Author Archives: brian

2015 Mid-Year Marketing Review: What’s New? What Works?

We’re officially at the mid-year point for 2015. It’s a great time to see what’s been changing in online marketing. It’s also a great time to state some basic facts that are time-tested.

changes ahead

First, here are four big changes in online marketing:

      • Local search is where it’s at for most businesses. These are searches for things in your community. They might include:

“Web design company in Kailua-Kona” | “Kona real estate company”

“Seafood restaurant on Hawaii Island” | “96740 snorkeling tour”

All these searches are looking for something local. When you search for them, you are likely to see a map with pins on it, as Google knows where you are and for what you are looking.

The takeaway lesson is that your website needs to be optimized for local search. There are many aspects of this, but with approximately 50% of searches looking for local content, you need to be in this space. This trend will accelerate in the next few years.

    • Mobile search / Mobile optimized websites are essential. There has been a huge shift in the way people search: from a desktop computer to mobile devices, such as phone and tablets. In the first half of this year, Google started omitting websites that are not mobile-friendly from search results from mobile devices. This means that a person searching on a phone for a restaurant in Kona, Hawaii will only see search results for restaurants with mobile-friendly/optimized websites. Some website can be converted to mobile friendliness fairly easily; others involve more work and greater cost. You are losing new customers if you don’t have a mobile/mobile-friendly website.
    • Trickery and “black hat” search engine optimization are increasingly dangerous. Think about it: will a few guys creating spammy links be able to outsmart the 50,000 or so very smart people who work at Google? If they could outsmart Google, do you think they would tell you the secret? Google’s goal is to give the best search results, so ways to trick the search engines are directly in opposition to this goal. Google has spent billions on keep results meaningful, so when someone promises you some hocus pocus ways to get visibility online, you need to be a skeptic. The first half of 2015 saw several Google changes regarding nefarious SEO techniques; it will become harder and harder to game the system, so just spend your time and money doing things the right way. There are no shortcuts!
  • There are only four worthwhile online advertising platforms for most business: Google, Bing, Facebook and LinkedIn. All others are fighting for a very small percentage of searches. The ad rates for the 2nd and 3rd tier platforms are often less expensive, but you run the risk of wasting a lot of time for a very small market share. Yelp is notorious for very aggressive ad sales to local businesses. Buyer beware: strong pitches tend to mask poor products! I only see this trend increasing in the second half of the year and into the future.


Here a few things that haven’t changed:

      1. Your website needs to be technically sound, user-friendly and fast loading. If your website is sub-optimal, you should start by fixing it. No amount of marketing effort will overcome a poorly-designed, content poor website.
      2. A content strategy—weekly updates, blogging, social media post, etc.—is essential for online marketing. If you don’t have a blog, get one and use it. The key to search engine marketing is to have content that matches what people are searching for. Create it, and they will find you!
      3. Put your eggs in several baskets. There is no singular marketing strategy that will propel your business to success. You need to have a good online presence, first, but after that look at other ways such as email, newsletters, mailings, paid online marketing, print ads, vehicle graphics, signage, event sponsorships, community involvement, face-to-face marketing and so on. Don’t sit behind a computer and expect miracles. Likewise, ignoring online marketing is like wearing only one shoe.
      4. Getting help from professionals can save you time, stress and money. It’s been several years since a pure do-it-yourself model of online marketing has worked. The changes are just too rapid and complex, and to keep up with them is a full-time job. This has always been true in business: do what you do well and hire the best people possible to do what you don’t do well. Most businesses of any size or value that handles all online marketing in-house are wasting staff resources and achieving sub-par results.

There have been some huge changes in the online marketing world in the first six months of 2015. We have seen many businesses lose a significant amount of online visibility due to neglect and a “set-it-and-forget-it mentality”. We have also seen many businesses capitalize on these changes and leapfrog their competitors without a large amount of effort or cost. The victories, as they always do, will go to those who make a continuous effort to evolve and adapt to market conditions.

Kona Impact | 320-6077


Some Interesting Facts About Real Estate on Hawaii Island

I just spent a few weeks traveling on the Mainland.

I heard a lot of people say they wanted to move to “Hawaii.” Many think of Hawaii as one place. it’s not: there are several island, all with a different lifestyle, cost of living and job market. This blog focuses on real estate on Hawaii Island.

