Thursday, September 3, 2009 Launches 2009 “Best of Local” Awards Program and Weekly Prize Drawing announced its second annual Best of Local program - featuring the top businesses as rated by consumers in 15 cities and 20 categories across the U.S., with rankings established based on the quantity and quality of the reviews that have been submitted by visitors to Winners will be selected and announced in December 2009.

In addition, the company launched a Best of Local weekly drawing for a $500 Visa® gift card. Visitors who write a valid review on a local business at will be automatically entered to win.

Best of Local award recipients will receive program related recognition and publicity in addition to an official Best of Local certificate, official Best of Local window decals to display at their business, the official Best of Local icon displayed on their business listing at, their business listed on the official Best of Local winners page and enhanced SEO for their business listing.

The Best of Local program will rank local businesses in 15 cities throughout the U.S. including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Francisco and Washington D.C.

The 2009 Best of Local program will run from September 1, 2009 through November 24, 2009.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

City of San Jose envisioning the future - help by taking a survey

If you live in Silicon Valley (or visit here often) help the city leaders catch your vision of the future by taking this survey: The Envision San Jose 2040 General Plan Update.

1) Go to
2) Enter your email address
3) Type in the password: 2040

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Intuit launches Love a Local Business sweepstakes

Your local business loves you. Don’t you think it’s time you start loving them back?

Supporting local businesses can have a significant impact on your community economically -- in fact, a September 2008 CivicWorks study of Western Michigan found that a mere 10% shift in consumer behavior towards local businesses would add around $137 million to the local economy and creates more than 1,600 new jobs.

In a nationwide effort to help support the growth of small businesses, Intuit announced the launch of its “Love a Local Business” sweepstakes. Fans of local small businesses can nominate their favorite hometown haunt, which will make them eligible for a drawing to win a $1,000 Intuit Growth Grant, which includes a $500 Visa gift card and $500 in Intuit business services, such as Intuit Websites and Web Listings.

In addition, each business that is nominated will appear on a custom Google Map displaying favorite businesses from across the country. To submit your favorite neighborhood shop, go to
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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Attn: California entrepreneurs - check out California Business Ascent

California Business Ascent is a statewide business initiative to spur innovation. It also offers a competition for entrepreneurial growth companies from diverse geographies representing multiple industry sectors and stages of development.

Companies participate in regional innovation showcase events, which include 5-7 minute pitches to a panel of investors that are streamed via live web video to a national audience. The top three winners from each showcase, as judged by a panel of investors and industry experts, are automatically entered in the state championships Nov. 17-18 in San Diego.

Winners will garner national media attention, be awarded a package of valuable professional services, and be honored by California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency for excellence in entrepreneurship and innovation within their respective industry sectors.

Any company seeking capital, talent, visibility or access to industry expertise will benefit from the process of competing in this statewide business challenge.
photo: creative commons

Monday, May 25, 2009

15 ways to promote your company

Logo of the U.S. government's Small Business A...

Looking for ways to promote your business? You don't have to have the budget of a General Foods to get the message out to your customers.

Here's an article from the Small Business Administration (SBA) that outlines great ideas -- every single one of them the type of "real marketing" that can make a difference.

15 Foolproof Ideas for Promoting Your Company includes ideas such as:
  • contests
  • newsletters
  • demonstrations
  • seminars
  • premiums
  • speeches

Take a minute to check out what else SBA offers.

Sharon Hill, the Phoenix entrepreneur who is currently in beta with her ambitious undertaking, YoreTown, was the first to hammer home to me the importance of SBA (Small Business Administration) resources.

After all, she points out, they are free, smart, have deep experience and really know their way around starting a business. (Plus, it can't hurt to be sure you are on the right side of the government from the start).

If you have always poo-poohed government agencies as having only canned advice, take another look.

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Are you reaching the "older" online market

The May 21 Wall Street Journal ran an article about the Forgotten Market Online, women over 35.

The fastest growing segment of Facebook users is women over 55, ... and 65% of online apparel sales go to women over age 35, according to market researcher NPD Group. Among these, the fastest growing sales are to women between 55 and 64 years old

Online sales to women aged 25-35 fell 8% in the year ended in March, but sales to 55-to-64-year-olds rose 11%.

