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

Archive for February, 2011

Google’s New Approach to Content: Maybe Our Blog Will Benefit

Friday, February 25th, 2011

This just in from Business Insider — the best business site around — Google just announced a massive change to it’s search algorithm.  And the impact is not slight.  It apparently will impact over 11% of all search results.  The big change is going after Content Farms. 

Google is going to downgrade sites that simply copy or syndicate content from other sites (or mass content providers like Demand Media).  Instead, Google is going to promote content that is original.  Well, this may be a big windfall to this KikScore blog.  We may not have the most helpful content, but it’s original.  Yes, no one helped me write this post, except maybe Business Insider.

Just a quick explanation on why Google is doing this:  Mass Content Providers (like Demand Media) figure out what the most lucrative keywords are; they create content around those keywords; associate that content around related or logical domains; and then sell Google adverts on those pages.  Not anymore.  Google is now going to determine if sites are legitimate and the content original and not a business ploy to generate the site owner Google ad revenue.

Now to start to create some worthwhile and original blog posts for KikScore.  Any suggestions, Business Insider?

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

  • Share/Bookmark

Archive for February, 2011

Microsoft seems to have an uphill climb with the Windows 7 glitch

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Ok, I think I did a post on the Window’s  7 phone a while back and apparently there is was a glitch. According to PC World,  there was a new software update that was buggy. The glitch caused a couple of Samsung headsets to be unusable from what I can gather. (Not quite sure what “bricked” means in slang terms…)

Anyway, Microsoft, like a good company, owned up to what it did and pulled the update.  However the glitch is glaringly public and has informed users of the OS that it involves more people than just Microsoft to update the phones. Some users who were affected by the glitch complained that the headset makers and their mobile carriers weren’t doing anything to help.  Many mobile carriers were apparently trying to avoid the issue by saying that it wasn’t their problem. For some mobile carriers, such as T-Mobile Uk, view the headset issue as the manufacturer’s problem and suggest that the user ship it to Samsung.

The number of users affected was limited because there was new firmware being phased in and not everyone got the approval for a new code at the same time.  The glitch comes at a somewhat sensitive time for Microsoft because currently Microsoft has only an approximate  2% of the  market. This seems reasonable, but compared with Google and Palm, it is a very low percentage of the market.

One bad glitch, alone, will not ruin Microsoft’s chance of success, but it might make the early adopters a little wary of getting the new OS. Also, very few consumers said they were considering buying the Windows Phone 7 handset, which makes it even more of a challenge for Microsoft to gain more market share. However on the bright side, Microsoft has made a deal with Nokia which may increase the OS’s visibility on the market.  However, if Microsoft has another bad glitch like this it may spell the end for Windows Phone 7.

What do you all think?

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

  • Share/Bookmark

Archive for February, 2011

Always feel like you are short on time? Maybe you should take a pay cut!

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

I was reading this post on the Wall Street Journal blog yesterday and it really made me think about how some people I know always seem to be stressed out.  After reading this blog and thinking about it a little bit, I really agreed that more often than not it seems like people that make more money in their day jobs seem more stressed out and are always saying they wish they had more time for their personal lives.  While there are likely multiple factors at play in these situations that are making these people feel like this, it seems like there are now a few different studies that are starting to link higher rates of pay to a perceived lack of time in their work and personal lives.

According to this post, there are now multiple studies that have compared a group of people that are paid very little for a day’s work and then another group of people that are paid a much higher hourly rate for the exact same work.  The results of these studies showed that the people that were paid a higher hourly wage felt much more time pressure than the group that was paid less.

I thought that these studies were interesting because they really seemed to show a tangible link between a person’s perception of their value relative to the amount they are paid to complete a task.  Sometimes people put this time pressure on themselves only because of their pay and not because the pressure to complete the task really exists.

Looking back on it now, have you ever felt like you put too much pressure on yourself to complete a task for your business when this pressure may have never really existed?

