Archive for January, 2009

What eBay Should Do With Best Match

Friday, January 30th, 2009

Best Match. I hardly know someone who is happy with it, buyer or seller. In that case, something needs to change! Let's start with where it is now.

As of when I'm typing this, Best Match is the secret algorithm that determines what gets high placement in eBay search results. Here is what we do know:

  • Seller reputation figures in. DSRs, disputes, and suspensions can raise or lower you.
  • Multiple quantity available and "recent sales" now figure in evidently higher than seller reputation. Clients have reported to me that competitors who had worse feedback and DSRs showed up higher than they did in search when the competitor offered more quantity or seemed to have a recent sale.
  • Strategy spotlights and "best practices" are self-fulfilling prophecies. eBay says that you should use free shipping because shoppers like that. That's a suggestion! When eBay tells the algorithm that items with free shipping get higher placement, then those are more likely to be bought, and there's your prophecy that these will sell more… fulfilled. So if you don't use the latest strategies, you can expect potentially poor search result placement.
  • Paying for something like Featured Plus can raise you to the top of search results if your seller reputation marks don't make eBay want to lower you. We had a client who was "lowered" in search, and paid for Featured Plus, but only showed up at the top of page 8 as Featured. Not helping!
  • eBay says that fixed price items have to "earn" their way to the top of search results. Featured Plus and Featured First let you pay to be at the front of the line whether or not Best Match might say you deserve it.

OK, that sounded a bit lumpy! What should eBay do about this? I believe that search results should be tuned to what shoppers really want rather than feeding them what we want them to do.

  1. I think that it should be clearer that you can re-sort your search results. I'd like to see what shoppers do if they are fully aware that they don't have to look at "Best Match."
  2. I think that if eBay's focus really isn't auctions, or auctions are some sort of format that just gets mixed into this pile, then when a listing ends is mostly not relevant. 
  3. I think that if I told an eBay shopper that by default, they are shopping by seller reputation and whether or not the seller is using what eBay says are the best strategies, they'd question that second half.
  4. I think that in this economy, people are looking for the best deals. They want a trustworthy seller who has the best price. 
  5. Most eBay sellers are great. But I have bought from people who were at the top of Best Match, and turned out to be total jerks. So I wasn't necessarily fed the best people. I still have to do my own checking and reading to determine who I'm going to trust.
  6. Recent Sales don't necessarily mean that's the best item from the best seller. I don't believe in the wisdom of crowds. History has shown us some really bad crowds. :) So I think the whole Recent Sales should be gone. If you're going to do the wisdom of crowds, then show me what people who bought this also bought and loved. But let me find the right item first!

I just searched "John Cleese" on Amazon, and I can't tell how items are sorted. We know time ending doesn't matter there, and seller reputation probably doesn't enter into it if I can have all these items shipped from Amazon's warehouses. It wasn't by price since the prices were definitely in no particular order. It wasn't alphabetically. It wasn't by ratings. The first thing I was shown had an average 3-star rating from 2 people. The second thing I was shown had an average 5-star rating by 370 people! It wasn't by type of items since I had DVDs, then a book, then DVDs, then books, etc… It wasn't by how many were available "used and new" from other sellers since those numbers were all over the place. And it wasn't by when the book or DVD were published as those dates were all over the place.

OK I'm stumped! I can't tell how Amazon's search results are sorted. I don't know if they're sorted in the best way for me. Then again, Amazon combines multiple sellers' items into one result and listing page. eBay might have hundreds or thousands of listing pages for one item. So it's going to be different, and that's OK!

How would I do it? I'd make the default search results "price incl
shipping – lowest first" or whatever you want to call it. I think most
people shop by price. And anybody with all DSRs that are say 4.7 or
higher might show up with some sort of logo of a top seller if we want
to highlight those people. I'd then give people check boxes to ask if
they want things figured into their search results.

I think that all in all, this needs more testing, and I'd like to see
testing that's not just one choice. Like I don't want, "Here's our
search results, what do you think?" I'd rather see them ask big eBay
shoppers to design their own search and how they want search results
sorted. I can't imagine that in 2009, eBay shoppers, given the chance
to understand what's going on, want things sorted by Recent Sales.


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Where Twitter Is Going

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

Lots of people are blogging (and tweeting) about where Twitter is going, how will they monetise, etc… I'll throw my hat in the ring, and give you my predictions on Twitter.

  1. I predict that Twitter will be like "email." We have lots of apps that handle email, and we can email from various devices in various ways. So in a sense, I think Twitter will sort of become a protocol, sorta. :)
  2. Email can be free, but if you have your own domain, it's probably not free. I think Twitter will find ways to get people paying in, but I think they're more likely to come from licensing and API stuff than getting me to pay $5/month. I would pay $5/month, but I wouldn't want to pay Twitter AND pay people making applications. So I think it's more likely that Twitter will charge for API access, and we'll all pay for apps we like.
  3. For many years, eBay charged people to use their API. I think Twitter will do that, and I think they might be starting. So that may not be a prediction. :)
  4. Because Twitter can go through mobile phones and text messaging systems, I think it will get linked more to eCommerce. I mean buying something more immediately and more easily, possibly even bypassing traditional shopping carts.
  5. Applications will have to consolidate or just do more. Right now, I have a mobile Twitter app (PockeTwit), Twirl (desktop client), twitterfeed for sending feeds to my accounts, qwitter if I care who stopped following me, MrTweet to suggest people I should consider following, and there was some other app I was playing with that let you schedule tweets. People use apps like Brightkite and Loopt to map themselves and try to find friends nearby. Plus some people use autogreeters and things like that. We have hashtags, and we have searching tweets for things we're interested in or people we may want to get to know. This is getting cumbersome, so I predict that systems will merge/consolidate, or just do more. And they'll have to do more if we're starting to pay for these apps (because they're being charged for the API).
  6. People will find better ways to use Twitter. Right now, I rarely follow people because I want to make sure I can keep up with the updates, interact with people, and have them know I'm reading and paying attention. To me, it doesn't make sense to follow hundreds or thousands of people. It would be like signing up to 100 email mailing lists, and then not being able to make time or headspace to read it all. 
  7. Part of using it better might be using multiple accounts based on what you like to write about. I use 4 Twitter accounts. Twirl and PockeTwit help me easily manage them all from one app, which is very helpful. 
  8. Organisations will find better ways to use Twitter. At this point, many people no longer take the time to read blog posts, and people will either choose to not read emails, or those emails may get discarded as spam. With email and blogs not reaching people they way they used to, I think Twitter can rise up as a way that towns can tell people there is a snow emergency and not to park on the even side of the street. It's an easy way to quickly tell a large group of people something important.

I believe the Twitter thing is something I think will become more of a major platform rather than "just an app I use." I think it can be monetised, and I think applications will make it even better with more features. Those are my predictions. You may disagree! Where do you think Twitter is going?


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A Conversation of One

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Once upon a time, a guy hung out on a discussion board I run as a hobby. He liked to mess with people, pick fights, and insult people. People didn't like him!

One of his favourite tricks was to sign up for the board under a bunch of names. He would log in as one name, and post something. He'd log out, log in as another name, and respond to his own post as someone else, but often as someone who strongly agreed with the first post. :) As you might imagine, but the time he logged in and out under same names and different names, he had created a whole hot conversation that usually insulted someone or asked someone to prove something… or something you often find unpleasant on discussion boards.

I feel like I'm seeing that all over again. People seem to enjoy posting comments to blogs under fake names, accusing people of things they can't prove, and probably posting a few times as other people who support something they posted earlier under another name.

I think people who run blogs should do more to remove these comments. Most people running blogs get enough info about the people who post comments and their IP numbers to quickly figure out if something like this is going on.

It's not a real discussion while there are 1-person conversations or companies with a stake in the discussion pretending they're regular people who just happen to post in support of the company in question.


