Archive for November, 2007

The Flavour of Ornaments

Friday, November 16th, 2007

I was in Walgreens yesterday with something weird caught my eye. Cadbury Creme Eggs. They can be yummy, though I wasn’t totally expecting them this time of year. They had a new one in a red wrapper, and it said:

Ornament Creme Egg

Now, I’m used to some of the variations. This Easter, I saw Peanut Butter Eggs, Snickers Eggs, Caramel Eggs… there are lots of variations.

But Ornament?

That’s not a flavour. It’s random. It didn’t come on a string, so it’s not meant to hang on a Xmas Tree.

So what is the flavour of an Ornament Creme Egg? Evidently it’s the regular milk choco, regular inside. Just a new wrapper. If they wanted something Xmas-themed, couldn’t they have come up with a better name… or even a new flavour? Minty Green?

Ornament?


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How To Travel By Air

Friday, November 16th, 2007

Having done some flying lately and had good experiences while watching other people be pissed off, I wanted to give you my tips for the best possible air travel. Business or pleasure travel, these are my tips, in no particular order.

  • Bring your own food. You can’t rely any more on getting a good meal. Or a meal. Even the "buy on board" programmes announce that they may run out of food by the time they get to your row. So don’t take a change with mystery meat or some of the crappy (and unhealthy) things available in airports. The night before my trip, I go to my fave Chinese place, and get beef and broccoli with white rice. I dump the lovely food on the white rice, and I do this in a Rubbermaid collapsible bowl. These are great for travelling since as you eat or when you’re done, you flatten it out so it takes up less room. A dish like beef and broccoli will travel well since it’s cooked, has no dairy, and won’t get soggy. Eat that when you’re hungry. Like pretzels? Bring a huge bag.
  • Bring your own Camelback. These are great for hiking, biking, and outdoor sports. But I have a 1 litre one that I bring everywhere. It’s just a little bladder with a tube and a mouthpiece, allowing you to bring your own beverages. You CAN bring them through security in an airport if they are empty. Just know that sometimes they may swab them to make sure the liquid that was last in them isn’t anything explosive. But once you’re through security, find a soda machine, and fill it with ice and water for free. :) Or buy bottled water, and dump it in. Always have water handy as you never know when you won’t be served anything and you’re thirsty. Flying can really dehydrate you, so keep drinking, even if that means lots of trips to tiny bathrooms.
  • Don’t say "I hate New York," when they ask if you have anything to declare, even if you really do hate New York. Take it from me.
  • Please smell good. You may not like how early you had to get up to travel, but you’re going to make the day really unpleasant for yourself and others if you’re smelly. Shower. Use products that make you smell nice. Being in airports and on planes puts us all very close together. If you wouldn’t want the guy next to you to smell like yesterday’s 10-mile cycle, then please shower.
  • Check your bags. If you want to get off the plane faster once it lands, you may not want to have to retrieve 3 bags from all over the place. Bags are lost way less often than you think, and the wait for bags doesn’t feel so long to me. Go through security faster and get on and off the plane faster if you’ll just check all of that crap. You’ll probably also enjoy NOT wheeling all that crap around the airport.
  • Weigh bags you plan to check before you get to the airport. Get a portable scale, and bring it with you so that you can weigh on the way back too. That way, you will be able to repack before you get there, and adjust things so that you’re not charged for overweight bags.

These are my tips for flying. I have pretty much great experiences flying, and it’s not because I bully airline agents or flight attendants into kissing my ass. It’s because I come totally prepared. If we were all this prepared, lines would be shorter, lines would move faster, and you wouldn’t care what’s served on the plane. You’ll save time, money, and frustration.


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Digestive Systems “On Track”

Thursday, November 15th, 2007

There are a lot of commercials on for products that will "get your digestive system on track." I guess the whole country is constipated. What the hell is going on?

Well, how about what we’re eating. Evidently, we don’t want to change. If messages of healthy eating were getting through, we wouldn’t have the issues we’re facing now with our population and especially the children. So knowing that people won’t make a change, even when their health relies on the change, companies ones again come out with products that put a band aid on things.

So from all of our bad eating, we’re evidently all constipated. We have yoghurts and now cheese (!) that will get you regular. Plus, you still have all the fibre supplements you could be taking and the concoctions for constipation. One thing that I know about fibre is that it often doesn’t work really well unless you drink a lot of water with it. Constipation is an imbalance of water in the digestive system in the first place. If you drink more water, you might not be irregular ANYWAY.

