Author Archives: brian

Online Marketing Trends for Small Business: That Was Then, This is Now

When I used to train teachers, I always told them: You have one default way of teaching, and that is how you were taught and learned. Many good teachers get by with this; a great teacher, however, seeks new ways and is not afraid to innovate and change. If you don’t want to change, you should consider a different field.Watch movie online The Transporter Refueled (2015)

The same is true for online marketing: we all have a default way of looking at and practicing online marketing. These ideas and actions might not be fruitful. There might be many new opportunities that will grow your business better and faster, but you have to look for them.

on target with online marketing?

Here is my list of “old” and “new” for online marketing. If you find yourself stuck in the old, you need to start exploring some of the new.

  1. Set it and forget it vs. a “live” website. Long gone are the days when an effective website could be built and left alone to attract customers. We see ample evidence every day that websites need to grow, change and be updated frequently to gain what we call “google mojo”, search engine visibility. If you haven’t changed anything on your website in the past three months, you lack probably lack significant “mojo.”
  2. “tags” vs searchable content. We still hear clients say that meta tags, the hidden text on web pages, are important. Some are, but most aren’t. Google has ignored them for years, as do most the other search engines. A dynamic and well-thought out content strategy that is implemented is the gold standard for search engine visibility. This means words on web pages. Simple.
  3. D.I.Y vs outsourced. For a business that sees the value of effective online marketing, it often makes sense to outsource a lot of the work. The options are vast and a professional marketing consultant can help you choose efficient solutions. In “the old days” businesses outsourced a lot of their marketing: yellow pages, radio ads, tv ads and newspaper ads. The good news with online marketing is that you see results for several years; whereas, a today’s newspaper is tomorrow cat box liner.
  4. Untargeted vs. extreme targeting. Display ads, run and paid for by number of impressions (how many times displayed), were fine when our tools were relatively undeveloped. Now, I target online advertising to zip codes, specific websites, and I only pay when they bring a potential client to my website. We can now ensure that very few marketing resources are wasted on unqualified prospects. This is a huge shift. If you are not optimized for local search and advertising online to people in your community, you’re missing out.

What is a smart business to do if it finds itself with a stagnant online marketing plan? Or worse, what can a business do if it has no online marketing plan? The answer is obvious: learn and change! If you want to do other things with your time, find a skilled marketing person or team to help you help. Doing nothing will guarantee no progress.

Kona Impact | 329-6077

Wee Guys Fishing Tournament in Kona, Hawaii 2015


Whether it’s fishing on a million dollar fishing boat or fishing from a kayak, Kona offers awesome fishing for all budgets and types of fish.

One of the most anticipated fishing tournaments of the year is the Wee Guys Fishing Tournament in June. This is a unique tournament because it limits the entrants to boats under 23′, which basically takes the big, high tech boats out of the equation. The little guys, the “Wee Guys” if you will only compete against other similar sized boats.

The tournament is sponsored by the Queen K Tesoro. Kona Impact put together a simple website for the event.

The tournament is a great event in Kona. So, if you have a boat, get your friends together, get registered, and see you on the water! Go to for rules and registration.

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Saturday Great Eats: Chirashi Sushi Don by Jiro

When I have time on Saturdays, I will highlight one locally owned and operated place to. Other than local ownership, my only criteria is that the food is awesome or great in some way.

This weeks I’d like to put a spotlight on Chirashi Sushi Don by Jiro. It is located in a small kiosk in the Lanihau Center between Palani Road and Henry Street. It’s between the ice cream shop and the drug store (Longs/CVS).

volcano bowl

Chirashi Sushi Don by Jiro Volcano Bowl

The business opened in early May.

Here is a list of what I love:

1. Unique category. Sushi-don is sushi on a bed of rice with additional ingredients. It’s a bit like a poke bowl, but there are more ingredients and it’s much more flavorful. Nobody is doing this in Kona right now, so it’s added to what we have available. Even though I love the Chinese and Thai restaurants here, we don’t need another restaurant doing the same thing. Give me something new!

2. High-quality ingredients. With such a delicate balance of fish, fresh and pickled vegetables, quality is essential. Jiro, the owner, told me that he wouldn’t add several items to his menu because he couldn’t get the quality of ingredients he wanted.

3, Great presentation. I used to live in Japan, where they often took great effort to make sure the food on the plate looked great. A lot of restaurants go for speed and volume, which makes for some very sloppy looking dishes. The suhsi bowls not only taste great, they also look great, too.

