Archive for April, 2007

Hotel Review

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g48503-d93748-r5964408-Holiday_Inn_Express_Rochester-Rochester_New_York.html

One of my best friends was looking on TripAdvisor for a hotel in Rochester, NY for a business trip. He found that review, and said I HAD to read it.

I think it’s well-written, and the author is right. If the hotel is going to claim that they’ll do anything to make your stay good, they should consider doing a few reasonable things.

All the hotel had to do was NOT show porn and have some pillow for this woman (I’m assuming this is a woman), and they probably would have received a good review. That probably would have lead to my friend booking his trip there. Think about how many people will not book there after reading this… even if other reviews on the same site about the same hotel are good reviews.


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Netflix at the 10023 Post Office

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

My sister sent me this great picture from her post office in NYC’s 10023 zip code. Click to enlarge it.

You see that correctly. Two slots for all mail. Two slots for oversized items. One slot for international mail. And one slot JUST for sending Netflix back.

This is an incredible measurement of adoption. Think about all the slots the PO never created. Sending back your Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes entry. Your JD Power survey on your car. Magazine subscription cards. Your tax returns. None of these got their own slots.

But at this post office, they must be processing SO many Netflix returns that it benefits them to make their own slot rather than have to sort them from the regular domestic mail slots. Someone thought maybe Netflix created some sort of partnership and the post office HAD to do this. I don’t think so. I think they did it out of necessity to make their sorting easier. Which means Netflix doesn’t pay for this. It’s marketing them, and probably for free.

That’s good marketing. 😉


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I’m An eBay Member

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

Today’s a big anniversary for me using eBay. Number 9. I signed up to eBay on 17 April 1998. Next year will be the big 10. I wonder if they send presents!


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Best In Stores 2007

Monday, April 16th, 2007

The nominees for Best In eBay Stores 2007 just came out. They didn’t choose any of our clients, and I find this really confusing. They picked designs that copycat previous year’s winners. How is a copycatted design good branding or marketing?

The best thing for the eBay marketplace is for every possible seller to be strong. My clients need a place to make money, so my focus is on improving the whole marketplace. People who’ve spoken to me know that I want to help sellers improve even if they don’t hire me. I want eBay to be strong and get stronger.

I don’t think the Stores that are nominated are the best way to go with eBay Stores. We wouldn’t design the way most of them are, and that’s because we are focused on what works. I’d rather a seller have a really functional site that quickly connects people with what they want to buy than to design some sort of custom eBay home page with 80 links to everything I’ve got. I’d rather design something readable than feel like I have to squish everything into a tiny space and use a tiny font.

I’d rather just design an eBay header than to design a custom eBay Store home page when I’m not convinced those work. I think most shoppers get there, and probably say, "Where are all the items?" Then they look around and say, "What do I have to click to see the items?" Then they are taking time to figure something new out, and I think the general eBay shopper crowd isn’t really into that. This is the same group that doesn’t read your shipping policies and then angrily emails you that you should have your shipping policies in your listing (when you already do :) ). We need to make moving around eBay Stores EASIER and faster for people rather than filling the page with tens of options. Herd your sheep!

So I’m disappointed. I know that no other company out there has the reputation we do. Nobody comes close to seeing the results our clients see. I would like our clients to be recognised for the great businesses they have, and the Store designs we do that WORK.

We just had a client tell us that before he hired us, he was selling around $3K per month on eBay. Now, he’s a Titanium PowerSeller, selling $186K in March. He’s very happy with what we did. And guess what. We didn’t design his Store. We did a template and matrix (our service that drives people to the eBay Store), but didn’t design his store. It’s totally an eBay default Store. All the Best In Stores nominees… have your sales increased over 50-fold since getting your design?

It’s a case study like that that reminds me that the best eBay Store is one that is simply designed, tying in branding, having a bit of personality, but making sure that the shopper quickly connects with what he or she wants. That means that we will not design the same thing PixClinic puts out there. We don’t do cookie cutter. We won’t design something with a zillion clickables. We try to keep it streamlined and helpful to the seller. There are many reasons why people who have PixClinic designs hire us. If that were the pinnacle of design, people wouldn’t drop their PixClinic designs to work with us. :)

Once upon a time, years ago, eBay Category Managers used to tell their big sellers that as long as they had a nice picture and some bullet points, their listings were perfect. You didn’t need a design. You just needed good feedback. And you weren’t going to become a brand name. Sellers didn’t want to hire us because their Category Manager said their listing was perfect!

Now, you have eBay sellers who are brand names, and we prove every day that design can make a difference. I heard an eBay staffer say in January at their eCommerce Forum that they found that when a shopper felt fun, excitement, or personality in a listing, they were nearly twice as likely to bid or buy. Hey, we knew that! And eBay staff are recommending us to sellers of all sizes because they know we made a huge difference.