Let’s just eat more healthily. Let’s have vegetables that aren’t deep fried. Get away from wheat, even "whole wheat" and "whole grains." It’s still wheat, and it’s still super processed. Drink way more water. Soda and coffee don’t count as they are not very hydrating. Drink water. You might find that eating more veg and drinking more water make you more regular anyway. You can then save money on supplements, yoghurts, and cheeses that want to give you a moving experience.


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Who Wrote “I Am America (And So Can You!)”

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

I’m a big fan of Colbert, and have been for a long time. 10 years I’d say. I loved him as Ace in The Ambiguously Gay Duo. LOVED him like mad in Strangers With Candy, a freaking hysterical show. Swooned over him on The Daily Show. I watch most of the Colbert Report reruns shown the day after they broadcast, just before I go to sleep. I might have even seen a few episodes of Exit 57 more than 10 years ago as I have memories of Colbert in a sketch comedy show that somehow my brain mis-filed as The State.

So when I heard he had a book coming out, I put myself on the library reserve list. I was 49th on the waiting list for the 31 copies the whole of the Tucson Library System had purchased. I have mine, and the waiting list is now 96. OK, Tucson is a small city in a red state (though we’re voting blue more and more, may I say). :)

I’m about half way through Stephen Colbert’s "I Am America (And So Can You!)" book, and I have to say I’m disappointed. I feel like the Stephen Colbert character that we get didn’t write this book. I can’t claim to know crap, but it seems very Paul Dinello to me. I think of SC’s character as resolute in his ways and ideas, well informed even if he’s misinterpretting things to go how he wants, and super Republican. He’s like a fakey Fox News guy, with the egomania and everything. He presents logical-sounding arguments that are sometimes straightforward and sometimes hysterically labyrinthic.

To me, Paul Dinello characters tend to be more oblivious, bumbling, ill-informed, and illogical. Think Mr. Jellineck, who gets a mention in the "I Am America" book. Huh? Stephen Colbert’s book references a character one of the authors played in a comedy series? My fave Mr. Jellineck line has to be when someone trying out for cheerleading does a great tumbling pass. Mr. Jellineck jumps up and yells, "I’m fantastic!" Dinello, who I loved as Mr. Jellineck, also plays Tad The Building Manager on The Colbert Report, a recurring character.

You’ll have to read the book for yourself, but I feel like Dinello wrote most of "I Am America." I expected the book to be more of the Colbert we get on his show. I’m halfway through, and he’s not really saying much about politics. He’s written about getting married, having kids, dominating your pets, and religion, and it’s all ridiculous. It’s not logical, It’s not Fox News Republican-esque, and the character is inconsistent. The character seems stupid… as an adult, looking back on the death of his 14-yr-old dog as it was euphemised by his parents at the time, saying his dog went to live on someone else’s farm… and he supposedly still believes that his dog abandoned him… and that his current dog will live for decades. I just don’t think of the Colbert character as being that dumb, illogical, and naive.

I love the childhood pics of Stephen. But so far, the funniest line was on page viii, a page so good I had to italicise it, "Baby carrots are trying to turn me gay." I haven’t laughed since, and I’m on page 87 of 227. The stickers are funny. But I really expected this to be more about the political wackiness that we get from his show. I didn’t expect to see "Colbert’s" thoughts on making your dog truly subservient. Margin notes are in red and microscopic, and seem to be running
commentary on what is written in the main section. I find reading it a bit clumsy as I’m
follow two narratives… the book in regular type, and the commentary
in tiny red type in the side margins. There are also footnotes with commentary.

I didn’t find reading Jon Stewart’s book clumsy. I loved it and found it to be consistent with The Daily Show. I laughed plenty. It was clever. I will read this book through, but it’s just not grabbing me. I miss page viii, though I’ve just flipped ahead, and it looks like I may be laughing again on page 108. No wait, I’m looking at page 108 now and not laughing.

It’s a library book for sure.


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Why a Few Companies Weren’t Invited to Our Conference

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

I’m hand-picking the companies I’d like to invite to exhibit/sponsor our upcoming conference. They are companies I’ve seen at other eBay-related events, and have heard good things from our clients. But some are not going to get invited. Why?