Saks Fifth Avenue's website, the average age of an online customer is 42, and she spends an average of $400 when she visits.

So here's the point: if you hunting for customers, be sure to consider how you can reach these buyers.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Support the arts in San Jose at May 12 City Council meeting

Please join the San Jose Arts Alliance* to show your support for arts:
7 p.m.
San Jose City Council meeting
Tuesday, May 12
San Jose City Hall
At this meeting, the council begins its public hearing on the proposed budget for FY 09-10 and this is our opportunity to show support for arts funding.

Background: At a budget study session May 7, District 3 Council member Sam Liccardo proposed that the city look for ways to shore up funding for arts organizations, and other council members supported this proposal. Now it’s our turn.

Here's what you can do:
  • Come to the City Council meeting
  • Wear a black shirt
The Arts Alliance will provide a sticker with a red letter A that says "Support SJ Arts."

The message is simple - the arts add value to our city and we are requesting that the City find ways to shore up the declining Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT, or hotel tax) to ensure our grants remain at the current levels. Click

* Members of the Arts Alliance include: Abhinaya Dance Company of San JoseBay Area Glass InstituteChinese Performing Artists of AmericaCinequestCity Lights Theater CompanyChildren's Musical TheaterMACLA/Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino AmericanaSan Jose Chamber OrchestraSan Jose Institute of Contemporary ArtSan Jose Stage CompanySan Jose TaikoSan Jose Youth SymphonyTapestry ArtsTeatro VisionSan Jose Museum of Quilts & TextilesSan Jose Jazz

Sunday, April 12, 2009

AT&T says they "miss me" - where'd I go?

I moved my internet connectivity to AT&T in 2005 (then it was SBC) when an Earthlink support person recommended I disable my anti-virus software to help Earthlink run more efficiently.

The next day, I called Comcast and SBC.

Because Comcast bewildered me, and SBC made it easy, I switched my account to them and have stayed ever since.

In the past few months, however, I've received two AT&T emails with the subject line: "Amy, we've missed you!"

It's very frustrating - and a little scary - to think my internet provider doesn't know I'm a customer.

Maybe that's why I can't get answers to my questions; why I can't get the "highest level" speed for which I'm paying; why the anti-virus protection AT&T offers keeps clogging my computer. Are there special prices, products and services I could get if AT&T recognized me as a customer? If they have a system wide problem will I not be notified?

Should I check into Comcast again (oh, great, the company that can't even live up to a promise with its tv service).

It's not the worst marketing I've even seen, but it is pretty bad. For wasting my time, for communicating poorly, and for giving me reason to reconsider my relationship with them, I say to AT&T, "Get real."

Friday, April 3, 2009

Beyond advertising: choosing a strategic path to the digital consumer

IBM has released a new report - it's a free download, titled Beyond advertising: choosing a strategic path to the digital consumer.

Aimed at media and entertainment company, the report is filled with great information for everyone interested in the changing consumer.

From the Abstract, here are some of the insights presented. The Abstract itself (and the report) go into all of these in greater detail.

Four primary trends blur the boundaries between traditional brand advertising and direct marketing:

  • Consumer adoption of new distribution formats –
  • A shift in advertiser spend –
  • Digital migration of platforms –
  • Emergence of new capabilities –
--- and ---

New capabilities across four areas hold paramount importance as traditional advertising gives way to consumer centricity: creative, insights, collaboration and workflow.

  • Creative –
  • Insights –
  • Collaboration –
  • Workflow –

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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Dell helps small businesses navigate social media

Befuddled by the whole social media thing, and how it can actually help your local business?

Most small businesses are (befuddled, that is).

Anyway, Dell has created a Social Media for Small Business page on Facebook that helps - granted, it is necessary to have some clue what social media is. Check it out. There are some tips from Dell, and some tips from the community at large.

There are some spoilsports that use the page purely to advertise their businesses, but a lot of others (including Dell) that offer good's one from today:

Social Media for Small Business – Powered by Dell 27 Twitter applications to help you market your small business

Good job Dell! A Real Marketing application.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Having great time with fitness column

Most of you know I've started writing a San Jose Fitness column on So far it has been terrific.

