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Posts Tagged ‘e-commerce’

Putting the “Social” in Social Media: A KikScore Interview with Chris Visco

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of speaking with Chris Visco, the owner of both TheBestOfFood.com and PJ’s and Coffee Social Media Marketing. With PJ’s and Coffee, her team doesn’t only market your business on the internet; they build and maintain client relationships for your business. According to a recent HubSpot study, nearly 2/3 of US internet users regularly use a social network and that number isn’t falling anytime soon. This makes Visco’s business ever more important and beneficial to the small business community. She discusses her business and gives tips for the future of small businesses in our KikScore interview of her.

1. Tell us about PJ’s and Coffee and who you focus on serving?

PJ’s and Coffee is a full service social media marketing agency. We manage the social media accounts for all sorts of businesses. PJ’s and Coffee is the blog for and social media management branch of our main website, TheBestofFood.com. We used to focus mainly on restaurants in the Philly area, but as more businesses sought our service, we expanded into helping small and medium businesses in a variety of different industries.

2. How did you get the idea for PJ’s and Coffee?

Essentially, we promote local restaurants by providing them with reliable and candid reviews on our site. This assists locals and travelers visiting the Philadelphia area with dining recommendations. This was the idea behind TheBestOfFood.com.

After using social media to promote these restaurants, we realized the value of social media and the cost savings involved with it. With the emergence of Twitter, we talked to restaurants, explaining our desire to promote them. They also saw the benefit of using social media outlets and asked us to manage their Facebook and other accounts. We started out by operating Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare accounts. After engaging many clients using these sites, others approached us about our service, including mortgage companies, dispatch providers, dentists, and others, expanding well beyond the food industry.

Being the food blog for TheBestOfFood.com, the name behind PJ’s and Coffee came from the idea that people want to sit and relax at home in their pajamas with their coffee in hand, and have the intimate feeling of reading and talking about food. We then took the name and rebranded it to the social media division, envisioning people sitting at home in the PJ’s and interacting with others through social media outlets on their computers and phones. Thirty-one percent of people between the ages of 18-35 check social media sites before getting out of bed in the morning so PJ’s and Coffee seemed like a fitting, more casual name. We put the “social” in social media. Many businesses fail because they don’t understand that it’s about people, not products. We engage their target audience and promote them using our research media. Companies that engage their target audience have a higher success than those who “talk AT” people online.

3. What is PJ’s and Coffee focusing most of its energy on this year?

Obviously with the recent release of Google+, we are going to see how successful it is and how to best use it from a marketing standpoint. We will continue focusing on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. though it depends on the business model and which company represents the brand the best. We look for where we can reach the most people and make the most valuable connections. For example, we represent a collision repair company that is equally successful on both Facebook and Twitter, though not as much on LinkedIn and Foursquare. For B2Bs, Twitter and LinkedIn are most successful, while Facebook and Twitter are best for C2Bs. Also, for companies that are targeting women and mothers, mommy bloggers are really influential and we try to engage with them.

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

First, engagement is critical. Businesses that don’t engage with their target audience become white noise. Secondly, practice makes perfect and not all strategies work for all business so you have to be ready to adapt and change. When we first started, we were very Facebook driven but then we started expanding when we saw other outlets were more beneficial. Some strategies aren’t as successful so you should learn and read as much as you can and if one doesn’t work, move onto the next.

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

One new trend is the increased use of video marketing. Fifty six percent of online users are likely to view videos through social media websites, and we’ve seen the success of Youtube videos over the years. Talk Fusion is a new service for email media marketing and allows you to send video emails directly to your client’s inbox.

Another trend will be the redevelopment of websites for social media use. Many websites get more hits and visitors through social media outlets than web searches so because social media sites are driving web traffic, websites are becoming more social media friendly. It’s not easy to facilitate with many current websites and they will be redeveloped, allowing you to login through Facebook and Twitter accounts and shooting out business-related alerts, similar to the news feed of Facebook. In addition, they must become more photo rich to draw attention to their sites on social media outlets.

6. What is the biggest challenge that PJ’s and Coffee faces as a small business and how do you work to overcome that challenge??

Quite honestly, the number one challenge is finding people that are able to engage others online. It seems easy to just go on social media sites and chat, but finding quality marketing professionals to actually engage people is difficult. The instinct to promote online is to just shout out your business promotions. For example, by just shooting out listings and links to your website, businesses and their posts become white noise which consumers will tune out quickly. The key is taking your ego out and making it less about you and more about the customer, which takes a lot of discipline and training. I’ve engaged in a business (social media marketing) that requires a lot of time. It takes 20-30 hours per month per social media outlet, so my challenge is balancing profitability while also bringing in people who take a lot of time to train and learn.

