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Archive for May, 2011

Shocking Results in Recent OTA Findings: Should YOU Feel Safe on the Internet?

Friday, May 27th, 2011

As cybercriminals become more advanced and efficient, all businesses must recognize and prepare for the imminent threats of online hackers. The issue of cyber-attacks has made its way to the Senate, debating the amount of power the president should have in dealing with cybercrimes (Full story here).

Similarly, in accordance with the looming threat of online fraud and cybercrime, the Online Trust Alliance (OTA) released their annual Online Safety Honor Roll and Scorecard two weeks ago, revealing the many insecurities of the internet. Their findings were very surprising, making me question my privacy and safety on the internet. Two of the most shocking discoveries include:

  • Only 26% of the top websites and government agencies evaluated by the OTA were recognized for their adoption of the best, most efficient technologies to help protect users’ privacy and identity. This means that 74% of the top websites used by millions of people have not implemented safe measures that protect against malicious emails and rogue websites. Organizations that made the Honor Roll enacted email authentication processes, Extended Validation SSL Certificates, and testing for malware and known site vulnerabilities. More than 500 million emails originated from the organizations lacking efficient online security measures. These facts demonstrate that we are not protected on the majority of sites we visit and are members of, and therefore we must consider reevaluating websites before giving them any of our personal information.
  • Social media, e-commerce, and financial services ranked higher in securing their sites than government agencies.  About 27% of the FDIC 100 and 24% of the Fortune 500 qualified for the Honor Roll, though only 12% of government agencies made the list. It doesn’t make me feel particularly safe that government agencies’ websites are some of the most vulnerable to cybercrime attacks. The government and its various agencies should be the ones protecting us, enacting the proper online security protocols and trying to set an example, not being most susceptible to malware.

This report is extremely important for both e-commerce shoppers and small businesses. Online shoppers must realize the dangers of registering on sites that may be unsafe and prone to cyber-attacks and abuse. Therefore, they will seek out websites that have the proper preventative online security measures, and will most likely buy from the large, reputable online websites. This will in turn hurt small businesses that lack a reputation in online safety, and are trying to flourish in e-commerce.  This makes it even more important that for small businesses to succeed that they clearly demonstrate to the public their record of trustworthiness and reliability so potential customers are ensured that the small business they’re dealing with can be trusted.

The OTA’s full 2011 Online Safety Honor Roll and Scorecard can be found here: https://otalliance.org/news/releases/2011scorecard.html.

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Archive for May, 2011

When Young Americans Unite – We Can Do Some Cool Things! – I am Here to Help Small Business for the Summer

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Hey guys! This is Jason and I am a new intern here at Kikscore!

I am a rising sophomore at American University, majoring in Business Administration with a double specialization in Accounting and Marketing. I learned a lot my first year at school, especially in my Business 1.0 class. Having intended on just majoring in Business Administration with a specialization in Accounting, this fundamental class introduced me to a variety of business-related fields, especially sparking my interest in marketing. The class emphasized how important of a role the internet plays these days, not just in marketing but in all aspects of business and society.

Take the recent killing of Osama bin Laden, for example. The television news channels most likely broke the news to the adults who were still awake at the time. However, the internet and its many social networking sites informed millions of college students and teenagers around the world of the breaking news. Statuses on Facebook such as “OSAMA BIN LADEN IS DEAD!! AMERICA!!” and “Osama bin Hidein for ten years, now he’s dead BOOYAH!” were appearing on my news feed by the second. In fact, a tweet by a former chief of staff that read “So I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot damn” actually broke the news to the public (this article can be found here:  Twitter Reactions to Osama’s Death) This is a great example of how important and influential the internet is, and how significant it can be for businesses.

However, I first found out about Osama’s killing from shrieks and yells coming from the hallway of my dorm. Even though I am not political whatsoever, I do attend a school that is revered for its politically active student body. (I am also an avid sports fan and we don’t have a football team, but I love it! Go figure.) And one of the many perks of going to school in DC is the fact that I am only 15 minutes away from the nation’s capital. So that night, I went to the White House with a large group of friends, joining the thousands of Americans already there to celebrate, singing the national anthem probably about 50 times.

My favorite rapper Kanye West puts it best by saying that he is the “voice of this generation.” Maybe I’m not rich or famous like Kanye, but I believe I am also the voice of this generation. Times are changing and with the evolving power of the internet and media, we are all the voices of this generation. After hearing about Kikscore, I was immediately interested in joining this small, internet business and I am excited to use what I have learned in Business 1.0 to help here. I am eager and ready to gain first-hand experience and practice with this rising online start-up.

