Author Archives: brian

Some of the Worst Online Marketing Advice You Will Hear

The modern internet is now about twenty years old. The internet certain goes back longer than that, but the web, the graphical HTML-based internet of which we are all familiar is about twenty years old.

I have been building websites and doing online market for about 17 of those years. Like everyone, the one consistent thing has been change. What we used to do to get a website noticed will now get your website relegated to obscurity. Every few months brings incremental changes in best practices.

Here are some old ideas that are just plain bad practices now. If you are doing them, stop. If someone suggests them as viable online marketing strategies run, don’t walk away.

“It’s all about tags” Tags are basically hidden website code, visible only at the code level of your website. Some tags, like alt tags for graphics are essential. Other tags like the Meta Keyword tags are useless these days. As things considered, however, and you’re efforts are better spent working on your content.

“Link farms or automated linking software” Links to your website are still very important. That said, buying them, trading them or creating them using automated software are sure to get you noticed—in a bad way. I always tell my clients that Google has 60,000 or so very smart people working to make sure that website searches and online content is relevant, appropriate and safe. Don’t for an instance imagine than a small software company or agency can outsmart Google for very long.

“I have some secret software / information.” Mhmm. So, if I had some awesome software or information that was only available to me, why would I share it. I’d go ahead and make mountains of money for myself. It just doesn’t make any sense. Sure, there are great online marketing software packages, many costing several hundred dollars. That said, there is a huge amount of garbage of very suspicious value. If you start to hear words like “exclusive”, “secret”, “revolutionary” or “limited” put on your thinking cap as there is likely to be a scam for you to discover!Watch movie online The Transporter Refueled (2015)

online marketing secrets

“There is nothing you can do.” This is perhaps the worst advice you will ever receive. Almost without exception a lack of effort equals failure. At Kona Impact we have taken neglected websites with almost no visibility and made them top five for many important key words. It can be done. It’s not magic. Effort is essential.

Online marketing takes effort and perseverance. If you don’t have time to learn, then plan on hiring some help. Gone are the days when you could ignore your online presence or rely on an old, outdated website. It’s much more complex than that. For those who do well, their business will grow.

Kona Impact | 329-6077

“We are focused on customers.” Avoiding the Obvious Jargon in Your Messaging

At Kona Impact, we ask a lot of new businesses to describe what they do, who they are and how they are different from other businesses. The conversation often goes like this:

Client: We will excel at customer service.
Us: How?
Client: We will listen to our customers and will communicate with them often.
Us: So, can you imagine any businesses saying they don’t do those things?
Client: Well, no.

Many businesses will define themselves in vague and meaningless terms. Here are a few:

  • Customer-focused (Duh, name one business that isn’t!)
  • Place customers first (Really?)
  • Professional (Would you do business with a company that wasn’t professional?)
  • Local (Most of the non-big box stores in Kona are “local”)
  • Hard Working (Can you name any business that survives without hard work?)
  • Future Focused (Every business is….or should be acheter viagra pfizer pas cher.)
  • Efficient / Speedy (Would any business admit to not being?)

The problem with these slogans or sayings is that every customer expects them of every business they use. They are not remarkable, and they have been used so much that they have lost any value.

The Japanese have a great saying, “atarimae”, which loosely translates “it is natural” or “it goes without saying.” To deviate from the standard is remarkable. To follow the standard is not. If the way you describe your business to clients “goes without saying” maybe you are saying a lot that has no meaning.

I like to encourage Kona Impact clients to be more focused. Instead of saying, “we are hard-working” say “we strive to get all orders placed before noon delivered the same day.” Or instead of saying, “we are professional” say, “we are all ABC certified and have 20 years of experience in the business.” Instead of “we are customer-focused” say “here is my business card. If you ever feel you are not getting the service you like from my staff, call me.”Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

look beyond the obvious

In short, the lesson is to say what you do, not how you want others to perceive you.

 Kona Impact | 329-6077

Five Rainy Day Tasks for Business Owners

We had a state holiday last Friday and the weather over the weekend made hiking and going to the beach inadvisable. So, we had what I would call three “rainy days,” days that are perfect for working on organization and long-range projects that seldom get done on normal business days.

Here are five things I like to do for my business on “rainy days.”