If you ever want to experience local - at a very real level - write a column that attempts to gather together information from a community as diverse as the Silicon Valley fitness community. There's Bollywood dancing, Zumba, and ballroom dancing. Hikes for seniors, skipping classes for toddlers (yup, learning to skip), and YMCA swim lessons.

With the slow, painful deterioration of our local newspaper there really is no central place for organizations, clubs, cities, etc to promote their various fitness offerings. So far I've discovered dozens of great events - from the Big Bunny Fun Run in Cupertino to the Healthy Trails challenge offered by Santa Clara County.

There are also thousands of fitness classes, boot camps, training activities and events.

The downside is marketing it. The Examiner does virtually no marketing for anything outside of San Francisco. To top it off, the column has an awful URL that pretty much guarantees no one will be able to remember it:

People can go to, type San Jose Fitness in the Search box, and come up the column, but that's awkward too. I'm mostly left to beg everyone to sign up for the column to be emailed to them. My hope is that my very smart friends, once exposed to what I'm trying to do, will be able to offer me good advice about what makes useful and marketable articles.

So if I haven't written and begged you so far, I will be soon. Go ahead. Beat me to the punch and sign up now.

And if you have marketing ideas, I'm listening.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Note to Comcast - Get Real

Last week I was feuding with Comcast. My fight with their robot-like customer service is not the issue I'm writing about, however. I'm writing about the company's choice to "hide" the real people in their company.

It started when I got a form letter from Ralph Martinez, Area Vice President, informing me I needed to get a new box and that "at no additional charge" I would be able to enjoy "over 10,000 On Demand titles and new channels...(etc)"

I called and got the box (the web site would not let me do it online), then activated it via chat (the web site would not let me do it automatically), BUT I was specifically told I could NOT get On Demand. So I wanted to write and protest to Ralph Martinez. But, no phone, no email, no address.

A company in hiding. I could go to their web site, contact anonymous customer service, chat with an anonymous drone who is provided with stock answers, or write their east coast headquarters, but not contact Ralph Martinez.

I found his HOME address on the Internet, but never his business address. Eventually, several days and a cranky chat session letter, I got the correct box. No apology. No explanations. No effort to sooth an irate customer.

It rankles me when executives says the company has so many complaints that its local executives have to stay in hiding.

Telling the story to two of my neighbors (bad news makes a great "over the fence" story), both of THEM also had recent (within 2 weeks) complaints and problems with Comcast. All three of us agreed, this is why we cannot trust Comcast with our "triple play" business (internet, phone, tv).

Truth is, I LIKE my tv service. It works. But I have incredible distrust for Comcast. Get real guys.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Intuit $25,000 Small Business Grant

You have til March 23 to tell your small business story - judged on three qualities: useful, funny and inspiring - in Intuit's "Share Your Story" and win up to $25,000 in a business grant.

More about social media

Buzzword? Sure, of course. Still, that doesn't mean local businesses can't take a gander at what the buzz is all about when it comes to social networking, social marketing, social media, whatever you want to call it.

Lee Oden has a nice post titled Best and Worst Practices Social Media Marketing. I think it's pretty self explanatory, but a neighbor told me I was too geeky, so if you need any help translating this into "to do" practices, send me an email and I'll see if I can help.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Social Media: Most Effective Tactics Are the Most Difficult to Measure Quantitatively

The smart folks over at Marketing Sherpa have a chart on most effective social media - and point out how the most effective are often not the most measurable.

These are tools local businesses can often integrate at little or no cost. If you are looking for some "real marketing" ideas, try these. Need some help? Hire a smart marketer (ah hem, what about yours truly) to help you out.
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Monday, February 2, 2009

Looking to launch? Check out LaunchBox09

LaunchBox Digital is now accepting applications -its annual summer accelerator program starts May 18, 2009. Early application deadline is Feb. 27.

