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Monthly Archives: November 2010

How Volusion and BigCommerce Can Cure the Cyber Monday Blues

Case of the MondaysCyber Monday for many small business owners is more than just a case of the Mondays.

It’s a day when chickens come home to roost in the form of clicks and dollars that go everywhere except your pockets.

And why?

Well, shockingly, because 46% of small businesses DON’T EVEN HAVE A WEBSITE, as reported by eMarketer and Ad-ology.

Small business owners cite “cost” and “the need for control” as two of the main reasons why they are reluctant to beef up their online presence.

Using hosted shopping cart solutions that do not charge transaction fees is one way to jump in the pool without drowning.

Both Volusion and BigCommerce are relatively simple and affordable platforms that offer custom functionalities that can at the very least put get you into the online game.

Volusionbigcommerce

You can hire a designer to help you set up either system and make it jive with your aesthetics and overall branding.  There are a lot of independent contractors who only do Volusion setups (I know from experience) and I assume you can find the same for BigCommerce.

Once you commit to a platform, you will then find the challenge of driving traffic to your site to, at times, be daunting.  But this is a strong first step.  And a great way to avoid a case of the Mondays.

American Express and Orange County Small Business Saturday Event

Small Business SaturdayIt’s not just Orange County small businesses that can benefit from the American Express Small Business Saturday event on November 27.

American Express is hoping that their partnership with Facebook will create a tradition to rival Black Friday.

They are starting by giving back $25 back to 100,000 card members who register and shop at a small business this Saturday.

According to a national survey, 93% of consumers believe that small businesses contribute positively to their community through jobs and taxes.

And with recent earnings data showing that the country’s largest corporations are reporting record profits, do you need any more reasons to support your local small business?

Nah, better to let the big guys hoard more cash and not plow any of it back into innovation and job creation.

Better to be lazy and not drive an extra two miles to support the parent of the kid your son goes to school with.

Better to hand your hard-earned cash to a conglomerate like General Electric which generated $10.3 billion in pretax income last year but ended up paying (are you ready for this?) exactly ZERO dollars in taxes to the federal government.

Yup, that’s right.

You paid more in federal taxes last year than GE.

Find your brothers in arms.  Find your friends in small business.  Find them this Saturday.

Put Klout in Your Small Business Social Media Toolkit

KloutWhen it comes to measuring the effectiveness of your social media marketing efforts, the challenges are endless.

Everyone involved must first agree on what exactly your goals are and how you will know when you achieve them.

Yeah.  Easier said than done.  But it must be done, especially if you have decided to work with a marketing consultant who specializes in social media.

Which brings us to Klout.

Klout is a service that measures a person’s influence and reach on Facebook and Twitter.

To determine someone’s level of influence, Klout uses various data points which they then compile into what they call a “Klout Score”.  The Klout Score  ideally represents someone’s online influence and ability to compel others to action.

Scores are in the range of 0-100, with the highest scores generally (I said “generally”) representing some pretty big names in social media. Many agencies and marketing companies will not hire social media marketers who do not have at least a 30 Klout Score and companies like Starbucks and Virgin Airlines offer deals to influencers who rate even higher.

So why doe Klout exist?

It’s not so people who live on Twitter and Facebook can feel good about themselves.  It’s so businesses like yours have some way to measure social media influencers who can drive action.

There really is not a better tool out there and the San Francisco-based startup seems focused on delivering  a quality score based on timely updates.

We don’t shill here.  We don’t advocate stuff we don’t like or believe in, especially if it’s not perfect out of the box.

You can punch holes in Klout, but it’s the first innings of social media and this is a good tool to use right now.

Seven Customer Service Lessons from OC Mazda

OC MazdaYour dad may have drilled it into your head…

“Son, don’t ever take your car to be serviced at a dealership.  They’ll rip you off every time.”

Or you devour all the sites and posts complaining about dealer service.

You know,  YOU JUST KNOW,  if you take your car to the dealer, they are taking you to the cleaners.

But sometimes you get lucky.

Sometimes you find the exception to the rule.

Like OC Mazda.

There’s a reason why owner John Patterson was awarded the Top Leader for Small Business by the OC Register.

John Patterson OCBizBlog

OC Mazda Owner John Patterson courtesy of The Orange County Register

It’s  the way Lynda Nelson engages and interacts through her emails, on the phone and in person.

How Nicolas in the service department works honestly and diligently on repairs and quick fixes that are within your budget.

It’s why they get great reviews on Yelp.

We have written about OC Mazda before.

This time we’re breaking down what they do to create the best marketing money can buy – word of mouth.