  1. Unsubscribe. Unsubscribe. Unsubscribe. If you’re like me, you get tons of email a day, much of it junk mail and newsletters. My spam filter does a great job on the junk mail, but I do get a lot of newsletters and product announcements and other unwanted mail. I like to go through my inbox at least once every two months and aggressively unsubscribe to all the email that is not core to running my business. I also turn off all Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter notifications. My goal is to reduce my daily Inbox volume to just what is important.
  2. Computer maintenance. I delete programs I no longer use. I check for updates and run the “complete scan” on my security software. I check for updates. I clear off the desktop. I should do these things weekly (which I do for security software), but it’s good to do them all at once.
  3. Review accounts. I sort my accounts based on the sales amount. I go through the top five and see if there is anything we are not doing that we should. This might include following up with Thank You notes, a “how’s it going?” chat or recommending new products we have. For a nice three-day weekend, I’ll often go through the top twenty.
  4. Idea seek. Rainy days are a great time to see what’s new in our industry. I check the websites of our suppliers to see if there are new tools or products that would expand our offerings or make our jobs easier. I enjoy watching shows like “The Profit” to see how others succeed and fail.
  5. Seek leads. This is a task we do every day, but on rainy days I can dig deeper. I’ll have a look through the newspaper to see if there are any new businesses. I also enjoy taking a stroll around town to see if there is anything new. I also mine our online sources for new businesses. Part of this is also cleaning up our database to remove businesses that have closed, which in Kona is about 15% every year.
  6. Clean. Not much to say about this!

“Rainy days” are, of course, a metaphor for days when you can’t go out and do what you want. These down days, however, can be some of the most productive days for those running a business. Imagine if you can cut down your email by half, or if you can speed up your computer? Imagine identifying a client that needs some special attention? Imagine finding ten new leads and landing two of them as new clients? These are the things we can neglect when we’re in the hustle and bustle of answering the phone, talking with clients and making products.

 Kona Impact | 329-6077

 

rainy day at kona impact

What to Do When Your Competitor Plays Dirty

Most of Kona Impact’s clients have a love-hate relationship with social media and review websites. When they get a lot of positive reviews, they are, of course, happy. When a customer or client writes a bad review, they are not happy. When a competitor plays dirty, they are furious.

How do competitors play dirty online?

  1. Writing fake negative reviews about your business.
  2. Writing fake positive reviews about their business
  3. Engaging “black hat” marketing firms to spread incorrect information online.

How many online reviews are fake?

There is a lot of evidence that 15-20% percent on Yelp! and TripAdvisor reviews are fake. That is a huge number, because most business do not write or pay for fake reviews. That means, there is a relatively small number of businesses that are responsible for a huge amount of dishonest content.

What can an honest business do?

The first thing is never to write fake reviews or pay a company to write fake reviews for you or a competitor. It’s dishonest, and it violates the Terms of Service of every review site. You might get away with it for a short of long time, but trickery and dishonesty are no way to build a reputable business. Most of the review sites are very good at detecting large-scale fraud, so if you go from zero reviews to ten five-star reviews, written on the same computer, in a few days, it will be detected.

The review sites have one fatal flaw: they have no way to connect the review/reviewer to business.

That is, anyone can write a review about any business, whether he or she was a customer or not. Until that happens, all online review should not be imagined to be from actual customers. We saw this with the Minnesota dentist who killed the lion in Africa. His business got thousands of negative reviews on Yelp! by enraged people, and almost none of these was from his patients.

How can you deal with fake reviews about your business?

Unfortunately, Yelp! and TripAdvisor will seldom remove reviews, even if you claim the review is not from a customer or client. In practice, it seems to be an exercise in futility to contact the websites. You will also find it to be a long, expensive uphill struggle to bring legal action against the site. Don’t waste your time.

You could hire a lawyer and try to identify the person posting the review. This, again, seems like a waste of time and money; that is, by following the steps below you should be able to mitigate the damage of a fake review.Watch Sugarbabies (2015) Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

The first step should be to reply to the review. Here is a fake review posted by Manon Holroyd, who works for our competitor. We have never met her. She posted it on our Google+ profile.

fake review from Manon Holroyd

Fake review from Manon Holroyd

If you are certain the person has never been your client, say so. Most readers of reviews understand that fake reviews are common. Keep it factual and short.

The next step is to work on diluting the value of the negative review by asking customers to write reviews. You might want to have a sign at the counter or on the door, or you might print out some cards with your profiles on the review sites. Note: it’s against the Terms of Service of all the review sites to offer any incentives like money or free merchandise. Another strategy is to send an email thank you to clients and request reviews.