Also, another challenge is dealing with businesses that need to adapt their methods for the long term. While there will be no immediate result, those companies need to realize that they have to be in it now to be profitable in the longer run.

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

The Social Network for obvious reasons.

8. How do the folks at PJ’s and Coffee let loose after a busy day working?

With a glass of wine at a favorite local restaurant. The thing about what we do is that anything can happen at any point during the day. It is 24/7 work because consumers are online at all times, whether it be 1am, 6am, or 11pm, and there are no afterhours, social media sites are being visited every second.

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

I believe all businesses should have a social media presence. Businesses need to learn that it’s not just about promotion, but it’s also a customer service tool. If someone has a complaint or a raving review about your business, they’re most likely to go online and post about it somewhere on the internet. You need to be on these sites to immediately address your customers and their issues regarding your business.

I’d like to thank Chris Visco again for a great interview! If anyone has any questions or comments for Chris, please leave them in the comments.

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Posts Tagged ‘e-commerce’

A Conversation with Candice Cabe of “Day2Night Convertible Heels”: Venturing Into the World of Start-Ups

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

I had the pleasure of talking to Candice Cabe, who is the CEO of an innovative startup called “Day2Night Convertible Heels.”  Her company focuses on simplifying life for women who want to be both practical and stylish.  Her business targeting women-on-the-go, and is quickly plunging into the entrepreneurial world.  We spoke briefly about her ventures, as well as what it’s like to be a small-business owner in today’s quickly-changing world of business.  Thank you, Candice for speaking to me and sharing your experiences with our readers.  We wish you the best of luck in the future!

Tell us a little bit about your business and what makes it unique.

We invented a high heel shoe that converts from high heels down to lower heels.  It is a new kind of technology.  The shoes have interchangeable heels so that women can wear the same pair of shoes but adjust the heel height.  It’ll be the first time that women can wear fashionable and much more comfortable shoes at the same time.

What prompted you to start this business?  Was there a problem you aimed on solving?

The main problem is that women love to wear high heels, but usually after a few hours of wearing them, their feet really start to hurt. They’re usually forced to carry extra shoes with them in their bag to wear to work in the morning or to go out at night.

One of the stories that I tell a lot is that I was packing for a trip – I had to go on a corporate trip down to Miami for a few days and I was told to pack lightly and not check baggage.  I was trying to fit all of these shoes into my little tiny suitcase and I noticed that I ended having three pairs of shoes that looked similar but all had different heel heights, depending on what I was going to be doing.  I knew that immediately when I was getting off the plane, we were going to be chartering a boat and going on that for a few hours, so I was going to need small heels.  Later, we were going to be walking around the tradeshow for a few hours.  I needed to look appropriate in my suit and wear medium-height heels.  Then we were going to go out for a fancier dinner at night so I needed to have high stiletto shoes.  All my shoes looked the same but had different heel heights.  Also, they were taking up so much room in my suitcase.  I thought that it would be so nice to have a travel shoe – one shoe that you can wear to multiple occasions.

What are your short-term goals for the next year?  What kind of things is your business focusing on?

Right now we’re working on refunding and financing.  We’re trying to get some money in the door to finish prototyping.  We are also going to have to invest in getting a mold made.  Once we have a mold, we’ll be able to mass-produce the shoes in China.  We’re also looking for a shoe designer and a shoe manufacturer.  We already have one, but we’re looking for an alternative one.  We’re also trying to close some deals – we’re hoping to do a licensing deal with an existing shoe company.  We’re talking to companies like Steve Madden and zappos.com.  It would be great to get a licensing deal with a larger shoe company.

What do you see as the biggest challenges for small businesses in today’s society and economy?  What do you see as the best solutions to these challenges?

Funding, for sure, is number one.  Another one is building a team and getting people to work for straight equity instead of money is difficult – so getting people to either quit their jobs or to work for you full time.

The biggest thing that I’ve done is just talk to everybody I know or everybody I can think of.  I go to a lot of networking events and tell people what I’m trying to do and what I’m struggling with.  People always want to help, especially if you specifically tell them what you’re struggling with, which makes it easy for people to introduce you to other people.

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

We have been using a lot of social media tools.  We use Facebook and Twitter and we have our own website.  We’re working on search engine optimization, for example Google keywords.

Where do you go to find advice or to get information that is relevant to your business?  Where would you recommend that other small businesses in the community go?  How do you connect with other businesses?

There’s a book that I’d like to recommend to people.  It’s called The Four Steps to the Epiphany.  That’s a book that is helpful for this kind of business that can help business owners get some customers and prove that people want things in the way that you’re doing them.  It’s a good way to get information to people.

Have you had any problems with demonstrating trust to your potential clients or customers?

