There’s no question that Yelp, and other platforms like it, have helped a great many restaurants, large and small. User generated reviews offer a more authentic glimpse into a restaurant; there’s something more honest about a Yelp review than one you might read on a blog or news outlet. After reading enough good reviews, someone who’s never been there before will feel more comfortable heading there for a meal She’ll have a pretty good idea of what’s on the menu, as well as knowing the dishes that other people love. Even when people try something new, they still want it to feel familiar.
But there’s a flipside to that: the negative reviews. Familiarity, as they say, breeds contempt. Of course, there are times when a negative review is justified but there’s something about Yelpers that causes them to take it too far. They often respond in terms that are deeply emotional, as if whatever the restaurant got wrong was something that was done to them. For these people, simple mistakes turn into conspiracy theories, while staff’s adherence to policies is called discrimination.
When it come to influencer marketing, the world has divided itself into three groups:
- Those who think it’s the greatest thing to happen to digital marketing.
- Those who think it’s a flash-in-the-pan fad, and sullies the good name of marketing in general.
- Those who are at this moment thinking, “Is influencer even a word?”
This post is for you, group number three. Specifically, those of you in group three who own small hospitality businesses. You need better, more effective marketing methods, and you need to do it on the cheap. Influencer marketing just might be the kind of strategy you’re looking for. Before I tell you why, though, it’d probably be helpful if I answered a few questions.
What is influencer marketing?
This is the story of what happens when Jason Powell gets bored.
In 2003, with 15 years service as tech professional, he started to get restless. Maybe it was dues his being 8+ years into a stint as Chief Technology Officer for a large retail company. When you’re responsible for over 300 locations and more than 2500 terminals across a large geographic area, you tend to spend more time maintaining the status quo than pushing your infrastructure into new frontiers. Or maybe it was the 30 hour shift he pulled, patching up old technology—servers, wires, category 5 patch panels—while new technologies like fiber-optic storage farms and mirrored disaster recovery sites were changing the way other businesses operated. If you’re in the tech business, it’s usually because you’re interested in technology—new technology, specifically. Jason Powell is no different, and so it was hard for him to be passionate about the kinds of boring old tech he was dealing with. Where was the cool, new stuff?, he wondered. But that’s just the nature of corporate tech: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. In 2003, upgrades were disruptive undertakings—especially in a big company—and they required months of planning and many more months of installation. An investment in software only became worth the money 3 to 5 years after implementation. But the pain of the upgrade often lasted longer than that, and businesses often squeezed upwards of 7 years out of their platforms if they could get away with it. That is a very long time in tech years to be playing around with the same hardware and software. So Powell got bored, and Tech Advantage was born.
Over his 8 years as CTO, Jason became familiar with the ins and outs of POS, he knew what separated the good from the bad, and he learned how to get more out of the software beyond transacting sales and tracking revenue. He also knew that smaller businesses could benefit from technology, but couldn’t afford the full time IT folks and Chief Technology Officers to take care of things like that. Tech Advantage aimed to fill that space between small business and big technology, and 13 years later, they’re still doing that. At the heart of that is the ability, as Powell puts it, “to translate technical geek speak into everyday language,” which puts his clients at ease and, more importantly, empowers them to make better decisions about the technology they choose. But Powell and his team of consultants also listen, as well. Their experience supporting retail and hospitality enables them to come at each business’s unique needs with a knowledge of what tools will best address them.
This whole idea of getting the latest technology in the hands of small businesses and giving them the same operational tools that multimillion dollar companies use makes Tech Advantage a natural fit for us as a partner. And the attention to detail is something we love to see. When I spoke with Powell to get more details about the services they offer around Kounta, he was quick to rattle of the big three: Installation, Training, and Support. But then he started getting all pie-eyed as he waxed philosophic about the ways good reporting helps shops achieve better staff management, or can be used to increase profits by tweaking menu prices here and there. There was a quick left turn into the topic of mobile features being used to sell more drinks before veering into add-on territory. They’re developing their own add-on for Kounta to integrate with Tech Advantage’s Digital Signage platform, and offer strategies for social marketing using Kounta with some of their other product offerings.