If you don't know the program, here is the LaunchBox link, and here is info from the web site:

LaunchBox Digital, an early stage investment firm located in Washington, D.C., is focused on helping entrepreneurs get through those challenging early days by bringing capital, advice, and practical guidance to help early stage businesses succeed. We offer:

  • Funding and administrative support to enable founders to focus their energy on developing a great product;
  • Mentoring and advice from seasoned technology veterans who have created significant stakeholder value; and
  • Access to strategic partners, angels, VCs and the press to take your business to a whole new level
Check it out.
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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Maximize Your Business' Online Presence

My neighbor, a small business owner, told me she thought she had the whole "SEO thing" under control. I'm sending her this column from David Mihm and posting it here so others can read the hints in SMBs Need More Local Outreach -- here is just a portion:

What businesses can do to maximize their presence on local search engines:

Verifying your business’s information may lead to improved rankings on the major search engines, in addition to ensuring that they present correct information about your business.

1) Check to see where you’re already indexed using

2) Claim and verify your information at the major search engines: Google, Yahoo, and Live

3) Submit or verify your information with as many different data providers as you can.

(David supplies a list, so click on over to see it)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Local Closures

It saddens me to watch neighborhood businesses close - here in the Rose Garden area of San Jose, we've seen two closures in the past few months, and now comes the announcement that Communknity will close this month.

As the name implies, Communknity is a knitting supply store that seemed to do everything right. Five knowledgeable employees, in-store lessons, author appearances, and a local gallery. They supported local artists, hosted fundraisers, and were part of local breast cancer fundraisers.

In short, they created a small, tightly knit community while benefiting the neighborhood and community at large. This was exactly the type of business you want in your city.

I mourned when I saw San Jose's last general interest independent bookstore, Willow Glen Books, was closing, but the world of bookstores was forever changed before the economy tanked. Communknity rankled me in a different a way that made our neighborhood a little poorer.

Constant Contact Hosts Small Biz Seminars

Congrats to email marketing company Constant Contact for the announcement they are launching small biz email seminars throughout the LA area.

This is something local newspapers and regional yellow pages should have been doing all along- not particularly email but all types of emerging marketing, and I predict this will be a winner for Constant Contact...great PR, great results, and a program that will expand quickly.

It's even nicer that their LA representative is Kelly Flint, formerly of United Way, since that brings the experience of someone used to having a limited budget and a diverse group of constituents.

Way back when I first got involved in the local interactive scene - in 1994 and 1995 - I held an ongoing series of luncheon seminars for advertisers of the Houston Chronicle. They were very, very appreciative, and in many ways, that helped lay the foundation for the success has experienced (not to dismiss the incredibly progressive and practical interactive management teams over the years).

Anyway, thumbs up and accolades for "REAL MARKETING" to the Constant Contact team. There's no reason that small businesses should have to prowl through the web or take days out of the office attending seminars to get the low-down on email marketing.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Check Your Online Listing

Check out, or at least their free tool that lets you check your "claimed" listing in major search engines.

It's far from perfect at this point, mostly because the site is busy talking in "lingo" and not in local business-speak. But if you already sort-of understand your way around the local online lingo, it's a nifty check-up of whether you have dotted your i's and crossed your t's.

What do I mean that the site talks lingo? I typed Dr. Abed, 95126 (my dentist) and it showed no listings, even though when I went to Google and typed Dr. Abed 95126, she came up top of the listings. I typed in Zanotto's, (a neighborhood market) at it showed that the name had not been "claimed" on Google, Yahoo, Live but that it had 72 "citations" on Google. There was a link to click through and claim it, but no discussion on what "claiming" the name meant.

EDIT: Got a really nice note from the GetListed folks, and they pointed out that Dr.Abed's ZIP was 95128 - they are SOOO correct, which is what I get for making assumptions - and that her office is listed when done correctly.

Why, oh why (she asked again and again) do the online folks think that local businesses have nothing better to do than learn search-engine speak.

Anyway, Miriam Ellis writes a nice entry on why GetListed is good and useful and even necessary - and says nice things about the founders.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Link to local

I'm an advocate for eating locally grown fruits and veggies - pretty easy since here in Silicon Valley just about everything grows within a 50 mile radius.

For those not as fortunate (ie, those without neighbors who have a plentiful harvest), here is a link to "Buy Fresh, Buy Local" a resource for Californians. And here's a link to Local Harvest, a national resource.