Archive for April, 2008

Guilt By Association

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

Some of my pals lately have talked to me about wanting to connect with some of the "experts" in the eBay field. Why? Because they have big mailing lists, and you may be on those mailing lists.

So today, let’s talk about guilt by association. Let’s say a self-proclaimed expert out there has lost his integrity. He’s for sale. Anybody can rent him, and he’ll blog about you, promote your products, send his mailing list emails promoting you, etc… What happens when people find out that he does that? Is he still a respected expert? Do people feel better about your product, or might they feel worse because they feel "used’ by the "expert." After all, you are only there in the hopes that you sign on and give the expert commissions.

If you didn’t know that, you know it now. Some of these people want you on their mailing list, and will try to make their mailing list extra enticing, so that they can tell outside companies how many people are on their mailing list. 100,000! 250,000! Well, we all want to email to that many people, even if we have to rent this expert, right?

I still say no. If his mailing list members are not your target audience, then you’ve just emailed to a zillion people who don’t care, maybe didn’t read about you, and maybe won’t click on links about you. You will have paid this guy to use his audience, and it may not get you very much.

Plus, what is it worth to you to NOT be associated with someone who is falling out of favour with his audience? Or has had to redefine himself to try to build that reputation back up?

I know a bit about this the hard way. I was hired to speak at the same seminars Adam Ginsberg spoke at in late 2003. So our names appeared together in advertising. Well, I got a FLURRY of emails from people, even years later, complaining to me about Ginsberg. People emailed me as if by speaking at the same event, I was endorsing him and everything he’s done to people. Well, no I don’t. But it was guilt by association, and something I could never have seen coming.

Nowadays, there are "experts" out there who make it really clear what’s coming! We know who is for sale. How do we know? Well if you got a price from someone to email to his mailing list, be plugged in his blog, etc… HE IS FOR SALE. You’ll never get a price from me because I don’t do that. I blog about companies I like because I like them. I don’t get paid to do it.

That’s called integrity. Some of these "experts" should look it up, and remember that their 15 minutes is nearly up.


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The Las Vegas Mini Bar Meets Technology

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

I was in Vegas for one night this past weekend to see the conference space we intend to use for our next RocketPlace event.

The hotel room had the biggest and most well-stocked mini bar I’d ever seen. I knew I didn’t wany anything, especially at those prices, but I was curious at the whole thing. It had a refridgerated side and a non-fridge side. I noticed something in the non-fridge side that I didn’t recognise.

I thought it might be sewing kit, so I picked it up. It was not a sewing kit. It said, "Intimacy Kit," on it. It said it contained 2 condoms, a packet of lubrication, and some clean-up towelettes. OK, these aren’t exactly what springs to mind when I think of intimacy, but OK, I get it. It was $10. That’s a bit high, but you know what? If intimacy in Vegas is an unplanned surprise and you’re caught without this equipment, I think $10 is a fine price to avoid unwanted diseases or pregnancy. Anyway, I don’t want to buy this item, and I put it back in the mini bar.

Cut to checkout, and my bill has a "refreshment" charge for $10. I ring the front desk. She asks if I took anything from the mini bar. No. She asks me if I took the intimacy kit. I said I took it out to look at it, but I put it back!!! "Hold on, I’ll check if you put it back." Well, there was no knock at the door, so it was news to me that the mini bar has SENSORS. She gets back on the phone, says yes I put it back, and takes the $10 off my bill.