Through all of this, they hope not only to make their customers’ experiences better, but also their customers’ customers. This is the kind of slick new tech that Powell was thinking of during that nightmare 30 hour shift in his retail CTO days. It’s also the kind of tech that will be on display in Tech Advantage’s forthcoming “POS Experience Centre,” where potential clients can come and try out the newest POS technology running Kounta. Existing customers looking to add on will be able to try out integrations, and everyone will be guided through the experience by one of Tech Advantages knowledgeable experts. With all this going on, it’s safe to say Jason Powell won’t be getting bored anytime soon.
There’s something like a billion people on Facebook and all of us, at one time or another, has received a Farmville (or Frontierville, or Petville, or Mafia Wars) request from one of our friends. We all gripe about it—those notifications that leave you feeling like you just got a pair of socks for Christmas. But what you might see as a minor annoyance is also nothing short of a technological coup d’etat. I’ve got a background in technology myself, and I can tell you that it’s a rare thing indeed to hear people complain about software when it’s working exactly the way it was designed to. Behind everyone of those plots of virtual farmland is a fault-tolerant hardware infrastructure that spans thousands of servers, in multiple data centers across a continent or two. And all that is the result of the work of a team of coders and engineers effecting some serious high-tech wizardry in the name of amusement. And—despite what the Dilbert Principle would have you believe—when it comes to tech, these teams can’t succeed under shoddy leadership. So, for any of you out there who wanted to wring the neck of a friend who kept pestering you with any of the various _____ville gift requests you’ve gotten over the years, I can give you the name of at least one of those managers who made it all happen: Jamie Hill.
But, before you look him up on LinkedIn and send angry letters, bear something in mind. Jamie is the former CTO of the Frontierville game studio at Zynga, where he also had a hand in developing the architecture, operations, and systems that were behind many of the company’s social apps. Nowadays, Jamie has moved beyond helping customers build thriving virtual frontier towns and taken his skills to Kounta, where he helps customers build thriving actual businesses with much more sophisticated software. Technically, Jamie Hill is the guy who’s ultimately responsible for making Kounta go. I don’t use the word “technically” here as a way to semantically belittle what he does: it’s in his job title. Jamie left his post at Zynga to become our CTO and, armed with a massive skillset, is the proverbial “here”—that place where the buck stops—when it comes to Kounta’s technology strategy. What exactly does that mean, you ask? If you’ve ever read up on the benefits of cloud computing, you’re probably familiar with the part where everyone tells you that you get to offload all the computing headaches—purchasing hardware and software, maintaining and upgrading it, backing it all up—to whoever is hosting your apps and infrastructure. In the case of Kounta, it’s Jamie and his team that you’ve delegated those tasks to. Thanks, Jamie and team!
Of course, Kounta being a small company means that Jamie isn’t some C-level executive gazing down from his ivory tower. Multitasking is par for the course here, and he’s got the processing power to make that happen without any latency (a little tech wordplay for you all). This means that Jamie’s getting involved in almost all areas of the business related to the software itself. There’s the training of new employees, to make sure they’re up to speed on all that Kounta can do and what’s running behind the scenes to make it all work. He works closely with the product team to create a feature roadmap for upcoming releases, and then manages the progress of those features. He spends time with the support team as a way of staying connected to customers and understanding what issues they’ve been dealing with; this serves to inform the feature roadmap as well as to know what existing ones could be improved. And on the rare occasion that Kounta’s crack support team can’t solve a problem, the tickets get escalated to the man himself to work through it. Finally, Jamie also works closely with other developers who are creating add-ons to integrate with Kounta, acting as a kind of API ambassador and providing guidance to them when necessary.
In preparing for writing this post, I asked Jamie an earnest question in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way: What nightmare scenario would befall Kounta if you were to quit your job there today? Speaking with the humility of a Buddhist monk, he declined to acknowledge that things would go bad just because he left. But we know that Jamie’s overseeing various aspects of our infrastructure—from the servers to the software itself—and it’s all running like a well-oiled machine.
Ask Daniel Hill about Elevate Cloud Integration’s origin story, and he’ll tell you about how he and co-founder Anthony Staltari share a love of technology, and wanted to build a business around this passion. But when you learn that they met in 2012 while working at a mid-tier accounting firm, you start to understand their motive for doing something much, much cooler. Daniel managed the IT department while Anthony was completing his Chartered Accountant program, but that didn’t stop the pair from dabbling with extracurricular tech projects. Over the course of a couple years, they learned two things from their experiences: First, that the cloud was going to revolutionise the way small businesses handle their technology. Second, that there was a big opportunity in South Australia to get in on this cloud thing and become its leading integrators. Cloud-based solutions were multiplying fast, all over the map—shared storage, remote backup, and other basic services evolved into software-as-a-service offerings for accounting, retail, and hospitality venues. The simultaneous rise in mobile hardware fueled a boom in cloud software, and the cloud specialists Daniel and Anthony worked within and around their homebase of Adelaide weren’t quite able to keep up. By 2014, the duo sensed an opening in the market and an opportunity to do something they loved. They were on a mission to elevate the cloud game in South Australia.
For anyone out there wondering what we like in a technology partner, it’s this kind of story. There are a lot of people out there who are good with computers and devices, who can learn a system or its software easily and who can earn a living doing the tasks that others can’t or don’t want to. But our most successful partners—and the ones we enjoy working with so much we write about them on our blog—are the ones who see beyond individual solutions and focus on holistic software ecosystems. I apologise for that bit of jargon, but that’s really the best way to say it. In any event, Elevate didn’t sign on with us because they saw Kounta in action and liked what they saw. I mean, they did, but that wasn’t what happened first. First, they identified Point-of-Sale as an integral app to include in the suite of software they could provide for their clients. Then they checked out Kounta and liked what they saw. In what’s becoming a common refrain from our partners and customers alike—and this is something that we’re proud of—Daniel cited our commitment to communication and collaboration when describing partnering with Kounta as an easy to decision to make. Part of Elevate’s mission is to overcome some of the shortcomings inherent to cloud software—specifically that there often isn’t a local, human presence customers can reach out to. Elevate mitigates this for its clients by being that human face and getting to know their specific needs. Elevate’s partnerships with Xero, Deputy, Collect Rewards, and Tyro means that they’re able to meet those specific needs for most of their clients right off the bat. But sometimes, a business might need a little more personal attention—their direct line to us means that Kounta users 1,400 km away in Adelaide can get the same kind of treatment our neighborhood customers (whose shops we all frequent) can get.
And this approach is working: Elevate’s humble beginnings as a startup in Daniel’s garage in Adelaide are already a distant memory. The bit about the garage is totally made up, but so is Apple’s, so I’m sticking with it. What is actual fact, though, is that Elevate has moved beyond the borders of Adelaide and South Australia to become a national platform, and its diverse portfolio of apps enables them to service a variety of industries (what the jargon-afflicted refer to as “verticals”). Of course, one of Elevate’s recent and bragworthy projects was right in our hospitality wheelhouse. By getting the new Brighton, SA cafe, C.R.E.A.M., up and running with Kounta and Xero working side by side. C.R.E.A.M. (Coffee Rules Everything Around Me) is everything we like about a cafe—high-quality coffee and Wu-Tang references: dolla dolla bill, y’all!—and we’re proud that its customers cite the excellent service alongside the amazing coffee as reasons they love the place. That great service is made possible by Kounta, sure, but the Kounta installation there was made possible by Elevate. There’s a right way to do things and a wrong way, and Elevate’s done right by us and C.R.E.A.M. The coffee shop’s got plans to add another 3 – 4 locations over the next few years, and Elevate’s got some other exciting projects of their own for 2016. All of which means that they’ll keep doing what they love—relieving business owners of technology-induced anxiety so that they can focus on doing what they love.
And that’s the kind of stuff we love.
Note: This post is dedicated to my friend Steve, hence the title. The information is for everyone, though.
So I was talking with Elliot over in the software engineering department the other day—totally casual conversation, not at all like someone had emailed him and asked him to list three reasons he liked working at Kounta—and then out of nowhere, I asked him to tell me three reasons he liked working at Kounta. He didn’t even miss a beat:
“One, I like being part of a small team that isn’t bogged down by bureaucracy. Two, being part of a small team allows a great culture with events—we get beers after work, play frisbee, things like that. Three, being part of a small team that does not include Donald Trump.”
Well, bad news Elliot: we’re hiring. The team will remain Trumpless, but it’s going to get a little bigger.
That’s kind of what happens when rock stars like Elliot are part of a small team. Especially when that small team is behind Australia’s number one hospitality point of sale. But we’re of the mind that it ain’t broke till the fat lady sings. Until then: don’t fix it. The culture here is important to us: it’s how we thrive. We’re three years into this thing called Kounta, and we still operate like a startup. Our customers’ success is our success, so we don’t hide behind telephone menu trees to avoid talking to them. Many of us put our years in for the hospitality industry, and we’re looking for more 51 percenters to round out the team. We’re using the latest technologies in the most human of ways, and regardless of your role the focus is the same: creating the best point of sale money can’t buy (it’s accessed through a monthly subscription fee, cancel any time). If you read any of that and nodded your head in understanding, if you know what a 51 percenter is, and if you’re not Donald Trump—you’ll probably fit in just fine here.
And, as if you needed more enticement, we have offices in two great locations. Our mothership is in Sydney, Australia, which just so happens to have been named the most affordable city for young people to live in this year by Quartz Magazine. And if you don’t believe them, they’ve got a picture of a backpacker on roller skating while playing his guitar to prove it. Technically, our Sydney office is in Surry Hills, which is just east of Sydney. What with all the amazing cafes, nightlife, and coffee bars around, it kind of made sense for us to put down roots here. And our US office is in Palo Alto, part of the storied Silicon Valley. It’s pretty much the Mecca of digital civilisation. And in both of these cities, I hasten to add, you’ve got an almost zero chance of running into Donald Trump.
We’re hiring across almost all departments—administrative, tech, support, managerial—so have a look at our current openings, and apply online. We’re really excited about what we’re doing here, so you should be also. And with that, I’ll leave you with the words of Vic, another software engineering guy I just happened to be talking to for reasons that have nothing to do with this post. It gets to the heart of how we feel as a team: “We’re building something that our customers are using over and over again. They’ll either love us or hate us. And that’s the reason we are driven to make it just perfect.” Does that sound a little intense to you? Then it’s probably best you move on to the next company. For us, it’s an entirely reasonable sentiment, and we’re looking for people who feel that same drive.
There’s just a week left till Christmas, so let me say this to all the retailers bracing themselves for the home-stretch: let’s be careful out there, folks. You’re going to be open longer hours, your customers are going to be more frantic in their searches, spaces will be crowded, and feelings will be hurt. Tensions, like a Russian track athlete, will be running high. Crabby patrons will snap at tired employees, and those same tired employees will quietly skulk off to cry in the back room while the manager covers the register. Lines will be formed. Alliances won’t. Barcodes will be scanned. Totals will be, uh—well, totaled. Receipts? Printed. Change? Given. Happy Holidays? Wished. Can I help the next person in line? Patience will be stretched, as will budgets. Credit cards will be declined. Returns will be made, and refunds authorized. Exchanges happen. Stock will be counted. Craig will be called in to handle the rush even though it’s his first day off in weeks. But he won’t complain. Children will shriek with want. Shifts will be covered, registers counted, new merchandise ordered. On Tuesdays and Thursday, from 4:30pm – 7:30pm, there will be gift wrapping offered, free of charge.
Yes, the holidays are no easy feat for those of you in the trenches doing the hard work. With so much going on, and with possible temporary staff that need training, it’s a good time to refresh yourselves with your POS. Features and processes that don’t get used often have a way of slipping from the mind. Maybe your staff learned how to process returns a few months ago, but if they never actually had to do one that process is gone from their heads, I assure you.