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

  • Share/Bookmark

Archive for February, 2011

7 Questions A Small Business or Startup Should Ask Themselves Every Day

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

I like to talk.  I like to talk alot, especially when I have had a few really good margaritas.  And my wife, my family and friends can all attest to that fact.  That is all except for where I may have had too much to drink and then I have an uncanny tendency to just fall asleep in mid-sentence sometimes even at a restaurant booth (reference multiple experiences in Columbus, Ohio eating a Barnyard Buster and in Washington DC eating a jumbo slice at Pizza Mart).

Anyway so what is my point?  Talking is not as good as everyone makes it seem for business.  Instead asking questions is much more important.  It really did not dawn on me, however, until I was reflecting back on conversations with mentors, business partners, and our own team that you really should be asking critical questions about your business almost on a daily basis.  Those questions can help uncover critical gaps in strategy, planning and execution for your startup or small business.  If you ask these questions, then you can increase your chances of addressing these gaps.

So here are a few questions that may help you with your business:

1. Distractions. Are you focusing your efforts on the right tasks for your business and avoiding distractions that take you away from meeting your overall goals?

We all know how bad distractions can be in business.  Distractions can be one of the biggest impediments to building momentum for your business. The trick here is to make sure your business and your team is focused on what will move the business forward by continually weeding out distractions.

2. Customer Satisfaction. Are you doing everything to make your customers’ lives easier in some way through either using your product/service or helping educate them?

If your customers are not happy, then it will be nearly impossible to grow your business.  So in everything you do you need to make sure the goal of the task is that you are helping your customers in some way.  If not, then you should seriously consider abandoning those tasks that do not relate to helping current or potential customers.

3. Customer Value. How can you give your customers more reasons to keep buying from your business and not your competition?

Your customers are likely being bombarded by your competitors with tempting offers and reasons to buy from them instead of you.  So you have to be relentless in making sure you give your customers reasons to remain loyal to you.  Without investing the time to create that customer loyalty, your business will always be at risk of churning valuable customers to your competitors.

4. Facilitating Word of Mouth Marketing. How can you get more customers to refer their friends and contacts to use your product/service?

Word of Mouth Marketing is free.  So all it costs you is the time and effort to give the customer a great experience, but also the means for that customer to spread the word about your business and the product/service that they love.  So always be thinking about how can you arm your customers with information about your business value that you can provide the market.  The best way to do that (and least selfish) is making sure the customer knows the value you have created for them.  They can then go and spread the word for you!

5. Building Trust. Are you doing everything possible to ensure that your customers have confidence in your business, product or service and believe that you are reliable.

Customers know small businesses and startups come and go.  There is a reason why buyers tend to prefer larger and more established brands.  So one way to distinguish yourself is to make sure that everything that you do for your customers and for the public is viewed through the lens that you are trustworthy, reliable and your business delivers on its promises.  That track record of delivering will help generate trust in your business.  Heck, after all that is what KikScore was based on – allowing small businesses to show the world their track record of reliability and trustworthiness!

6. Your Team. Do you have the right team to succeed and grow your business and if not, should you bring in a new employee or a freelancer?

Businesses and startups can be just like my beloved Cleveland Browns.  The Browns team has been terrible since 1999.  Bad teams means lots of losses.  So learn from the Browns and be like this year’s Packers (Collins will like this reference). The Packers built a great team, loaded it up with depth and even got people off the streets in some instances to fill in when key players were injured.  The New Orleans Saints did the same last year on their way to winning a Super Bowl.  As you evaluate your team, make sure you have depth, solid performers and cut the freeloaders as they are a drag on morale and overall team dynamics.  Once you eliminate the underperformers then decide if you need a new employee or perhaps a freelancers that can step in and augment your existing team.

7. Your Money. What are areas of your business that you can manage your costs better?

Always be reviewing where your money is going.  Even though it is sometimes easy to just say well those costs are ones that I can’t really control and I just have to suck it up and pay for them. NO!  Call up that vendor and see what discounts that they can give you.  Threaten to leave and go to their competitor. Also there may be particular functions at your small business or startup that you can get experts to help with instead of you having to spend extensive time on your own.  Time is money so the value of your time may very well be better spent on your core business of serving your customers then performing back office functions or doing things like managing a marketing campaign.

These are just some of the questions that each small business or startup should be asking themselves.  But just like too much talking, too many questions can send you down a spiral of too much analysis and confusion.  Keep your daily self-analysis of your business to certain key questions that are fundamental to your business and watch and see if your perspective and approach changes.

