We at KikScore have been on a roll lately! Last week, we received some great press from the wonderful Leah Bodi, production coordinator for the Business Beware Show. As if the news couldn’t get better, we were lucky enough to be interviewed by the great Steve Monas for ShoestringVenture. We are extremely grateful for being recognized by Leah and Steve, who both share our passion for helping businesses out.
Of course, we encourage you all to follow both of these amazing groups on Twitter at @BusinessBeware and @ShoeStringBook so that you too can benefit from the wisdom they offer businesses. Our thanks go out to Leah, Steve, and our loyal customers for all that you have done!
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.
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 campaigns, billboards 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 offer, price 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 Walmartcan 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 twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn 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 distribution, bulletin 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:
Determine the focus of your offering
Identify the value proposition to the customer
Maintain a consistent message
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.
According to Cnet, Twitter is disorganized. Now I’m not entirely sure the article is true, but I figured that I could trust Cnet and since they included a link to a Fortune article it looks like it checks out. So, what’s going on with Twitter? Some claim they don’t, exactly, know what they’re doing. There’s a lot of speculation going on, such as some higher-ups spying. Cnet seems to speculate that Twitter is trying to emulate The Social Network. That’s probably not the case. So, what’s really going on with Twitter?
So, Twitter has trouble amongst the higher ups. That’s not surprising. Many startups seem to have that happen especially during a meteoric rise. Remember Facebook? There was some serious chaos going on at Facebook a couple of years ago and Facebook was about the same age as Twitter is now.
However, the difference between Facebook and Twitter is that some argue that Twitter lacks a powerful visionary heading the company. Facebook has Zuckerberg, who, practically, built Facebook according to his vision. Observers claim that Twitter does not have that. Facebook has apparently learned from it’s mistakes and has become a stronger company. Twitter is trying to get there, but some may be fearing that it doesn’t look like anyone wants to take charge. In some ways, Twitter’s investors seem to have more influence over what the company does.
Twitter’s problem seems to be that there are too many men (they’re all male) in positions of power and from the outside at least not a single one of them has been willing to take charge. There are other issues that Twitter has to deal with too, such as the need to sustain growth, prove themselves as a sustainable revenue generating company etc. However, these issues are common for nearly every young company.
Is Twitter a service that is being kept afloat by a trend? From the outside some say it looks pretty unstable and this management issue could distract it further. Like any company, Twitter needs practical and strong leadership. However, whoever takes that position will have to deal with another problem: balancing Twitter’s malleability, where it’s users decide what they want to do with it and what Twitter’s users want out of Twitter. That will ultimately prove whether Twitter can succeed.
So, what can a small business learn from all of this?
First, that it’s important to have a clear plan and vision of where your company is going.
Third, know that problems will happen. Almost nothing goes smoothly when running a business. Factor that in when making plans.
Lastly, in tough times work to pull teams together to focus on the future rather than start finger pointing about what happened in the past. Here is a prior post we did on building the right team at a startup that discusses the importance of having a good team at your business.
It’s a familiar scene: a group of elementary-aged little girls set up a card table in front of the local Giant with every intention of guilting you into buying a box (or three) of Tagalongs or Samoas. Okay, we might as well admit to ourselves that we wanted those cookies anyways. But what is it about those Girl Scout cookies that keep us coming back for more? What may seem like a couple of innocent girls selling door to door is actually a hugely successful $700 million cookie empire.
Here are some simple tips for applying the strategies behind Girl Scout cookies to your own businesses:
Make your brand recognizable and familiar.There are hundreds of thousands of independent Girl Scout troops across the nation. Yet, customers know exactly what to expect when they open a box of Girl Scout cookies. The packaging, the pricing, and ultimately, the quality of all Girl Scout cookies are uniform across the nation.
Keep up with the times. The organization has recently unveiled the Girl Scout cookie app for the iPhone. An organization that is so historic gets bonus points for embracing a society where customers automatically assume that “There’s an app for that.” The Cookie Finder app makes it easy to locate places where customers can purchase Girl Scout cookies. Which brings me to my next point….