1.  It’s the culture, stupid.

You see it as soon as you walk in the door, but more importantly you feel it.  This isn’t an uncomfortable place to be.  People talk to you like you’re another person.  Not a mark.  Not a “prospect”.  Just someone who is looking for some help.  And help is what you get. It’s very very simple.  And very very hard to get right.

2.  Understand what the customer wants.

Everybody talks a big game about this one but actually executing it is something else.  And to experience it firsthand sort of takes your breath away.  Wait, you care that I have a budget for repairs?  You said you can fix that thing for half what my mechanic quoted me?  Now you’re actually doing it?  It’s done? That’s the bill?  Being understood, actually being listened to, is all some customers want. Do that and you have them for life.

3.  Hire great people.

Remember when the Angels won the World Series?  Remember that batting lineup?  No holes.  Top to bottom it was first-class.  Everybody had a role.  Everyone was on the same page.  Same thing here.  It’s not like the guy who sold you the car was cool and the finance person was a jerk.  Or the service guy is nice but the shuttle guy is scary.  They all get it.

4.  Do what you say you will do.

This is another one that is self-evident but hard to execute.  Talk is cheap.  It’s like the Seinfeld episode: anybody can TAKE a reservation, it’s the HOLDING that matters.  They tell you in the service department your estimate is going to be x.  Does it come back y?  z?  Nope, it’s freakin’ x.

5.  Exceed expectations.

Taking your car in to get serviced?  Yeah, it’ll be washed and cleaned inside and out too.  Need to get back to the office…quickly?   The shuttle will take you NOW.  Need to be picked up?  He will be there at 1 o’clock.  And guess what.  He’s there.  Not at 1 o’clock.  At 12:55.

6.  Follow up, stay in touch, the right way.

Now it’s easier to do than ever.  There are no excuses. But do most small businesses do it?  Nope.  And those that do, generally do it poorly.  They act like an ex-boyfriend who keep interrupting your life.   Come on buddy, it’s over.  It was over when you started belching at every meal.  So why are you sending me junk mail now?   OC Mazda does the right thing the first time, then second time and by the third time I have granted them my permission to stay in touch and NOT just interrupt me.

7.  Just remember The Golden Rule.

So I got my hands on the OC Mazda training manual.  It’s huge.  Thick.  Heavy.  Like 300 pages or something.  Funny thing is, every page has one line on it and they all say the same thing:  “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”


Got a Big Heart and Want a Great Deal? Check out DealGooder

DealGooderIf Groupon got together with TOMS Shoes their love child would be DealGooder.

She would be a precocious little thing, genetically engineered to create incredible group discounts and do good deeds every day.

Fortunately for us, you can meet her, them actually, right here in Orange County, as the Newport Beach venture officially launched this week.

Their site, boasting a yummy design with cute characters, is currently offering a $140 value for $35.  It’s two private pilates sessions at Escape Pilates.

Check it out here.

This is a startup that is literally fighting the good fight, donating 50% of their revenue to a good cause.

50%?!?

Yes.

50%.

They’re clever to combine two proven concepts into one.

Their brand message is strong.

Promoting philanthropy as a value to attract customers who share that value is what rocketed TOMS Shoes into the startup stratosphere.

But they don’t take themselves too seriously.

They got some poor guy (is it co-founder Todd Meyer?) running around in a dog costume.

And whoever is doing their tweeting is fun, sassy and smart.

I like these guys.

I think co-founders Erica Austin, Cara Mungo and Todd Meyer can pull this off.

That’s why you’ll see their cute little logo on the right hand side.

Linchpin is the Future of Your Small Business

LinchpinThe world of work and business has changed dramatically but many of us are stuck in our old ways.

There are a couple of reasons for this, as Seth Godin outlines in his best-selling book Linchpin – Are You Indispensable?

1.  We were brainwashed by school and by the system into believing that if we just do our job and do what we are supposed to do and follow all the instructions we’ll do just fine.  It’s simply not true anymore.

2.  Everyone has a little voice inside their head that is angry and afraid. That voice is your resistance – your lizard brain – and it wants you to be average and safe.

The way to overcome all this programming and automatic thinking is to embrace the genius that is inside you.  The part of you that is artistic and creative that has been squashed by society.  We need you to solve interesting problems and lead.  The jobs and businesses for compliant cogs are vanishing by the hour.

Things that used to be done in an average way for an average income are either now done for free or outsourced to places like India.

It is harder and harder to make your business successful because average just won’t cut it.

You must become indispensable.  You must decide to embrace what it is about you that makes you unique.

The single best thing you can do is to make a decision.

Fight off that lizard brain and decide to embrace the creative genius inside you.

Here is a great interview with Godin from John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing.