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Archive for August, 2011

Small Business Lessons from Tamara Gozan of Designer Purse Depot

Monday, August 29th, 2011

This week I had the pleasure of talking with Tamara Gozan, the founder of http://www.designerpursedepot.com/, an online store that sells a variety of designer handbags and apparel. However, due to customer demand, Tamara shared that she will be expanding her business and focusing more on designer clothing, shoes, and accessories. We had a great conversation during our interview, touching on topics such as small business, social media outlets, and The Devil Wears Prada (of course!).

Tell us a little about Designer Purse Depot and who you focus on serving?

Designer Purse Depot services a lot of people who like designer items, mostly handbags and clothing but also including shoes and other accessories. Because my customers love designer goods and they are really expensive, I spend a lot of time trying to find companies where I can find these items on sale or at a discounted price. I then resell them to my customers, who often use these items themselves or turnaround and sell them on eBay.

How did you get your started selling online?

I started over a decade ago when I had an eBay account and sold a few things online there. Then recently, I saw the success of many people that were making their money online and heard a lot of people who considered themselves experts, explain the importance of having an online store. I started looking around to find a format or platform where I could open an online store and found Shopster. I decided to open a free account using their free trial offered at the time and put some items on the account, just to see what they would look like on the website, and within 8 days I had my first sale. After recognizing the potential, I decided to get more serious and built a complete website. In my first month on Shopster, I had 20 sales!

Where has Designer Purse Depot focused most of its energy on in the past year?

My main focus has been on designer handbags, though I’m planning to focus more on designer clothing, shoes, and accessories in this upcoming year. I have received many requests from my frequent customers that are asking for those items, so I plan to focus on expanding my collection.

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

For one, having detailed photos of the items that you are selling is essential because people can’t touch or feel the product like they normally could. Instead, they would like to get a really good look at the items. Also important is having an accurate and detailed description of the items. Both of these are extremely valuable factors to focus on, and the third item is the pricing of your products. You have to know what is currently going on in the market because if you price an item too high, you won’t get enough customers, and if you price an item too low, the customers won’t recognize the value.

What do you see as 2 new trends in your industry this year?

Surprisingly, some of the most expensive handbags are the hottest items right now. Although everyone is talking about how bad the economy is, some of the most expensive handbags are selling very well. Another trend is the emerging popularity of fashion forward attire. Lots of women are looking for really nice office wear and bright colors.

From your experience, what are the best ways to advertise yourself?  Do you make use of tools like social media?

Yes, I definitely think that you should be on Facebook and Twitter, as well as have an eBay outlet and possibly an Amazon account also. You can introduce new items there and send customers back to your store. I really think you should have a strong presence in the market and definitely a blog.

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

It would probably be the intern from The Devil Wears Prada, played by Anne Hathaway. I don’t necessarily wear a lot of high fashion items and I’m more of an admirer, so I’ve had to really become acclimated with women who wear these high value, designer products. Similarly, the intern went into an industry that she wasn’t familiar with and had to adapt to the environment and learn the market.

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

I just read an article about the woman who wrote the novel, The Help, and learned that she was rejected 60 different times by 60 different literary agents and the 61st agent was the first to give her a chance. Now, her novel has become a major motion picture. You may not get it right the first time, or even the second or third times, but if you are passionate about what you want to do and keep trying to tweak it and make it right, you will find success. Even though it started out almost effortless with Shopster, having an online store isn’t always easy; it has been challenging to grow and I’m still seeking to go to the next level. I have to keep myself focused and motivated every day, though that’s how you will eventually find success.

We at KikScore would like to thank Tamara for giving the community his thoughts on the small business experience.  If you have questions for Tamara, please leave them in the comments below.

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Archive for August, 2011

False Positives: The Problem of Fake Customer Reviews

Friday, August 26th, 2011

Psst..hey have you heard? Someone’s putting fake positive reviews for companies. There’s a black market for people who are willing to write fake positive reviews of products, places or services. Since more and more people are looking online for reviews of products, places and services, the demand for good reviews is growing.  As more and more positive reviews are being written, the demand for more positive reviews increases. It’s a positive feedback cycle.

How to tell if a review is fake or not

So what about these fake reviews? Well most of them are hard to spot. Luckily for businesses, a team of researchers have come up with an algorithm to determine if that review you got on Yelp is fake or not.  So, how did they determine the algorithm? Well the long answer’s in the link I gave you. The short answer is this. The fake reviews tend to be more narrative, have vauge descriptions about whatever they are reviewing and tend to use the words “I”‘ and “me”‘ often.