Hawaii Island

I spent about twenty minutes talking to a guy who had “discovered” a lot of inexpensive land on Hawaii Island. Without trying to burst his bubble, I asked him about what he had found. He said found a lot of land that is inexpensive, relatively speaking, in South Kona and a lot of affordable properties in a place called Puna.

Clearly, he had very little understanding of Hawaii real estate. Here are some interesting things that many Mainlanders need to understand.

  1. The Big Island is truly big. From Kona, on the west side of the island to Hilo on the east side, it takes about an hour and thirty minutes by car. Some people buy relatively inexpensive property in the rural areas only to find that the commute to a good job is one or two hours each way!
  2. Location matters a lot. The sunshine and beaches are on the west (leeward side) and the rain and tropical vegetation are on the east (windward side). The wealth, for the most part, is on the west side. The south part of the island has a ton of inexpensive lots available, but you will be one to two hours (at times with no traffic) away from Kailua-Kona or Hilo.
  3. You might not own the land! A huge trust owns a lot of the land in South Kona. They own the land; you lease it and depending on the lease cycle, you may only have the rights to live on the land for five or ten more years. You can always renew the lease, but you will always be renting the land. Few of the leases go beyond thirty-five years, which will create issues if you want to sell the property when your remaining lease term is less than 30 years, as banks won’t lend for real estate for a term that exceeds the lease. Note: if you’re a cash buyer, you have a lot of bargaining power for real estate with only a handful of years left on the lease. That said, you need to have faith that your lease will be renewed!
  4. If buying a condo, be sure to understand what your Association fees and the financial condition of the Association. These fees cover outside maintenance, management, pools, gardens, trash removal, etc. They can be several hundred or a few thousand dollars a month. If your Association is in poor fiscal health, you might be looking at an assessment—one-time cost—shared by all owners. Oceanfront properties often have huge maintenance costs, so if your Association’s reserves are low or there are unexpected costs, you could be looking at thousands of dollars.

I highly recommend finding a good realtor in Kona, Hilo or Waimea if you are seriously considering property on the Big Island. It’s easy to fall in love with the island’s natural beauty on land and sea and invest in something that does not suit your intended lifestyle or financial goals.

Kona Impact | 329-6077

My Three Favorite Productivity Tools

There are a few things that I use every day to ensure that I stay connected, remember ideas and allow me to stay productive online. I thought I’d share them, as they are all great ways to improve your business productivity.

idea concept

My favorite recent discovery is Dashlane. If you’re like me, you have tens of passwords to websites that you want to remember. The absolute worst thing to do is to use the same password on every website; all is takes is one piece of information to wreak havoc on your life. Another bad strategy is Post-it Notes on your monitor!watch Split 2017 film online now

Dashlane is a password manager that can help you make strong, random passwords when you create new ones, change a whole bunch of passwords to common sites effortlessly, and best of all, it will automatically fill in your passwords when you get to a website where you have an account. It will then sync these passwords to your Dashlane phone app, notebook computers, tablets, and desktops. I have it on my phone, two tablets, a notebook, and two desktop computers, and it has kept all my passwords up to date and easily accessible.

Another one of my favorite tools of late is a small, pocket size notebook. I like the Field Notes and Moleskin brands. They are small and easy to fit in a pocket. I write everything from business ideas to notes what to pick up at the store. When you got a lot going on, it’s great to have some notes to remind you.

My third favorite tool is my new Samsung S6 phone. I used to have a Samsung Note, and that was like carrying a brick around. The new S6 has an awesome screen and keeps me in contact by phone, text or email anywhere I may be. My family is iPhone users, but I just don’t like the small screen and small space on the “keyboard”.  One of my favorite features is the wireless charging: I just set the phone on a charging pad, and it charges, which is way more convenient than plugging it in. My favorite apps are Dashlane, Quickbooks and Audible (audio books).

These three tools—a password manager, a small notebook and a new phone have been great ways to keep connected and get what I have to get done every day. Dashlane is $40/year, the notebooks are a few dollars and the new phone, well, that’s a bit more!

