Monday, December 27, 2010

mission statements: burn them all

I really [really, really, really, really] don't like mission statements. They are all self-serving claptrap. They serve no benefit to the customer whatsoever. So, in turn, customers ignore them. Or go elsewhere to a site/organization that cares more about the customer than they do their own grandiose.

And here is a classic example  I came across when researching my previous entry in this blog. It comes from the home page of the website of the Serco Group plc.
At this point, picture me putting two fingers in my mouth to illustrate that reading this is making me sick.

Two things:

1 Write down on a piece of paper what the Serco Group do. That is, what they manufacture/develop/sell - anything. Tell me anything about the Serco Group from that mission statement. I could say, tell me without going to its website - but even when you get there, it is still difficult to tell what they do. 

2 Which breaks one of the cardinal rules of home page design: Let visitors know why they should stay on your site. In less than a second. Boooiiinnnggg. Too late, they've already bounced back to the search engine. Wave goodbye to that potential customer. 
Footnote to this second point. As visitors can arrive on any of a website's pages from a search engine of link, every page should let visitors know why they should stay on that page, and so, your site.

techie designers: a perfect example of bad practice

I have lost count of the amount of times I have come across this error. It is a perfect example of why a marketer should head up any web-development team. 

The University that employs me recently added new facilities to the staff 'portal' on our website. The platform used has been provided by a company called 'Serco'.  Now, when you buy in proprietary software it always has elements where what the customer sees on their screen can be personalised to suit  the organization that has purchased that software.

Techies, of course, have no interest in that content. They have no need to. It is nothing to do with them. It has nothing to do with how the software functions. So users can end up seeing messages like this one:

 A marketer [or a decent one] would have ALL content checked before the system goes live - in print, it is called copy editing. I would call it absolutely essential in any publishing environment. No, better still, I would call it the right way of doing things. Full Stop [or if you are reading this in the USA; Period]. 

Oh, yes, I would also have made the header grammatically correct  - the software's default would say 'welcome to' and then if would probably insert the title given to the application [by the techies]. Hence, a missing 'the'.

I would also have looked to change the images to some from my organization - but I could live with the mice and hands if I had to.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

a good goodbye

Leaving aside the fact that after having to register in order to find out more about buying online  and then being bombarded by promotional emails - at least when I clicked on the 'unsubscribe' button, M&S's marketers were doing a bit a research to see what  they were doing wrong.

when an option is no option

On a whim, I thought I might go away for the New Year  and found my way onto this website:

Trouble is, I wasn't sure where I wanted to go, so I selected the 'Any Destinations' option [let's not even go down the road of pointing out that it should be 'destination' singular] - but it told me I couldn't search on the option it had given me.
Two points - why list it in the drop down menu if the option isn't an option? And secondly: why isn't it an option? Surely I'm not the only person who would consider anywhere if the price/dates/flights were right?

nice viral touch

Me and the chaps at work decided to go out for a Christmas meal [just an excuse for some drinking really] and so I booked us in at Wetherspoon's 'The Lampton Worm' in the city centre - and when I sent off the enquiry I got this message on the screen:

 
Not intrusive, and I'm not sure how successful it will be, but it reflects some thought being put into the pub chain's marketing.

email enigma [that's a code joke]

Do I even have to make any comment on this email I received from KLM?

joined up thinking

Doing a bit of Christmas shopping I noticed this survey 'enticement' on the receipt as well as a discount code for first time online shopping, AND facebook and twitter listings.
To be honest, the till receipt is so small it is all hard to read [as you see it on screen is roughly the actual size] - but at least they are making the effort to integrate their off- and online marketing. Below is the feedback page.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

no gambling with these chips

Another long story for this entry - with multiple failings along the way.

It all started with a pack of McCain microwave chips. On the pack I noticed a promotion where you had to go online and enter the promo code from the pack your were using:

So I fired up the interweb and typed in the URL given on the pack - www.pingandwin.co.uk - and got this page:
Hmmm, so McCain didn't make sure they had registered the domain name they were using for the promotion. And then didn't bother to try and get hold of it - either buying or renting it. Or even paying for a message on that holding page which said 'for the McCain ping and win competition click here'.

Not to be out done I put Mccain.co.uk into my browser and got this page:

Note that there is nothing on it about the 'ping and win' competition [even scrolling down revealed nothing]. However, the main message on this page was about the new website - on a different domain. I will assume that is a strategic decision, but give my experiences with this promotion, I'm not confident that it is.