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Negotiating Prices

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Someone asked me why I wouldn't negotiate our prices with him. There are many reasons, and I thought I'd throw these out there. I'm not the only business taking this approach!

  1. There is only so much profit in my pricing! Please don't assume that 50% of what I charge you is clear profit… it isn't. That would be great if it were, but this type of business is typically not high profit.
  2. Think about the time that goes into custom projects done from scratch. Here is a website designed to help companies quote prices. Look at what sort of time and tasks they are including: http://estimator.astuteo.com/
  3. When I used to negotiate pricing in the 1990s, and let people haggle to get a lower price, I found two things happened:
    1. Our pricing was never taken seriously again. If a year later, I quoted $100 to make a change the client wanted, he wanted to give me $50.
    2. These were our highest-maintenance clients. The people who wanted to pay the least were always the guys who wanted lots of phone time, emails, help, support, etc… I like to give those things, but I'm just saying that after nearly 14 years in this business, I've noticed that the people who pay the least want the most service. I think the people who paid regular prices appreciated our time and expertise, and only wanted to take that time when they really needed it.
  4. You pay for my time and my company's time. So to spend my time on emails or phone calls trying to get me to charge you for X minutes less… while making me spend Y minutes more to deal with you… hey that math is not going to work! I'm going to want someone to pay for that Y minutes of time you just took!
  5. Negotiating is a waste of your time. Your time is more valuable than for it to be spent trying to talk me into doing your project at a financial loss to me! Let's just get on with the project!
  6. I probably quoted your price knowing you would need Z minutes of discussion time about the change, project, or whatever it is. 
  7. I can't match so-and-so's price because so-and-so has a different business model. My team are Americans in America, who are all experts in what they do. I don't hire kids or junior staffers, and I don't pay people minimum wage or just above it as other companies do. I don't send As Was work to other countries. Your As Was Account Manager is not in India. :) I'm trying to help the American economy, and I'm trying to pay fairly. When you pay As Was, that's where your money goes.
  8. I may also not be able to match so-and-so's price because so-and-so doesn't offer the work and relationship that we offer. We are consultants looking at strategy, marketing, branding, design, and more. So-and-so is probably doing a slightly customised version of what he sells to everybody else. If we did that, we could charge much less, but all of our designs are unique, truly custom, and from scratch.
  9. People talk! When I recommend businesses to my friends and colleagues, I might mention what I paid. Our prices are on our website. If each person paid different amounts based on how much or hard you pushed me in negotiations, I think that would make people bitter. If everybody gets the same level of service from us, but you paid $2000 and this guy paid $2200 and this guy paid $1750 and this guy paid $1200, then that's going to be a big mess for me. People will talk, people will want refunds, happy customers will immediately feel unhappy and lied to. That's not good!
  10. We have heard many times over the last year or so that for the level of design that we do, and for the amount of help and personal attention we give people, we could (and should) be charging much more. I have decided that I will keep our prices as steady as I can to try to make us more affordable to more people. But I do believe that for what we do for our clients, we could be charging a lot more. Plenty of companies charge more and give less. :)

So our pricing is our pricing. No hidden extras. No sneaky charges later. No monthly fees. Everybody pays the same. Everybody gets the best attention and service we have to give. No negotiations. We have promotions now and then, but no haggling. I think that is fair, and I think that is good marketing.

Thanks. :)


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How To Be Scary

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Following from my famous blog series, "How To Be A Blog Shill," and "How To Badmouth A Company," we have today's exciting new instalment called, "How To Be Scary." Anybody looking to instil fear? Listen up because I have some tips for you.

  1. Pick your intended business target. Make sure it's some sort of quiet, retreating, passive person who would never THINK of publicly outing what you're doing in any way at all.
  2. Decide that the best way to scare, disturb, or distract someone would be prank phone calls.
  3. Call her business line to make sure she knows this is a business-related scaring. Make prank phone calls! Leave voice mails with your scary messages!
  4. Disregard today's great technologies that can trace phone calls OR any laws there might be against making such calls. Because scary people don't care about laws or being found out!
  5. Make some of these calls from your home land line, and leave caller ID showing. You're proud of these calls! You want everybody to know who you are. You're not going to be a coward and hide your caller ID!
  6. Say SCARY things on those voice mails like, "You're a fucking shit," and "Nobody likes you." Ooooo these will CERTAIN get your target under your thumb quickly! This is tension reminiscent only of great films like The Bourne Ultimatum!
  7. Leave a message telling this person she is trying to scare people. This will confuse her! She will not be able to handle the irony of the scary prank call telling her SHE is scary!
  8. Say these terrifying things in a pleasant but real British accent. Note that this WILL make you slightly less scary. You can try and make up for it by doing a sort of raspy whisper, or saying things quite seriously indeed. When you call someone a "fucking shit," you mean business!
  9. Include an action item! You are not making these calls for your health! You are making these calls to get somebody to do something, right! Let them know what that is!
  10. Make sure your target knows you want her to die. Whatever is going on in this business situation is clearly so dire that you need this other person to cease existing. Let her know on your voice mails.

There you go. You too can learn from the best! You too can be SCARY in business, and do it all behind the scenes so your customers won't know your true colours!


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Always Read Business Contracts

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

As I speak to more and more people on the phone, I hear things like, "I don't like contracts," or "I don't read them anyway," or "The last guy I worked with didn't even have one." And if they're calling me, they're unhappy with that guy, and may have little they can do since they have no signed agreement. What was promised, what you're paying for, whether you get your money back or not… it's all he said, she said without good, signed documents.

This week, a guy on the phone told me he doesn't bother with contracts because if something goes wrong, he just forgets the money loss and chalks it up to lesson learned. Well, the lesson learned should be HAVE A CONTRACT NEXT TIME! You may have to kiss that money goodbye, but contracts are still very important.

I have seen contracts that say that your vendor owns all the work he does for you… that would stink. I have seen contracts that say that if you have a problem with the vendor, you cannot sue them for more than $1. I knew a lot of people who had a problem with that company last year, and they were all stuck with no resolution they liked because they had agreed to a contract with that clause. Some contracts say you can't sue at all… you have to go for arbitration. That's why having and reading a contract is important!

It's like an insurance policy. You get it and you hope you never need it. Here are the steps for making sure that this is the company you want to work with.

  1. Ask for their contract. If they don't have one, or just want to email you some terms, I wouldn't accept it. Any professional company will have a contract.
  2. Read the damn thing! Read it, ask questions about it, show it to a lawyer if you need to. But don't just sign it since you have no idea to what you're agreeing. Do not assume that the contract is fine because it looks like a nice legal document. Make sure it protects YOU. You wouldn't buy an insurance policy that didn't have the protection and coverage you needed!
  3. If you don't agree to the terms, don't sign it. Don't give the company any money. Don't make any payments. If you don't like how they plan to do business with you, just pay nothing because you may not get it back. Here are two stories illustrating this:
    1.  A friend of mine recently put a security deposit down on an apartment without signing anything about what does that money go to, what happens when she moves in, and what happens if she never moves in. Well, she ended up picking another apartment, and signing their lease. She expected the first landlord to give her her money back, and the woman wouldn't. Many landlords do this… they are out money from taking that apartment off the market to hold it for you, so they keep security deposits, even when you don't move in. And without any signed paperwork saying she gets her money back, she wouldn't have had any legal recourse there.
    2. Similarly, I moved recently. I found an apartment online, but wasn't ready to sign anything since I hadn't seen it. They wouldn't hold it for me unless I gave them $1500 as a security deposit that they would COMPLETELY keep if I ended up not taking the apartment. So I gave them nothing, and I signed nothing. And just as I was counting on this apartment, they called me to say they gave it someone else.They had that right! I later saw the neighbourhood, and am glad I didn't give them the $1500. I would have not taken that place, and I would have forfeited that money.

This is another situation where watching Judge Judy can clear things up. :) Ever see a case where someone lends someone else money that never gets paid back, and the guy who got the money says it was a gift? Well, without paperwork saying it was a loan, it's going to be hard to prove to any court (real or TV) that the intention of that arrangement was for the money to be paid back.

If you have no paperwork saying what this company is doing for how much money, and what happens if things go bad between you, you may not have much to show in court. You may feel wronged, but like the guy I spoke to, you may have to kiss that money goodbye and learn a valuable lesson about signing a contract where you agree to the terms.

These aren't emotional issues. These are business issues, and a court is not going to ask you how you FEEL about this. It's business, and has to stand up in court with no feelings attached. Sometimes, you may feel in the right, but the law may not be on your side. A fair contract that both parties can sign can help the law be on your side when you feel in the right.


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Freedom of Speech

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

With everything that's going on online nowadays, I have been thinking about "Freedom of Speech." People invoke this all the time, especially when they have something negative to say. Well, this thing you keep saying… I don't think it means what you think it means. :)

Freedom of speech and the press is meant to be about the right to say something that could be hot or controversial without fear of being dragged from your bed at night by secret police, and never being seen again. It was the idea of a freedom some countries didn't have. So here in America, you can say you don't like something the President is doing, and you get to continue living. :) In other countries, you may find your home or village burned to the ground.

Freedom of speech and the press stops at another person's right to not be libelled, threatened, or harassed. For example, if I post on the internet that a CEO of a major company is a serial killer, no secret police will steal me from my bed at night and beat me up. Well, probably not. That's the freedom to say what you want!

However, I could hear from that guy's lawyer since I used my speech to accuse him of a crime he hasn't been arrested for or convicted of. I could be ruining this guy's business or life because I wanted to say that about him. That speech is unlikely to be protected by claiming "Freedom of Speech."

Sometimes, I like to compare things to Judge Judy shows. While that may not be the pinnacle of legal interpretations, it usually has some good real-world examples. And one you'll see over and over on that show goes like this. Two women used to be friends until something came between them. She took her man, she lent her money, she let her live there but didn't get rent money, you name it.

The woman who feels wronged will sometimes decide that the best way to deal with this is to call the local government agency, and report the other woman for some sort of child abuse or neglect, even when she knows the other woman is not abusing or neglecting her children. The reported woman then has to deal with all sorts of hell she didn't deserve because the first woman was comfy making that false accusation. That false accusation is probably not going to be protected by Freedom of Speech.

We're lucky to have Freedom of Speech! But it has to be tempered with common sense, good judgment, and truth. Remember that Freedom of Speech is the right to say something without being kidnapped by secret police and held in an unknown prison for 20 years. :) It doesn't mean you can say anything, anywhere on any topic!


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Promising an 80% Sales Increase?

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

Someone recently showed me how if you put certain words into Google, some paid ads come up that seem to promise some bizarre things.

The first ad that came up for me with these words was an eBay design company saying they will raise your sales 20-40%. I guess that wasn't a good enough promise for the people who were the #3 paid ad:

80percent-blurred

I have blurred the search words and the URL to protect the bizarre. Well I don't know about you, but I think that's quite a claim! Increasing someone's sales by 80% or more. They are basically saying that the work they can do for you will nearly
double your business. That's a tall promise, and my feeling is that any
tall promise should be put in writing!

I clicked on this page, and it took me to a form on this company's website that I can fill out to say I'm interested. The page said nothing about sales increases. The page barely had much other than this form.

But I took a look at the terms and conditions of doing business with this company, and not only was there no mention about sales going up any particular amount, and what happens if their work DOESN'T achieve that, but there was this clause:

The Company cannot be held responsible for anything adversely affecting the Client's business operation, sales, or profitability that might be claimed is a result of the Service offered by The Company.

So not only will they NOT stand behind the sales increase claim, but if your sales go down, AND you believe it was because of something this company did, you agree to not hold them responsible. I wonder what has happened in the past that made them have to put that in their contract.

I wouldn't want this company to get away with drawing me in with false promises. If this is what they are saying they can do for sure, it should be in their contract. Otherwise, I might as well run Google Ads saying we will increase your sales 200% just to get you to contact me.


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Wrong Number Phone Calls

Monday, January 19th, 2009

I have a new phone number, and so far, many of the phone calls coming to it are not for me. I seem to be getting messages for Kimberly, or something that sounds like that, and more recently "Frankie."

The amazing thing is that before these messages are left, these people have to sit through an outgoing voice mail announcement telling them they've reached [my company name], check us out on the web at [web address], and this is what this business does. They listen to all of that, and don't seem to notice that's NOT Kim's or Frankie's typical outgoing voice mail message… or voice.

Someone I know had a business phone number that had formerly been a toll free number for a major insurance company. So people would call up, and right off the bat start talking about their illnesses or personal issues. Someone else I know ended up with a local ambulance company's non-emergency number. Still people would call needing an ambulance, and it was very nerve wracking. I think he had to change his number.

I think the best example of this is something I found so funny that it still cracks me up to this day. But the message that was left for me contains words not everybody may want to hear. So if you are sensitive to correct words for body parts, please don't read on. If you are reading on, please put down your beverages. :)

In college, I had an answering machine that recorded to cassettes. Which means I still have this message somewhere in my cassette tape collection. :) I lived in a single dorm room, but my boyfriend was there so often that I put his name on the outgoing message. And my nickname back then (early 1990s) was Midge because I was quite the fan of Midge Ure and Ultravox. Go ahead and laugh.

So the outgoing message was like 20-30 seconds of, "Midge and Dave aren't here. Midge is probably out singing. Dave is out, and nobody knows where he is. Leave your message, and Midge or Dave will get back to you." Something like that with our names over and over.

One day, I came home to a message I just couldn't believe. I will never forget this message, word for word. A woman with a New York accent had left a message. Imagine someone sounding ALMOST like The Nanny saying this:

"Alison, it's your mother. I think you need to have a vaginal culture done. Mervyn won't prescribe anything for you until he knows what that is. You can have the infirmary there do it, or you could just come home." The come home bit was FULL of guilt and "yes, this is the right choice… come home!" by sounding immensely sad and needy.

Ya know, I sometimes think that's something mostly a NY Mom would do. Have NO freaking clue, be not listening AT ALL to the outgoing message, and leave something THAT personal and invasive. I mean, imagine her leaving that message at the RIGHT number! Alison comes back to her room with friends. Oh there is a message. Hits the play button, and that gets broadcasted to the room of friends.

People, please listen to voice mail outgoing messages. They are there for YOU. I think many systems will bypass them by pressing #. But at least listen long enough to know that have the right number.


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Damned If You Do & Closet Skeletons

Friday, January 16th, 2009

This week is one of those times where I look around and wonder who the winners are. In this economy, everybody's struggling and on edge anyway. An eBay announcement comes out. Companies look good, companies look bad. Sellers are happy with the announcement, sellers are unhappy with the announcement.

Some people have strong reactions. We might both have strong reactions but be on opposite sides. We certainly saw that this week. And there may be no right answer or wrong answer. Everybody who posted passionately or angrily or confused could be right. I could be right and someone who feels the opposite way could also be right because we're looking at different things. I can dislike a company because I don't think they were as honest as they could be with their customers. You could love that company because they gave you great work and great service. Both can be true and right at the same time.

It's an interesting situation. Something I do that you thoroughly hated, someone else loved. Something I said for which you demonised me, someone else thanked me for. Someone called me a liar at the same time someone thanked me for the truth. People who told me on Wednesday that I was a liar and scare mongerer apologised to me on Thursday. Information had come out that made some people realise that I wasn't lying and I wasn't trying to scare them, though some people are still riding the "scare mongerer" bandwagon.

People were telling me to never name other companies by name (even if they're doing something wrong or lacking truth) at the same time people were telling me to not hide company names when I have something to "expose" because people don't feel fully-informed when they don't know who I'm talking about. People told me I should publicly disclose every negative run-in I've had with another company while people were telling me that it's a horrible business practice to say anything about having a problem with another company in your industry. If I don't disclose everything, I must be lying… and if I disclose things, I am unprofessional because no company with any dignity would ever disclose how another company carries out business practices most people would find unpleasant, unfair, or inappropriate.

Some people said, "How dare you talk about a competitor." Well, I have
been saying for years that we don't compete with these people. While we
both do design for eBay, that's where the similarity ends. We don't
offer the style of design they specialise in. They don't offer the
style of design we specialise in, nor do they offer any of the other
services we have been offering for years, ie: eBay listing strategy
consultations. I joke it's like apples and BMWs. :) Companies who like
what we do are unlikely to want them. Companies who like what they do
are unlikely to want us. So there's enough pie for both companies, and
I don't see them as a competitor.

For 1.5 yrs, I hadn't been disclosing these things that were going on. I had been hoping that if I didn't kick back when I was getting kicked, another company would decide to stop kicking me. But some people are that special type of bully who keep kicking even when you're not kicking back. This week I kicked, and people threw a fit. So I've learned that the best way to kick back is to hire professional bloggers and have people posting in forums under real and fake names, and put people on the payroll to tell my story, but not to put myself out there as the source of this info. It looks like that's all you have to do to get your info and spin out there without looking like you're doing it. I applaud the smoothness of that.

If you're breathing and reading this, you probably have a competitor somewhere, and maybe you've seen that competitor do some dirty things. I've seen some truly dirty things flung my way and flung between companies in my industry. Like what? Well…

  • Did you know that some companies will "trade" leads they get at shows? You give me all of your leads, I give you mine, you get contacted by a company who never scanned your badge. Maybe you end up on mailing lists for companies you never met.
  • People emailing and calling each other's clients. My clients get emails all the time from designers trying to win them over. My clients get calls from competitors of the software they're using now. One of my clients was getting so many calls from "the other guy" that they finally told him they were "going out of business" just to get him off their back. They didn't go out of business.
  • People who have "professional bloggers" and other hired guns are out in blogs, message boards, and other spots writing anti-competitor stuff while trying to look like some regular guy who has this opinion. That means that if you see a message board post that says that Software X sucks, you don't actually know if that's a regular guy with that real opinion, or someone who got paid to say that.
  • Comparisons may not be honest. I've seen websites and brochures comparing Company A to Company B. The company who didn't write that showed the other company to be awful in every area, even if those things weren't true.
  • Similarly, I've heard people try to compete with us by telling people completely untrue things about my company… like we only started working with eBay sellers like a year ago, so we have no idea what we're doing. We started working with eBay sellers in early 2001.
  • Cold calling. Did a company you weren't looking to hear from just find you and call you?
  • Companies call each other pretending to be potential clients. Not only does this waste time, but it's designed for the competitor to learn how the other guy sells, what he might be saying about this competitor, and pick their brain for ideas.
  • At an event last year, we had the bizarre experience of having a company who's not top on our list spend a good amount of time standing at our vendor table, listening to what we said to people, and when we took a breath, they took that potential client by the arm and brought them to their table.
  • Last year, a guy who heard me give a speech at an event about what my company does told me that he heard Competitor X give nearly the exact same speech about what they do at an event I wasn't at weeks after the event I spoke at. I wasn't there, but that's how he described it.
  • Companies are using your eBay listings to advertise themselves more than eBay allows. eBay's rule about crediting an outside company is very well-defined. You get one image of a certain size, you get no more than 10 words of a certain size written in HTML, you get one link, and you can only mention services you provided for that seller. One software company advertises their templates under templates we designed for people who use their software. So this is non-compliant with eBay's rule, and has always seemed dirty to me.
  • I have heard about companies who try to mess with competitors by adding the competitors' staff to known spam mailing lists.
  • People embellish their eBay expertise. I've had plenty of people come to me after working with someone claiming to be an eBay expert or consultant of some sort but the advice they got actually drove their business down. 
  • I remember being in a weird spot in early 2008 when subscribers to one of the software companies were told by their Account Managers that eBay was going to change the Item page, and that As Was eBay templates would stop working. This wasn't true. eBay announced possible changes to the Item page in June 2008, but our templates work quite well in the proposed new Item page AND those changes aren't even implemented yet, a year after my clients got this scare.
  • I remember seeing a panel of software people at an event. No matter who the audience asked a question to, one person up there kept answering the questions about how great his system was, and oh, he just wasn't so sure if anybody else's system did that. It was very awkward to watch.
  • A software company some of my clients use had a shaky 2008. Many of our clients wanted to leave them, and move to other software. This company decided that the best way to avoid that was NOT to fix the bugs or deal with the support requests, but to deny people the data exports they were requesting.
  • I remember sending one of our happy clients to one of the software companies because I thought the software was a good fit for him, and we don't offer software. The software sales guy was saying things that were so bizarre to my client that my client got me on his cell phone, called the guy back, and put him on speaker. Rather than sell my client on his software, the sales guy spent all his time badmouthing my company with things that weren't true. My client was saying, "I'm happy with them. I want to know about your software," and the guy kept going on about us. He lost the sale, which was a shame since I handed him someone ready to sign with him.
  • When I first started out in 1995, I remember local hosting companies hacking into each other.
  • For the last week (as I write this), I've been getting prank phone calls. British voices swearing on my voice mail. By the way, the British accents make these sound much less threatening than they may have been intended. :) But the question is: who would do this? I can't imagine any of my loyal clients taking the time to prank call another design company. I think my clients are really busy selling and running businesses. So I would narrow this down to say that the calls most likely come from another company in my industry, or the minions on their payroll.

I am not saying that any particular company was part of some or all of the above points. I'm saying this is what goes on out there. Some I've experienced, some I only heard about. Some you may think these are just fine and not dirty. You're welcome to your opinion. My point? There is probably NO company out there that hasn't done at least one thing that you'd find dirty. Maybe they regret it, and maybe they were proud of it, and plan to keep doing that. If you're going to hang me for doing something you don't like, just know there are dozens of things that go on behind the scenes that would probably make you think poorly of most companies you know!

I've done one thing on this list. I'm sorry, and I'm not going to do it again. Any other companies out there want to admit to any of these, apologise, and promise to not do it again (and then really not do it again)?

Back to this week…

This week, I am FAR from the only person posting things publicly about what's been going on this week. Many people are hurt and upset and angry. I've seen plenty of posts from people I don't know, and they are saying the same things I am. Some are saying more scathing and accusatory things than I am. Many drew those conclusions without knowing me or reading anything I was saying about the situation. But nobody's talking about those people because many are posting anonymously. I still have to master that. :)

Many people are taking out their negativity on me even though I didn't hurt them. You may not like something I've done or said, but I didn't hurt you. I didn't break your Store, and I didn't make you spend more money on your Store. If something this company did messed with your eBay sales or Store or caused you to spend extra money, they did that. I had no control over that or their decisions. If I did something to hurt you, I want to know more about it, and apologise. I want to apologise to people who felt bothered by things I said.

I'm sorry for the people who didn't like hearing the truth or how I chose to share it. I wonder if the company who hasn't been as truthful as they could have been is sorry for what they have caused people. I don't remember seeing an apology from them. Well, here's mine. I would like to keep standing up for the truth, but I'm sorry if my style rubs people the super wrong way. I'm sorry that I still make mistakes. :) Someday, I'll get it right and be able to balance telling the truth and not standing in front of a target. :)


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