I had no idea they were using sensors that reported in the moment for the mini bar stuff. Makes sense, and is interesting. One of the hotel staffers told me that sometimes, people will take out say a beer and replace it with a can of soda. The sensors think you put it back, but when you check out, the hotel totally checks the mini bar. So crime doesn’t pay, and you WILL be caught and charged for that beer. Plus you then wasted money on the can of soda, which knowing Vegas was $1.50. :)


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eBay Feedback Changes Coming 19 May 2008

Monday, April 28th, 2008

Here are the changes coming to eBay’s feedback system starting 19 May (in the US):

  • Sellers may only leave positive feedback for buyers (at
         the seller’s option).
  • Members will receive credit for repeat Feedback (going
         back to 1996)
  • We will base the Positive Feedback Percentage on the
         past 12 months of activity (and include neutral Feedback in the
         calculation)
  • We will remove negative and neutral Feedback if a
         member is suspended, or when a buyer fails to respond to the Unpaid Item
         process.
  • We’ll block buyers from leaving negative or neutral
         Feedback for 7 days for active PowerSellers who have been on eBay for at
         least 12 months.
  • Members can leave Feedback up to 60 days after a
         transaction (down from 90)
  • We are introducing a new Buyer Requirement that will
         allow sellers to block bids from buyers who have been reported by other
         sellers for eBay buying policy violations (such as Feedback abuse, or
         email threats).
  • We’re also expanding the scope of the existing Buyer
         Requirement for unpaid items, so that it supports more comprehensive
         blocking of buyers who have a history of non-payment.

For those of you who aren’t fully aware of these changes, here are a few things I noticed…

  1. Negatives and neutrals will be removed when someone is NARU or doesn’t respond to the UPI process. This should help sellers. Instead of the comment and score staying with "not a registered user" under it, it looks like it will be gone and no longer count.
  2. If you’re an active PowerSeller who has been on eBay at least 12 months, they will block buyers from leaving you a negative or neutral in the first 7 days after the item ends. I think this will help too as some of my clients tell me about weird buyers who buy, pay, and then immediately leave a negative or neutral because some made-up expectation in their head of what paying would be like wasn’t met. ?!?!?!
  3. You can leave Feedback for 60 days after the item ends. I hope this is to reduce extortion from buyers who come back MONTHS later and want to return something outside the return policy, for example. I’d like to see this even lower. If we’re going to stop this sort of extortion, maybe it should be 40 days. You should know if you like something and it works with 40 days, if not sooner!
  4. The last two look like eBay proactively trying to put some stops to abusive buyers. So people who have spammed other bidders/buyers and buyers with UPIs look like they’ll get some sort of boom lowered on them too.

I think eBay is trying. They’ll evolve a lot this year, but I think they’re trying to make the site better for everybody. Execution may be clumsy at first, but I think they’re headed in the right direction.


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“Msss Kel’s Place” Designed by As Was is a Finalist in eBay’s Best In Stores 2008 Contest

Friday, April 25th, 2008

(press release)

A few times a week, Kelly Gaba gets emails telling her how much her eBay shoppers love her eBay listing template. Compliments on her template are left in her positive feedbacks. With a matching eBay Store, business cards, and invoices, Kelly’s "MsssKel" persona is a hit with buyers, of whom many are loyal, repeat customers.

Kelly met the As Was team at eBay Live! 2007. Days later, she contacted them wondering how long it would take to develop a custom template for her to use in Blackthorne. Within days, the contract was signed, and the project was off and running. The theme? Something fun, whimsical, retro, and starring a cartoon character that we can all pretend is Kelly herself.

The multiple As Was services Kelly purchased took around 8 weeks, and the new MsssKel image hit eBay in late August 2007, including the simple eBay Store designed at http://stores.ebay.com/MsssKels-Place. The effect was immediate at As Was. "We started getting flooded with requests to buy exactly what we had done for MsssKel," explains Debbie Levitt, As Was Founder and CEO. "Since every project we do is completely unique and totally custom to the seller’s personality and target audience, the MsssKel template was not for resale."

From tens of thousands of entries, Msss Kel’s Place, Kelly’s eBay Store, was chosen as a one of four finalists in the 2008 eBay Best In Stores design contest. Her entry is under "Best Simple Store," but stands out from all of the eBay Stores in all of the categories. "We love simple eBay Stores," says Levitt. "They brand you, they can match your listing template, they streamline shopping, and they do all of this without providing distractions. Simple eBay Stores retain eBay’s layout, which means that eBay shoppers don’t arrive on the Store and have to wonder where the items are, or figure out what they can click on amongst collages and long columns of dozens of links. If the average eBay shopper doesn’t want to read much or have to figure things out, simpler Stores will be more effective."

