03 Oct

FeeFighters – FeeFighters Loses BBB Accreditation Over Investigative Blog Post

Ouch. It looks like if you say anything that the BBB deems “aversely affects (their) public image” you’re out. Not much of a fair system.

Since launching that investigative post, we’ve had a lot of resonance with other small businesses who had similar concerns about the BBB. Heed this warning: it seems that any critique of the BBB will result in losing accreditation. For many small businesses, this would be terrible news, as consumers still see the BBB as an moral organization acting with their interests in mind.

via FeeFighters – FeeFighters Loses BBB Accreditation Over Investigative Blog Post. I’ve always felt the Better Business Bureau was a little scammy, nice to know they can’t take criticism as well.

02 Oct

NYTimes.com – Deal Sites Have Fading Allure for Merchants

Just a few months ago, daily deal coupons were the new big thing. The biggest dealmaker, Groupon, was preparing to go public at a valuation as high as $30 billion, which would have been a record amount for a start-up less than three years old. Hundreds of copycat coupon sites sprung up in Groupon’s wake, including DoubleTakeDeals, YourBestDeals, DealFind, DoodleDeals, DealOn, DealSwarm and GoDailyDeals. Deal sites were widely praised as a replacement for local advertising.

Now coupon fatigue is setting in. Groupon’s public offering has repeatedly been put off amid stock market turmoil and internal missteps; the company says it is back on track, but some analysts say it may never happen. Dozens of copycats are closing, reformulating or merging, including Local Twist in San Diego, RelishNYC and Crowd Cut in Atlanta. Facebook and Yelp, two powerhouse Internet firms that had big plans for deals, quickly backed off.

Even the biggest Web retailer, Amazon.com, has had trouble gaining traction in oversaturated New York, where it started offering deals with great fanfare a month ago. There are at least 40 active coupon sites for the city, according to LocalDealSites.com.

Shopping coupons have a long history, and they will undoubtedly continue to play a significant role in local merchants’ efforts to attract customers. But what has become apparent is a basic contradiction at the heart of the daily deals industry on the Internet.

The consumers were being told: You will never pay full price again. The merchants were hearing: You are going to get new customers who will stick around and pay full price. Disappointment was inevitable.

Some entrepreneurs are questioning the entire premise of the industry. Jasper Malcolmson, co-founder of the deal site Bloomspot, compares the basic deal offer with lenders’ marketing subprime loans during the housing boom.

via NYTimes.com – Deal Sites Have Fading Allure for Merchants. Oh yeah, right now is starting to look like a bad deal.

10 Sep

paidContent – More Bad News For Groupon: Sales Team Files Class-Action Suit

Earlier this week came reports that the daily-deals site, suddenly unpopular with both users and investors, is considering shelving its long-expected IPO. Now comes more bad news—Groupon’s own employees have filed a class-action suit against the company.

In a filing in Chicago federal court this week, former salesperson Ranita Dailey confirmed she will be lead plaintiff on behalf of Groupon employees who seek to recoup overtime that the company allegedly failed to pay. The suit claims that Groupon violated federal and state labor law, and demands three years of back wages and punitive damages for hundreds of employees.

The lawsuit coincides with a rise in negative comments on sites like Glass Door by people claiming to be Groupon employees. They have posted comments like: “a boiler room”; “Immense pressure to hit unrealistic sales goals” and “Sales staff cries all the time.”

Groupon did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the class-action suit.

via paidContent – More Bad News For Groupon: Sales Team Files Class-Action Suit. Obviously can’t speak to validity of this lawsuit but it wouldn’t shock me. What a cruddy business.

05 Sep

Locus Online Perspectives – Cory Doctorow: Why Should Anyone Care?

I get a lot of e-mail from writers starting out who want to know whether it’s worth trying to get published by major houses. The odds are poor – only a small fraction of books find a home in mainstream publishing – and the process can be slow and frustrating. We’ve all heard horror stories, both legit (‘‘Why is there a white girl on the cover of my book about a black girl?’’) and suspect (‘‘My editor was a philistine who simply didn’t understand the nuances of my work’’). And we’ve all heard about writers who’ve met with modest – or stellar – success with self-publishing. So why not cut out the middleman and go direct to readers?

There’s not a thing wrong with that plan, provided that it is a plan. Mainstream publishers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars over decades learning and re-learning how to get people to care about the existence of books. They often do so very well, and sometimes they screw it up, but at least they’re methodically attempting to understand and improve the process by which large masses of people decide to read a book (even better, decide to buy and read a book).

I firmly believe that there are writers out there today who have valuable insights and native talent that would make them natural successes at marketing their own work. If you are one of those writers – if you have a firm theory that fits available evidence about how to get people to love your work – then by all means, experiment! Provided, of course, that you are pleased and challenged by doing this commercial stuff that has almost nothing in common with imagining stories and writing them down. Provided that you find it rewarding and satisfying.

via Locus Online Perspectives – Cory Doctorow: Why Should Anyone Care? Cory Doctorow who certainly doesn’t seem to need traditional publishers, penning a nice piece in favor of publishers.

