Archive for June, 2008

eBay Developers Conference

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

The DevCon has been great fun! I somehow have ended up as a mini celebrity since eBay staffers were following my Twitter about my road trip from Tucson to Chicago. That trip was supposed to include a night in Coralville, IA, which I had never heard of before. The night before the IA stay, I turned on The Weather Channel in my hotel room only to find half the staff they have in Coralville, IA reporting on "historic flooding." Holy cats. Guess I’m not driving through eastern IA!

I changed the route to go through Kansas (sorry we missed Joyce) and Missouri, and made it to Chicago just before Sunday dinner. So thanks to everybody @ DevCon who is asking, but I’m fine! You can follow the drive back too. :)

My session yesterday was great. Thanks to some programmers from Auctiva for laughing at all of my jokes including some things the audience didn’t know were jokes. :)

I’m doing my marketing session again today at 11:30am for those at DevCon.

Our eBay Live booth is ready, so for thoes attending, please come see the team in booth 735… more on that later!


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When Experts Are For Sale

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

If you read my blog, you know one of my pet peeves are eBay experts who have been available for rent. You can pay them to recommend you. Or they recommend something for the affiliate money. If you are a regular reader here, then you KNOW what I’m saying!

Something really odd happened to me last week. A company who has promised me a good two-way relationship for years finally got someone there to send me a contract. :) Better late than never! We have faithfully sent them piles of referrals these last [number removed] years. They have sent us nobody. I’d like a nice two-way relationship! And here comes that contract.

Except clause 1 of the contract says that I would have to recommend them exclusively. I could no longer recommend any company they could possibly compete with on any level.

Which means they are buying me. That would be the end of our integrity. If we can only recommend them, then there goes our tradition of recommending the companies and services we think are best. How do we decide what’s best? Well with integrity. :) We base it on our experience using/trying the system, what clients say, and what other eBay sellers say about it. If it’s bad, we put it on the shit list, and we either don’t recommend it or we recommend against it.

You can’t pay me to recommend something I don’t like. So far, we have been offered the largest commissions from Marketworks, and we stopped recommending them after eBay Live 2007. I could make decent money plugging the MW product, now owned by ChannelAdvisor, but I don’t because I don’t think it’s a strong product. I think there are better ones out there like CA’s old Merchant (now "Premium") and Laris (sellcenter.net).

You know what else happens when you think you want us to exclusively recommend you? You get a whole bunch of leads that are wrong for your company! There are reasons why we don’t send every eBay seller to some of the biggest and most expensive services out there. The reason is that that particular client is not computer-savvy enough… or doesn’t have the budget for hundreds of dollars per month and up… or doesn’t want the multi-channel thing yet… or any number of reasons that they just might be better for Inkfrog. So make me sign exclusivity, and you start getting a PILE of leads that you are guaranteed to refuse to sign because they are wrong for you.

So who does that help? Who gets helped when a company I’ve been sending leads to wants to now contractually obligate me to only send them leads? Not the seller. They may not be right for this company, and I’d be wasting their time. Not the company who handed me the contract! I’d be wasting THEIR time by sending them people who they will never qualify. And not me since there goes my integrity once I sign exclusivity to anybody.

And you may have guessed it, but the contract they sent said nothing about sending us leads, nor did it cover how they will exclusively send design and consulting work our way. I’m sure that’s just an oversight. :)

So for the people who know we keep our integrity, you’re welcome. To the company who sent me this contract, please rewrite and resend. I can’t sell you my integrity! That wasn’t supposed to be part of the partnership deal! That’s bad marketing for all of us.


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Who is Number One?

Monday, June 16th, 2008

Once again, I’m seeing companies throw around being "Number One" at something. Once again, it’s someone saying that a company out there is the "number one eBay Store provider in the world." And funny enough, this is a different company than the LAST TIME I said someone was calling themselves number one!

Evidently, everybody is the number one eBay Store design service!

How do we measure that? Quantity? Quality? Price? How long they’ve been doing this? How many eBay Store awards they’ve won? How many of their customers then come and sign up with us? :)

I think that if anybody wants to call themselves number one (or two), they should qualify it. For example, I can think of some companies out there who could certainly say about themselves that they are:

  • Number one in using the same thing over and over for eBay sellers.
  • Number one in paying their staff just above minimum wage.
  • The number one eBay Store sweat shop!
  • Number one in delaying people and taking months to do something their website promises will be done in about a week.
  • Number one in lowering their prices all the time out of competitive fear. You may want to see if you can get some of your money back now that their prices are lower. :)
  • Number one in having no presence at any eBay events. I’ve never seen one of these "number one" companies at any conference.
  • Number one in designing things that confuse eBay sellers, who tend to hit the eBay Store home page, get confused, and leave.

Oh, I could award so many companies claiming to be experts at eBay Store design these wondering Number One awards.

As usual, my message is BUYER BEWARE. If someone makes a claim, make them stand behind it. Number One? How? Make them be more specific. It may be number one in quantity, and as someone who cares about quality and results, I think people should choose based on quality and results! The guy who fixes the most cars in your town may not be the guy who is the best mechanic in town.


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How To Stop Breaking eBay Rules

Sunday, June 15th, 2008

it looks like not many eBay Live attendees will be hitting my How To Stop Breaking Rules class. I think we’re up against a Town Hall or something quite popular.

But you guys need to know how to navigate through all of eBay’s changes!

So remember that the Rules seminar will be given at our fall RocketPlace conference as well. We’ll of course update it since eBay will probably change their rules between when I give my presentation this week and when I give it at RocketPlace in September!

http://www.RocketPlace.com

Registration is open now!


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Gone to eBay Live!

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

Just a note that today is the day I drive away from Tucson, Arizona to head for Chicago. I’ll be staying on top of As Was things and work as best I can. But if I seem slow to respond, please don’t take it personally! It’s a long drive and I’m the only driver.

It also means that I may not have much (time) to drop here until I start live blogging from the events.

See everybody at Dev Con and then Live!


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The Savvy Seller!

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

I had a fun interview yesterday with Marlene aka The Savvy Seller.

It ran around 25 minutes, and here it is for you to enjoy!


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I Expect A Reply

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

If I write to you, I expect a reply unless I’m saying something that brings closure to the topic.

If I write you back asking where is the package you were supposed to ship to me, I expect you to write back telling me when I can expect to see my package.

If you write to me to apply for one of our jobs, and I write back that I’d need to see more of your work, I expect you to write back with more of your work. You are not making a very good showing by NOT writing me back… or as I’ve had in one case, writing me back weeks later, and still not showing me more of your work.

If I email your company from your website, I want to hear back.

I know these things seem obvious, but why does it feel like pulling teeth to get somebody to reply?


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Featured Plus Only Works for the Advantaged

Friday, June 6th, 2008

We found out something quite odd yesterday while on the phone with a new client and assessing his eBay listing strategies.

Items where he was paying for Featured Plus were not coming up Featured. I couldn’t make sense of it. I couldn’t imagine that eBay would take your $20 per item, and then not feature you.

I pinged someone I knew at eBay with the situation. She explained to me that anybody who is being disadvantaged in Best Match will end up on a certain page of search results. So for this guy’s item, which has a lot of competition, and what we searched for, he was ending up on page 8 of search results.

However, he was at the TOP of page 8 in a "Featured Items" section. So evidently, if you pay for Featured, but Best Match is kicking your butt, you will end up at the top of the page where Best Match is dumping you.

For those of you being disadvantaged in Best Match, please stop using Featured Plus as it’s probably not worth the $20! OK, it’s $19.95, but I’m calling it $20.


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So I Flew To London…

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

The story starts last year. I’m in my car listening to Sparks’ 1974 album, Propaganda, for maybe the 40,000th time. I’m singing my heart out to my fave song of all time, "At Home, At Work, At Play." And it suddenly hits me. I’ll never hear that song live. It wasn’t a single. Sparks is unlikely to do it at any of their concerts.

And I felt sad.

And what felt like a few days later, a friend asked me if I’ll be coming to England for any of Sparks’ then-upcoming concerts. Huh? Sparks concerts? I then found out about the Sparks Spectacular, also known as 21×21. What’s that, you ask, and why is a concert by a band you never heard of important or special?

Sparks decided to play their new album (their 21st), Exotic Creatures of the Deep, from start to finish, live, on 13 June 2008 in London. Nothing new for Sparks. I flew to London in October 2002 to hear them do their 19th album, Li’l Beethoven, live start to finish. Yeah, so they do that. Well, they decided that they should really celebrate their career… so they added 20 more concerts before the new album premiere.

Each night, they would play an album start to finish. Just that album. Not a whole tour where they can perfect the live performance of that album. Once album a night, one chance to perform it live. And the encore will be a B-side or rarity from that time period. 21 albums in 21 nights. And that meant many things, but first things first. I was going to hear, "At Home, At Work, At Play" live. My husband and I bought concert tickets, and then assumed we’d figure out a way to get to London for the shows. Actually, we bought tickets for three nights. We also bought the very famous "Kimono My House" album show as well as the "Indiscreet" show since my fave three albums came out in a row.

We made it to London. We saw the shows. They changed my life. The performances were amazing. These people did these albums with a band who had to learn every impossible note. The singer sang every song except for one in the original key, and the songs are nearly impossible to sing. And for Indiscreet, they brought in brass, woodwinds, and strings. A few songs nearly made me cry every night.

Now that being said, I wish they had a sound engineer who actually knew the songs. This person didn’t seem to know when certain instruments or people would be making sound, and often had those microphones down. We all missed Ron’s one line, "Dinner for 12," on "Under The Table With Her." :(

But the audience filled in the missing bits. Lots of times you go to a concert and many people in the audience will sing along. Well, sure. The band is playing their hits and better-known songs. How many people know the "inside" songs of these albums? I don’t know, but nearly the whole audience knew every song and sang mostly in tune. They even filled in background parts.

And Ron did his famous dance during the Propaganda show. We were standing one person away from the stage… I just don’t have words for these things. I’m so glad my husband got to see it too, and so close up. :)

I am not sure I will ever see a concert better than these. I wish I could have afforded to stay in London for all 21 shows. Luckily, they’ve been webcasting the others, and rumours are swirling about selling DVDs or recordings of the shows. I sure hope they do that, and I hope they recorded from a point before what’s called FOH (what the audience hears) so that everybody’s mics are up, and the music just needs to be mixed.

I’m listening right now to my bootleg of the Indiscreet album show, and the audience singing along is just amazing. The energy in there. Hundreds of people, all hungry for these shows, singing every word like some giant 21-night singalong. And hundreds of people hushing to the most complete quiet you have ever heard when it looked like Ron was going to say something. Gosh, we all sure do idolise that man!

Sparks said that their 21 nights require something like 260 songs. Their first album came out in 1971, and the older of the two brothers is now in his early 60s. Can your favourite band do that?


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Imitation Is Not Flattery

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Whoever said imitation was the sincerest form of flattery must have been the imitator. There’s a company out there who we mostly pay no attention to, but when they get our attention (usually by going out of their way to get it), we notice that they’re just ripping us off.

Have seen the logo we’ve had since 2000? Have you seen the design of our website with the big "sine wave" curve at the top? When they redid their site, they used a darn similar curve at the top.

Seen our dog character on our site? This company added a cartoon character to their site. I’m surprised it wasn’t a dog.

Did you hear my session at CA’s Catalyst in the US? Well, I heard from a CA staffer that the speech I gave… they took lots of it and gave it as their speech at another event that we didn’t attend. Classy! This CA staffer saw both speeches at both events.

When people ask us about them, we always tell them that they’re not our competitor… our companies don’t do the same things. It’s apples and oranges. If you want totally custom work, and especially if you want personalised consulting from eBay experts, then you’d want us. If you want their type of cookie cutter, we do the same thing over and over, any "junior designer" could pump this stuff out in his sleep, then we suggest you just download a free or cheap template from one of those download services. Why spend what they’re charging for something that just isn’t special and really has no value over a design your could download?

We just noticed on their website that they’re hiring for a "junior designer," and they’re offering £12,000 per year (£15K per year if you haven’t been fired after working there 3 months). That’s just over £7 per hour in a country where I just paid £4 for a hot chocolate and £2.80 for a roundtrip mass transit trip. A country where minimum wage is just under £6/hr. Ouch. So if you charge £800 for a design and your staff are paid £7/hr to reuse something that they’ve done before, well that’s a great lot of profit for somebody!

We could do that. We could match their prices and hire sufficiently junior people. Or we could send the work to low-paid people in eastern Europe and Asia like some other companies do. We just think you deserve a lot better. Your eBay and online sales business is riding on this. Your livelihood rides on this. You need the best designs from the best designers backed by a team of experts who are going to really help your business.

So we’re not impressed. And we’re not flattered! We just hope that the general public sees through all their attempts to be mistaken for us. If you want what they do, you can get it for less than they charge. If you want us, you would be hiring us. :)


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