People seem to be pretty good with trust.  Sometimes people have issues with our particular product.  They are reluctant to believe that the product will hold up well and be sturdy enough and strong enough.  What we’ve done to reassure customers is have a couple of videos on our website demonstrating the shoes, how they’re worn, and how they work.  In the future, we’re hoping to get a lot of customer reviews, feedback, and testimonials from people.  Communication is very important.  We’re trying to put ourselves out there so that people can better understand what we’re doing.

If you could choose a dream spokesperson to represent your business, who would it be?

My dream spokesperson would be Carrie Underwood because we would love to have a celebrity that would be able to wear our shoes.  I think that a lot of people would follow suit.  She’s a rising star and an American Idol and holds a lot of credibility for young women in America.

What do you see as the future for small businesses like yours?  Are you seeing any trends or changes developing?

I’m in the startup world of Boston, which is a really big startup community and city.  It seems that more and more young folks are starting businesses right out of college.  Instead of graduating college and immediately trying to find a job, people are thinking creatively and taking entrepreneurial courses or looking up to other young startups.

Do you have any parting comments or words of advice to our readers and the small business community?

If you have an idea, you should act on it.  Ideas can be a dime in a dozen, but it’s really about execution.  I think that if people put all of their effort into starting a business…if they’re passionate about it and tell everybody they know about it, then almost anyone can start their own business.  I encourage people to start their own businesses and try to ground themselves with people who have done so and been successful.  It’s good to have mentorship from people who know how things work.

I hope you enjoyed reading this interview and I hope you gained something from Candice’s words of wisdom and many insights into what it’s like to own a start-up.  What do you think of her ideas?

Feel free to leave feedback here or contact Candice through her site: http://www.convertible-heels.com/Day2Night.html

Support her business here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2072356942/day2night-convertible-high-heel-shoes

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Posts Tagged ‘e-commerce’

Verisign vs. KikScore: An Overview of Online Trust Seals and How They Differ

Monday, June 27th, 2011

VS.

If you follow the KikScore blog, you are most likely well versed in the general subject of small businesses and online trust.  You most likely even have one or two pop culture references under your belt that relate to topics such as security and e-commerce.  I would go as far as to say that you probably know a good bit about trust seals.  But do you really understand the different features that are provided by different companies?  A little research could really make the difference for your small business.  Lucky for you, the research has already been done….in this blog post I’ll provide an overview comparison of the KikScore Trust Seal and the popular Verisign Trust Seal.

Let’s start with what we know.  Just to review: a trust seal is a type of validation for an online site that is provided as a service from a third-party business.  Current popular providers include: Trust Guard, BuySAFE, Verisign, Better Business Bureau, TRUSTe, and McAfee SECURE.  These companies typically provide services that range from bonding transactions to services that may aim to prevent hacking or identity theft,  scanning services for websites or display privacy policies for businesses.

For this post, I am going to use the Verisign Trust Seal in comparison with the KikScore trust seal.  The Verisign Trust Seal is the probably most wide publicized in the market today.  If you are a small business with an online presence, you probably have heard of Verisign.  So why KikScore?  Why would you need the KikScore Trust Seal if there are so many other companies out there who provide what look to be similar services?

ANSWER: KikScore provides services to small businesses that you will not find anywhere else and here is why.

  • Multi-Dimensional Approach to Demonstrating Trust for a Small Business.
    • The Verisign trust seal has its benefits.  It possesses an impressive methodology that screens sites for certain malware and enables online businesses to identify a subset of security issues, as well as provide solutions and support.  KikScore takes a different take on yje trust and information standpoint for small businesses and uses an approach to incorporate and consolidate key information about a business’ track record that a website visitor would like to know about such as: customer satisfaction, financial responsibility of the business, management information location of the business, customer service and return policies, website history and reliability.  This information is then compiled into format that is easily accessible to website visitors from the website of the small business owner.  KikScore then creates a unique trust score based on all of this information about a business and displays it on the small business website.  So while other seals scan a site, KikScore focuses on information and data about a small business and whether that small business has a record of reliability and trustworthiness.
  • Merchant Report Card.
    • All of the information compiled on a small business is then consolidated into an interactive and continually updating report card for that business.   Both the KikReport and the trust score are continually updated as more information becomes available.  This is a feature that cannot be found in companies such as Verisign and is unique to KikScore: the merchant report card evaluates and displays information about merchants and small businesses on areas such as reliability and trustworthiness so that customers can further evaluate the trustworthiness of a site.  The KikReport allows a small business to take information about itself and display it in one place to website visitors, leads and shoppers.
  • All-Inclusive and Customized Using the Small Business Brand & Reputation Not Someone Else’s.
    • Verisign heavily advertises the fact that they are an already well-established service.  In fact, the Verisign logo even shows up in search engine results, for example, Google.  While this is a nice feature, this approach relies solely on the Verisign name and reputation and ignores the small business’ reputation and their owners trackrecord and history.  KikScore provides a unique trust score to each of its clients and allows the small business to use its own reputation and track record of reliability through the KikReport to demonstrate trust to website visitors.  Also, the KikScore trust seal is not simply a trust seal – it provides actual information about the business, its history and reliability so website visitors can make their own informed decision about the trust and security of a small business.  Which brings me to my next point…
  • Transparency.
    • The KikReport includes website history, store locations, services provided, and customer testimonial.  All of this is in addition to the basic Trust Seal and Trust Score.  This creates a solution for small businesses that allows website owners to be more transparent and open about themselves to shoppers and website visitors.  There is such a wealth of information about a small business that they can use to convey a track record of reliability and trustworthiness, KikScore simply enables a small business to take this existing information about a company and makes it easily available to potential customers and website visitors at the point of purchase.
  • It’s A Dynamic 2-Way Street!
    • KikScore also helps small businesses further develop a relationship with its customers.  Merchants have the option of providing an informational  video on their own KikReport as a way to introduce themselves to website visitors.  Additionally, the trust seal facilitates  real time interactions for small businesses with their own customers through the feedback platform that is built into each small business KikReport.