If you have one fake, planted review, ten positive ones will make that one look like an aberration.

Unfortunately, there is little you can do about competitors that fake reviews for their website. I know of one vacation service provider in Kona that has tens of excellent reviews, yet all the “reviewers” only seem to have written one review—for that company. Clearly this is someone trying to game the system. Volume is not the issue–we have one client with 170+ genuine five star reviews–it’s reviews that seem overly vague and laudatory coming from “reviewers” who have not written many reviews.

My advice is to focus on your business. Eventually the scammers and unprofessional businesses all get their just desserts.

 Kona Impact | 329-6077

Sidelines or In the Game? The Downside of Inaction

Think about any sport you have played. Now think about how you became good at that sport. Your path to becoming good probably included about 90% participation, playing, and 10% “other”, which might include reading rule books and watching YouTube videos.

Now think of starting a business. For certain, you need to spend time researching and thinking about what you are going to do. Planning is, for certain, very important, but over-planning-what I call analysis paralysis-will keep you in the idea stage and prevent you from actually launching your product or business.

analysis paralysis

We had three new businesses came into Kona Impact last week. What struck me about all of them was their eagerness to get in the game, to get their businesses launched as quickly as possible. All had wonderful ideas though from experience I could tell that at least one of them had some had not thought out some crucial parts of the business plan.

The business that was least developed, however, made enormous strides to solidify a plan after about 30 minutes of talking with us. We asked some questions and shared our understanding of the local market and some ways he could move forward. This entrepreneur listened, asked a lot of questions and was ready to take his business to the next stage.

Though he was eager to write a check to Kona Impact and get started, we sent him home with a bit of homework and set a meeting this week. We did this because we wanted him to iron out a few detail first. He was not ready, but very close to where he should be. He will, however, be marketing his new business by the end of the week.

I wonder about all the other entrepreneurs in Kona last week who spent a lot of time thinking and no time making concrete steps to launching their business. There must be hundreds of people thinking about getting in the game, watching from the sidelines.

There is a great concept in product development call the Minimum Viable Product (MVP). The idea is to think about a product, makes a prototype, collect data, analyze and then use that information to refine the product. The key is getting it to key customers quickly and using that information to improve and redesign the product.

MVP is getting into the game. It’s not seeking perfections; instead, the goal is to see business as an iterative process. Of the five pillars of Kona Impact’s business in 2006, only two of them remain as part of our offerings in 2015. We have added four new product lines and services since then. We would never have known that a few our services in 2006 were not viable for the Kona market had we not gotten in the game. Nor would we have developed our new products and services by just thinking; it took the perspective we got from being in business to figure these things out.

I do not suggest that entrepreneurs chase every possibility and half-heartedly launch business after business. The key is to get a good idea and use what you learn from buyers (and people who don’t buy!) to reformulate and improve your product or service. Getting in the game is the only way test your ideas and see if your business is viable. If not, at least you’ll know, and you can move on with your life. If so, congratulations: you’re in business!

Kona Impact | 329-6077

What Comes with the Lowest Price?

I heard an interview with a termite tenting company on Oahu this morning. His business seems to be much like Kona Impact’s in that we are a provider of quality, professional services, and we almost never use price cuts as a ruse to get clients.

The pest control guy had some great observations:

  1. Will the low-price guy damage your home or plants because he doesn’t pay his workers well?
  2. Does the low-price guy have adequate on-site supervision?
  3. Will the low-price guy use the correct amount of gas and procedures to ensure a 100% kill of the termites?
  4. Will the low-price guy be around to honor any warranty?

I thought those reasons were pretty compelling. With a several hundred thousand or a million dollar (or more) investment for your home, why would you go for cheapest? Obviously, there is a reason they are inexpensive.

The same is true for design and marketing services. There are, of course, less expensive options than Kona Impact. On occasion, they might just be a better overall deal because they have certain efficiencies or very low-cost structures.

will your provider leave you hanging?