So why need an algorithm at all? Well take a look at this. Don’t read the descriptions and ignore the highlighted words for a minute. Just read the review. Could you tell it wasn’t real? No? Well neither could I. The Cornell researchers have an explanation for this. Since humans have been communicating face to face for about 60,000 years, it’s much harder for us to pick up clues about deception in things such as reviews. You know this to be true, if you’ve ever had a misunderstanding over email.

So how do you prevent fake reviews? You can try setting up a review guideline. Try asking your customers to put the name of the person who helped them, describe the product or service in detail and point out the parts that they liked the best or had some problem with. If the review has passion, chances are it’s a real review.

A brief bit about negative reviews

Then there’s the flip-side, negative reviews. These are often posted by competitors or people who really don’t like the business. Surprisingly,  the trend is more towards writing positive reviews. But, that’s not to say that negative reviews aren’t important too.  Negative reviews can help you figure out what went wrong with that new pasta recipe you were trying out last Friday night. So keep an eye on those too. Also, if you answer negative reviews really quickly and fix/compensate for the problem, your bad review might just change to a good one!

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Archive for August, 2011

Small Business Influencer 2011 Champions: Some Special Shout Outs & Recommendations for Next Year’s List

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

As you know, KikScore was nominated for the top 100 list of the Small Business Influencer’s 2011 list of Champions. Late Monday evening, the winners for this honor were announced. We are happy to see those who made it in and couldn’t help but notice some names that are particularly important to KikScore. These people have been a great help to KikScore as well as the rest of the small business world and we cannot help but admire all they’ve done. It is with this that we are proud to give a special shout out to a select group of people!

Some Judges We Want to Mention

Ramon Ray – Ramon is an editor and technology evangelist for Smallbiztechnology. He has written tons of great articles, including a write up on KikScore on BusinessInsider. We’re really grateful to have had Ramon take the time to help market KikScore and build the brand. Great job with everything you’ve been up to, whether helping us out or judging the Champions list!

Anita Campbell – Anita is a publisher for Small Business Trends and BizSugar, as well as another one of the judges for Small Business Influencer 2011. What makes Anita so special to us is her constant support of KikScore. She got us invited to the webinar for Focus.com on security for small and medium businesses and has suggested small businesses to use Kikscore. Thanks for all your help and keep up all of the amazing work Anita!

Ivana Taylor – Yet another judge, Ivana is DIY Marketers’ small business evangelist. In a nutshell, she’s an incredibly helpful source of information for all things small business. Our hats go off to you, Ivana! We can’t wait to see what you do next!

The Champions of this Year

Shashi Bellamkonda – Shashi, the business swami of Network Solutions who made it into the top 100 list of Champions, has been a huge supporter and incredible help to KikScore. Among the many things he’s done, Shashi was a big part of Social Commerce Camp DC, which was a blast. You’ve been and continue to be an enormous help to all of us at KikScore and we want to congratulate you on making it into the top 100!

Melinda Emerson – Also known as SmallBizLady, Melinda has also made it into the top 100. Among many things, Melinda is the host of Twitter’s weekly talk show, #SmallBizChat. Needless to say, she is the whole reason KikScore got the opportunity to be the guest of honor on #SmallBizChat one week. Congratulations Melinda! You’ve helped us so much and we’re really excited on your making it to the top 100!

John Lawson – Another Small Business Influencer 2011 Champion, John is CEO of 3rd Power Outlet and ColderICE Media. John helps KikScore out with introductions as well as with The KikScore Startup & Small Biz Daily. His efforts have been a great help and we at KikScore are lucky to benefit from his expertise. Thanks for all your work John and enjoy your Champion position!

Laurie McCabe – A partner at the SMB Group and a small to mid-sized market expert, Laurie is yet another deserving Champion. A while back, Laurie took the time to interview KikScore for one of SMB Group’s podcasts. This was a great opportunity as well as a great honor. You’ve been great Laurie! We’re so happy to see you make it to the top 100!

Our Recommendations for Next Year

Tinu Abayomi-Paul – Tinu is part owner of the amazing Free Traffic Tips. She is truly an example of a small business expert as well as great person. Thanks for all of the guidance you’ve given the small business community, Tinu!

Shonali Burke – Owner of Shonali Burke Consulting and editor of WomenGrowBusiness, Shonali has a treasure trove of advice for us all. Alongside being a PR expert for small businesses, she truly is digital PR pioneer. Keep up all the great work, Shonali!

