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Posts Tagged ‘online’

6 Steps to Protecting Yourself When Shopping Online This Upcoming Holiday Season

Monday, November 14th, 2011

It’s holiday season again and I’m sure people are already starting to shop for gifts. If you’re buying online, check out these 6 tips to help you out and increase your chances of having a “safe” shopping experience:

  1. Research the company. Who are the owners? Is it a successful businesswoman from Texas or a teenager living in China? Take a few minutes and check out on the website who is actually behind the business and who operates the website.  Click to the “About Us” page or “Contact Us” page and see if there are some actual names listed on the website.  Then drop some of those names quickly into Google or Bing and search on those names.  What comes up about them?
  2. Find out where their servers are located. Are they based in France, but have a server in Ohio? (You’re probably alright with a company like this) or are they based in England and have a server in Somalia (this should send up a red flag.)  Also, make sure to check out where their website is hosted. Here is a great tool to use to look up domain owners here. It is called Domain Tools. I use it all the time when I am shopping.
  3. Check their website thoroughly. Is there anything in their wording that seems fishy? Are there typos on the website or does the footer of the website say copyright 2002? Does calling that phone number give you someone asking for your pizza order? Confirm that the business is legitimate before buying that scarf for Aunt Joan. Perhaps this post on how to make online websites look credible will help you see what to look for when you are reviewing the four corners of an online store or service business?
  4. Is the business on any Social Networks? Being on social networks like Twitter and Facebook can show that a company is willing to have some transparency when dealing with customers. What type of personality does the business have online? Does it come off as a company that you don’t want to do business with?  Check their Twitter stream or Facebook page and see do they respond to customers or is there just a username set up and just “dead air.”  If you see some level of engagement, that is a good sign.
  5. What are people saying about the businessonline? Most companies will have some type of reviews of them online.  What are people saying about them in these reviews? How about their products, customer service and delivery times?  Can you really trust those reviews? If the reviews sound fake, you might want to check into the company a bit more. Remember our post on how to spot fake reviews? It’ll help!
  6. Do they have a trust seal or an ssl certificate? When you are reviewing a website you are about to buy from check out whether they have an SSL certificate meaning that your communications of your credit card information is encrypted from your browser to the company’s browser.  Also look to see if the business has any trust seals and in particular click on those trust seals and see what they say about the business.  The sites that have trust seals that actually give you more information about the business management team, their track record of financial health and information on customer service, return and privacy policies will give you even more transparency into who you are buying from over this holiday season.

Good luck and stay safe when shopping online!  Also let us know if you have any safe shopping tips.

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Posts Tagged ‘online’

Blurring lines: Facebook’s new additions and changes

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Thanks to ahans for the pic!

Have you seen Facebook’s new features? They have features similar to Google and Twitter now. Recently Facebook has introduced lists that are supposed to sort close friends, family members and coworkers into lists.

Exactly how do they do that? I have absolutely no idea, but wouldn’t that be confusing? I mean if you’re like me and hardly use Facebook(I keep forgetting about it, like Twitter) then how does Facebook know who you consider to be close friends?

That’s not the only thing that’s confusing. Facebook  is allowing users to do Twitter status updates from Facebook. Now, in theory this might sound great but,…isn’t practically everyone on Facebook on Twitter too? Not only that, but people who follow you on Twitter and are your friend on Facebook will get the exact same status update. I don’t know about other people, but I’d find that annoying.

The other thing that Facebook is going to do is make its pages feature obsolete. This means that there won’t be a need for two separate Facebook identities.  Yeah, that’s great, but what if you’re a company? I’m pretty sure that you and your employers want to keep your personal profiles separate from your company one. Plus, if they become one big profile some people might get tired of all of the business-related updates and just not read your updates. (I personally know people who’ve done this because someone hasn’t made a separate page for their public profile.)

Yes, these all sound practical, but Facebook isn’t even giving users enough time to get used to the new features before they add the next one in. Facebook is rumored to be moving towards further integrating music and videos. This does not look like it’s going to stop anytime soon and my feeling is that soon these three will either merge or will become so indistinguishable from each other that soon you won’t know(or care) which one you’re logging into.

So what does this mean for small businesses? Well, if you want to be on Facebook, you have to do it without a specific page. Or you might have to find another platform all together.


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Posts Tagged ‘online’

3 Tools for Boosting Your Business’ Image

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

When businesses are in the startup phase, how and where to advertise is an important matter. In many cases, the internet is an excellent way to kick off the process. There’s a ton of different ways to hang up your “open for business” sign in the online world. These places can range anywhere from your own website to getting a shout out from one of your buddies who has a strong online presence. Let’s face it, though: no one has the time to take advantage of every opportunity. Founders and employees have far too much to do when starting a business, which causes certain opportunities to be neglected. It’s for this very reason that prioritizing where to advertise yourself is key.