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Archive for May, 2011

Talking Employedpreneurs & Steps to Success for Businesses with Tai Goodwin – A KikScore SmallBiz Interview

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Earlier this year I have the pleasure to meet the fabulous Tai Goodwin on Twitter.  Tai is the founder of the site Launch While Working.  We “met” each other when we were both participating in the fantastic Wednesday #smallbizchat that is organized by Melinda Emerson (@smallbizlady).  Tai and I really bonded over a unique trait that we share and that is we are launching businesses while we work full-time jobs.  Tai has an awesome and super descriptive term for this growing phenomenon and she discusses it in detail during our KikScore interview of her.

1. Tell us about Launch While Working and who you focus on serving?

Launch While Working is a resource site specifically built to service the needs of “Employedpreneurs” like myself.  Employedpreneurs are full-time employees who are also part-time entrepreneurs.

2. What prompted you to launch Launch While Working?

In my first side business, I worked as a career coach. The majority of the clients I attracted sought me out because they wanted to pursue something they were passionate about. In most cases their passion led them to starting their own business. I began helping them use on line marketing and social networking strategies to launch and grow their business. I began to see a need for a community of people who were launching while working. Many of the business coaches I worked with seem to be under the impression that “serious” entrepreneurs were those that quit their job to work full-time in their business. But there’s a huge trend of people that need to keep their day job (for benefits or as a funding source), and are still committed to the vision of launching their own business. The idea was born from there.

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

Systemize and invest in professional development. Having systems in place will help keep you sane when you are running a business on half of the time that full-time business owners have. Having systems in place for follow-up, client intake, customer service, data retention, bookkeeping, etc…are key to maintaining a professional image and high quality service.

Investing in professional development like conferences, high quality mastermind groups, and coaching is one of the best ways to meet people who are on the same journey as you. In addition to the learning from these experiences, I’ve come away with some amazing connections which have led to incredible opportunities.

4. What is Launch While Working focusing most of its energy on this year?

I work from a three-legged stool approach: The first leg is launching the site, so I’ll be doing lots of promotion to create awareness of the community. The second leg is self-publishing the Employedpreneur book. And the third leg of the stool this year is running the first Launch Circle – it’s a mix between a mastermind group and group coaching for employedpreneurs.

5. Based on your experience as social media strategist, what do you see as 2 new trends for small business?

Blogging for business is becoming important as small business owners and solopreneurs realize the value of building an online customer base. Being visible on social networking platforms is important but once people find you, you need to have a content rich home base (your blog) that can establish your credibility and give prospects a chance to uncover the value you provide.

Another trend, specifically for service based businesses is creating opportunities for passive income through infoproducts. Infoproducts are basically a way to package your expertise and sell it to clients via ebooks, video, audio, etc…It’s a must have for solopreneurs who want to break free from the limitations of one-to-one business models. The one-to-many (one infoproduct many customers) model means that you can generate revenue without adding more hours to your work week.

6. If you could describe the nature or spirit of your business as any movie or movie character, what movie/movie character would it be and why?

Ultimately, Launch While Working is about ambitious professionals who believe that a) work has to be about more than money or titles, and b) working for someone else in corporate America limits their ability to live their vision. It’s about those of us who are willing to take a risk and make an investment of time, money and energy top pursue our passion on our terms. I think the movie that best captures that spirit is Jerry McGuire.

7. If the small business community could have one evangelist, advocate or spokesperson that could make a massive impact for small business, who would you pick and why?

Just one – that’s tough. I think Anita Campbell, founder of Small Biz Trends. She’s a role model for me in that I hope the Launch While Working site evolves into a resource for employedpreneurs, like her sites are a resource for small business owners. Small Biz Trends and its affiliated sites like BizSugar, offer a wealth of information for entrepreneurs. She has assembled the best and brightest small business experts as contributors who consistently provide high quality content for entrepreneurs.

8. What are the two biggest challenges that you think small business are facing today and how do you suggest that they work to overcome those challenges?

One main challenge that small businesses face is being unwilling to go beyond traditional marketing strategies when it comes to promoting their business. It’s something I call “egocentric” marketing and it sounds like this, “I don’t like Facebook (or another social media marketing tool) so I don’t see the value in having my business there.” This is the starting point for many of my customers. However, the reality is that it doesn’t matter what “they” like, if their customers are on Facebook, or Twitter, they need to find a way to engage them there proactively – or someone else will.

Another challenge that many small businesses face is not being flexible enough to adapt to the changing demands of their customers and needs of the market. While it is important to hold on to your vision, it should never be at the expense of building a sustainable business model. Your business plan whether it is one page or fifty, should be an evolving document that scales to put you in the best possible position to serve your clients and generate revenue.