I went to their website. I struggled to find a "contact us" page. I got there and was shown a form to fill out. A bunch of my information was mandatory. It didn’t say the email address anywhere. If you’re afraid of spam, show it as a graphic. But no email address. One one site, I went to fill out the biz dev/partner form, thinking that was right for my invite. The form was 3 screens long, and had dozens of required fields.

This tells me that they are afraid of people wasting their time. I guess they will only know I’m serious about partnering if I take the time to fill in ALL of those fields. It reminds me of a Monty Python sketch where an insurance company makes a guy fill a huge vat with his urine. The guy brings it in, and the insurance company tells him to throw it away. He complains that it took him months to fill it, and don’t they test it or something? He’s then told that they ask him to fill the vat with urine just to make sure he’s serious about insurance.

So hey, companies out there who would want more visibility in the eBay space. If it’s not easy for me to contact you, what will potential customers do? There’s only so much people want to fill out in forms, so don’t make the majority of fields required. I like to only require the things I need to get in touch with people: email address, name, and phone number. The rest is optional.


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GetItNext

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

I recently got a demonstration of GetItNext, and I wanted to tell you guys about it. No, I’m not paid to do this. This is the fun part of my job. :)

Nowadays, I do more eBay shopping than selling, and finding what you’re looking for is often the struggle. Sometimes, sellers make finding the right things harder by how they list things or what keywords they use. GetItNext doesn’t read minds, but it makes finding things on eBay easy. Some might say easier than eBay’s own search.

I love the idea of their FIND A DEAL search. What this shows you is stuff ending in the next 4 hours that has no bid (or is a fixed price with remaining quantity). Great for last minute deals, great for sellers hoping to make that last minute sale.

The BUY IT NOW search only shows Buy It Nows, Fixed Price, and Store items. So for those of you truly looking to BIN, but have had to search twice on eBay (once in the core and once in Stores), you can now see all instant gratification items at once. :)

BULK DEALS easily shows you everything that is listed as a lot, wholesale, or a multiple quantity. If you need a group or a set, this will be an easy way to find all such things (core OR Store) at once.

So I say check them out. If you like it, tell a friend. It’s a good tool, and I’m going to give it a deeper spin next time I’m doing my eBay shopping.


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Salesforce Support

Monday, November 12th, 2007

I’m finally working with Salesforce.com, and I love it. I’m on day 9 of my trial, and I think it super kicks butt. So first, let me say that this software rules. I avoided it thinking it might be too complicated, too much for our needs, or too expensive, and it’s NONE of those. It’s just great.

In trying to figure the whole thing out and customise it like mad, I ran into some trouble. I posted to the discussion forums, but for the most part, nobody wrote back. My sales person told me to call support, and I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to be a non-paying customer bothering the tech support people. No, she told me to do it! Support is open to everybody, including those in the free trial. I still didn’t want to bug them.

She evidently had a support guy call me. !!! I told him my 4 problems. Turns out I was doing 2 of them right already and things were working, and the other 2 couldn’t be done. So I posted them to IdeaExchange, which is where Salesforce lets people suggest features and changes. Other users get to vote ideas up (not down), so they can then measure how many people want that. People are starting to vote my 2 up, so hopefully, these will be built in at some point. I’m going to post another idea too.

I was thinking about my call with support, and Salesforce is right to put their resources out there, even for trial users. Why? Marketing. I am being totally sucked in the system, and support was great. What if I were trying something, and nobody wanted to help me with stumbling blocks because support were only for paying users, which I see a lot? You could lose that person. He may not sign on. He may not become a happy, passionate user like I am now sure to be. What does it cost you to put your support team out there for people who aren’t paying (yet)? It is probably worth it. If your support team is spending too much time with these people, then change your system to be easier and more obvious/intuitive.

So "good marketing" to Salesforce for being all-around awesome, and extending full support to trial users.


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Too Much Networking (?)

Friday, November 9th, 2007

I was anti-Facebook. It seemed silly, and I didn’t have the time. I never had a MySpace page. I found that WAY too silly, and the interface I found clunky and unattractive. I liked LinkedIn to connect me to business contacts, so I figured I had it all covered.

Well, I felt like the last person on the planet who hadn’t joined Facebook, so I joined up. I’m glad I did as I’ve found some great college friends I haven’t seen or heard from in at least 10 years. So I’m tickled to be reconnecting with those people, and as long as you don’t go app crazy or say yes to every "do we have the same movie taste" invite you get, it doesn’t have to consume your time.