Kona Impact | 329-6077

Easy-to-Do Marketing Options in Kona, Hawaii

I’ve had some good chats with clients this week about their marketing efforts. Some were sharing successes, and some were looking for ways to reinvigorate their businesses and sales. The one thing that was clear is that good marketing takes creativity and sustained effort.

marketing concept

Here is a list of opportunities that you might help your business:

Use what you have

  1. Email marketing has a huge return on investment. If you have a few hundred contacts, sending out an announcement, coupon, some pithy advice, etc., will generate instant business.
  2. This is also true with mailings. Sending out a postcard, letter or newsletter to your existing base of clients and contacts will generate repeat business.
  3. Call ten existing clients a week. Ask them how you are or aren’t meeting their needs. Introduce new products/services.

Being Seen More

  1. Use your vehicles to promote your business. Vehicle magnets are inexpensive, removable and can be made in a day or two. If you have a work truck or van, go with cut vinyl, see-through window materials or partial wraps. Bumper stickers are another idea.
  2. Put a business card holder on your vehicle. Card Caddie has inexpensive business card holders that affix to your vehicle.
  3. Get embroidered or screen printed shirts for you and your staff. I have embroidered ones for the office and screen printed ones for the weekend.  I am always marketing!
  4. Use your office or storefront windows to tell your message. I wonder how many customers the dental offices across from Safeway have gotten because of the see-through window treatments seen by everyone exiting Safeway. I see a lot more branding and window displays (many of which we made) in town. They certainly catch my eye.
  5. Go with some eye-catching vertical flags or banners for special events or promotions. The key to outdoor advertising is attention—what is new in the environment—so keep it dynamic and always changing.


  1. I say this a lot: get involved with a volunteer, religious, sports, environmental or political group in the community. We are more likely to buy from those we know and trust.
  2. The Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce and some the networking groups like BNI are a good source of events and meetings to make some connections.
  3. Avoid spending all your time online on social media: you are likely preaching to the choir instead of prospecting new clients. Get out and interact with people in person.


  1. If you are a business focusing on other businesses, it’s easy to send out a targeted piece of direct mail.
  2. Depending on your product, it might make sense to send out direct mail to a neighborhood or to a targeted mailing list. It takes a bit of work, but the results can be spectacular.
  3. Look very carefully at traditional advertising: TV, yellow pages, radio, newspapers and cut any that don’t have a very high return on investment. Habit is a poor reason to do something that is not working. Reallocate funds to online marketing. The costs are lower, and you’ll reach a lot of potential customers.
  4. Consider sponsoring an Aloha Theater production, one of the local community events, a sports team or a sporting event.

Walking the Walk

  1. This is one of my pet peeves. If you are a local business and you expect people or other businesses to buy from you, you must do the same: buy locally. I am a potential customer of every business that does business with Kona Impact. In fact, I will go for long periods of time where I only buy from our clients’ restaurants, shops, farms and gas stations. I know the same is true with many business owners I know: they only support those who support them.

My goal is to get your creativity flowing. One thing I love to do is to spend some time each week looking at how other businesses are doing their marketing. What has caught my eye? What was compelling? What seemed off-message or a waste of time? There is not a lot that hasn’t been done; a clever marketer is a master observer and “repurposer”!

Kona Impact | 329-6077

Is it time to kill the phone book / yellow pages?

If you’re like me, you hate waste. I hate wasting food, time, money and natural resources.

To me, the yellow pages is a huge waste of natural resources, and for those who advertise in it, I believe it’s a waste of marketing dollars.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

phone book on vacant lot

It’s time to kill the phone book.

On Hawaii Island, there are approximately 10,000 households and business addresses. If we count one phone book per home and two per business, we’re looking at least 12,000 phone books distributed, the vast majority of them unused. At 335 pages, we’re looking at over 4,000,000 pages of junk dropped off at our doorsteps, left at the bottom of our driveways and placed in our businesses a year every year.

Here are my main reasons why it’s time to stop unsolicited phone book delivery:

  1. Nobody uses them! A highly informal and unscientific poll of Kona Impact clients and employees shows that exactly 0% of respondents have used the yellow pages in the past year. I think the last time I used one was about five years ago.
  2. Ineffective use of marketing dollars. As a small business owner, I want to get the best return on my marketing dollars. Kona Impact advertised in the yellow pages one year and spent several thousand dollars. I can honestly say that I could attribute zero calls to the ads. If I spent the equivalent on online marketing, I would expect (and most certainly get) at least five hundred inquiries and probably a few hundred new clients over a year. I often talk with clients about marketing options, and without exception, all who have advertised in the phone directories have a similar experience: spending several thousand dollars and getting virtually no tangible results.
  3. Environmental waste. There are three directories for our island, and each directory puts at least one or two books at the bottom of my driveway and gives my business two books. Doing the math, we can estimate that 12,000,000 or so pages of printed material is shipped to our island, with the majority of it ending our limited landfills. I have seen hundreds of phone books dumped by mailboxes at condo complexes and left there for months. I can only believe that these eventually end up in our landfills. Here is a picture of my neighborhood that shows four phone books that sat next to the homeowners’ mailboxes for three days! They didn’t even bother to take them in with the mail!
  4. phonebook-anyoneTechnology will continue to make them less and less relevant. When I need a phone number, I usually just talk into my phone and say, “phone number for Bianelli’s” Google search, by voice or by keyboard, almost never fails when I need to find a business’s phone number quickly. This will only continue. The phone book is a dying industry with no hope for survival.

I started this blog by saying how much I hate to waste anything. This is certainly true. I also work in marketing, so I want to offer the most cost-effective solutions to my clients as possible. Believe me, if phone book advertising worked, I’d recommend it with vigor. Given, however, that it doesn’t work, it’s a waste of environmental resources, and they are unused, it’s time to recognize this anachronistic publication and give it a good burial. Thanks, so long, goodbye!

Kona Impact | 329-6077

Apologies and Non-Apologies to Clients and Customers

Every business has to deal with unsatisfied clients or customers. At times, customers are irate and spewing all sorts of words, which they often regret, and at times the client just quietly finds another provider and moves on.

As a consumer, I tend to take the latter approach; if a business does me wrong—at least in my mind—I tend to avoid that business in the future, and if I’m really upset, I’ll tell others about my experience (hoping that they will do the same).

Recently, a Muslim woman was flying an American Airlines flight and became quite upset when the flight attendant would not give her an unopened can of soda. The particulars are not that important, other than the fact that she felt it was because of racial discrimination.

American’s apology was a classic non-apology: “we spoke with Ms. Ahmad on Saturday to get a better understanding of what occurred and to apologize for not delivering the service our customers expect when traveling with us.”  Read more at

So the “apology” was an apology for not meeting the customer’s service expectations, not an apology for bad service or racial discrimination.

This non-apology often manifests itself in the words, “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

At Kona Impact, we take three approaches to unsatisfied clients: 1) genuine apology, 2) non-apology apology with how-to-avoid-in-the-future discussion, and 3) a we’re-not-the-right-provider-for-you statement.

When we screw up, we admit it. Simple. If it is our fault, we will admit our mistake, offer a solution and try to avoid the same thing in the future. We never try to make our mistake a cost for the client. If we print something with a mistake that is our doing, we reprint, expedite the turnaround time as much as possible and offer a genuine apology.


Several times a year, we’ll encounter an unsatisfied customer due to production times. Most clients want things now or yesterday. That said, many jobs require design time, ordering specialty materials and a wait time as we complete other projects that come in before a particular clients. We do what we can, but many things can’t be done immediately, and since we work on a first in, first out principle, we won’t always shuffle projects for a demanding client. We’ll do it on occasion, but we don’t like it to become a habit, as it makes other clients wait.

When we experience a client that’s not happy because something takes longer than he or she would like, we offer the non-apology apology: “I’m sorry you are unsatisfied with our turnaround time.” After that, we go one step further and give the client some ideas how she or he can avoid last-minute stress in the future. We’ll talk about turnaround times, give some guidelines and suggest ways to make sure the client can get his or her work done by the time he needs it. While we want to dissipate the frustration, we also want to educate and help our clients not encounter the same issues again.

The third thing we do when we have an unsatisfied customer is to help them find a more suitable provider for them, or in extreme cases, we explicitly “fire” them. Not all clients are a good fit for us, and we’re not a good fit for all our clients. We had a client a few months ago who seemed to want unlimited revisions on a business card at our expense. We can deal with that, but when the client became verbally aggressive and demanding, we decided this was someone who is not a good fit for us. We fired him.

Apologies in the business world, in my opinion, are given out too generously–“I’m sorry for any and everything”–and too infrequently–“It’s always the clients fault; no need to apologize.” At Kona Impact, we take a nuanced approach: admit when we mess up, hold our ground and educate when a client is unreasonable or misguided, and we get rid of clients who are overly rude, demanding or aggressive.

Kona Impact | 329-6077

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