Prioritizing, however, is no different than anything else, meaning that help from others is never a bad idea. In this case, help can come in the form of a few suggestions. In this spirit, we feel the need to mention three places that we use in the hopes that you can find new openings for advertisement and help your business grow.

#1: paper.li

If you want to augment your blog with something a little different, this is the place. Paper.li allows you to create your own online newspaper. Put articles up about what you want and have them connect to your Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Another great thing about this site is that you don’t need to come up with some way to find a staff of writers and editors. You’re free to link to articles about whatever you want and from wherever you want. In a sense, paper.li is an open newspaper company with a stash of unused articles. Pick out the ones you want and share them with your followers. For an example of Paper.li, check out The KikScore Startup & Small Biz Daily.

#2: CrunchBase

CrunchBase is a unique part of the ever popular TechCrunch. However, instead of news, CrunchBase provides an environment in which different technology-based companies, people, and investors can come together and market themselves.

Every company and person in this directory is editable and all changes are moderated for accuracy before going live. This helps to foster a sense of trust in what you are reading when looking through different information. Since TechCrunch is in itself a reputable site for technology information, you can bet the businesses on CrunchBase will be taken just as seriously.

#3: VentureBeat Profiles

TradeVibes, having been acquired by VentureBeat, is now VentureBeat Profiles. Similar in its setup to CrunchBase, VentureBeat Profiles contains useful information from a large list of businesses.

Ever a source for innovation news, VentureBeat aims to gather the information contained in VentureBeat Profiles to provide interesting stories while promoting businesses. In addition, news such as company press releases will be used to gather more information and help hype followers up for any upcoming events. Not all functions may be up for VentureBeat Profiles at the moment since they are continuously developing new ways to incorporate this newly acquired site, but that just means there is even more reason to keep an eye on it.

Hopefully these three sites will come in handy for you, just as they have for us. For another good source of suggested sites, take a look at this list that was compiled by Focus. As I’ve stated above, advertisement is all about where to market yourself. It’s not always the “cakewalk” we’d like it to be, but hey…what is? At the very least, we can help you get off on a good start!

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Posts Tagged ‘online’

Style V. Substance: Which Matters More?

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

Remember back in high school, when the guys with the coolest cars got the dates (at least that’s how I justify my lack of dates back then)?  Then you flash forward 15 years later, and those “cool car” guys haven’t moved out of their parents’ basements (and still drive the same cars that they did in high school).  While the guys who had nothing better to do than study (as they weren’t going out on dates) now have good jobs.  It plays out with regularity with every generation — style wins the battle, but substance wins the war.

While substance is the valued trait at work and in our personal lives (or at least it should be), it seems with buying decisions we lose all grip on reality and defer to the “better looking” product or service.  Why am I going with this and why does it matter?  This shallowness really impacts small business and could be a security threat for online shoppers.

For small businesses that want to have an online presence, but can’t afford a top-line web designer, the choice is often to go with a standard design template.  So if you’re selling the same product, but your site doesn’t have the same pizazz as a competitor’s, and all other things are equal (like pricing and product), we as buyers will go with the “cooler” site. 

Why?  Because it conveys legitimacy.  If someone spends a lot on a site, they must have a lot of money because the site is successful, and therefore safe. 

And here is where the security threat comes in.  Just because a site looks better, doesn’t mean it’s safe.  In fact, those same “cool guys” from high school (that are living in their parents’ basements) have plenty of time to dedicate creating fraudulent/less trustworthy sites than a successful offline business person.  So once again, we go with what looks better, and don’t take the time on the businesses with substance. 

What’s the solution?  Well, this is KikScore.com’s blog, so you probably have a guess what I think is the answer.  But I’m open to other suggestions.

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Posts Tagged ‘online’

When Virtual and Real Worlds Collide

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Last night the real and virtual worlds kep colliding.  How did it start?  With a happy hour.  Which is always a nice way for the evening to start.  My good friend from my old workplace was in town.  He was there for a conference and met with some of the attendees after the first day. 

Here comes the first collision.  I didn’t get a call from my friend that he was in town…instead he tweeted me the location.  My wife and I showed up. 

The second collision was that most of the happy hour attendees knew each other from social media.  When I was asked how I was connected to the happy hour, my answer of being a former co-worker of the organizer seemed so antiquated.

I’m having a very nice time at the happy hour — talking technology, KikScore, other businesses (like BumperTunes.com).  At the end, as I was leaving, I realized that I knew the Twitter handles of people instead of their actual names. 

As we decide to go to dinner after the happy hour, we of course jump on our available smartphones and make a reservation on OpenTable.  We go to dinner and my buddy proceeds to take pictures of the food and outline what his Yelp review i going to be of the establishment. 

