Author Archives: brian

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

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.