Categorized | Shoestring Startup

KikScore – Helping Small Business Win the Battle for Online Trust

Name of your company and URL?

KikScore – Helping Small Business Win the Battle for Online Trust Kikscore and http://www.kikscore.com/

Date started?

We launched in early 2010.

What is your product or service?

KikScore helps small businesses of any kind to use information about themselves to demonstrate to website visitors that their business is trustworthy, reliable and has a track record of dependability. We take data about an online small business such as management information, financial responsibility, website history and traffic trends, certifications and customer comments and help the business display all of this important information in the form of a business report card to their website visitors. We also take that information and analyze it for indications of trustworthiness to give each small business their own unique trust score.

Small businesses that use the KikScore product have cut shopping cart abandonment rates, closed more leads and increased their sales. The KikScore product consists of a 1) a Confidence Badge that resides on a company’s website; 2) a unique and dynamic trust score; 3) a continually updating merchant report card about the small business and 4) an interactive customer feedback platform. We offer a Confidence Badge for both online stores and also small business service providers like doctors, lawyers, realtors, plumbers and bloggers.

Why did you start your company?

Our team of Co-Founders including myself (Raj Malik), Mike Mauseth, Travis Valentine and Mike Collins, all wanted to start and create a business that helps small businesses, so we banded together and created KikScore. We combined backgrounds in data analysis, risks assessment, ecommerce and small business to create a concept that enables online small business to take information/data and use it to show that they are trustworthy so they can sell more. Also we created the startup with a deep sense of wanting to control our destiny as a business and create something that would help other small businesses!

How was it financed ?

We are completely financed by what we like to call the “Bank of the Co-Founders,” meaning ourselves!

Date officially launched?

Jan 2010

Tell us about the Co-Founders & Where the Business Is Going?

We have built this business to get more than 1,500 small business signups for KikScore’s service in just over one year…..all while having full time day jobs unrelated to KikScore and within our own self-imposed tight budget. We can be called nights and weekend entrepreneurs. As we have been growing quickly adding customers daily, we have all been juggling customer service calls during the day through constant coordination between the team and have late night team calls almost nightly (our team currently spans 3 time zones!). All of this has allowed us to be more focused on the key items to grow the business. Those key items being customer satisfaction, delivering a great product and experience, helping our small business customers succeed and working with partners. We have been lining up partners who will offer the KikScore service to their small business customers. So stay tuned to more partnership launches in the next 6 months with global providers of web services.

Do you have any customer stories of small businesses using KikScore to increase their sales?

Just one of our many small businesses that saw a significant increase in their own customer conversions from using KikScore is INC 5000 business owner Brian Esposito’s paybaQ. Brian’s business is a platform for online micro-lending of money and he saw an increase in conversions of more than 20% after he started using the KikScore confidence badge. Brian uses KikScore to convey to the world and website visitors that he has a track record of reliability and trustworthiness.

What free online or offline tools do you use?

At Kikscore since we keep ourselves to a tight budget, we are very heavy users of free tools. The free marketing tools that we use are Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn along with videos. Other tools that we use for our business include Mint for tracking our expenses, inflows and outflows of money and overall budgeting.

Here is a link to our social media sites:

Twitter Page:

http://twitter.com/#!/kikscore

Facebook Page:

http://www.facebook.com/kikscore

LinkedIn:

http://www.linkedin.com/company/kikscore-llc

YouTube:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3YiL59pBCc

Blog:

http://blog.kikscore.com/

How many people are currently working, including employees (freelancers or independent contractors for specific projects)?

We have 4 employees that are currently working and one independent contractor.

What is the best advice you never got?

That don’t underestimate the amount of time that administrative items take like paying bills, getting proper registrations, doing the books, lining up insurance, etc. When your time is super constrained, these sorts of administrative tasks cut into your precious time of growing the business, but they need to be done. I just wish we did not have to!

What almost killed your business in the start?

Planning on launching right as the economy crumbled in 2009. We actually ended up taking that time and worked on our product some more and launched KikScore in early 2010 in a much better business environment for small businesses in 2008 or 2009.

What is the one thing that you did right?

Instead of sending out mass emails to partners to see if they were interested in partnering with us, we worked Twitter hard and our partnerships and a few of our future ones originated from a single tweet! That is pretty cool that one tweet led to two companies coming together to launch a successful partnership. We also were able to use our network of friends, contacts and co-workers to get fantastic introductions to potential partners.

What was the biggest transition you had to make (i.e. new skill set, habits, abilities, focus)?

Two items: Resources & Need to Focus.

At a big company, the resources in some ways can be considered endless. With a startup, every decision that you make you are focused on the opportunity cost of using your resources in one manner or the other. So with limited resources you have to be continually disciplined to ask: “Is what I am working on going to help us accomplish our core goals?”

The resource point plays into the second item which is focus. Again in a startup, the team as a whole and each one of us individually has to remain focused. There is almost an unending temptation at a startup to shift the team’s focus to a one-off bug, a new prospective partner, a new feature a few customers are requesting and the trick is with limited resources the team has to stay focused at all times. Trust me, we have had to battle the focus issue and the temptation is always there, but the more you understand and realize the need to stay focused on the core tasks that get you to accomplish your goals, the better off you will be from an execution standpoint.

What type of marketing or advertising do you do?

We actually do 100% of our outreach via social media channels. We may spend some money on traditional marketing down the road as we get bigger, but our philosophy is that the more we connect one on one with customers, partners and influencers, their word of mouth will help us as being the best advertising tool. The downside of that is social media is very and I mean VERY labor intensive so we are on Twitter and Facebook a lot, especially Twitter.

Would you want to be acquired by a bigger company, run it yourself or sell in a couple of years?

All three!

What are three lessons learned we would pass on to others entrepreneurs?

1) Focus, Focus, Focus!
2) Always be talking to everyone about your business and your customer issues because you will not believe the idea factories and guidance you can get from friends, partners, co-workers, advisors and mentors. For example, a night on the town with drinks with a good friend and colleague was the genesis for a product extension that we launched for KikScore.
3) Make sure you surround yourself with a team that in its DNA hustles for everything, is resilient and proactive and most importantly, always sweats the customer experience.

 

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