At the end of the night, we said goodbye and then my friend thanked us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Posts Tagged ‘online’

Business Roadblocks — Is Growth Our Own Worst Enemy?

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

One of the reasons I enjoy being part of the KikScore is the fact that it is our own business.  Sure we have meetings and on big decisions we need to get a majority vote, but generally I can do whatever is in the best interest of the company. 

The flip is true for my day job.  No decision can simply be made.  I must first draft a compelling email, then create an attractive power-point presentation, and finally convince our legal/compliance department that I’m not the anti-christ (which is harder than you may think).  I would say that despite having a full-time job dedicated to creating new opportunities,  I spend less than 50% of time actually doing it.  The rest is overcoming internal process.

So is that what is really meant when we say that small businesses are “nimble”?  Is it that they don’t have internal machinations dedicated solely to preventing risk or is it because entrepreneurs are able to make quick decisions (and why they are their own bosses in the first place)? 

A better question is: can you ever avoid creating your own business roadblocks?  Every small company that is successful eventually becomes a larger one.  At that point, the larger company has a business to actually protect and risk takes on new meaning.  Certainly a small business doesn’t fret about risk as much, because they are “judgment proof” — meaning that if they are ever sued, the business simply packs it up and the owners move onto something else.  With a larger business, it can actually pay a judgment and risk means something (at least to the shareholders).  Perfect example is my day job.  10 years ago, it was a start-up with 3 employees.  Decisions were fast and the business grew faster.  Now we are part of a larger organization and our growth is a fraction of what it used to be.  On the other hand, we’re very profitable now (and were not in the beginning).  So risk means something to us.

What do you think…is there a way to avoid this?

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Posts Tagged ‘online’

At What Point Should a Small Business Call in the Lawyers?

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”.  It’s a oft-repeated phrase from Henry VI (and from many former clients).  Love them or not, at some point, every small business is going to have to work with (or against) a lawyer.  Some do it early, some later.  Think about just setting up a business.  Do you do operate as a sole enterprise, and LLC, a corporation or (if working with others) a partnership.  What are the implications of these decisions? 

You get past formation, now does your business have a special product or process that should be protected with a patent filing?  Is your business name something you want to protect (or at least prevent your competitors from using) — if so, looks like you’ll have to consider filing for a trademark. Your website is up and running…do you have a site agreement, terms of use, etc?  What about a privacy policy?  Where do you get a good and enforceable service agreement?  Now your business is growing and you must hire employees and contractors to help, what agreements do you need in place and are you aware of the relevant employment laws and regulations.

I’m not making this post an advertisement for the legal practice, but with all the potholes out there, it’s scary.  If your business is fairly straight-forward, you can take advantage of commercial forms (take a look at LegalZoom).  But that won’t get you all the way there.  For example, we here at KikScore have a couple of lawyers as part of the team (myself included).  You’d think we wouldn’t need to hire outside lawyers for our start-up.  Well, it may be because we don’t have the brightest lawyers on staff (myself included), but we have a patent lawyer and an outside corporate lawyer helping us out.  I’m not saying this is the way to go…I’m sure because of our backgrounds we over think a lot of the decisions.  In fact, my dad has operated relatively lawyer-free for the past 30 years and has handled most of his business disputes in small claims court.  But he’s also heavily armed, so it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison.

What’s your opinion on when to call in the unfrozen cave-man lawyer?

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Is There Brand Loyalty In A Recession?

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

sThere are no atheists in a foxhole, but is there brand loyalty in a recession?  In our household, the answer is…nope.  I’ve been noticing this past year the slow emergence of generic groceries cropping up in our cabinets.  Generics?  Dear Lord, the last time I was subjected to generic groceries was growing up with my frugal parents.  Instead of Fruit Loops, we got those Fruity O’s…you know the similarly colored, fruit-flavored cereal that comes in a bag.  Yum.  But my wife insists that times have changed and store-label food products are just as good.  So instead of Irish Spring, we now use Up And Up (Target’s generic brand of green soap).  It’s not bad.  Instead of NyQuil, another Target brand (we love Target).  Instead of Cinnamon Toast Crunch…we continue to get Cinnamon Toast Crunch (you don’t skimp on the important things).  But our household isn’t alone.  It appears that in 2009 there was a surge of generic and store label brands in grocery stores.

But besides my Cinnamon Toast Crunch, I did notice that our household isn’t going generic on clothing…specifically my wife’s boots and jeans.  And she is making the point to go to her favorite small business boutique to get these items (Garbarini, just in case you’re looking to do some shopping in Denver).  When I asked why, the reason she said 1)  because Garbarini has a much better selection than the department stores; and 2) she wants to make sure her favorites stores survive the Recession.