The best way to keep your store running smoothly is to make sure that your staff are equipped to make that happen. If they aren’t, you’ll be confronted with a nightmare scenario of impatient customers worse than anything the Ghost of Christmas Future could show you. It doesn’t have to be that way. Preempt flare-ups by having your employees reacquaint themselves with certain aspects of your point of sale and keep the lines moving. I’m not suggesting you have them sit down and read all the posts over at our support microsite—though it couldn’t hurt—but staff performance is directly tied to their knowledge of the system. Having them go through many of the videos on our Youtube channel will certainly help to get them back up to speed. Some good ones in particular to look at would be:
- Basics of the Kounta Selling Screen
- How to Setup and Use Product Variants & Variations
- How to Setup Refund Reasons and Issue Partial Refunds
- How to Finalise Your Takings in Kounta
Of course, our support team is always here to help you when you need us. The next week will be tough, but we’ll get through it together.
The post Keeping the Pace: Don’t Let the Holidays Slow You Down appeared first on Kounta.
By day, he’s the mild-mannered COO of Kounta. By night– well, he’s still the mild-mannered COO. We’re not so sure he ever sleeps, to be honest. For me, the biggest obstacle to working with a client on the other side of the world is the time difference. The Kounta offices are 14 hours ahead of my home office, but that doesn’t ever seem to matter if I’ve got a question that Josh Harrison can answer. For a while, I wasn’t sure if his sleeplessness was a function of his being a cybernetic organism grown in a lab, or if he’s just that passionate about his job. I’m happy to report that it’s simply passion–plus an extraordinary amount of coffee–and the rise of the machines is still a distant nightmare you and I will probably never have to deal with. Josh’s level of excitement about the company he works for and the software they’ve made is palpable in almost all communications from him. In fact, if he hasn’t used the phrase “changing the face of retail” in any answers he sends to me I begin to get concerned for his well being. I want to make clear here that I’m not mocking him: his zeal for Kounta is a pretty endearing quality, and definitely serves him well in his job.
Before joining Kounta, Josh worked in a variety of roles in hospitality, so he’s got a keen understanding of customers’ needs. Back then, he’d also dabbled in coding for the web–more of a hobby than a career. But it was enough for him to understand the realities of programming and what makes it so natural for him to be in his current role. Josh has been here since the beginning, and has watched the company grow from chaotic startup to the legitimate business that other software makers are excited to work with. As Kounta has grown, so has his role–from “General Manager” in the early days to “Chief Operating Officer” today. This is more than a semantic change of title. For a startup, “General Manager” is the perfect description for anyone in a position of authority. Startups are loose and disorganized. Everyone, regardless of their position, is thrown together to make things work, and one or two people are appointed to oversee it all–they just generally manage things. But as things get bigger and more serious, structure and protocols and hierarchies develop. A company organizes into an actual organization, and there’s got to be at least one person that facilitates the communication between the different silos of expertise. And this is where Josh is at these days. He manages the Success, Support, and Product teams, making sure that they are all on the best possible path to the same goal: ensuring a superior experience for the customers. It’s a delicate juggling act of keeping customers and employees happy, one that he maintains by facilitating the back-and-forth between the two camps. He stays in close contact with customers, soliciting feedback on Kounta and getting new features in development to satisfy demands. But it’s clear he has tremendous respect for his team, calling them “the real specialists” and recognizing his role as a facilitator who’s empowering them to “get their best work done.”
And as for that best work, it’s resulted in Kounta, which Josh describes as “not software, but a work of art.” For the record, Kounta actually is software, and they took Josh off the coding team when he started painting happy little trees all over the servers. They also placed a limit on his coffee intake. But he’s right when he describes software development as more of a creative process than a technical one, because the code can’t exist in a vacuum. It’s got to be designed, and implemented, then redesigned again when the user interaction doesn’t go as planned. There’s nothing worse in software design than when things don’t go as planned for the user. With one foot in the in-house technical end of things, and the other on the hospitality side, Josh is instrumental in making sure Kounta runs smoothly–as software, as a business, and for the customers who rely on it. I’d tell you to reach out to him and send a message of thanks or encouragement, but he’s much too busy for that. Still, he’d probably reply to you anyway.