So I clicked on the link to go to the 'all new site', and got this:
Or to be more accurate, after a wait of a couple of minutes while it downloaded, this was the page I got. Or, at least, I got some of the page - not that I needed to scroll both down and across to see the content. Note that scrolling across has been a no-no since ... well, since forever.

However, on that page there was a link to 'check out our latest competition' and got this page:
Again, note that scrolling was required - but still nothing on the ping and win competition.

So, McCain, no much how much I enjoy your chips, your online marketing is hard to swallow.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

the Kangol hat saga

Let me start this marathon story by saying that none of the following is the fault of Kangol's - they just make the hat in question.

I have said before on this blog that I often feel mine is a dying trade - that is, teaching e-marketing is becoming redundant because so many people know how to do it. And anyway, it's not rocket science is it? Fortunately, events like the one in this story give me hope of earning through to my retirement.

The prologue: I have a Kangol hat - one of those that actor Samuel L. Jackson has made famous. Someone I know enquired about the my hat, saying she wanted to buy one [for someone else] as a Christmas present. Same as mine, but size 'large'. I said mine was bought online and I would look into it for her.

So I typed "Kangol wool 504 large" into Google. Pretty explicit I would say: 'wool 504' is the Kangol product code [taken from my hat] - the only thing missing is the colour, but black was not essential for the present. And I got this SERP ...
e-Marketing error #1
Notice the add for for M&S? That means that someone at, or on behalf of, Marks and Spencer has bid on either all or some of the term "Kangol wool 504 large". Hmm, I thought, why would they do that - they don't sell kangol hats? "Men's flat caps" - yes, maybe a would-be-Xmas-present buyer might search on that term. But I have searched on a specific style of a specific brand - which would suggest that I know exactly what I'm looking for, and sorry M&S, Samuel L. and his like would gain zero street cred wearing a hat the same as their grandad. But then I thought: 'I'd best just check that M&S don't stock Kangol, so I clicked on that ad, and got ...
e-Marketing error #2
Yep, I wanted a specific style of a specific make of cap - and got a generic landing page. Had this ad link taken me to a cap of the exact same style [but not Kangol], maybe I might have considered it. Actually, that's still not true - but how many of you have ever been bought clothes by your mum that are 'just the same' as the branded attire you actually wanted?

So, anyhoo - I clicked on one of the e-Bay links and found myself on this page ...
e-Marketing error #3
Now, I know that the Kangol 504 has the Kangol logo on the back of the hat - or the front, if you where it backwards as is the fashion. So, I might already be suspicious if a 'Kangol 504' hat was advertised at half the price of other eBay sellers, but I would be even more so if the image didn't include a view of the rear of the hat showing that all-important logo. OK, maybe this hat was a genuine 504, but I wasn't going to take the risk. The error - when you are selling online, get the description - and picture - right.

So I went back to eBay and clicked on the link for a more expensive seller of the required hat - available, it said, 'in all sizes'. Except it wasn't ...
e-Marketing error #4
Maybe this was available in all sizes when it was first advertised, but it isn't now. eBay pages are easily changed - do so, don't sucker people in like this. Oh, by the way - that kind of advertising is against the law in the UK.

Like I said, not rocket science but - it seems - easy to get wrong.

Monday, November 15, 2010

targeted advertising: but targeted at whom?

I have signed up for the alpha version of a new search engine called Qwiki and here is the 'welcome' email.
Now, if you are reading this blog, you should already know that the ads on the right-hand side of this email [it is to my Gmail account] should be associated to the content of the email message. However, there is nothing in the email body which has any connection to 'love letter', 'valentines cards' [in November?] or 'iris plants'. So what keywords have the advertisers chosen for their ads to match up with?

I think it must be 'qwiki' - as in 'a brief sexual encounter'. Seems a rather vague connection to me - but I can't see anything else, can you?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

online requires the same attention as offline media

I think this situation is getting better - but this proves the problem is not solved. Take a look at the hi-lighted part of this web page from UK telecomms provider, BT. Note that I saved this image after reading the page a couple of days ago.


For those of you that don't know: the football season started around three months ago. I do not know the reason for this, but as this kind of thing wouldn't happen on another media - imagine BT running an ad for a Christmas promotion at Easter.

So whey does it happen? Someone, somewhere in BT should - if nothing else - have a note in their diary for the beginning of August that says 'change this web page'. It's just plain sloppy. But here is my worst fear - this kind of thing happens because either [a] the marketers simply do not understand the Internet, or [b] the Internet is still a junior partner in the promotional mix, so it does not receive the same resources and attention to detail as other media. Both stink.

Here's another example, this one hi-lighted by the excellent Bowen Craggs website -ExxonMobil : Sleeping at the wheel.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

[more] good after-sales service

In an earlier entry I mentioned that I had ordered something from Orvis. Well, this blog is mainly full of examples of bad practice, but Orvis deserve a mention for their after-sales service.

I placed the order at 8.53 pm on Tuesday 19th of October. Although I was on their UK site, the jacket was dispatched from America. It arrived at my house on the morning of Tuesday 26th of October. That's less than a week - including a weekend, and the shipping cost was only £4.95!

It doesn't end there, however. And before I go further, I should add that the product was - to me - expensive [though perhaps no so much for others] and so my service expectation was high. But no matter how high it was - it was matched and more.

First was the packaging. A robust cardboard box. Upon opening it up I find a 'suit holder' containing the jacket - which came complete with a nice and wide, wooden coat hanger. The jacket itself was as described [though I had tried on a similar one in Orvis's Harrogate branch].

Then there's the letter that was enclosed [see images at the end of this entry]. OK, so by UK standards, the wording is a bit syrupy, but hey ... that's better than too formal. Best of all is the facility for returning the jacket if I had need to do so. Free return shipping, pre-printed address label, a dedicated UK phone line and email address and an online live chat feature available from 11am to midnight. If I had got ordered the wrong size, a replacement would be sent shipping free.

I've been in business long enough to appreciate that I have paid for all of this service within the price of the jacket, but hey ho; it's a quality jacket and a competitive price - as I have said many times, price isn't everything.

BTW - still no sign of the £10 discount :)



Monday, October 25, 2010

good after-sales service

Amazon is often held out as the example of good practice - and it is a notion that is hard to argue with. Here is another example [see also why online retail works]. This time I made a purchase on Amazon Marketplace [where Amazon host other sellers' online offerings, reather like an offline consession] - and a couple of days after the purchase I got this email:
Excellent stuff - I can think of a lot of companies who would have put my money into their bank account straight away - refunding it if the order fell through for any reason. OK, so it's not that big a sum of money, but multiply it by thousands - or millions - or purchases and you have a significant amount of interest being gained over those few days.

Footnote: I used the Amazon email to reply to the seller and received an automated reply saying they would look into it when they were back at work [I sent it at the weekend]. On the Monday morning I got an email from Amazon and one from Millet Sports - both confirming the product had been despatched.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

titles for titled customers

This made me smile - so I thought I would share it.

I was looking to make a purchase on the Orvis.co.uk website. Now, Orvis cater for - how should I put it - a better class of customer. Don't for one minute assume I am in that league, they just had a jacket I liked the look of. Anyhoo ... back to the order - and normally, when asked for your title, you are given the choice of Mr, Mrs, Ms ... maybe Doctor - but take a look at Orvis's options.
One negative, however. Before placing an order I joined a mailing list for which I was promised a discount of £10 from my first order over £50. The only detail they had was my email address, so I assumed that when that address appeared on an order I would get the discount. But I didn't. If I remember, I'll give them a ring tomorrow.

Footnote: I also like this nice touch in the order's confirmation email. Can't see that too many folk will share an email address, but still ...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

this form goes to the bottom of the class

So imagine you are a sixth former - or the parent of one - and you just want to take a look at what a few universities have to offer. Let's suppose you want to take a degree in marketing but are particularly interested in online marketing. So you just want to look through the marketing programmes to make sure e-marketing is included [not all UK universities teach the subject]. So you go to the websites of the various unis hoping that in a couple of clicks and typing in your name and address [or, for switched on organizations, just your post (zip) code and house number].

Sadly, at the University of Sunderland getting a prospectus 'ain't quite that simple. Here's the form you have to complete [click here for the real thing].
I make that 15 fields that must be filled in, and another raft of options you may or may not be interested in - including requesting information that should be available on the website anyway.

But don't worry, you do get a 'personalised VIP web page' - whether you want one or not.