Maybe the Stores people just have to catch up with us like the paradigm of listings had to catch up with our way of thinking. I guess I can wait. But the pile of phone calls I’m going to get insisting that I design something that I know doesn’t work is not my favourite time of year. Still, it is fun to talk to those callers and by the end of the call have all of them realising that they DON’T want a design like the one that won the award because they’re now not convinced it would work. :)

Maybe the Stores people don’t want to pick us because we’ve proving that less design and busy-ness (than the nominees) works better and is more effective.

I’d rather see our clients double and triple and grow they way they do than win an award. An award would be nice, but we don’t need it. Knowing we are making our clients more successful and more profitable is better than an award.


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The Voice of Disease and Self-Loathing

Monday, April 16th, 2007

I like Ann Curry. I watch the Today Show. She seems like the kind of person I’d like to take to lunch.

But I recognise her voice in more and more commercials. Maybe these things are all related. I think she is the voice over in the commercials for Detrol, Boniva, and Botox. Possibly more.

I like David Duchovny as the voice of dogs trying to get adopted in Pedigree commercials. But noticing that Ann Curry is the soothing voice of a variety of diseases and things for people who don’t like how they look… that makes me a little sad!


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More Offensive Than Imus

Saturday, April 14th, 2007

http://www.citynews.ca/news/news_9536.aspx

That says it all. Don Imus is politically correct compared to that.


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Don Imus

Friday, April 13th, 2007

This Don Imus thing has me confused. This is a guy who has made a career out of saying racist, unpopular things… doing characters who would be insulting to a lot of people. He’s known for saying crap, and I don’t remember him apologising or getting suspended. If you’re unfamiliar with him, read the Wikipedia entry, which looks true to me. Don Imus has built a CAREER on saying racist, sexist, and insulting things.

So he and his crew called a local women’s college basketball team "nappy-headed hos." That seems LIGHTWEIGHT for Imus, honestly. I almost want to say "so what?" compared to other things he has said. How about things Howard Stern has said and done when he was on regular radio. When did any of these people apologise or get suspended?

What’s going on? What really happened here? Why is this phrase so bad, and all the other things he’s said for decades aren’t media fodder or getting him suspended? Now he’s been fired. Fired for something that’s probably way milder than things he and others have said over the years.

Look, I am not for putting people down. I’m not for taking any group of people and coming up with some insulting comment. I don’t think that stuff is funny. Don Imus makes a living saying things like that, and the people who like that listen to him. That was millions of dollars a year in advertising revenue.

The women on the basketball team who were on the crap end of his comment will not have worse lives for what Imus said. They didn’t have to let one man’s stupid comment affect them. If I stopped my life or changed my life direction every time someone said s**t to me in the past, I’d be sessile. I would have stopped growing and stopped running my business and stopped dating and stopped doing anything because I would let myself be put down by stupid things other people said. You just can’t live like that.

So Imus will end up on satellite radio, and THEN what will he say? Anything he wants. You can choose to not listen.


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Best Laid Intentions

Friday, April 13th, 2007

Sorry for the pun in the title of this one, but I had to go for it.

I was looking at meetup groups in Tucson, and ended up (for a laugh) looking at which people wanted some of what I’d call the hornier meetup groups to start. Yes, they’re in limbo. Evidently they all want this but nobody is starting the groups.

Some intentions were odd.

A guy in the Cuddling group said he wanted a cuddling group because he would love to "learn to love." His picture made him look like a current felon, no smile. I don’t want to cuddle with him, and if I were in the cuddling group, I’d probably want people who were already loving to be attending. I’d suggest therapy for those looking to learn to love. This guy was also found waiting for the polyamory group to start.

Then, someone waiting for the Hedonism group to start said he’s wants to find his soul mate… in the hedonism group.

The winner is probably this post from someone waiting for the Naturism (aka nudist) group to start: "slim mature male. enjoy nude hiking,taking pictures and at times being in them. Laid back personality shy at times. Have been a nudist/naturist for some years. Belong to a local group but want to meet others into naturism. Hike or backyard" The shy nudist. This I don’t gotta see. Hiking and back yards only!

So all these people in town want to cuddle, get naked, have orgies, and who knows what. They’ve put up their pictures and posted their intentions. If I see these people around town, I’ll recognise them, so clearly, they’re comfy with this. So what stops these groups from forming? The monthly fee? You’d think these people are ready to get going. :)


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Drop Off Stores, Part 2

Thursday, April 12th, 2007

There was a comment added to my drop-off stores post the other day asking what franchise owners can do to be more profitable. Here is what I think is going on for these stores.

