Affordable Care Act opens a marketplace in KY for insurance

Insurance exchange in KY opens to heavy traffic

Open enrollment began on October 1st for individuals seeking coverage under the 2010 health care law, as much of the federal government was in the process of shutting down. A state-wide health insurance marketplace has been created in Kentucky as a result of the Affordable Care Act. The system offers insurance plans in 36 states, including KY, and the federal site links to state-run exchanges.

Many exchanges were burdened with heavy web traffic on their opening day. Healthcare.gov opened late Tuesday afternoon to give people a glimpse at the many plans and prices offered by insurers through the open marketplace.  Error messages, website crashes, service delays, and misc. glitches were observed on the morning of the exchange launch, which is common to website and tech launches.

Links: https://www.healthcare.gov/

KY health exchange: https://kyenroll.ky.gov/

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US promotional products industry revenues jumped by 4.4% in 2012

According to a new report by Promotional Products Association International (PPAI), The 2012 Estimate Of Promotional Products Distributor Sales, US promotional products industry revenues increased by 4.4% to $18.5 billion in 2012.

US sale product volume

That marked the 3rd consecutive year of growth. Sales volume has grown since 2008 in the US. Online sales of promotional products continue to increase. Promotional product sales online is growing by more than 20% and will exceed $3.7 billion.

The 2012 sales volume figures show an increase of 4.38% in distributor revenues over 2011. This increase puts promotional product industry’s revenues at $18,497,562,929, up from $17,721,945,690 in 2011. Last year witnessed increases in revenue for both large and small promotional product distributor companies. Larger companies with sales of $2.5 million or more experienced a 7.88% increase over 2011 while smaller distributors saw an increase of 1.06%.

The biggest promotional product sellers for 2012 (by product category):

  • Wearables - 28.9%
  • Bags - 8.7%
  • Writing instruments - 8.6%
  • Drinkware – 7.1%

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Best Mobile Apps of 2012

As this year comes to a close, we would like to take a moment and reflect on this year’s mobile apps we liked, loved, and couldn’t imagine life without that helped get us through 2012.  This is our list of the best apps of 2012 that make work easier, when you’re on the go.

  1. Skype – Keep the conversation going as you move from the desktop to the commute home. Everyone agrees that Skype’s free mobile app, with free Skype-to-Skype calling is hands down the easiest way to communicate with team members off-site.    Available for Android, Blackberry, and iPhone and iPad.
  2. Box – We can’t get enough of the features of the file-sharing cloud service Box, such as document collaborating, task assignments, and password protected files.  And now that Box is available on Android, iPhone, and iPad finding files, uploading media, and collaborating with colleagues is even faster.
  3. Wikipanion – This application, only available for iOS for now, is a faster way to connect to all things Wikipedia.  For quick research on the go, Wikipanion has a better interface experience than your computer version and has personal features in settings like language and font size, (with the paid version for $4.99 you can save pages for later viewing too), as well as an off-line mode.
  4. Google Maps – After Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, publicly apologized for the Apple Maps debacle, Google’s Maps application landed as we were grasping for a single reliable app for automobile and transit commuting.  It’s smooth and smart and oh-so-”Google.”
  5. SignEasy – Need a contract signed by 5pm and you’re offsite by 4:30?  SignEasy is a simple and convenient solution controlled by a swipe of your finger on your mobile device.  Close the deal a day early and forget overnight shipping, or scanning and emailing?  We’ll get behind that.

    Baby's Touch Christmas Version

  6. Baby’s Touch – This app isn’t necessarily a tool for the office, but sometimes it’s a good idea to take a break and zone out to a soothing, mindless game.  This app, designed for toddlers and available for iPad and iPhone, is a great blend of entertainment and ease to zone out to, when you need a little zen.  Try the new Holiday version.
  7. Rappel – We love Basecamp and their email notifications allow you to stay connected after you leave your desk.  But this project management tool and Rappel integrates your iPhone or iPad with the Basecamp Next API and lets you keep tabs on tasks, team members, upload files, and join discussions from anywhere.
  8. Hootsuite – Did you know that 79 of the Fortune Top 100 companies have HootSuite accounts?  Manage all social media outlets from the Android, Blackberry, or iPhone platform, and the possibilities keep getting bigger and better, that there’s no reason to not try the 30-day free trial.
  9. Yammer – Like Twitter but for your team, Yammer is a private networking application available across most platforms.  Organize groups to feed conversations to the right team, tag conversations, as well as send a private IM.  Best of all Yammer also integrates with some of the world’s well-known enterprises like Salesforce, HootSuite, Microsoft Dynamics, and Google applications.
  10. iThoughtsHD – Originally released in 2010, we decided iThoughtsHD, new this year, deserved a spot on our list.  Available on iPad and iPhone, this mindmapping application is a virtual brainstorming board with a simple and intuitive ways to organize thoughts and ideas.  Never lose a fledgling idea as well as break down that big picture concept into bite-sized pieces, and get it done.

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5 Tips to improve your Linkedin company page

Linkedin badgeLinkedin is a fantastic business tool, which has a variety of applications to professionals and businesses.

Traditional face to face networking may be simpler, but the Internet gives a business person more access and makes networking less labor intensive.

Linkedin has 175 million users, which makes it a valuable tool for business networking. Companies can use the social network to recruit employees, build online visibility, gain leads and find new branding opportunities.