Verisign as a company has a reputation for generally providing a reliable and useful service to its clients.  But, if you are a small business who already subscribes to the Verisign service, you might want to consider adding the KikScore Trust Seal and Score to your website.  Another option to consider is the KikScore Service Seal: a product that is targeted towards businesses and websites who do not sell physical products online.  People who run service businesses such as bloggers, contractors, plumbers, lawyers, and movers can use the KikScore Service Seal, which is a confidence badge tailored specifically towards these types of companies.  The Service Seal is unique to KikScore; this type of seal cannot be found anywhere else in the market.

KikScore provides online businesses with the opportunity to extend their approach to online trust and security through greater transparency which ultimately should help a small business become more accessible and successful by clearly and convincingly demonstrating their trustworthiness!  Check us out and for more information about KikScore here are some recent articles about the KikScore trust building service for small business: Dealing with Shopping Cart Abandonment, Customers Unsure They Can Trust Your Business? Consider Trust Seal Provider KikScore and this article on A New Wave of Online Trust Scores.

Disclaimer: Product names, logos, and services are the property of their respective trademark holders.

Photo Credits: http://verisign.com, http://kikscore.com

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Posts Tagged ‘e-commerce’

Should Start-Up Companies and Small Businesses Release Their New Software Early or Wait Until it is Perfected?

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010
This question has long been debated by people in the software industry and has come under increased scrutiny since the dot-com era when every man, woman, and child with an HTML reference manual and a website domain registration started creating their own e-commerce sites.  Should start-up companies and small businesses release their first version of software as soon as possible in order to take advantage of being the first one to the marketplace or should they wait and carefully hone their product until it is more mature? 
 
I recently came across a post by Jason Cohen on the OnStartups blog where he makes a good argument for companies to take their time when releasing new products to the general public.  One argument that Jason makes in this post that I thought was very interesting is that the best products are not built by consensus and that some of the best products in recent history (like the iPod from Apple) actually went against conventional wisdom when they were initially released and thus early customer feedback can be an overrated benefit.  He mentions how the iPod has a battery that can’t be replaced, does not have an FM transmitter, and has a confusing wheel-based user-interface but still managed to revolutionize the way we listen to and purchase music.  While this is a great point, I would argue that these are a few major faults in the product that Apple was able to overcome because of the real game-changing feature that they introduced with the iPod: purchasing individual songs on iTunes and allowing them to be easily downloaded to the iPod. 
 
On this topic I would argue that going against public sentiment is generally a bad idea for start-up companies and that most software products will greatly benefit from early customer feedback. The iPod had the benefit of being developed by a multi-billion dollar company like Apple so it could take risks on certain features, but smaller companies don’t always have that luxury.  Getting a product in the hands of it’s target users early so that they can play with it a little and provide invaluable input can be a huge benefit to companies that decide to release their products and software before they are 100% complete.
 
Another argument that Jason makes in his post is that releasing too early can ruin a company’s reputation because the first customers to use the software may tell their peers that your software is buggy or doesn’t work the way it is advertised to work.  I would have to agree with this argument and I think that this is one of the biggest concerns for a small company releasing software early.  I think that a company has to set expectations with their early customers, but also has to take the time to find and fix any major bugs that would cause a negative customer experience before the initial release of their software.  There is a definitely a fine line here that small businesses and start-up companies must strattle in order to get their product early but not have it be buggy or lacking in functionality.  I think that this is definitely a hard call for a fledgling company to make early on but an important one that must be made amongst all the major stakeholders in the company.
 
So what is the answer to this age old question of releasing early or later?  I think in the end the answer is different for every company’s unique situation so in my final analysis I will say “It depends…”  What do you think?

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