  1. Who is buying these franchises? A lot of people call me thinking about buying into these franchises. I ask their eBay selling experience, and it’s zero. OK then why open a store based on something on which you know nothing? "Well, it was either that or Quizno’s." So this seems to attract businesspeople/investors who no nothing. I usually say then by that, why not open a dentist’s office since you probably know nothing about that either.
  2. That’s a major flaw! If I were the franchisee, I would know that the whole drop-off model relies on eBay expertise. You are selling eBay expertise. Don’t try to sell it yourself on eBay! We’ll do it for you! We know how to do this. OK, well if the store is owned by someone who doesn’t know how to do this, and maybe he hires your typical mall workers who don’t know how to do this, then what do you have. You are selling expertise you don’t have. I wouldn’t sell a franchise to someone who weren’t already a strong eBay seller. You do NOT become a strong eBay seller by reading a few books and getting some training. It’s not academic.
  3. I once heard a stat that said something like many of these franchises thought there should be one store for every X00,000 people… so stores were popping up every few miles. They shouldn’t be every few miles because not every town can support the store. It’s not about people. It’s about the value of their possessions. Which leads us to…
  4. Make sure the store is in a more upscale neighbourhood. I’ve driven through some sad towns with a drop-off franchise. I guess that makes the eBay drop-off store a pawn shop alternative? I don’t think that’ll work since then you have low value items. Which leads us to…
  5. The stores I see doing better have standards about the value of items that they’ll sell. If you get 35% of a sale, and you won’t take anything with an estimated value of under $100, then you are doing ALL that work for $35 bucks. If you are willing to take $50 items, you are going to break your ass for $17.50, assuming it even sells for $50. You won’t always be right about these values!
  6. Get the right staff and train them. I know someone who started his own drop-off store, and hired what didn’t seem to be the brightest people. They literally listed an item on eBay with the title, "telephone," having NO idea how titles can make or break your sale. So your staff can make or break you.

And then you have marketing and advertising… just in case you were doing all of the above correctly. :) I have never seen a listing template for a drop-off store and liked the template. I have higher standards, but I also know that what we do with templates improves business. Hey drop-off stores, if your items started selling or 10% higher prices or 10% more often, how would that affect your business? Well, then hire us! You all look the same, and you’re mostly floundering.

Luckily for drop-off stores, you’re at the point where most people know what you do. You do what the woman in the 40-Year-Old Virgin does! You no longer have to advertise based on explaining what you do. So now what?

It’s everybody. It’s the franchisers themselves choosing people who probably should go open a Quizno’s. It’s the franchisees hiring cheap help who never really understand the eBay marketplace and how to work it. It’s everybody putting these stores in the wrong neighbourhoods, and then wondering why nobody comes in or why nobody brings anything of good value. But it’s definitely top down. If the franchisers were pickier about who got stores and WHERE they put the stores, and then the franchiser were pickier about item value and how hiring and training are done, then you have a different model.

An iSold It just opened 4 miles south of me. I thought about going in and asking if I can be of any help. And then I remembered that I’m not allowed to be of any help.


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The Curse of 718

Thursday, April 12th, 2007

I like to say that our typical sales cycle is 20 minutes. :) People call us already loving our work and wanting to know more… pricing, which services we recommend for them, time frame, do they own the work when we’re done, etc… But they typically call us already knowing that our work kills anybody who pretends to be competition. :)

I just had one such call. He said they’ve been looking at my website on and off for two years. They like what we do, and the like the results we reported, but while they were growing, they didn’t want to budget for what we charge. But the caller made it clear that he was serious about hiring us now. They were moving into expensive software, and it was time to have the best firm do what we do.

Just as our conversation was just about over, he told me that he wasn’t going to allow the third party credit (our logo) at the bottom of his listings. That’s a contractual obligation, so I told him that we would not work with him if he is going to remove our credit. I then told him that it was interesting, but everybody who has ever fallen in love with us, called us, was ready to hire us, but then refused to hire us because of our logo was from the 718 area code. I realised after that one person was in California, but the rest were Brooklyn and Queens.

"Well, we’re in a very competitive business," he says.

"I know," I said, "We’re working on two of your competitors now."

"Well I don’t want anybody to know who did our design."

It’s funny. 6 years into doing what we do, and I haven’t seen anybody designing the way we do. I still insist on our credit staying in listings, but do you think that people who are at all aware of As Was (as this guy was for 2 years) would see a listing we designed and NEED the logo to tell them we did it? I think we’re starting to have a recognisable approach.

So I told him that the credit is a contractual obligation, and he’ll just have to call back when he doesn’t like how far we’ve taken his competitors. :)

What’s with you, 718 area code! Do you drink Coca Cola from a paper bag? Do you take black Sharpie markers to the signature of artists on paintings you hang up? Do you pry the name of your car dealership off your car? There is nothing wrong with crediting a company for helping you. As Was isn’t invisible. Your competitors are already finding us. You might as well let us do our best for you!


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