9. Small businesses are always looking for good sources of information to learn from or share information to help their business. What are some good information sources that you often use?

My favorite sources are Small Biz Trends, Entrepreneur Magazine (online), Social Media Today, Social Media Examiner. In addition I use Twitter filters and Google Alerts to stay tuned into specific key words related to my niche.

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

I’m learning that one of the key factors to building a successful enterprise is having strategic partners. Having a solid core of online and offline partnerships opens the door for learning, growth and opportunities to reach new audiences. No business (or business owner) is an island.

____________________________________

Thanks Tai for the great interview and fantastic tips.  If anyone in our small business community has any questions or comments for Tai, please leave them in the comments.

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Archive for May, 2011

Taking the Internet Back for the People: The Government’s Plan for Internet Security

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

Not too long ago, the U.S. federal government finalized their National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC). Although acronyms tend to make everything sound overly-official, this isn’t some new set of laws. Instead, this ‘strategy’ is more of an attempt to improve internet safety. NSTIC aims to make the internet a better place for everyone to store and use their personal information. Sounds kind of impossible, right? If this was some sort of strictly government attempt, it probably would be. However, NSTIC asks for the participation of businesses and consumers alike, actually giving it a pretty good shot.

What’s the Strategy?

As explained in more detail here and here, NSTIC is focused on three main issues:

  • Identity – Anyone who uses the internet probably has a jumble of user names and passwords. Attempting to foster an “identity ecosystem,” NSTIC aims to simplify this issue by having users deal with only a select few identities from trustworthy sources.
  • Privacy – Whenever we sign up or buy something online, we give out tons of personal information. The plan regarding NSTIC is very much on a ‘need to know’ basis. Under this, only necessary personal information will be shared with the interacting group; no more, no less.
  • Security – If we have less accounts to create, then we can actually create them distinctively. After all, how many people use the same user names and passwords across multiple accounts? In short, a lot! This makes online theft too easy. Hopefully, this proposed ecosystem will eliminate that.

In the end, it’s best to look at NSTIC as more of a reform than another government headache. It aims to create a more tightly knit hold on the online sharing of personal information.

Who Ya Gonna Call?

Sorry to upset you, but no one in particular. As I said earlier, NSTIC isn’t a law; it’s a recommendation. It calls upon all of us to do our part in improving our security online. I’m sure we all love to complain about incidents such as Sony’s Playstation Network being hacked. However, are there any particular networks or sites where we are 100% safe of theft? Businesses need to keep client information private, but we can’t just use easily accessible usernames and passwords with the expectation that they will take care of the rest.

NSTIC wants to fix these problems by making the online process simpler, and it wants everyone’s participation. If you really want to be cheesy about it, NSTIC has a ‘think of the children’ kind of feel. The process isn’t going to happen overnight. It’s a grand scale issue that will probably take decades or even generations. And yet, even in spite of its inevitably gradual process, isn’t there no time like the present to get started?

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Archive for May, 2011

It’s Not What You Can Do for the Gaijin, but What the Gaijin Can Do for You!

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Hi! My name is Brad and I’m new to KikScore!

I’m a Japanese and business major at the University of Pittsburgh. For those of you (probably a lot) who don’t know the word ‘gaijin,’ it  means ‘foreigner’ in Japanese. I studied abroad in Japan for a semester, so I can tell you that it’s basically your second name while you’re there. Before I go on, I will say that I’m definitely not an anime-obsessed in-your-face Japanese major. Actually, contrary to popular belief, a lot of us are in it more for the language and culture than for the “Hey look! I can watch anime without subtitles!” I’m not knocking those who do. I’m just putting this out there to clear up any potential stereotypes. It can and should be noted that both groups of people do exist within the Japanese major.

As my major oh-so-subtly implies, I’m pretty interested in doing international business (probably marketing) with Japan. Therefore, I guess I’ll have to become more than ‘that gaijin’ if I want to fit into both the U.S. and Japanese cultures. Perfect first step: knowing how to work with businesses on a person-by-person basis as well as thoroughly understanding the internet as a business tool. That’s why I’m really excited to work with KikScore. I’m always learning more about the Japanese language and culture, which I’ll need. On the other hand, you really need more than your professors when learning how to work in a business setting.

I guess what I want to say is that that I’m glad to be working with people who will put me on the right track.

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Archive for May, 2011

Skype Hype: Are you using it for your business?

Friday, May 13th, 2011

Now that the founders have become rich (again) and sold Skype to Microsoft – a questions must be posed.  “Did Microsoft completely overpay?” Not that question, but maybe (how the hell would I know).  “Will Microsoft underfund and completely destroy this new asset?”  yes…but not right away and that’s not the question. 

No, the real question is how will this new found attention to Skype change how will you use it for your business.   Before every cable company offered a VOIP solution, Skype was the way to talk over the internet for very little cost.  That uniqueness has gone away, but it still is the best way to talk internationally without it costing a lot.

The way we’ve been using Skype is for video conferences with our team (some of us are in Denver, some in the D.C. area) – and I’m sure we’ll continue to use it that way.  But Skype has competitors in that space with video chat already offered by Apple and other web camera services. 

One of the more interesting ways could be a combination of Skype into social media.  Don’t forget that Microsoft invested in Facebook a few years ago  — so forget poking, what about video chatting with your social network.

Any other thoughts on how Skype can help your business?

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Archive for May, 2011

Top Ten Reasons Why Small Business Fail, part three: Marketing

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

Marketing

A handful of business cards and a no-frills website are no longer a sufficient Small Business marketing strategy.

The word “marketing” typically brings to mind expensive media campaignsbillboards and the services of highly-paid advertising firms. Clearly many Small Businesses have neither the time nor the resources (money, personnel, expertise) to take this approach to marketing, but that doesn’t let them off the hook.

Many Small Business owners and operators either have prepared a business plan, or know that they should. But many are completely unaware of the the need to prepare a marketing plan. New clients won’t find you just because you want their business, and even existing customers and clients would benefit from an understanding of your full range of goods or services, and a constant reminder that they are available.

Small Business entrepreneurs and “solopreneurs” are quite busy, especially in today’s economy. It’s easy to consider a marketing strategy a “nice-to-have”, rather than a “need-to-have” element of doing business. But consider this: why do well-known, successful corporations spend millions of dollars each year on marketing? Even though we are already familiar with the coffee shops, fast food restaurants and supermarkets we do business with, they still expend a lot of energy reminding us of their brands, their offerings and the overall “feel” of their products and establishments.

Marketing is not advertising, although advertising is a component. Advertising is about what goods or services you offerprice and availability. According to Wikipedia, “Marketing is used to identify the customer, to satisfy the customer, and to keep the customer.” While Small Businesses may not have the budgets of large corporations, they have a greater need to focus on acquiring new customers, and retaining existing ones.

McDonald’s or Walmart can survive a considerable decrease in clientele (not that they would enjoy it). For a Small Business, losing even a few clients can spell disaster. Since they don’t enjoy the regional or national visibility of major firms, they cannot depend on product or brand recognition that brings in customers at random.

Look to as many free or low-cost resources as possible to promote your business and market your offerings. Social media, such as twitterFacebookLinkedIn and such are not just for kids: they can provide a range of exposure once available only via television or radio advertisements. Low-cost “real world” techniques, such as focused flyer distributionbulletin boards and well-designed business cards are not to be overlooked.

Email marketing sites such as ConstantContact.com and  MailChimp.com are a hidden treasure: MailChimp allows you to create mailing lists of up to 2,000 addresses, and send up to 6,000 messages each month. With templates, autoresponders and video tutorials available, it’s a secret weapon I recommend as an indispensable Small Business marketing resource.

You still need a strategy, which requires more detail than can be provided in a blog post. These tips, however, can help point you in the right direction:

  1. Determine the focus of your offering
  2. Identify the value proposition to the customer
  3. Maintain a consistent message
  4. Develop a memorable catchphrase or tagline

Remember: marketing is about the impression you make in the mind of the existing or potential client or customer. Business is about relationships – marketing is the conversation.


Series inspired by “Top Ten Reasons Why Small Businesses Fail” by: Connie Holt, E.A. cholt@henssler.com
The Henssler Financial Group Position Paper
© 2004 The Henssler Financial Group | www.henssler.com



Cornell Green is Your Open Source CIO,  guest blogger for KikScore. Visit him at http://opensourcecio.blogspot.com

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Archive for May, 2011

Is this a Bubble or a Buble?

Friday, May 6th, 2011

Every day, I check TechCrunch.  It’s sort of a must-do type of thing.  First, you have to do it to see what the latest trends are for start-ups and funding.  Secondly, if you’re involved in a tech start-up and you don’t read TechCrunch, well, you’re seen as a bit of poseur.  And it’s not one of those things where by not doing it you seem even cooler….like not owning a TV.  For some reason, if you don’t own a TV. people think you’re really smart.  But is that really that smart?  T.V. and the internet are the main sources of news and critical information.  It’s like going back thousands of years and saying “I don’t fire” and expecting people to really respect you.

