Monday, February 28, 2011

Naked, Naked, Naked

Yes, I'm quoting Elaine Bennis from Seinfeld.

But I'm also letting you in on a (not so) super-secret marketing tool that I stumbled into by accident last week.

I was looking over my Google Analytics and noticing a nice uptick in blog/site traffic for 2011. Then all of I sudden I clicked on a graphic and thought, "What the heck!?"

The little line went along fairly steadily all month and then - wow! - it shot way up and plunged back down the next day. In that one high-traffic day, I got close to 5,000 visits.

What in the world? I wondered if someone try to hack my site or pull a bot attack. And then I looked up the blog post for that day and noticed the headline:

Working Naked Day

I shared my findings with my web guru, Paula Johnson. Being a marketing genius, she suggested I elaborate on the theme.

Add naked to all your headlines:

New trends in naked small business financing.

Developing a slogan for your naked company

Marketing secrets from the band Bare Naked Ladies


I don't know about that.

But at least now I know why they call it Naked Juice.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Bluster - or Buster?

Should women entrepreneurs learn the art of "bluster" - or "leave it to buster"?

Check out the interesting column sparked by a reader's observation on my recent column about how women do not enter business competitions as often as men do.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

New VC Resource

I have written a series of resource articles for a unique venture capital site called FindVenture.com.

The site "connects investors with individuals and organizations based on a sophisticated matching algorithm" and provides detailed profiles of both funds and prospective investment companies, in addition to a platform and subscription model similar to Monster.com. Like employers there, investors at FindVenture have access to view prospective investment opportunities before deciding whether or not to fund them.

Here's what managing partner David Bayer has to say about the new model:
“Entrepreneurs and CFOs are turning to the web to find investment and lending resources. What they are finding is that most investors are still operating offline and seeking deal flow by utilizing traditional methods. FindVenture.com brings both the investor, or fund, and the business owner or entrepreneur into a more efficient marketplace exchange.”


It's a cool idea whose time has obviously arrived. I'm happy I was able to provide some background articles on VC and how it gets done from the entrepreneur's perspective. Check it out: It's worth a look-see whether you are looking for outside funding now, or may do so sometime in the future.

Buy Local - Does it Help?

Small retailers are still concerned about the economy, but 55% think “buy local” campaigns can help, compared to just 7% who do not.

The American Express OPEN Retail Economic Pulse shows that small retailers are leveraging local review sites like Yahoo Local and Yelp! (51% use at least one site) and social media (51% use at least one platform and 37% will increase usage this year).

“Buy local” is not a phenomenon restricted to the coasts: small retailers from the north central states are more likely to believe “buy local” sentiment is growing than any other region (49% versus 39% in the south, 37% in the northeast and 38% in the west)

Check out the Amex site for more details of this interesting survey.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Branding Gone Bad

Hang on a sec: 7-Up in baby bottles and husbands spanking their wives for not buying the right coffee?

Sounds awfully kinky, right?

Actually, these are examples of the worst ad campaigns of all time, as compiled by Bschool.com.

Check it out, and let it be a cautionary tale when it's time to update your own marketing/advertising plan.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

People: Food or Friends?

Conventional wisdom holds that a business owner's top asset is her people: The office employees, staff, salesmen and managers who keep her business running well. But conventional wisdom is getting stale, at least according to venture capitalist and author Andy Kessler.

He spoke at the Drucker Business Forum in Pasadena this week. (BTW, they host a terrific series of free presentations. If you're in Southern California, I highly recommend them.)

In an entertaining slide show, Kessler laid out a dozen "unapologetic" rules for entrepreneurs from his latest book, "Eat People." His thesis, which reflects the book's Soylent Green title and fork-stabbing-man cover, is about relishing the fact that technology is displacing people in the workforce.

Yes, I said "relishing." The jobs he's talking about, which range from attorney to newspaper editor to toll booth attendant, are unproductive and not worth preserving, in his estimation.

Kessler's book includes dismissive titles for the non-creative people who do such jobs: Sloppers, Super-sloppers, Spongers and Thieves (the latter term apparently reserved for government employees). And he's celebrating the fact that soon they all will be out of work.

What will happen to them? Kessler didn't offer any thoughts. What of human kindness or social concerns for these displaced sloppers and slurpers, who after all could be our mothers, our brothers or ourselves? Yawn.

When asked about social entrepreneurship, Kessler agreed (less-than-enthusiastically) with the goals of philanthropy, though he termed the issue "very complicated." Certainly none of the creative geniuses who profit enormously off the backs of their workers should be criticized if they don't pull a Bill Gates or a Warren Buffet, he said. After all, their marvelous innovations have enriched society to untold proportions anyway.

In a week when machine triumphed over man and the New York Times speculated that news editors could be replaced by algorithms, I left Kessler's talk in something of a funk.

Then I got a message from my college-aged son. And I remembered a story Kessler told about his own son getting a summer job doing computer work. When Kessler suggested that the job be automated, his son objected to the idea of putting his friends and colleagues out of work.