"Also ,when it comes to more advanced eBay Stores, we think there are better design options out there than collages, columns of dozens of links, or animated Flash that doesn’t get people any closer to buying something. I feel like As Was is the only company designing with the eBay shopper’s typical thought process and habits in mind. Attractive is nice, but these Stores need to be effective more than they need to be just pretty!"

The MsssKel designs aren’t just attractive; they’re effective. According to Kelly, "The Store and template design have helped with buyer satisfaction and DSRs. We’ve always had high buyer satisfaction, but I think the way the template has separate sections for the policies, have helped. I really think most people actually read ours. That says a lot!"

Kelly continued, "Since we had the store and template design done in August 2007, our monthly sales have increased 25% over our projections, based on the previous year."

Voting for the 2008 Best in Stores contest is open through the end of the calendar day, Pacific Time (California, USA), on April 30th, 2008. http://ebay.promotionexpert.com/bestinstores2008/vote/index.html

About As Was

As Was is a full-service consulting firm specializing in branding, design, sales and marketing strategies, operations management, and training for eBay and online sellers. As Was has been making the world’s marketplace your marketplace since it was founded in April 1995, and has been an eBay Certified Service Provider since August 2004. For more information, please visit www.aswas.com or call 520.204.1935.


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How To Tell Spam More Easily

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

I use Spam Arrest for my email, and every day, I go through over 2000 spams that it catches. I’m afraid that something really meant for me won’t have verified itself through Spam Arrest’s procedure. So I eyeball it all day.

Sometimes, subject lines make it hard to tell spam emails. There is something that I’ve found really helps. Sort them by subject line. Rather than by who they’re from (since a stranger who wants to do business could be emailing you), or just looking at them by when they came in, sort by subject.

Once all those subjects line up, something that seems like it could be for you like, "I was hoping to chat with you," suddenly becomes obvious spam when you see you have 3 in a row with the same subject from different addresses.

If you are anything like me, and are often eyeballing hundreds of spams, sorting them by subject can quickly make a "hey this could be for me" moment turn into the realisation that it’s spam. Save time!


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This Could Kill Sales and DSRs

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

This is an away message in an eBay Store. One of my staff wanted to buy from these people on 15 April 2008, and asked me if I thought she’d get the item in time.

We will be closed on April 17  till 22.

We will have very limited acces to our listings.

All items will be shipped after 14.22.08.

If you pay on 04.16, your item will go out 03.17. This is our last shipping day before store will be closed.

So now here is the mystery question. If you buy it on 15 April, when do you get it? They mention what happens if you buy on 16 April. Evidently in that case, your item is shipped last month.

If you buy while they’re away, your items are shipped on a date that doesn’t exist.

But what if you buy 15 April? Mystery!

To me, this could work against sales and DSRs. What DSR would you give this person for communication?


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AZ Vanity License Plates

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/byauthor/218658

I’ve had a vanity license plate for years (one guess as to what it says), and here in Arizona, it’s very cheap to do. I think they charge around $25 per year. Back in NY, I was paying based on the weight of my vehicle. My tiny sports car cost around $100 for a 2-year registration of my vanity plate. So here in AZ, lots of people have them since they’re so cheap.

The article linked above lists some of the things you’re not allowed to get on a license plate in AZ. Some surprised me. Some obvious. :)


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Defining The Word “Custom”

Saturday, April 19th, 2008

The word "custom" gets thrown around a lot near the word "design" both inside the world of eBay templates and outside that world. For you Princess Bride fans, "This word you keep saying. I do not think it means what you think it means." :)

Let’s say that you go and buy and outfit off the rack at any store… Target, JC Penney, Nordstrom. It’s a little long on you, so you go to your local tailor or seamstress. He or she makes it shorter to better fit you. Would you call this a custom or customised outfit? I would call it custom-tailored because the other words would make me think that the tailor started with nothing but the idea of what you wanted to wear rather than starting with a totally ready-made item.

Let’s say you head on down to Starbucks or your favourite coffee spot. You order off the menu, except you want shots of raspberry and sugar-free vanilla in that menu item. Is this a custom coffee? Is this something so new nobody has ever heard of it. Have you innovated? No, I’d again be thinking more along the lines of "personalised" since you took something that existed, and added a few personal touches.

Now let’s get back to design and eBay templates. :)

I see a lot of templates being offered by a lot of individuals and companies. Nearly 100% of the time, they will say custom. I rarely see people other than us saying unique, so at least that still seems to be holding on to the truth. :) But just about everybody is saying custom. Without naming names, what makes these so custom?

Well, one company will let you pick the colour, what categories you’ll have down the left, some info that ends up in a Flash file in the top, drop in your name, and that’s mostly it. The rest is the same layout that they not only use for every client but use when they list their own items onto eBay. If it’s "off the rack," with a choice of colour and a top banner, would you call that custom?

Many of the inexpensive ones I see around eBay will let you pick a background and colour, and that’s mostly it. They are using pre-made things they already have on hand, and just piecing them together. Is that custom?

I think the difference here is that when I think custom, I think made from scratch. When my father used to have custom suits made in the 1960s, he picked out the fabric.The tailor measured him, and made it JUST for him. It might not fit anybody else but him. My friends in town do custom cabinetry. In some cases, they are out there hand-painting or hand-carving their own art onto cabinet doors. Nobody else is going to have those cabinets! That is custom.

But I can get those templates by asking those companies for the same colours and some of the elements that someone else may have already picked. They’ll be thrilled since they already made it and it’s ready to go. :) But these were designed from scratch just for that client. They were mostly ready to go, and just personalised.

What do you think is custom?


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Use Twitter To Keep Up With Us

Friday, April 18th, 2008

If you’re not using Twitter, go give it a spin! We are using it in a few ways, and we invite you to join us on these adventures. :)

What is Twitter? Twitter let’s people write short running commentary on what they’re doing or thinking. It also has business applications since you can include links. Most interestingly, for people/companies you choose to "follow," you can turn on or off text messaging. If you turn it on, every time that person writes something in Twitter, you get a text message.

Another cool thing about Twitter is that for each user, you can see the running feed on who they are following. That means that by people "following" each other, you are rippling out the pool of who sees the messages. That’s free marketing!

There are also outside tools that helps you keep up with "tweets" or send them to your email. So plenty of ways to keep up with people and companies you want to hear from!

The As Was Twitter Feed

  • Notifications of our blog posts.
  • Information about our new innovations and business doings.
  • Get notified a half hour before each of Debbie’s presentations at eBay Live 2008. You may want to turn on Twitter’s text messaging feature for this. We found a lot of people forget when classes are while at eBay Live, so getting a text message about ours should help you show up! :)
  • Updates on what Debbie’s up to. Sometimes it’s not business. :) So get ready for fun!

The RocketPlace Twitter Feed
RocketPlace is still the only conference for eBay sellers at all levels that twice a year will keep you up on the newest and best techniques, strategies, tools, and services to help you grow your eBay business. We’re about 80% focused on eBay, and 20% focused on online selling and marketing outside of eBay.

  • We’re planning the next conference event for September 2008 in Las Vegas. Keep up with our planning.
  • Be the first to know when registration is open, and get a special discount for following us on Twitter.
  • While at the event, get notified immediately about program changes or special things that are going on. You may want to turn on Twitter’s text messaging
    feature for this.

See you around Twitter!


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Do You Love This Guy Or What?

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

One of our clients on The Big Idea with Donny himself. Go Freddy!


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