What questions would you ask?

Photo from Flickr user Marco Bellucci, CC 2.0.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

  • Share/Bookmark

Archive for February, 2011

5 Reasons to Go to Friday’s Small Business Happy Hour in DC

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Our good friend of KikScore, the Swami Shashi B is organizing a fun night this Friday for small businesses in the DC metro area.  It will be a night of networking, learning, probably one or two tweets, maybe even some tweets while folks are networking and learning.  The networking happy hour is for small businesses in the area and it is at the fabulous Indique Heights in Chevy Chase, Maryland.   Indique Heights is also metro accessible and is located on the Red Line.

So for those who need some convincing here are 5 reasons to attend the small business meetup/happy hour.

1. You get your chance to have a drink with THE Swami.

2. It is a long three day weekend for many so you have an extra day to shrug off that hangover from too many Taj Mahal beers.

3. You get to celebrate an assortment of birthdays from Paris Hilton, Dave Klingler, Denise Richards, Michael Jordan, Lou Diamond Phillips, Cleveland Brown legend Jim Brown. – Ha I fooled you, all of these people were born on Thursday the 17th, but lets celebrate them on Friday!

4. Its Pluto-palooza meets Motley Crue – We can all celebrate the anniversary of astronomer Clyde Tombaugh discovering the planet Pluto in 1933 or better yet the anniversary of Pamela Anderson & Motley Crue’s drummer Tommy Lee getting married in 1995.  Fun fact by the way about myself. In 1992, as a part of my final exam in Aerobics 101 at Miami University, I had to lead an aerobics class to the classic Motley Crue song Kickstart My Heart!  Yes, the beats per minute for that song are insane and I nearly had a heart attack after the first 45 seconds!

5. Drinking red wine can cut rates of heart disease so do your part to help your heart!

So if you have a small business, startup or an aspiring entrepreneur or just want to join a good group of people for some drinks, we hope to see you there on Friday! Here is more information about Friday’s happy hour.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

  • Share/Bookmark

Archive for February, 2011

My Diet Pepsi Could Give Me a Heart Attack or Stroke: When Your Product Gets a Little Bad Press

Friday, February 11th, 2011

Part of my morning routine is having Morning Joe on in the morning.  It’s a great mix of politics, policy, news and pop culture (this isn’t what this post is about, but if you can check out the show).  I was expecting to hear another news update on Egypt, the deficit, or a freak snow storm in Georgia (it’s a great show, but pretty predictable).

As I’m brushing my teeth, I hear Misha (Joe’s sidekick) talk about a recent study on how people who drink at least one diet soda each day double their risk for heart attack or stroke.  Not good.  I hammer down about 5-8 cans of Diet Pepsi or Diet Mountain Dew each day.  Math is not a strong suit, but by my calculations, I should be going through my 10th heart attack right about now.

With that news, I left my hotel room (I’m traveling, I’m not in a fight with my wife) and dedicated myself to making a change.  Herbal teas.  Spring water.  Fruit juices.  I’m going to be a new man.  By 11:00am (4 hours since hearing the study), I was opening my first of 3 Diet Pepsis.

Why did I change my tune?  Was the well articulated response from the beverage industry?  Did they put out a list of counter-arguments to the findings (i.e. that people that drink diet soda or more likely to be overweight and thus more likely to have a health problem)?  Nope.  Partly it’s because I have a problem and I love my morning soda.  But the other reason was the more I thought about the study, the more it kept raising the brand in my mind.  Diet Pepsi is bad for me… Diet Pepsi is bad for me….mmmm Diet Pepsi.

So keep this in mind when your product gets written up or criticized in a blog or something…there definitely will be loss of revenue, but to your die-hard customers, it will just be a reminder that they need another Diet Pepsi.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

  • Share/Bookmark

Archive for February, 2011

Guess what, you’re new best friend is LinkedIn

Thursday, February 10th, 2011
Gigya, a company that integrate business websites with social media sites, such as Twitter (need I go on?), has done a recent study. The results of which say that more people are choosing to log into business tailored websites using their LinkedIn ID’s. Since Linked In has begun letting  people use their LinkedIn ID to sign in to other websites, business websites have taken advantage of that. Thus LinkedIn is becoming the favorite social sign in tool for many websites.
LinkedIn is your best friend because of 4 things.
  1. Intergrate :  Actually, get LinkedIn intergration. How are you going to make use of it if you don’t have it? Since more people seem to want to use their professional identities than personal identies for business tailored websites, this can be an advantage for these types of sites.
  2. Participate :  Make sure your company has a prescense on LinkedIn. If no one knows who you all are, why should they come visit you? You can sync your LinkedIn and Twitter accounts to make sure you have the same information on both. Also, on LinkedIn’s directory you can find industry groups to get involved with and you can use those connections to grow your network.
  3. Collaborate : Exactly what the label says. Two good companies that will help you to do this on LinkedIn are Manymoon and Huddle.
  4. Generate :  Ask customers to write recommendations for you on Linked In and use the site yourself to answer related questions. People who search in the answers section of LinkedIn will find the questions that you answered.

Due to the increasing number of people separating their social and professional identities, it seems likely the number of people using Linked In is going to grow. It’s best if you start making a presence on LinkedIn today.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

  • Share/Bookmark

Archive for February, 2011

Super Bowl Ads – 6 Steps for Small Businesses and Startups to Get In the Game?

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

The Super Bowl was Sunday night and thank goodness the Steelers lost.  Didn’t you just get the feeling when they had the ball at the end of the game that they would yet again pull out another victory.  Good job Packers to play strong defense at the right time to cut that off.  I hope someone from my beloved Browns takes a few lessons from them for next season and maybe we can win a few more games!

Well this post is not about the game, but those commercials.  You have heard about the hype.  There is the yearly run up to each Super Bowl where huge brands (and late stage startups with lots of VC money to blow like Groupon) go “all in” usually to the tune of $3 million bucks for a 30 second ad.  Is it worth it?  Really?  Thinking back over the last decade I was trying to remember what were the best and most memorable commercials that still leave a mark on me.  I could only remember two.  Somewhat surprisingly each commercial was from the career placement and job advertising industry.   They were from CareerBuilder and Monster.com and I included them at the top of the post and below.

So what do these two ads have in common.  Dead simple delivery and execution and story that everyone can relate to.  It helps that they use two main ingredients that are so often successful to any campaign: little children and animals (especially cute ones!).

The point of this story is really not so much about these commercials, but that these days any of us can now try to compete at the level of these large brands in order to spread the word about your product and business.  Here are some steps that can help:

Story Counts Advertising is viral now so take the time necessary to create a good story that is engaging and means something not just to you, but to your audience that you are going after.  Make sure that story is simple in your ad and that people can relate to that story in a real world practical way. Tara Jacobsen from the Marketing Artfully blog has some good tips about making your story funny for your video ad.

Your Own Video Camera Now take that story and it is as simple as getting a decent video camera from Best Buy to film your own commercial. Even better is that most computers now come with video editing software that is easy to use or if yours does not there are a number of vendors online that provide editing software for low prices.

Crowdsource Actors/Actresses Try to look somewhat professional when you are filming. But that does not mean you have to pay big bucks for known actors and actresses. This only means put some real thought into props, actors, actresses that can include employees, friends or even your own pets.  Your costumes for the commercial are as close as your own closet or even the nearby Salvation Army store.

YouTube Once you complete your video ad, upload it to YouTube.  That is your first step and then make sure you title the clip in a way that grabs your audience’s attention.  Also remember to use keyword tags that are relative to the content, your product and company so that the video ad will appear in relevant search results.  This is a key component that will help drive traffic and page views so take the time to think about how people will search to get to see your video ad.  Here is an excellent article from Mashable on Top 10 YouTube Tips for Small Business.

Distribute Your Video Ad After the video is uploaded, create a blog post around the video and give that clip a story and some context in your blog post.  Also post the video on your blog, your website and even try to submit it to other video distribution sites through Tube Mogul.  This helps get your video in as many places as possible. Remember the more places the higher the chance more people will see your video ad.