Kessler was clearly disappointed in the boy.

But thinking about Millennials - a group I know well - cheered me right up. They are as idealistic, people-oriented and community-minded as any '60s hippie. Yes, they'll get cynical and have their own problems to deal with, but they're not going to eat people. Not even if they're starving.

One Local Family

Lots of groups are involved in promoting local businesses and the benefits for all of us who do so.

But this family is really responding way beyond the call of duty!

What do you think? Could you strictly buy local for an entire month - or year?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

This Valentine's Day, the average person will spend $116.21 on cards, flowers, lingerie or dinner, for a total of more than $15.7 billion on gifts nationwide.

If each person spent that $116.21 at a locally owned independent business (rather than a national chain), $79 would stay in their community thanks to local payrolls and taxes. More than $10.67 billion would be reinvested in local communities throughout the country. If each person bought their gifts only at national chains instead, that reinvestment number drops to $6.7 billion.

Those figures come from Independent We Stand, a movement dedicated to promoting the importance of buying from local businesses.

There are lots of perks available if you join the movement, so check it out!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Female Empowerment

It's Woman, Hear Me Roar week at Bloomberg Businessweek this week, thanks to yours truly.

I have two female-empowerment tomes posted just today, rather coincidentally in terms of timing, but both worth checking out (IMHO).

One is on a new book that highlights how minority women entrepreneurs are doing business differently than the "norm" but still succeeding.

The other, which also appears in this week's print edition, is on the perplexing and little-noticed problem of how few women entrepreneurs enter business contests.

Contests, schmontests, you may say. But hold on a minute! Those contests do wonders for business owners in terms of training, increased confidence, expert feedback and exposure to investors and potential partners. And that's not even mentioning perks like money, awards and publicity.

And yet, the contests are thoroughly dominated by men, though there are moves afoot to increase women's participation. An interesting conundrum and one that allowed me to conduct a bunch of fascinating interviews.

Like Janelle Shubert, who's quoted in the piece, sometimes you just want to "put your head down and weep."

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Visualization Can Help

In the spirit of sharing useful resources with small business owners, I submit Payoff, a free, interactive website that applies game dynamics to finances.

It puts together infographics that I suspect could be helpful in making business decisions. One of the toughest early decisions for startup companies is what form of legal structure to choose. This graphic allows you to compare ownership structures based on their longevity and personal liability.

(You should be able to click on and enlarge this)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Improv Tricks

What does improvisational acting have in common with small business ownership?

Not much, I would say off the top of my head. But the answer turns out to be "quite a lot," if you equate improv with networking.

Financially inKleined reader Rose King recently let me know about a fascinating article that lists 25 improv tips that entrepreneurs can use to make and keep strong business relationships.

Give it a look; you might learn something before you go to that next Chamber Mixer.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Minority Business Opportunity Day

Southern California's largest, nonprofit advocacy organization for minority-owned businesses, the Minority Business Development Council, is holding an important event on Feb. 24 in Industry Hills.

The 35th annual Minority Business Opportunity Day offers small and minority businesses "access to corporate representatives, seminars and workshops featuring procurement professionals from major corporations and organizations, networking opportunities at the business opportunity exhibit fair, and more."

The event, held at the Pacific Palms Conference Resort, will include a panel discussion on how to do business with major automakers featuring procurement executives from Nissan North America, Hyundai Motor America, American Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Sales, USA.

Information and registration is available online.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Fast Pitch

If you have never attended a fast pitch competition, you should. An audience of entrepreneurs, investors, professors and students gather to watch selected entrepreneurs get up and give brief, concise and (ideally) exciting descriptions of their business ideas and why they should attract investment.

The really good pitch fests provide consulting and training for the entrepreneurs ahead of time, so they are ready to blow the room away with their commitment and creativity. The energy at these events is always crackling.

The best pitch fests I have attended are sponsored by our local Tech Coast Angels. Their sixth Annual Fast Pitch is coming up later this month:

The Tech Coast Angels 6th Annual LA Fast Pitch Competition is February 24th at UCLA Anderson School of Business. CEOs of 8-10 startups, selected from more than 100 applicants, will have 90 seconds to pitch their companies to a panel of judges. The winner will be invited to present their company and business plan at a Tech Coast Angels deal-screening session.

The 6th annual event will include presentations from CEOs and venture capitalists on funding and starting a company, and the Fast Pitch competition. A light dinner and refreshments will be served after the program at a networking event that will be attended by investors, entrepreneurs and other industry experts.


Check the website if you're interested in pitching or attending. Applications are due this weekend.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

When Life Gives You Lemons

I've always given away the bounteous fruit from my over-achieving lemon tree.

But what do you do when life hands you an over-achieving lemon tree and a fruit-fly quarantine?

You make lemonade. And lemon juice. And lemon bars. And lemon curd.

Oh my goodness, lemon curd*. Try it mixed with a little Cool-Whip over angel food cake with some berries on top.

Yum!

*Thanks, Dorothy!