Now, I’m getting requests to join people’s Plaxo networks. Was LinkedIn not enough? These are people who are ALREADY in my Plaxo, syncing with my Outlook, so who cares if they’re in my "network" or not. I can’t see the helpful use here.

And another thing while I’m at it. If we are NOT friends, do not ask me to be friends in Facebook. I will ignore you. Facebook is for friends. MySpace is for racking up piles of people you don’t know. Same for Plaxo and LinkedIn. I will ignore the request if I don’t think we are real business colleagues, partners, etc…

I’m going to say bad marketing to Plaxo. You are DAMN late in the "networking" thing, and now I can’t see a reason to get into the Plaxo network thing. I feel over-networked, plus you’re so far connecting me with people I already knew and already had in my Plaxo.


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Reasonable Expectations

Thursday, November 8th, 2007

eBay recently asked me what kind of growth our clients tend to see after working with us. The stat we give out is that our typical client increases their eBay sales 15% within a month of working with us. Most sellers are excited about that, and why the heck not.

In reality, many of our clients see a larger growth rate, especially over time. They might double their sales after four months. They might go from the 4th biggest seller of that product on eBay to the top seller. There are a lot of ways to measure growth. But I think it’s better marketing to give a reasonable expectation. I’d rather say 15% and have you grow 16% than to promise something much larger and then have you grow 16%. In that case, 16% growth might feel disappointing because you were set up to expect more.

Another company out there has on their website a page showing a bar graph where people who work with them seem to immediately triple in sales. So if I hire these guys, I’m going to expect that. I’m going to expect that overnight, I am going to triple in sales, just like the bar graph showed. Is that properly managing expectations? We could show stats and graphs from our clients who grew 200%. 300%. 600%. And let’s not forget our client who grew 6,200%. How about the client we took from zero sales to $1M per month on eBay alone? But would that give you reasonable expectations for what you might experience, no matter what you sell?

It’s like the TV ads showing the biggest success stories (with the tiny disclaimer) rather than showing averages. I do not want to show you stats of people who grew 80-300% to reel you in unless I feel that I can promise that growth to you.

So I say that managing clients’ expectations and showing them something they can reasonably expect for themselves is good marketing.


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Don’t Copy eBay’s Name

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

http://www.examiner.com/a-1032289~EBay_wins__trademark_dilution__suit_against_Perfumebay_com.html

That’s a link to a report on how eBay won a trademark dilution suit against a company/website calling itself PerfumeBay. I am ALWAYS advising our clients against getting eBay and Bay bits out of their names. You cannot create a unique brand when you are riding on the coattails of another brand.

People think that eBay is cool and casual, so you can do this. eBay is a corporation like any other, and it protects its marks, as it should. So when wondering if you can get away with it, replace the "eBay" part of your name with Microsoft or AT&T. Then, imagine if Microsoft or AT&T would be fine with what you did, or if you just might get a letter from a lawyer. Once you realise that what you’ve done is trademark dilution and you would be likely to get a letter from a lawyer, you can make sure you change your naming plans.

While I’m at it, I also advise that you not ride on eBay’s logo design. When coming up with the branding and logo for your company, don’t do the one letter each in those colour with the jumbled layout. This is also a trademark infringement or dilution, and again, if you want to have your own unique brand and company identity, you’re not going to get it by riding on the coattails of another company.

Why is it wrong to dilute or infringe a trademark this way if eBay makes money when you make money? I hear questions like that a lot. The answer is because it works great for you since you get to associate yourself with a big and mostly liked company. eBay loses out because they’re being associated with a company that they have nothing to do with other than you happen to sell on their website. They don’t control you, they don’t own you, they don’t advise you, so nobody should think that your "eBay" sounding company is officially associated with or part of eBay.

Think about the scam artists out there… the people who are selling you e-books, selling systems, seminars, and other things that generally turn out to be crap. Many have eBay’s name and/or logo on their website. That made you think that they were approved by eBay, right? I know it did because people call and email me all the time saying they went with that company because they figured they were approved by eBay. This is why eBay allows NOBODY to put the eBay logo anywhere. If you’ve put it anywhere, you’re in the wrong. eBay has other logos it allows certain people and businesses to use, but NOBODY gets permission to just use the eBay logo (unless eBay is exhibiting at or sponsoring a conference… I mean eBay sellers and eBay-related products).

So clean up your identity because ripping off another company’s trademarks, no matter who that company is, is bad marketing for you.


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