Neither does the page include that old-fashioned facility: the telephone number. Or maybe an SMS number? Remember, I am just making a general enquiry. I don't even know my [or my child's] A level results yet. In marketing terms, I am right at the top of the buying funnel - not half way down - which is what this form is designed for. If you disagree with my analysis, you have to disgree with this too: website usability for improving online forms.

And finally ... there is no statement on how your email address will - or won't - be used. The Data Protection Act is quoted - but does that cover using your email for other promotional purposes? Or passing it on to other interested parties? Legal requirement or not, it is good practice to include a message outlining such things.

Oh, and I nearly forgot. If you go to the prospectus page it sits on the following URL:
https://sunderland.hobsons.co.uk/emtinterestpage.aspx?ip=student16.
Two things:
1 - that form is sitting on the domain [and so, website] of a third party - Hobsons. In my opinion, perhaps a questionable move as the univsity has no control over that domain, site or page eg if Hobsons' server goes down, so does that form. Unless Hobsons agreed to hosting a fourth level domain of theirs on someone elses server - an equally poor idea even if it is technically viable, and
2 - why not host the prospectus for Sunderland University on either:
Sunderland.ac.uk/Prospectus
or
Prospectus.Sunderland.ac.uk
Of course I know nothing about these domain name issues. Oh, sorry, yes I do - I've written a book on the subject: Choosing the right domain name - a marketing perspective

Friday, September 24, 2010

link building amateur hour, me thinks

This is an odd entry as it is about this blog!

Most [I hope] of you will know that having more links into your website will normally raise your standing with Google. One 'spammy' way of doing this is to tour blog sites and add comments, but include a link to your website in those comments - so developing many links going to your site. This is usually done by using software programmed to go and find blogs and insert comments.


On this blog, I have it set up so that I check the comments before I publish them. And here is one comment that arrived for checking today:


Note that there are three links to the company's website embedded in the text. How do I know it's spam? Look at the message: 'Hi Dear' !!! The blog entry being commented on is not a podcast, and 'very thanks' what's that mean?

Of course, if I'm wrong, I look forward to hearing from the Toronto Marketing Company.

Friday, September 17, 2010

convenience, not price

I've been making this point for years - indeed, there is an example in my book - but shopping online is not all about saving money, and just today I had cause to confirm this belief.

I wanted a couple of digital pictures printed as old fashioned hold-in-your-hand photos. So I went to photobox [note: this is not a promo for that organization, I'm sure there are dozens of similar services out there, I just happened to have used them before]. At 10.35am I placed the order. At 6.35pm I got an email telling me the pics had been despatched and at 10.20 the next morning they arrived through my letterbox. That's less than 24 hours from order to taking possession. Cost: 10p per photo plus £1.49 postage = £1.69.

The alternative would have been to [a] drive into town, park the car, walk to Boots [or similar] and printed the pictures, return to the car and drive home. The printing cost is around the same and the car park would have been around a pound, time taken about an hour, [b] caught the bus into town and back, walking to the shop [saving the planet?], cost around a pound each way, time taken around an hour and a half or [c] walked into town - cheaper but takes a couple of hours and it was raining.

So there you go - unless I had wanted the pictures in my hand on the same day seems to me that it was £1.69 well spent. Saving an hour or more of my time was worth much more.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I think this is probably a spam email

I usually simply delete spam without reading it [hmmm, how do I know it is spam if I don't read it?], but this one came in on my university email's spam filter.
Email's promising tax refunds are fairly common - but not from a design company in Hong Kong. Come on spammers, you can do better than that!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

offer - what offer?

It is a fundamental of marketing that to be successful, any promotion must be appealing to the potential customer. As I have said many times - online is no different. So when I got this email I asked myself; "who will be interested in this offer?" I would have to be travelling this week [I received the email on Saturday the 14th], but surely, if I have a trip planned, I'd already have booked my hotel? Plus, Thursday isn't included in the deal. And the deal isn't available on Thursday night. Oh, and the small print under this ad says; 'All rates are subject to availability at the time of booking and may not be available at every hotel every night'. Or what if I had already booked with Travelodge and had paid a higher price?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

coming soon - for the time traveller

I recently came across the concept of tan-though T shirts and so went looking for them online. One site I came across was that of safer-suntan.co.uk. The product looked reasonable, but availability seemed to be a problem. The first colour was listed as being available in M, L and XL - unfortunately, the exact same sizes that were not available.
It was a similar situation with the camel shirts, it's a good job new stock is arriving two years ago.
As a footnote: This website uses a third party for its online sales facility. Nothing wrong with that, it is common and - particularly for small businesses - sensible. However, when the user clicks on the link on safer-suntan.co.uk to 'enter the e-store', the URL becomes:
https://sslrelay.com/s77608230.oneandoneshop.co.uk/ [and a whole lot more gobbledy gook].
Note there is no sign that the store has any connection to Safer Suntan UK. Indeed, two domain names are listed in that URL, but neither is safer-suntan.co.uk. It might make some think twice before handing over their credit card number and other personal information.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

good job it's not a Christmas present

For reasons that I won't go into, I spent several hours today killing time in the lovely town of Harrogate - and I called in one shop called Orvis. They had a nice jacket - but not in my size. The staff told me about the website, so when I got home I took a look. Selecting my size I found there was a problem with availability ...
Yep, that's the end of December before it can be dispatched. That's five months away. Hmmm. Furthermore, in the shop it was on sale - 30% off, but no sign of such an offer on the website. Consistency of pricing on- and offline is an issue, with best practice normally being 'same price' for all channels. I know I would have been sick if I had bought online and then seen the jacket in the shop for 60-odd pounds less.

As a footnote: this is only my suspicion based on my retail experience - but I suspect that this particular jacket is being discontinued, to be replaced later in the year with a new style. This would explain the long lead time for online orders and the discount of what sizes remain in the shops. If I'm right, why not just say that? Indeed you could actually make it into 'good' news, and collect email addresses of folk who want to be informed when the new style is available.

As is the case in
all my entries to this blog: if Orvis's reputation management team pick this up [which they should - if such a team exists] I would be happy to amend my assumption if I am wrong.

Footnote: as you can see, someone from Orvis did contact me and we exchanged emails with regard to the issues - he concluded by saying my comments would be passed on to the appropriate folk.

Friday, July 16, 2010

not exactly nectar to my lips

I was signing up for a Nectar card and as part of the procedure I was - naturally - asked if I wanted to get emails with details of promotions, offers and so on. I ticked the boxes for 'no' [in itself, a questionable practice - ticking for 'yes' is more ethical] but on the last one this pop-up appeared.
Now, if you read it slowly it is not misleading - but for most people [it's a usability thing] if you tick something and a pop-up appears with 'OK' or 'cancel' as the options, clicking on 'OK' confirms your action. In this case it does the reverse. A bit sneaky you Nectar people.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

you're where?

It is the case that the search engines look for key words in the text on a website - and having those words at the beginning of the content is deemed to be best. But - and it is a big but - you should never [ever, ever, ever] sacrifice the user for SEO. The text should be written for humans, not search engines - in other words, the content should make sense to humans.

And here is an example. Whoever is responsible for this website's content obviously thinks that getting the keywords 'Moorside, Bingley and Bradford' is more important than making the owners look like blithering idiots.

Want to test my opinion here? Try reading that first paragraph as if you were answering the phone at that garage.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

localized ads on the Internet

I was listening to Spotify whilst working in my office at home. As I'm a cheapskate I have the free version - which has verbal ads every few tracks. And then - between 'The Wind Cries Mary' and 'Voodoo Child' - on came an ad recruiting staff for a Barclays call centre 'here in Sunderland'. Nice. Pretty basic IP recognition ... but still good.

Friday, May 14, 2010

why online retail works

Here's something that is theoretically possible offline, but not really realistic - for both buyer and seller.

I couple of months ago I ordered a few books from Amazon. Most arrived within days, but one was not published until this week. And yesterday I got this email:
Now, here's the thing: yes I know there was this price guarantee - but effectively I had agreed to pay the [then] price of £5.99. Would I have ordered without the price guarantee? Yes, I would. I could have put the book in my 'basket' and bought it later [another excellent facility from Amazon] - hoping the price might drop. But hey, it's £2. My total order was for around £60. Would I have noticed or even checked up on the current price when the book is delivered? No. My time is more prescious.

And there's the rub. Convenience. I've been saying it since 1996. Sure some folk will use the web to seek out the cheapest price - but for a lot of people, buying a lot of products, ordering online and having goods delivered is convenient. It save time, if not money. But as any half-decent marketer will tell you price isn't everything. If it was no premier product or service would ever sell. Ask BMW.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

yourmove - the rightmove?

For reasons I won't go into I was looking at property on the YOUR MOVE website [your-move.co.uk]. There is a search facility that allows you to target your search - and yet the spacing of the house prices seems a bit off.
I would assume professional house sellers know what they are doing [and remember, I am a trained salesperson and I've been in marketing for some time] but why the jump from £100,000 to £150,000? Can't be a space issue, because up to £60,000 the steps are in 10s - and who buys houses for less than £60,000? And yet - and I could be wrong - surely there are lots of houses for sale for between £100,000 to £150,000? I would have thought the better sales tactic would have been increments of 10 so that a buyer might be tempted into searching for [say] up to £110,000 - when they really have a limit of £100,000.

Competitors Rightmove seem to agree with me, not only going from
£100,000 to £150,000 in 10,000 increments, but even including £125,000 in the middle.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

sweet FA on this splash page

I went to the Football Association [FA] website to checkup on my Saturday morning footie team's fixtures - but I was not on my computer and couldn't use my bookmark, so I went to the home page and clicked on the link for 'Durham'. This opened a new window and this page came up.
Now ... as you would expect I'm quite experienced as a web surfier, but I couldn't see a link to get me off this page [the content of which was of no interest to me]. Notice how this advert fills the screen - and I was using a reasonable sized screen, not a laptop or mobile device. As I do know something about website development, I looked at the location bar, and saw this:
Let's not go down the road of questioning this poor se of file names [the search engines would ignore this one, for example], buts as I know what a 'splash' page is I knew there must be a way off of it - and when I looked down in the right hand corner [see red arrow in ithe first image above], sure enough there was a tiny bit of page that had not appeared 'above the fold' and when I scrolled down, got this:
I wonder how many folk made the same mistake as me? I wonder if everyone found their way past this page? Think I was stupid not seeing it? maybe, but web developers MUST design for stupid people - for they are customers too.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

a communications survey that doesn't communicate

This email arrived today.
As I though the results might be interesting, I clicked on the 'take the survey' link - and I got this page:
Yep, in the few minutes between receiving the email and visiting the site the survey had ended. Hmmmmm ... something amiss me thinks?

UPDATE: this email arrived this afternoon

Not sure blaming it on a prankster works, more likely a mistake on their part - but hey ... at least they resolved the error quickly.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

universities are customers too

Obviously, I keep up with the e-marketing environment online, and so I've signed up for loads of online newsletters. One such [from e-consultancy.com] pointed me at what looked like some interesting research from ATG [atg.com]. As is the case when research papers are produced as part of a marketing strategy, I was required to 'sign in' to get access to the research details. This included my email address. Now, before my complaint I will add that they do say 'corporate email addresses only' - but as you can see below, my UK university address was rejected I am assuming that this is because all .ac.uk addresses are blocked. As this blog entry makes clear, I think this is a mistake. However, the only other reason I can see from their rejection message is that my address includes two uppercase letters [my initials] - surely that is not the reason for the rejection? If that is the case - double shame on the techie who set up the fields because ... email addresses are not case sensitive [before you jump down my throat, they can be set up to be case sensitive, but convention is that no one does so].
Well, I can appreciate that they may be trying to limit access to the report - but why? The significant results are already in the public domain - probably as a result of their PR efforts. Don't want students quoting the figures in assignments ... and if so, why not? And remember, students become managers and business owners.

But more importantly [for ATG] ... I could have been the marketer from a university who was interested in buying their services [the whole point of the paper being researched, written and published].

To get the report - which was very good - I entered my email address on my .eu domain. Don't ATG know that anyone living in the EU can register a .eu domain - including students?

Or was it just a techie's error that .ac.uk domains were rejected by the registration software?

Friday, March 26, 2010

come and collect it for free

As a shop, I like Debenhams - there aren't many of the old 'department' stores still around. However, I think someone got this promotional message wrong:
Yep ... if I use my own car [and petrol] delivery - or is that collection - is free. Yes I realise they are referring to delivery to your local store, but surely they will put the goods into their [highly efficient] distribution system rather than using a third-party carrier. Why promote it as free delivery - other retailers [all of them?] refer to this as 'click and collect'.

Footnote: I may be wrong on the last sentence - March 2010 saw Halfords also launch its 'free delivery to store' option. I wonder if customers will consider this to be 'free delivery' - or see it along the same lines as me?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Not practicing what you preach

I'm disappointed in this example because it comes from someone who professes to be an expert marketer. Sadly I can't mention his name or his website's – as you will see, it strikes me that he is the sort of person to instigate legal action.