I would argue, however, that the inexpensive providers will have many of the following characteristics:

  1. Inexperienced at design and business. You will be paying for their on-the-job training.
  2. Mistake prone. Designing and setting up files for production is an exacting task and requires an understanding of print processes and online technologies.
  3. Working alone. You will be getting the experience of an individual, probably working out of his (or his parent’s) house. This lack of perspective and inability to work collaboratively with others will inevitably show up in the quality of work.
  4. Lack of commitment to the business. We often see the low-price provider as someone who is “testing the waters”, so to speak, of a design or marketing career. Growing a sustainable business is not the goal: figuring out if he or she likes the business is the goal.
  5. Part-time work habits. A person working full-time in the design and marketing worlds knows the value of time and the costs of doing business, which leads to appropriate pricing. Moonlighters and part-timers seldom do.
  6. Prone to abandoning projects. If the price quote is way off about the cost of doing a project, it makes more sense to abandon the project, even at the mid-way point than finishing it.
  7. “Gotcha” pricing. Often a low initial price will lead to requests for more money as the project progresses. This leaves the client in a tough situation; pay more or give up the project.
  8. Transient business. Your provider might be here today, gone tomorrow. As a result, you might lose your deposit, or worse, not have access to the designer when you want to make future revisions or derivative projects.

Kona Impact has been in business for almost nine years. A big reason we are still here, even after the Great Recession, is that we have always tried to deliver exceptional value at fair prices. We have seen tens of like businesses in Hawaii come and go, and, unfortunately, we have heard many stories of businesses that have lost a lot of money with the low-cost providers.

We also “walk the walk” when dealing with our suppliers and vendors. We don’t mind paying more for supplies and services if we know the business does great work. We also patronize businesses that we want and need in our community.

So, the next time you find a way to save some money, ask yourself this: What is the cost of the low price?

Kona Impact | 329-6077

Realtor Signs: Do You Really Save Buying Online?

We sell a lot of signs at Kona Impact. Just last week we made the following

  • 200 sq ft of foam core (rigid back) signs for a large gathering for a hotel in Waikoloa
  • 20-some real estate riders
  • 20-some realtor signs: “for sale” and “open house”
  • several hundred square feet of banner for school and resort
  • Cut vinyl for a store, a boat and two vehicles
  • Printed graphics for a work van
  • Some posters ….and more!

We go by “a reasonable profit” when we price things. That is, we never want to lose money on a project, though we occasionally do, but we also don’t want to be at a price point that is absurdly high. We want our customers to see good value in what we make, and we want to see them again and again.

I decided to see how price-competitive we are with realtor signs. They are 24″ x 18″, printed on vinyl, laminated and them adhered to aluminum. They are a standard product, so quality really does not vary by vendor.

We charge $75 for just a few and, if ordered in bulk, we go to $65/sign.

I just looked online for the same product. I choose one of the first companies, which I found at the top of the Google search results.

realtor-sign-price-quote

Here is the price quote, with five shipping tiers (Super Saver to Rush). The Total shows the same product we sell for $75 at $77.31 with Super Saver shipping to Hawaii the price doubles. The sign would arrive in two to two-and-a-half weeks and would cost $148.95! If I want one in one business day, it would cost $215.95, three times what we charge.

Our turn around time is a day! So, the direct apples-to-apples comparison (same product, same quality, same turn around time) is $75 for Kona Impact or $215.95 for buying online.

So, the next time you are going to buy anything online, check your local supplier. You might just find that you can get the same product much quicker locally.

 

Three Ways Your Clients Are Killing Your Profits

We had an interesting exchange with an outside website designer last week. He was doing some work on one of our client’s websites, which, in itself, is not that unusual. After we had given him the directions how to log into the website, he said he was unable to make the changes because he lacked the technical skills. We responded that we could help him for a fee, or he could find someone who knows what he or she was doing. It was a constructive, polite response. He answered in a rather snarky tone that he was disappointed we couldn’t help him.

I wonder how much of his design time he would like to give us for free. You see, we are in the business of selling our knowledge, skills and products, and if we give them away, we would not be in business very long.

profit or loss

My number one way clients kill profits is free consulting. We are usually very generous with sharing our knowledge, but when a client is trying to use our knowledge to solve his or her problem without paying, we are giving away profits.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

Another example of a profit-killing client is someone who has excessive changes on a project that is bid/proposed on a project cost. We make a lot of banners. They are a fairly simple and inexpensive form of signage. A clear, simple message is always best, so we tell clients that and then give a project quote.

Every once in a while, we’ll get a client that overthinks his or her banner. Change this; change that; move that there; let’s see what this color will look like; how about three more fonts?, and so on. We base a project price quote on what we call a “reasonable project” cost. When the client thinks of design time as an all-you-can-eat-buffet, the business can lose money on the project if it is not careful.

Excessive changes are another way for clients to kill your profits.