4. Not too much, not too little. I don’t need a huge lunch most days, and I find it frustrating to find healthy portions at many restaurants. Chirashi Sushi Don by Jiro’s bowls are satisfying, but not too much volume.

5. Good price point. All of his bowls are about $10, which makes for an affordable lunch or dinner, and if you consider the quality, a real bargain.

6. Great story. Jiro has worked for many years in Japanese restaurants, and now he wants a place of his own. When you go there, his wife will most likely be the one taking your order, and Jiro will be preparing it. I love entrepreneurism and people starting new businesses.

Kona Impact | 329-6077

Think About it Friday: How to Kill Dreams

Taking an idea to a sustainable business is the goal of every business owner. It all starts with an idea, a dream if you will. How can I deliver a superior product to the marketplace? How can I offer a service that will solve a problem? How can I take a successful mainland concept and make it work in Hawaii?

These are all the things we dream about every day.

Few of these ideas, however, become reality.

This is probably a good thing.

When I was in high school I wanted to own a coffee shop with a used record store (yes, I’m that old!) and a used book store. Those were the things I loved: coffee, pastries, music and books. This was in the 1980s and I lived in a university town, so I thought this would be a can’t miss business. Well, not much later Amazon was beginning its dominance of the book business; Starbucks was settings up chain coffee stores with vigor, and Apple was setting the foundation for legal digital music distribution. My dream would have been crushed and I’m certain my business would have failed. Fortunately, I didn’t follow that dream and I now live in Kona, Hawaii with some of the world’s best coffee; I get a pastry now and then from a local bakery; I listen to streaming music online; and, most of the books I read are on a tablet computer. And, best of all, I’m not a failed coffee/book/music store owner!

Here is a great TED talk on ways to kill your dreams:


Where Do You Get Your Customers? Sources of Website Visitors

Ask most small business owners where their customers come from and they will have a pretty good idea. For example, at Kona Impact, we ask every new client how he or she heard about us. The answers usually contain one or more of the following: referral from another business, saw our vehicle, saw a sign, Google search or “found us online.”

The last category is the most interesting to us. Finding Kona Impact online can mean many things:  online search; clicking a link on another website; review sites like Yelp!; paid search; online display advertising; social media content and others.

Each way has different costs for us, and at the end of the day, I want to get new clients with the least amount of time and dollar costs. That is, I want my client cost of acquisition to be low. That said, I also want to be found in all the places potential clients are looking: I want to grow the total number of clients, with cost being less of a consideration.

I also understand that some clients are worth more than others, and the higher value clients might be more expensive or hard to reach, but they are worth more to my business.

At Kona Impact, we recommend one of the best tools for online client acquisition data: Google Analytics. It’s free and very powerful. Here is some data from Kona Impact:

kona impact sources of web visitors

The pie chart shows that we acquire website visitors (not necessarily new clients) mostly from Direct, which a person is typing in “” into their browser. These are repeat clients looking for information, and they are also where I’d find some of the referrals from other businesses.

Organic search is where someone would type “kona website design” into a Google, Yahoo or Bing search and click on a result for Kona Impact. Paid search is where someone does a web search and clicks on a paid ad placed by us. Ideally, the organic search is much higher than the paid percentage.

Social is only the source of 10% of our website traffic. We see this same pattern with a lot of websites: social media website provide a relatively small amount of visitors to websites. The myth, of course, is that social is everything, but at least in terms of bringing people to a website, we see almost no data for this. In fact, a business would do much better in terms of return on investment by allocating time and money resources to a great website than spending resources on social media. The data does not lie, as they say!.

So, if you want to know where your customers come from, be sure to take a good look at your website traffic. You might find that the total volume is quite low and you need to spend some time growing your online presence.  Or you might find that you are missing large segments of potential customers by focusing too much on social or paid advertising.

Seek balance. In baseball terms, “cover all your bases.”

Kona Impact | 329-6077

Three Things NOT To Do When Starting a Business in Kona

There are very few business owners I know who have not failed at least once in business. I certainly have. In 2000, I had a website that was similar to ideas behind the condo listing sites like Home Away and VRBO. A lot of money went into the development of the website, but, alas it lasted a year and failed. That seems like ages ago, and since then we have seen countless business failures, and, thankfully, a lot of successes.

success vs. failure

Here are a few things we have learned helping hundreds of businesses in Hawaii over the years. Many of the ideas come from our business successes and failures, as well as the work we have done with other businesses.