Jill Foster – Jill has taken on many different roles. The founder of Live Your Talk, a public speaking advocate, a blogger, and the founding editor of WomenGrowBusiness, Jill has a thing or two to teach small businesses. You continue to teach us all and for that we thank you!

To those who made Small Business Influencer 2011 possible as well as those who provide inspiration to countless small business, thank you! To everyone who made it to the Small Business Influencer 2011 top 100 list, congratulations! We think it’s awesome what is being done to recognize the folks who enable small businesses’ success and are so happy that we were nominated! We hope to see you all make the list again next year!

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Archive for August, 2011

Making Businesses Bigger, Better, Faster: An Interview with Ed Carrick

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Today’s small business interview is with Ed Carrick, the founder of Performance Analysis. Carrick works as a consultant for small businesses, mainly manufacturing companies, helping them maximize their business productivity through lean management techniques. He stimulates efficiency among these companies and drives their success. We had the privilege of speaking to Ed and he talked about both his company and the small business community.

Tell us about Performance Analysis and who you focus on serving?

Performance Analysis is a very small consulting firm. Our main focus is on small manufacturers, many being local but we also have nationwide services that we reach out through the internet. The nature of our business is to help other businesses learn and implement various techniques for process improvement and increased productivity.  One of the major concepts we follow is lean management; the outcome is typically lower cost, greater output, and a greater quality product.

What prompted the launch of Performance Analysis?

Performance Analysis is an offspring from my past job at one of the universities here. I loved the consulting work, really saw the value in it, and saw what it can do for manufacturers in this country. The situation I was in did not work very well and I knew I had the ability of making it on my own, so it was just all about timing and gaining the confidence to eventually launch my own business.

What is a recent trend that you have been focusing on to increase your sales and business?

One of the big things that we have been focusing on quite a lot over the last 6 months is trying to develop and improve upon inbound marketing techniques. Sites such as HARO, Twitter, and Facebook are effective for getting your name out there to the public. I have also been posting a lot of articles on my website’s blog. We’re trying to drive people to our site and build our company as industry experts.

If you had 1 lesson that you learned from your business that you could pass on to others about selling online, what would it be?

Our business is not 100% online and in fact, many of my services include in-person consulting and engineering efforts. Our online courses are the part of the business that is bought and sold online, but I think that inbound marketing is a very important tool to look at and to bring to one’s business. It’s a relatively new term, but it’s the way online businesses are going these days. I would suggest that people trying to increase their internet sales should get involved with HubSpot, possibly the worldwide expert in inbound marketing and software techniques.

What do you see as the biggest challenge for small businesses in today’s society and economy and how do you focus on overcoming them?
One of the biggest challenges, as it was for us, is not appearing as a small mom-and-pop company that clients may not want to work with. It’s very important to portray your business as a professional, growing company in your field. A lot of people start off as solopreneurs like myself, but it is important to build onto that and grow as a company.

From your experience, what are the best ways to advertise yourself?

I haven’t really figured that one out yet, though I have found that blogging and participating in social media has been the most successful for us so far. We’ve also listed Performance Analysis with online business listing services, and some of the better ones have increased our SEO and brought our URLs higher up on Google searches. In general, it all boils down to using a combination of inbound marketing techniques.

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

The Fighter. The main character is actually representative of some of our clients. Like Mark Wahlberg’s character in the movie being a boxer who has sort of plateaued, many of our clients are manufacturers that have peaked and are not sure what to do to get better. They find inspiration on how to increase their sales and business by using our service and working with knowledgeable people.

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

One of the main things about start-ups is that if you are thinking about doing it and it’s really in your heart to do it, you can do it and you can’t doubt yourself. You must realize that once you get out there and jump into your own business, there are going to be some struggles but it is all going to be worth it and it’s not going to be as scary and difficult as you think it might be. Don’t keep waiting like I did and just follow your heart.

Thanks to Ed Carrick for a great interview and taking time out of his busy schedule. If anyone has any questions or comments for Ed, please leave them in the comments.

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Archive for August, 2011

Turning Sites into Gold: An Interview with Marketade’s John Nicholson

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

I recently had the privilege of speaking with John Nicholson, co-founder of the consulting company Marketade. A savvy businessman and all-around great guy, John uses his experiences to help others with some of the most important problems that online businesses face. My interview with John has taught me a lot and I want you all to be able to benefit from what he has to say.

Tell me a little about Marketade?