It’s all about the convenience. Even though concerns for the safety of young children have slowly eradicated a door-to-door selling culture, people don’t typically have to look too hard for another box of thin mints. Girl Scout cookies still tend to find you, whether it’s at a local grocery store, or through an order form at a Girl Scout parent’s office.
…Except for when it’s not convenient at all. Girl Scout cookies are not available in stores. Nor are they available all year round. The only place to buy them is directly from a Girl Scout (or her parent, when he or she inevitably brings that form into the office). When customers know that they can’t just stop by the store for another box, they will inevitably start stocking up for the year.
Appeal to the goodwill and emotions of the public.The Girl Scouts of America is an organization that is widely recognized for its part in empowering girls across the country. The mission statement cites goals to build girls of “courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.” People are more likely to support a business that they believe is doing good deeds. Of course, there’s also the fact that sometimes it’s just hard to refuse that little girl. And that might just be the Girl Scouts’ greatest advantage.
Guess what? Your credit card number is less valuable to attackers today. Too bad they still want it, along with you Facebook credentials. We know this how? Recently Symantec released another security report. The security report said that the price of stolen credit cards dropped dramatically from previous years. The drop off is due to numerous factors, but one thing that seems to stand out is the amount of credit cards there are in circulation. Since there are so many credit cards avaliable, these sellers have to lower their prices if they want customers.
However, while credit cards have dropped in value, peoples social network credentials are becoming more valuable. During the past year, botnets were seen sweeping Facebook and other social networking sites for login credentials. Why are peoples social network credentials in demand? If attackers gain social network credentials, they can then use those platforms to launch malware attacks and spam campaigns. These attacks are often more successful. Why? Since many people divulge a lot of personal information on sites like these, an attacker can comb through a user’s profile and imitate them well enough to fool people into clicking on links that have malware embedded in them.
Since many of these malicious link are shortened, it is a challenge for social networks to determine which of the shortened links are trustworthy. Remember that article I wrote on hacking toolkits? Well many of these toolkits are used to initiate these malware attacks, because many of them use Java. Since Java can run on almost any platform and browser, this means that these attacks cannot really be avoided by switching platforms or browsers. All of the toolkits have a high infection rate, which means that the infections can spread very fast and to a wide number of users if the toolkits are used. Social networks are also targeted because they enable attackers to get access to business information which can then be used to get sensitive data from those businesses attacked.
One platform that has not quite been hit by attacks is the mobile platform. Currently, very many people do not not use their mobile devices for online banking and other sensitive data transactions. Thus there is no real incentive for attackers to seriously target mobile devices. (They still do target them and the number of attacks is increasing, but there have not really been any widespread attacks.) However, as mobile devices become more sophisticated and as more users start using them for online banking and other sensitive data transactions, attackers will quickly start targeting mobile devices in rapid numbers.
Today the KikScore team is making the trek up to New York city to attend the 2011 Small Business Summit. This is the sixth annual summit and it is organized by the fabulous Ramon Ray and his team. We have had to miss the last few years events so this year when we were offered an opportunity to attend we jumped at it. It is even true I picked the Small Business Summit over attending SXSWi which is coming up this weekend (well 14 month old Asha had a roll in that decision too!). And yes, the trip up to New York did include me getting up at 3:50am this morning to catch a cab at 4:20am so I could grab the 5am train out of DC’s Union Station! You read those times right! As I tweeted earlier this morning either I need to find a mimosa or some really strong Red Bull type drink. In all seriousness, the excitement that we feel at KikScore about attending the event will more than keep us rolling throughout the day.
If you can not make it to New York, the Summit will be live streamed. The agenda is jam packed with great speakers that include DC’s own Warren Brown (Cakelove), Mark Gambill (Dell), Christopher McCann (1-800-Flowers), John “ColderICE” Lawson (Ecommerce Expert) Elen Pack (ELance), Kirk Averett (Rackspace), Jim Fowler (Jigzaw), Pamela O’Hara (BatchBlue Software) as well as Ramon Ray and many others.
Watch out here for some updates (if we get a break between all the great content and networking) or check the Twitter stream under #smallbizsummit.
If you are in attendance, please look for me and say hello. I will be the person wearing two hats! Well at least figuratively (our nights and weekend entrepreneurs know what I am talking about there!).
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.
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.