  1. Don’t base your business on a singular technology or innovative product. People over-value what a piece of equipment or a product will do for a business. Sure, if your equipment is cost-prohibitive for all but the most highly capitalized individual, you might have a sufficient barrier to entry. This is even more true if the local market is only big enough for one of that kind of business.

    If, however, your equipment or product can be purchased relatively easily by a competitor, you will lose your advantage quickly. Likewise, if a customer can substitute your innovative product with another, you will have no marketing or pricing power.

    I remember several years ago when HD video was becoming the new standard. A video producer I know spent tens of thousands of dollars on a new HD camera. She was certainly an early adopter. It was very nice, but the rate of innovation with cameras made a camera with the same specs available for 1/5 of what she paid within two years. What was a technological advantage and a barrier to entry was quickly lost in a few years. Fortunately, video production requires a lot of human skills, so the business is still around.

  2. Avoid long-term leases. This is true for office/industrial space, office equipment, and vehicles. The average new business does not make three years, so be careful about a five-year lease on rental property or a long-term copier lease. Leases are contracts and for a new business leases almost always require a personal guarantee, which puts your personal assets at risk if you fail. Try to bootstrap everything you can at the beginning by starting lean and outsourcing everything you can until you are financially stable. I can’t tell you the number of times we have seen a business failure destroy a family’s net worth because of over-spending and lease commitments.
  3. Don’t rely on traditional marketing. Focus your marketing on people-to-people interactions. It’s easy to spend a lot of money on TV, radio and print advertising and get almost no return on your investment. We recommend that every new business invest in a good quality website, and then get out and start marketing face-to-face. If you have a consumer product, try to get in front of consumers at the Village Stroll, the local farmers markets and community events. In-store demos are great, too. This will give you honest and direct feedback about your products, which you can then use to refine your products and your marketing. You may love your product and think it’s the best thing since sliced bread, but the only confirmation of that is sales! If you are a business-to-business company, spend some time identifying key buyers and then go meet them.

There are, of course, hundreds of things that you need to do right to succeed in business in Kona. The three things above are things to avoid.

They may seem like common sense, but we find that entrepreneurs are some of the most optimistic, and dare we say, Pollyannaish people we know. That optimism and can-do attitude are great, but, at times, it leads us to believe that we can overcome all obstacles. The obvious is not so obvious when you are self-assured and wanting to take your business idea and make it real. Business is hard enough when you do everything right, so why not start out by avoiding some of the common mistakes?

Kona Impact | 329-6077

Think About it Friday: Do leaders or followers create movements?

This is one of my favorite TED talks. In only a handful of minutes, the speakers shows how some movements begin.

1. Are movements leader-driven? Well, at first someone needs to come up with an idea, but it is only a good idea when the second person (and 3rd, 4th and so on) validates it.

2. Is a leader be a visionary or is he just a lone nut? Again, it is only a movement when more than one person joins.

3. How can a leader get buy in from others? The key seems to be–at least in this video–acknowledging the second person and the early followers.

4. When is it a movement? Tricky question, but one could argue that it becomes a movement when the costs of non-participation are greater then the cost of participation. Or, at least when there is no cost to participation. We find that in a lot of social movements in the United States. At some point the cost of being against women voting became much higher then the cost of being for it, or at least being indifferent. Perhaps the same could be said of opposition to gay rights, civil rights, marijuana legalization and other big changes.


Five Tips for New Entrepreneurs in Kona, Hawaii

As the economy improves, a lot of people are thinking about starting new businesses or extending the reach of their current business. We probably meet at least ten new entrepreneurs at Kona Impact each month. Some have an old idea with a new twist while others are looking to create a new category of business in Kona online.

We are excited to see this increased level of new businesses in Kona for a few reasons: 1) we love to see people become owners of their own business. This is where wealth and jobs are created, 2) new businesses expand the range of products and services available in our rather isolated island in the Pacific, and 3) Small businesses are what keep Kona Impact alive!