Social Media Channels Do not stop at your website, make sure you use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other bookmarking sites to get the ad out. That way your followers, customers and friends can help you distribute that ad!  If you video is funny or has a viral element to it, that will give the community even more reason to pass it along to others.

So using the above 6 steps is your first step to advertising with the big brands.  All you need is a video camera, a little creativity and some of your own co-workers, friends, family and pets.  Any startup, small business or even non-profit can use these tips to get the word out about your product, company or cause.  Now I am not promising you huge overnight success with these steps, but what you will get is the beginning of the process for pushing your brand out there.  And isnt Super Bowl advertising all about just that.  So on a slightly smaller level you can do what the big brands do all by yourself.  Who knows, if you are creative enough you may just land yourself a hit on YouTube!

Let us know which Super Bowl ads were your favorite and what video ad you would put together.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

  • Share/Bookmark

Archive for February, 2011

ThunderSnow! What Your Business Needs!

Friday, February 4th, 2011

The past few weeks the U.S. as seen its fair share of Winter weather.  Last week D.C. shut down and KikScore co-founder, Raj, had to take refuge at a bar for several hours.  Not really sure how that is different from a normal day with perfect weather, but I digress. 

But the biggest storm of the season was the blast this week.  20 inches of snow hit Chicago, but more importantly, so did“ThunderSnow!”  This is a combination of a snow storm and thunder.  It’s happened twice this year (that have been televised) and the Weather Channel is freaking out about it.  Why?  I have no idea.

Neither of these two things (snow or thunder) really are that exceptional.  It’s not like a hundred foot wave crest that sunk the Andrea Gail.  No, it’s just the combination of two ordinary things that rarely happened together.  Or if they do happen together, it’s not ordinarily captured on tape. 

So, you have two common things, that may or may not happen concurrently.  I guess that’s exciting.  But what really is the sizzle is the name — ThunderSnow!  I think you have to include an exclamation point after you right that.  ThunderSnow! sounds like a  lame cartoon hero.  It sounds so much more awesome than it really is….sort of like the McRib (mmmm…McRibbbbbb).

That’s the beauty.  The name has you hooked.  The idea of ThunderSnow! is way better than the reality…sort of like my Toyota Prius…in traffic…in a snowstorm…or under ThunderSnow!  So, I guess my point to this (other than getting to write about the ThunderSnow!) is that you can have a decent, ordinary product, but if you market it correctly, or have the Weather Channel freak out about it, it can turn into a sensation. 

Speaking of which, maybe we should change our name to KikSnow!!

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

  • Share/Bookmark

Archive for February, 2011

Did Bing copy Google’s search results? What?

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

Google is claiming that Bing is copying its search results…..what? To me this sounds a little sketchy. Google is a search engine. Bing is, also, a search engine.  So wouldn’t their results be the same if they are looking at the same stuff. (meaning the all the things tagged with whatever word a person is looking for)

But, wait. Let’s see what PC World’s article says. According to the article, Google discovered Bing methods through a “sting” (yes the actually used the word sting) operation. First they created some specific pages to appear in the search results and then they had a bunch of their engineers go home and use Explorer’s suggested sites feature and Bing’s toolbar to search for certain things. Then after two weeks, Google found that the same search results were on Bing.

The specific pages had nothing to do with the keywords and Google just made the pages appear in the search results.  Now according to Microsoft, they use a variety of different approaches, including using (opt-in) customer search data, to get their search results. This article goes into more detail, some of which I don’t fully understand. (I’m not majoring in Computer Science.)

Also, according to the article linked above, Explorer users may technically know (’cause really who tries to slog through the privacy policy?) that their browsing data may be used. [ Suggested sites, does what it’s name implies; it suggests sites related to what you are looking at.] Then there’s the Bing toolbar which also looks at a user’s browsing history. On the other hand, according to Google, Google Toolbar and Chrome don’t send back browsing history. Google toolbar, however, does relay site speed which may be a factor in Google’s page rank system.

So overall, Bing may or may not have copied Google’s search results. Bing says that it uses a wide variety of factors, user data, and many search algorithms. However, Google views what Bing may or may not have done as cheating and unfair even though it is not illegal.

What do you all think?

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

  • Share/Bookmark