15 Jul

Wired – How Online Companies Get You to Share More and Spend More

You’re not stupid, but you can be fooled. For millennia, the best salespeople have known how to exploit the vulnerabilities of the human mind. In the burgeoning field of behavioral economics, we’ve begun to give precise names to the mental weaknesses that make us all susceptible to a well-crafted pitch. Drawing on the insights of psychology, behavioral economists have explained why we buy more stuff at $0.99 than at $1.00 (the “left-digit effect”), why we commit to gym memberships we’ll never use (“optimism bias”), and why we don’t return things we buy as often as we should (“post-purchase rationalization”). The giants of the web, from Amazon to Zynga, use similar tricks to keep us coming to their sites, playing their games, and buying their goods. In fact, that’s how they became giants in the first place. Here’s how they game us—and how, in some cases, we wind up gaming ourselves.

via Wired – How Online Companies Get You to Share More and Spend More. Always neat seeing psychology at play especially with companies that excel at it.

01 May

Campaign Monitor – Successfully building brand awareness with email marketing

When folks ask us about how to justify spending money on email marketing, we’re pretty quick to respond with two words – it works. With email returning $42 on every dollar spent in 2010 (by far out-performing catalogs and direct mail), it’s a very attractive marketing tactic with immediate impact. However, hip pockets aside, what’s largely overlooked is its ability to develop brand awareness.

via Campaign Monitor – Successfully building brand awareness with email marketing. Email marketing defiantly works to get me interested in purchasing a product.

26 Mar

J-P Teti – The iPad is 99% more open than any other computer

The teenage market is where I like to turn for a prediction of where the general market will be in a few years. Because while teens aren’t nerdy, they tend to be early adopters because it’s cool— taking out my iPad (which I often bring to school in my backpack) is actually considered showing off by a lot of people. Everyone in my class has an Android phone or an iPhone. One of my friends, again, not a tech nerd, had the Droid within 2 months of it being released and had the Verizon iPhone the day after it came out.

And this market thinks the iPad does more.

This is the key to the iPad that nobody has figured out. The iPad does everything that a regular computer user does. Facebook. YouTube. Email. Web browsing. It does all this out of the box.

And it has all the apps.

via J-P Teti – The iPad is 99% more open than any other computer. The iPad does more or at least is perceived as doing more, that’s truly is what matters.

15 Mar

Web Standards Sherpa – Stop Hiding Behind Products

Years back, we at User Interface Engineering did a little experiment. We asked folks to search for information and items on sites they’d never been to. In advance of showing them the site, we asked them what terms they thought described what they were seeking, then we asked them to go to the site and find what the items. After they either completed the task or gave up, we went back to the site’s home page and counted the number of times the users terms were on that page.

On the sites where the users’ terms were present in the navigation, those users succeeded about 72% of the time at finding what they were seeking. Yet, on the sites that didn’t mention the users’ terms at all, those users only succeeded 6% of the time.

via Web Standards Sherpa – Stop Hiding Behind Products. Generic terms don’t help customers they just frustrate them.

13 Mar

Contrast – Designing your sign up page

Web applications are rarely a commidity. Commodity web apps are things like file format conversions, URL shorteners, Twitter pic uploaders, File-hosting sites. They’re disposable one-off transactions and the user doesn’t really care what URL they get out of the exchange. They’re tough rackets to be in.

Users aren’t looking for the cheapest app, they want fastest, more reliable, best supported app. The only thing that matters when designing your sign up page content that supports their desire. Are you convincing users that your product does something useful for them. Does it make them rich, make them laugh, pique their interest or get them laid?

If you offer me an invoicing solution and print “easy to use” everywhere on your site, it means nothing to me. Just like everyone thinks they have a good sense of humour, everyone thinks their software looks good and is easy to use.

via Contrast – Designing your sign up page. The initial sign-up page is the hardest for me to judge in terms of effectiveness.

06 Mar

Seth’s Blog – The limits of evidence-based marketing

Of course, evidence isn’t the only marketing tactic that is effective. In fact, it’s often not the best tactic. What would change his mind, what would change the mind of many people resistant to evidence is a series of eager testimonials from other tribe members who have changed their minds. When people who are respected in a social or professional circle clearly and loudly proclaim that they’ve changed their minds, a ripple effect starts. First, peer pressure tries to repress these flip-flopping outliers. But if they persist in their new mindset, over time others may come along. Soon, the majority flips. It’s not easy or fast, but it happens.

That’s why it’s hard to find people who believe the earth is flat. That’s why political parties change their stripes now and then. It wasn’t that the majority reviewed the facts and made a shift. It’s because people they respected sold them on a new faith, a new opinion.

via Seth’s Blog – The limits of evidence-based marketing. I know this to be true, that evidence doesn’t tend to change people’s opinion on a subject, but darn it, evidence really should change people’s understanding of a subject.