After working with hundreds of small businesses in Hawaii, we have learned a lot about what an entrepreneur needs to do in order to succeed. Here are five:

  1. Get honest and direct feedback about your idea from people other than your family or friends. If you have an idea that is something we don’t have in Kona, you might be able to create a new category and do very well. That said, there might be very good reasons why nobody has done what you want to do before. You might be a genius, or you might be foolish. If others have failed at what you want to do, how will you be different? Do a lot of market research!
  2. Make a business plan. I highly recommend that new entrepreneurs contact the Small Business Development Center, a free and unbiased resource for business planning with offices in Kailua-Kona and Hilo. A few months of planning might save you years of wasted money and efforts.
  3. Get a good grasp of business law and accounting. Read at least one book on business law and one on business accounting. It’s not the most enjoyable way to spend a weekend, but you’ll be glad you understand the basics of contracts, employment law, incorporation, debits, credits and the reporting laws for Hawaii and the IRS. You can do a lot yourself, but if you’re uncertain seek out an attorney and an accountant.
  4. Immerse yourself in the business community. Join the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce, Toastmasters, a business networking group or a service group like Rotary. The connections you make in these groups will provide invaluable support, mentoring and, perhaps, your first customers.
  5. Be prepared to go “all in”. By this I mean that you need to devote a huge amount of energy to your business, and that time has to come from your current schedule. When you see cars parked outside of office buildings on Saturday mornings, those are likely to be the business owners. Likewise, the first car in the lot and last one to leave is usually the owner. Be prepared to give up time doing hobbies, working in your garden or on your car. Say goodbye to hanging out as much as you do now: successful entrepreneurship requires work, a lot of work. If you’re not up for these sacrifices, you might not want to begin.

luck is not a strategy

There is nothing we enjoy more at Kona Impact than seeing someone take a great idea and make a business that supports his or her family.

Kona Impact | 329-6077

Why Your Social-Only Strategy is Incomplete

Marketing is much like putting a jig saw puzzle together; it is hard to see the big picture with only a few pieces.

We often see what I call the “Social Only” strategy. This is characterized by a business owner or employee relying on Facebook or Twitter for marketing messages. I also call this the “One leg table” strategy, as it can certainly be part of your business’ marketing strategy, but, by itself, it is woefully incomplete.

social only strategy

Here’s why you don’t want a social-only strategy:

1. Limited information. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the other social media systems allow for very limited information. For example, most websites will have five or more well-organized and easy-to-find pages of information about the business’ products or services; whereas, the social media platforms have small snippets of information.

2. Distractions. Facebook exists because it can sell ads next to and within your timeline. Some businesses I know have given up Facebook when they have seen their competitors’ ads on their timeline.

3. Not indexed by Google. For the most part, all the posts you make on Twitter or Facebook are not indexed by Google. This means that nearly everything you post on your social media pages is inaccessible (not “findable”) by people doing web searches. Everything you put on your personal website can, if done right, be easily found through a Google, Bing or Yahoo! search.

4. Closed community. Related to #3 above is the fact that your social media presence on Facebook is a community of people who have ‘liked” your page. While it’s great to keep friends and business that are already your clients informed of what you are doing, Facebook will not attract new clients as efficiently as your website.

5. Ownership. Your business only owns the content on these sites and it is at the whim of the site if they want to increase advertising, sell more of your data (already happens on a massive scale), change the design or just shut down. There is nothing you can do about it. In the era of startups and shut downs, investing heavily in a technology that might be here today, gone tomorrow is always a risk. I can name tens of media websites that have been shut down, resulting in millions of businesses losing their online presence quickly.

We often have clients that want to put Facebook, Twitter or Instagram links on their website. Why would you want to take people away from your website, where you are 100% in control of the messaging and content? Once you have someone on your website, don’t let them leave!

At Kona Impact, we use Facebook as part of our marketing strategy, but we have a few principles we follow:

1. Always put the content on our website first. We want people to come to our website, where there is a lot of information about our products and services. We then put the content on our Facebook page and link that to our website.

2. It’s not worth a huge amount of time. It’s easy to spend hours a day reading other people’s information and posts. I try to avoid that during business hours and just spend a few minutes posting our information. I suspect most people do this as well, which is another reason why you can have a lot of “friends” and “likes” but very little business.

3. Use Facebook ads! Yes, it’s a great ad platform as you can hyper-target ads to areas and to certain demographics. What’s bad for individuals and businesses, privacy-wise, is great for advertisers.

4. No social media references on our website or other marketing material. Again, I want people on my website, where I control all design and messaging.

I have been working in online marketing since the early days of online marketing. The things that remain consistently best practices include creating interesting, useful content and using that content to attract clients and establish credibility. It’s hard work, but a solid content strategy that gives you ownership and control of your information will provide excellent long-term value for your business.

If you would like some help developing a solid and sustainable online marketing strategy, give us a call

Kona Impact | 329-6077