Here are five steps to improve your LinkedIn company page:

  1. Make sure your Linkedin company is complete
  2. Set goals for your Linkedin company page. Understand your intentions with the social network, and make a plan to make your company goals. If your goal is lead generation, then focus on engaging users with great content that garners interest and sharing.
  3. Build a following: Start with business contact you already know, then begin to meet new people by participating in conversations within Linkedin groups.
  4. Establish your company as an industry expert that creates useful and informative content.
  5. Measure with analytics and make improvements: Testing with analytics is an important part of improving your company page. Linkedin provides an insights tab, which provides detailed reports on page visitors and demographic data.

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Midland Invoice factoring, a new KBN member

Kentucky Business Network is proud to announce a new member of the KBN alliance, Midland American Capital–an invoice factoring company. Midland American joined KBN in 2011, and the company is also a member of the Better Business Bureau and NYC Business Network.

We believe Midland American Capital is a great factoring solution for businesses is because they are focused on being a longterm partner with their clients and have knowledgeable development officers who can help businesses understand factoring clearly. Midland provides invoice factoring services for a broad range of industries from Distributors to Technology Providers.

Midland American Capital

Screen view of Midland American's website homepage

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10 million iPhone users in China

China Mobile announced 10 million iPhone users on its network. Ironically, China Mobile is the largest iPhone carrier in the world, yet the company is not an official carrier partner for Apple’s smartphone.

Most of the users only can access 2G speeds. Certainly, China Mobile has been a target for Apple for quite some time. It is known that talks have been ongoing in specifically related to bringing China Mobile into the iPhone fold–and giving Apple more than 600 million customers. It would be a huge opportunity for Apple, in Apple’s most important market.

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Announcing a new network partner

The Kentucky Business Network would like to announce a new affiliated, network partner: The NYC Business Network. The NYC business network just recently launched, and as part of their launch Kentucky Business Network is announcing this partnership.

The NYC Business Network shares a mission and purpose with the Kentucky Business Network. Their goal of “Promoting NYC companies and connecting businesses with customers and buyers” shares a clear relationship with our mission and goals.

The NYCBusinessNetwork.org website has three major components:

  • Membership Directory
  • Press Release Distribution
  • Business Events and Calendar

Although our two websites do not share the same regional demographic or constituency, we feel confident that the two website directories will find numerous opportunities for cross promotion of our membership base and featured businesses. In total, the two websites will be mutually strengthened through our relationships and opportunities for growth.

We invite you to visit their website: http://www.nycbusinessnetwork.org/

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Ironpaper launches a new Center For Global Partnership website

Ironpaper, a New York City based web strategy & design company, recently launched a new website for the Center For Global Partnership, Japan Foundation. The Center For Global Partnership (CGP), headquartered in NYC, was established in 1991 to promote collaboration between the people of Japan, the United States, and beyond in order to address issues of global concern. The CGP provides grants to individuals and institutions in the US in fields as diverse as policy, security, education, science and more. CGP supports universities, research institutions, and non-profit organizations interested in conducting collaborative projects with appropriate Japanese counterparts on policy-oriented projects on global issues of common concern.

The new cgp.org website includes a new capability of sorting and searching the current grants database for the foundation. Additionally, individuals and institutions interested in applying for a grant with the CGP can also browse the archives of past grants with CGP in order to better understand who and which institutions received funding in the past.

CGP Center For Global Partnership - Japan Foundation - Ironpaper NYC

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Price war with tablets to threaten iPads

Makers of Android-powered tablets have begun to price their products more aggressively against the iPad. The prices will be set to compete with the iPad’s US$499 entry-level price. Since it’s inception the Apple iPad has been priced extremely aggressively, and other device makers have struggled to fall in line with the prices of Apple’s products when they offer similar features or quality hardware components.

The starting price points for tablets with 10.1 inch screens from ViewSonic, Asustek and Acer range from $279 to $449. Each of these tablets run a different version of the Google OS. Typically they run dual-core ARM processors. One selling point for the Android devices are that they are Flash-capable.

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An overview of banner advertising for small businesses

Banner advertising can be a very compelling or seductive  form of advertising. For one, this approach to advertising is quite ubiquitous or at least extremely common. It is compelling also because it is a visual form of advertising that allows for creative expression and custom messaging composed within a pictorial display.

Banner advertising may not be the most cost effective form of advertising for small businesses however. Pay Per Click advertising (especially that of Google’s Adwords program) has completely turned the advertising industry upside down. PPC ads can be hyper-targeted and easy to manage. They have a low commitment for small business owners and marketing companies, which gives advertisers flexibility to create, study and learn from their campaigns–ultimately making the format more appealing. It should be noted, that banner advertising has been adopted into the Google Adwords program.

Statistically, banner advertising is the most expensive of all common forms of customer acquisition. From a cost standpoint, it can exceed even traditional media.

Niche Banner Advertising Deals
A gem in the rough
On the other hand, there can be some great deals for banner ads from small websites and newsletters, which may contradict the general stats. For example, smaller website owners or webmasters running their own banner advertising programs may provide interesting deals or access to a unique and useful market, which could be helpful to a small business advertiser. Such gems can be challenging to find and can take quite a bit of time researching. One idea would be to find websites or blogs that have the right quality and kind of traffic but currently do not carry advertising. Make an offer to the website owner.

Finding a banner ad network
For established banner ad websites, consider using a banner ad network. Examples of such networks include: AdCritic, Adotas, DoubleClick, Google AdWords, or even the WebbyAwards.

Formats
Paid online advertising can come in a variety of forms, including:

  • Static banner ads — in a variety of sizes
  • Animated GIF or Flash ads
  • Rich media, which could include sound or video
  • Pop-ups and pop-unders ( boooo, these can be very annoying to users)
  • Interstitial — appear as user links between pages
  • Expandable or take-over ads – ads that grow or cover content on a page

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