So this Recession may be an opportunity for small and online businesses for a couple of reasons.  First, shoppers are obviously looking to save money and don’t really care where they buy their Sony Bravia — obviously an advantage for online sellers with no overhead cost.  However, ther may also be some brand loyalty to stores and business that specialize on certain product lines and/or customer service.

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Posts Tagged ‘online’

Small Biz Interview with Tufted Topper owner Madalyn Duerr

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

sunset_sailingIt’s a busy week for Tufted Topperand owner Madalyn Duerr as she excitedly prepares for the Strictly Sail show at Navy Pier in Chicago this coming weekend. Tufted Topper isn’t just for avid boaters, it is a unique custom mattress pad that can be created for any mattress. Tufted Topper was one of our first KikScorebeta customers and has been a great partner in providing feedback and suggestions not only on the KikScore products but also on small business ventures and various other tidbits. Thanks Madalyn and Tufted Topper – best of luck in the show this weekend!

1. Tell us about Tufted Topper and who you focus on serving?
Tufted Topper’ is a custom-made pillow top pad to make any sleeping area more comfortable, giving you mattress comfort without the mattress price. We focus on the marine industry but a topper can be used in campers, on hide-a-beds, or on your own uncomfortable mattress at home.

2. What prompted the launch of Tufted Topper?
The idea for ‘Tufted Topper’ came out of our own need. We were avid sailors spending long weekends on our boat. Sleeping quarters on boats are notoriously uncomfortable and custom mattresses are a very expensive luxury. We had a friend in the mattress business who agreed to make us a topper for our v-berth. It made a world of difference. Once others on our dock heard about the comfortable pad, they wanted one too. A new business was born. However, our friend did not have the equipment needed to make all the intricate cuts and corners found on most boats. After an intense six-month search, we found the perfect vendor and began exhibiting our product at several boat shows but it soon became apparent that we needed more visibility and an easier way for customers to purchase our toppers.

3. How did you get started selling online?
We quickly realized that a website was in order and that a ‘safe’ ordering process was not only important but necessary. Today, more than 85% of our business comes through online sales. Our customers want easy access to product information and simple ordering procedures . . . simple but succinct . . . a challenge when you want to attract customers and provide all the information you can without being overwhelming.

4. Where will Tufted Topper focus most of its energy in 2010?
In 2010, much of our energy will be focused on improving the website and making sure our customers have confidence in shopping with us. KikScore is a great tool that helps us demonstrate that trust online.

5. As 2010 begins, what trends do you see in your business this year?
Slowly coming out of a recession, we look to this year as a ‘retrofit’ year . . . . people remodeling their homes instead of purchasing new ones, getting new tires and brake jobs instead of buying new cars, adding a few small luxuries to their current boats instead of trading up. If that rings true, it should be a good year for ‘Tufted Topper’ . . . . a terrific and affordable upgrade for a boat, camper or home.

If you are out in Chicago this weekend, head to Navy Pier for the show and stop by booth 453 to say Hi to Madalyn and explore having a Tufted Topper custom fit for you!

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Are Successful Entrepreneurs Really Risk Takers? Malcom Gladwell Doesn't Think So

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

malcom-gladwellBy nature, I’m a contrarian.  It could be that I just like to argue, but if the conventional wisdom is one way, I’m inclined to believe the opposite.  Since “Blink” and “Tipping Point” became the reference points for almost everyone in the business world, I started to heavily discount any theory or research posited by Malcom Gladwell.  The great thing about being a contrarian, you don’t even need to read the work or understand the position that you’re disagreeing with — you just take the opposite side.  So, of course, I had a very good handle on Mr. Gladwell’s work without actually reading it.  Unfortunately, my intentional ignorance didn’t last long.  As a reader of the The New Yorker, I kept coming across articles that I really enjoyed.  The problem: these articles were written by Malcom Gladwell.  When does this guys sleep?  He’s everywhere.  I wouldn’t be surprised if shows up on Sesame Street, explaining  supply side economics in a child-friendly way. 

Why this long explanation?  Because I’ve completely abandoned by dim view of Mr. Gladwell, and repeat every single thing he writes as gospel.  I sicken myself.  Today will be no different.  In a recent New Yorker article, Malcom takes on the widely held belief that successful entrepreneurs are risk takers and mavericks.  In his view, that may be true for many entrepreneurs, it just isn’t so for successful ones.

Instead of being risk-takers, successful entrepreneurs are those with unique insight or information that see the value in something that others do not, and strike.  These individuals don’t risk their own money (or if they do, very little of it) and act more as predators than as free-wheeling mavericks.  He profiles Ted Turner and John Paulson to make these points.  And ends the with the results of a survey of individual business owners — where it establishes that this group is much more willing to settle for less monetary compensation so long as it is more certain.

So what’s your view?  Do you agree with Malcom, or are entrepreneurs risk takers?

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