Marketade is basically a boutique web consulting company that I started with my partner and co-founder, Karan Gill. While Karan works on web development and design, I focus on search marketing, web analytics and conversion optimizations. Both of us used to work at GEICO; I was in marketing and Karan was in IT. GEICO is very metrics focused and innovative with its brand and web presence. We’re able to take the skills and processes we learned there and use them to help small to mid-sized businesses.

When and why did you decide to create Marketade?

Karan and I started Marketade two years ago. We had each come up with the idea of creating a consulting company and after talking decided it would be best for us to work as a team. We felt that our Fortune 100 skills could help small and mid-sized businesses compete with much bigger competitors – which was an exciting idea for us.

What was one of the biggest challenges you faced and overcame in launching Marketade?

Business development and finding new clients. As an entrepreneur, you’re always running around with too much to do. This makes it really difficult to not get completely wrapped up in client’s requests. You have to be disciplined with your time and reserve some of it to develop your business. One thing that we did in this area was create a newsletter. Since we use this to write in-depth articles, our newsletter is a great way to show off some of our expertise. In fact, we got our biggest deal to date through a reader of our newsletter.

How do you advertise yourself to get more clients?

We don’t really advertise in a traditional sense. We think the best way to grow your business is through word-of-mouth from happy customers and that’s where we’ve focused. As I mentioned earlier, we do have a newsletter. We also use Twitter a little bit.

We’ve also gotten a few clients just from working at Affinity Lab, the co-working space in D.C. where we are based.

Have you had any trouble proving your business’ credibility and legitimacy to potential customers and website visitors?

Yes. We know that a lot of people come to our website and leave quickly, even though they’ve come from highly relevant search phrases. We attribute this at least in part to not providing our credibility. Our GEICO experience helps, but is not enough.

Lately, this issue has been on our minds as we redesign our site. People want to know who is behind the organization, so we’re planning on playing up our bios more. We’ve also recently become a Google Certified Partner and plan to promote that. And working out of Affinity Lab also has credibility, so we’ll play that up more too. One of our clients recently told us that it made a big difference just knowing that we had an actual address in D.C.

When you’re not working on Marketade, what do you do to relax?

I’m a pretty big sports guy. I enjoy soccer, tennis, yoga, and I recently got into surfing. I enjoy eating at ethnic restaurants. I also read a fair amount. Most of what I read is nonfiction and contemporary.

Based on your expertise, what two or three things do you think small businesses should be doing concerning online marketing?

One thing, which I’ve written an article on, is that small businesses need to optimize their website title tags. The title tag that appears on the top of your browser is a huge factor in Google’s organic search scoring method. Most people just put the name of their business. What they don’t realize is that they need keyword-rich title tags that include their profession service areas and/or location. Although it isn’t a particularly exciting form of marketing, it is drastically underutilized.

Another important thing is for businesses to take the time to understand what words people use when talking about their business. There is a Google Keyword Tool that allows you to see how often people search using a certain term. I often spend hours on this when working with a new client. It helps immensely not just with SEO, but with how visitors will interact with your site’s content. You have to know how to speak the language of your visitors. Business and technical jargon just doesn’t resonate.

Related to this, most businesses need better writing on their sites. There is too much focus on the next big thing – whether it’s video or social media – and not enough focus on good writing. Always remember that people on the web are in a rush and want to be able to skim content easily.

What tools would you recommend for small businesses in the online world?

The Google Keyword Tool I mentioned earlier is a great one. Google Analytics can also be really helpful. Don’t worry if you’re a non-technical kind of person; it’s pretty intuitive. Even if you only use it to get a better idea of where people are coming from, it can make a big difference. Both of these tools are free and they are great for helping businesses figure out how to increase conversions.

If you had to pick two lessons that you’ve learned from launching and maintaining your business, what would they be?

One lesson would be thinking in the long-term concerning business development. I know I mentioned this earlier so I won’t go into it, but it is essential for businesses. You need to make sure you set time aside for this instead of just focusing on what is immediately in front of you. That’s the only way to grow.

Another lesson is to realize the importance of time management and project management. These are especially important when starting up because you have to wear so many different hats as a small business owner. I make an effort to track almost every moment of my day. I always ask myself “Where is my time going and is it in line with what I’m trying to do with my business?” Unfocused time is a killer. Tools aren’t the key here, but they can help. We use Harvest and Basecamp to track our time and manage projects.

Do you have any final thoughts or words of wisdom to share with our readers and the business community?