Ok.  Back to my original thought.  I’m reading TechCrunch and in the last 6 months, at least once a week, there is news of a small startup getting large funding or being acquired by a larger strategic player.  For those of us old enough to remember the late 90’s (and who could forget Ace of Base), it’s getting a little scary because it’s feeling like a bubble.  Irrational exuberance.  High Valuations.  People are losing their F&^%$#*!  Minds. 

But is this latest round of investment and acquisition really a bubble?  Or is it logically investing.  I mean, where else should you put your money?  Real Estate?  Corporate Debt?  Blue-Chip Stocks (with 4% growth).  Recent technology investments are based on profitable companies or scalable services that a larger player would rather buy than build.

I guess what I’m saying is this seems more like  Buble than a Bubble.  By that I mean a pitch-perfect time for technology.  Also, I just love referencing Michael Buble.

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Archive for May, 2011

Top Ten Reasons Small Businesses Fail, part two: Competition

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

Competition

Are you the best at what you do? Among the best? Anywhere close to the best?

Wherever you rank in comparison to your competition, are your existing or potential customers or clients aware of how you compare? As importantly, how accurate an assessment do you have of where you rank amongst your competitors? Remember: our ideas are like our children – we love them because they are our own.

But as any honest parent will tell you, sometimes we must face some brutal truths about ourselves. Before you can match or exceed the competition, you have to understand who the competion is.

How many competitors do you have?  This is not an abstract question about hypothetical competitors “out there, somewhere”  in your chosen field: this is about who your potential clients might consider in addition to, or instead of, you? More importantly, it’s about who your existing customer or client might consider doing business with instead of you.

To remain competitive, you have to assess the competition: the “business school” term for this is “competitor (or competitive) analysis“. Who else is doing what you’re doing? How saturated is your market? Even if you don’t operate from a physical (brick and mortaroffice location, most of your customers/clients are probably local.

Examining the competition is also helpful in determining whether your pricing is too high or low for your market, and is a good source of ideas for new goods or services to offer.

You have probably heard the phrase “there’s no loyalty in business anymore“. This is usually said in reference to employer loyalty – gone are the days that “noone gets laid off at IBM”, and such. There’s no such thing as a guaranteed steady job, regardless of trade.

There’s also no such thing as automatic customer loyalty. Just because they’ve “always done business with you” doesn’t mean that they’ll be back tomorrow, to replace the product or renew the contract.

Business, especially in today’s economy, is about relationships. Just as apathy and ignorance of other potential suitors can lose your sweetheart’s affection, inattention and unawareness of competitors can lose business. Make no assumptions, and court your clients, existing and potential, as if you were a newlywed on honeymoon.

In many ways, the stakes are even higher


Series inspired by “Top Ten Reasons Why Small Businesses Fail” by: Connie Holt, E.A. cholt@henssler.com
The Henssler Financial Group Position Paper
© 2004 The Henssler Financial Group | www.henssler.com



Cornell Green is Your Open Source CIO,  guest blogger for KikScore. Visit him at http://opensourcecio.blogspot.com

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Archive for May, 2011

The Intuit 2020 Small Business Report – 20 Trends for the Next Decade

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

According to Inuit, April was a good month for small businesses.  Small business employment grew by .3%,  which is good in this economy.  This is about 60,000 new jobs!  It wasn’t only jobs that went up, the number of hours employees and the amount they earned also increased.  Inuit is a company that helps customers manage their small businesses. These numbers are taken from it’s own data of users who use it’s online payroll method.

The numbers in April are part of an ongoing trend; for the past year and a half, employment has been increasing throughout the country.  The trend in October 2009 and has created a total of 845, 000 jobs. That’s a sign things are improving! April also had the largest number of hours worked for this year. The monthly pay also increased 0.5% from March.

Also, Inuit recently released a small business report. (the link is a PDF file) Here’s what you need to know.  It’s a very interesting prediction of the future based on the trends of today.  Here are some of their key findings in summary form:

  1. The younger generations are going to make drastic changes in technology. Why? They’ll have grown up with technology all around then and will know it better than older generations.
  2. Baby boomers will get older, but don’t count them out! They’ll be getting more active and entrepreneurial.
  3. Women are going to drive the market. They’ll become leaders for businesses, government and so many industries.
  4. Economic hard times will make people move to urban areas
  5. Social Networks will fuel economies. Two words. Information flow and you are seeing it right now.
  6. Customers will have much greater control of relationships with businesses.
  7. Work will shift more from full time employment to a free agent economy.
  8. Data will be critical for businesses to compete and keep a competitive advantage.

There’s more,  much more.  The entire report is 27 pages.  This is just a sample of how the report is, a giant list of factors that will become more important in the future and it is worth a read.

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