A third example is clients who needs excessive reminders, a letter or two and calls to settle accounts. Interestingly, we find both prosperous and barely-scraping-by clients who require excessive effort to collect past due amounts. I calculated that one client, a large, well-known service provider in town, took twenty minutes (four email, one call, and a letter) to collect on a small, $150 invoice. At our current billing rates, that’s more than $30 in lost billing time.

We all like to spend as little time as possible doing non-paying tasks. When a client takes you away from what pays the bills, you are losing revenue and profits

We have a saying in the office:

Everything has a cost.
Who will pay, the client or the business?

This is a simple way of looking at how you will allocate your time and resources, and, more importantly, how you will bill or monetize your time and resources. If you are giving away consulting advice, you are giving away money. If you let clients go over reasonable costs for a project, you are paying for the project, not your client. If your clients have excessive account costs, maybe it’s time to shift those costs to the client by adding late or financing fees.

In the end, all successful businesses have clients or customers pay the vast majority of costs. If your clients or customers have cost shifted too much to your business, you are simply giving away money.

Kona Impact | 329-6077

Building Better People to People Business Connections

I hate networking! At least I hate the kind of networking where you put a big group of unconnected people in a room and people meander around like jellyfish trying to find a company or individual that will become a new client. Unfocused trade shows, networking groups and after hours all have the same problem: a bunch of people who are there to “network.”

who is in your network?

At the end of this kind of event, I tend to end up with a bunch of “pre-paid legal,” “network marketing,” and “Amway-type” pitches.  I meet few of the kind of people that fit my business needs or model—either as a potential customer or supplier. It gets old quickly, and truth be told, I find that I have spent an evening wasting my time. I stopped doing these things years ago.

My favorite ways to build strong, lasting and profitable business connections include:

  1. Working hard to deliver excellent products and services. Nothing builds a business like consistently delivering for clients. All the items that follow are doomed to fail if you can’t keep your new and existing customers happy.
  2. Doing business fairly and ethically. This, of course, is the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. People respect honesty and integrity, and if you are known as a reliable and fair business, your customers will be more loyal and less price-focused.
  3. Volunteering. Kona, Hawaii, where I live, is a small community. Giving your time to help with community projects will send a very positive message to others that you care about the community, and you are willing to lend a hand.
  4. Joining groups of like-minded people. We like to do business with people who are like us. This means that we are more likely to work with those who share our same religious, volunteer, sports, political and other beliefs.
  5. Showing appreciation. A thank-you note, a small year-end gift, a restaurant gift certificate and a lot of “thank you for your business” are great ways to show your customers and clients that you value them. At Kona Impact, we started giving engraved handmade Koa wood pens to customers as a way of saying thanks. Our clients have loved them so much that they are now asking us to make them for their clients!
  6. Using my clients’ businesses. I now seldom eat at restaurants that are not Kona Impact clients. Given the choice between two like businesses, I always choose my clients’ businesses. It shows mutual respect and support sans ordonnance viagra. We always tell local businesses that they cannot expect others to buy locally if they do not buy locally themselves.
  7. Refer. Refer. Refer. Kona Impact has a very big Rolodex of customers. When someone asks where they can find a good bakery, plumber, building contractor, sushi restaurant, etc. we always refer them to one of our clients. If we have a client that could benefit from meeting another client, we’ll try to put them in touch. This goes back to #6, supporting those who support you.
  8. Give positive reviews on Yelp!, Google+ and TripAdvisor. If I eat at a client’s restaurant or even fill up at a client’s gas station, AND the experience is positive, I try to write a positive review online. I never exaggerate or create false reviews, but when things are good, I want others to know.
  9. Keeping connected. Send a monthly newsletter or just a “how ‘ya doing?” email once in a while. Social media sites can help keep connections, but just because everyone is publishing doesn’t mean everyone is reading! Keep the signal to noise ratio in mind when updating your profile with every meal you eat, pithy saying you like and photos of your cat. People will tune our really quickly.
  10. Always having a business card! A lot of young entrepreneurs don’t seem to carry business cards. Get a set. Keep them in your wallet, bag, glove compartment of your car and on your desk. It’s simple. It’s inexpensive. There are no excuses for this one.

I started this blog by saying that I hate networking. This is true. What I do love is connecting with people in a deep and meaningful way. I love working side-by-side on a volunteer project. I love seeing them at the farmers market. I love “talking story.” I do not go for quantity; quality is really what matters.

Kona Impact | 329-6077

Have a fun and safe Independence Day weekend!

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