Don’t be afraid to take the “old school” route when doing your research and learning new techniques. Go to the library and get a book instead of just looking online for articles. The problem with the rise of social media and SEO is that it also gives rise to a lot of useless information. A lot of “top 10” type articles are not saying anything particularly new. They’re just regurgitating old information. If you’re passionate about something, go out and get a book written by a professional in the field. Don’t just rush over to blogs or to Twitter. After all, it’s also nice to disconnect after a long day of being in front of the computer.

Thanks to John for a great interview and a lot of great information! If you have any questions or comments for John, feel free to write them below.

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Archive for August, 2011

What Small Businesses can learn from India

Monday, August 15th, 2011

Last month, I was away on vacation to India. It was great. I spent time with family and traveled a bit. One thing I did notice is that in India, the presence of Social Media is not as apparent as it is here. Here, there are Twitter and Facebook icons plastered all over the place. There…well I didn’t see any.

Taking advantage of Facebook and Twitter So one thing to take advantage of, if you’re a small business here is the large presence of Facebook and Twitter. So get a Facebook page and start tweeting those deals that your company may be offering. Another reason why companies should utilize Facebook and Twitter, is that Facebook and Twitter have made it easy to integrate users with a small business. For example, a user could use a Facebook account to sign up for coupons or newsletters, while Twitter accounts can be used to get instant updates. In India, in the city I stayed in, I noticed that the celebrities talked about in the paper, did not have Facebook pages or Twitter accounts. Now celebrities are usually the trendsetters, so since they didn’t have those, I didn’t think that a large segment of the population would either.Another thing about India is that internet access is spotty and in most places, there isn’t any. There are internet cafes, but those are expensive. So, small business in India use billboards, fliers and posters to advertise.

Reasons for Being Online So, the best thing for companies here to do, which they are already doings, is to take advantage of the nice, almost widespread network in the US. Almost everyone has access to a computer at any given time, meaning that small businesses can reach a large audience and can work in various time-zones. Plus, you save on ink and paper with online advertising. Another good thing about your customers being online is the almost instantaneous feedback you get. Soon after using your product or service, customers can comment on it online on your Facebook page or on sites like Yelp. So, monitor those sites and that Facebook page of yours and if you reply to customers almost immediately after they post the comment, you’ll probably get brownie points with ’em.

Take advantage of new technology For example, one of my uncles has his own eye clinic. He also has the latest Apple gadgets available in India. I’ve never seen him with a camera, except for the one on his iPad. Once when I was looking through his pictures, I noticed that he had a lot of pictures of eye aliments. Instead of writing down a detailed description of the problem, he just uses the pictures as notes instead. So, if you small business owners have any technology, new or old(as long as it’s not a cassette tape or anything similar) take advantage of what it can do. It can’t hurt and might even help.

So, if you’re a small business take advantage of the Social Media opportunities around you and the technology you have or will get sometime soon. Preferably sometime today.

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Archive for August, 2011

Vote KikScore for 2011 Small Business Influencer Award!

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Small Business Influencer Nominee

“A small business influencer is a person, company or other organization that has made a meaningful and lasting impact on the North American small business market.”

Here at KikScore, we are honored to have recently been nominated for the 2011 Small Business Influencer award in the “Corporations” category. Above is the definition behind the Small Business Trends and Small Biz Technology’s “Small Business Influencer” award and we are glad to have been one of the 520 businesses nominated, along with other influential people and businesses, such as David Nilssen and NEXTIVA. Their goal is to honor those companies that have made the most significant contributions and impacts to the North American small business market and we’re thrilled to have made the cut!

We’d like to extend a special thanks to our friends Anita Campbell and Ramon Ray who have done a great job, along with the help of their team and associates, of putting this entire competition together and supporting the small business community! We’d also like to thank Anita for swinging by last week and participating in the #SmallBizChat (In case you missed the chat, you can view our recap presentation on How to Make Your Business Look Credible and Trustworthy Online). And  thanks to Ramon for the great write up on Business Insider that he did about KikScore last month. This competition is a great way to promote small businesses and reward those who are the most influential towards them.

The awards recognize the top 100 influencers,  being decided 40% by community votes and 60% judge votes. Voting by the community is currently underway and ends on August 9th, so we hope you can vote for us by clicking here or the icon below! The top 100 receive the recognition that comes with being named a winner, including general publicity and the right to display Winners insignias on books, websites, brochures, etc. You can vote once per nominee per 24 hours so don’t hesitate to check back and vote everyday!

Small Business Influencer Vote

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