtles move through life slowly, which is how we should move through the internet. (I wonder what this says about my university then)So, then I thought about updating the old turtle and hare fable for the modern internet age.(This fable dates back to the days when there was no copyright.)Everyone know how the original story went? Yes? Good for you, but you have to suspend that little bit of knowledge because this update is completely different!(Disclaimer: I did not reread the original version before I wrote this and it has been a while since I read the original) On to the story!

Once upon a time(all good stories start out this way) there was a large(very large) kingdom called Cybertopia (fanfare). Since this kingdom was very big, it was besieged by a vicious army of bots, viruses and malware out to steal it’s citizens identity and wealth.(cue the danger music)[from now on referred to as the BVM]{this would be easier if WordPress had a footnote button} Since Cybertopia’s citizens kept falling for the BVM’s tricks, the Cybertopian police decided to train a special division to educate the citizens about the BVM.(cue happy music!) Two of the most promising officers of the new division were  Rabbit and  Turtle. Today was the day of their obstacle course.

“All right recruits! The BVM has it in fer ya. They’ll set up traps, like the ones in this here obstacle course and it’s your job not to fall for them,” Sargent Monkey yelled.

“Yes,sir,” the recruits replied.

“Alright,” St. Monkey took out a list, ” the first one up is recruit number 55. Rabbit, yer up!” Rabbit stood on the starting line and waited for the signal. (ready, set, go!) Once he heard it, he was off and running. Rabbit raced through the obstacle course easily. He ignored the ads, dodged the bot’s lasers and smashed through the malware puzzles as if they were tissue paper. Rabbit was nearing the end of the course when he saw this billboard:

I Finally got a signal on the AT&T Network!!!!Click here to find out how I did it!

Wow,Rabbit thought, I should check that out! I have AT&T and I never get a signal! So Rabbit touched the billboard. Immediately a wormhole opened up, sucked Rabbit in and deposited him near St. Monkey.

“You fail,” St.Monkey hollered, “since you were in a rush, you failed to notice the trap! You’re going to have to take this course again! Turtle, yer up.” Unlike Rabbit, Turtle took the obstacle course very slowly. He ignored the ads, was too slow for the bot’s lasers to hit him and made the malware puzzles explode out of sheer frustration.  Turtle was the nearing the end of the course, when another ad popped up. Turtle looked at it for a few seconds, then shook his head and moved on.

“Congratulations,” St. Monkey said, ” because you took things nice and slow, you avoided the traps. You pass the course!” So, Turtle got his badge, while Rabbit had to retake the course. The moral of this story, slow down when you are on the web. Things that may look tempting, may harm you.


If you can guess the show this picture is from( the logo on the bottom right gives you a hint) you get a landscape drawn by me! You can request scenes of course( as long as they don’t involve people or too complicated to draw animals, because I cannot draw them) and I will try my best to draw it the way you want it.

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Archive for October, 2010

Video: Sir Richard Branson on Marketing and Business

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Here is a very good short 6 minute video of the great entrepreneur, Sir Richard Branson, on marketing and business.  As always he has some great tips and stories that small businesses, entrepreneurs and startups can learn from for our businesses.

Please check it out and let us know your thoughts.

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