It all began when I saw an article on a 'famous' e-marketer's email newsletter about Twitter, it being a list of organizations that were effectively using the 140-character social-messaging system. I decided that I would add my own comments from a user's – that is, receiver's – point of view. At no time was I critical of the original work, indeed, in my introduction I praised it. Note that, so long as the appropriate reference to the original is included, this is acceptable in academic articles. Indeed, it is often seen as both a compliment and an opportunity for the original to reach a wider audience.

Because I was reproducing much of the original article, I started mine with: I am indebted to *name of company and author of the article* which was hyperlinked to the company website. Out of courtesy, I emailed said expert advising him that I had used the original article and included the URL so that he could check it was OK [note that for this I had to use a form on his website, far from the best means of online communication].

Within a couple of hours I received a reply. It had no greeting, simply saying:

*e-marketer's name* wrote:
Your verbatim use of my content without my prior consent falls outside of fair usage guidelines. Removal of my content from your site is formally requested herewith.

This looked like an automated reply to me. No greeting. No introduction. No reason. Not good marketing practice. Not good PR practice. To be frank – out-right rude. Now, I don't think I should get any different treatment than any other reader of the expert's web page – but perhaps a little professional courtesy for a fellow e-marketing expert wouldn't have been amiss?

Thinking it may have been an automated response, I sent the following email:

Hmmm, a rather terse [automated?] legalese reply to what I thought was a reasonable request - particularly as it would drive 'new' readers to your article and the musing starts with:
"I am indebted to *name of company and author of the article*

Still, ho hum - as someone who has had entire books reproduced without my permission I can see where you are coming from, though I feel in this instance you are being a little short-sighted on the PR front.

It is not a problem as far as I am concerned, the page will be deleted by the end of the day , as will all the links from my site to articles/pages on your site and my advice to students to sign up for your newsletter.

Best wishes ... Alan

OK, so a bit like throwing my toys out of the pram, but I felt I was making a valid point. The response came soon after:

Thank you. Have a good weekend.

So ... I've changed the article so that none of the article's content is present. I have removed the link to the expert's website from that article. I have removed the link from my 'useful websites' page. I have removed all 15 links that I had on my website to articles on the experts website. Yep, my hyperlink toys are out of the pram. Will it affect the expert's website in any way? Probably not. But in one of the article's own articles he advises organizations to establish "links of a feather" with affinity sites similar to yours. That sounds like a good idea.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

it might be yourspace ... but it's not myspace

I got an email from myspace:
Now, I rarely use myspace, but I do have a page, so I thought this might be an important announcement - or perhaps someone trying to contact me. So I clicked on the 'read the full message' link - expecting it to open within the email. But no, it opened a browser with a myspacepage. This one:
So here's the thing. myspace's marketers know quite a bit about me from my registration with them and my activity on their site. They know, for example, that I am a 50-something University lecturer. Apart from anything else I suspect that rules me out of the target demographic for a chat with Steel Panther.

Hello myspace's marketers, guess what I'll be doing with the next email you send me?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

good use of IP address tracking

As per the entry from a few days ago, I'm checking out travel arrangements for a trip to Athens, and found myself on Tripadvisor looking at a hotel called 'the Four Seasons'. Sadly, it wasn't part of the chain by the same name, but annyywhooo, look what happened when I followed a link to the Tripadvisor page:
Yep, those clever folk assumed that if I was looking for a hotel in Athens I might also need to book a flight. Add into that my IP address identifying me as being in Sunderland, and I was presented with a 'personalized' ad for flights from my local airport.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

web and email = different

Probably a 'cut and paste' error - but check out the contact email address at the bottom of this [it's from a promotional poster]
Of course, an easy fix would be to have set up the email address as shown [it is possible to have almost anything before the @ in an email address] and have it forward emails to the correct address [student.helpline@], but at the time af writing, the published address was bouncing emails. D'oh!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

excellent advertising practice

I have been quick to criticise poor advertising, including poor landing pages. However, TravelRepublic.co.uk excelled itself when I was looking for a hotel in Athens. Regular readers will know I have been a frequent visitor to the Greek capital, and so I knew of two hotels in which I would like to stay - so I searched on their names on Google. The first was the Residence Georgio*.
One of the AdWords ads listed was with TravelRepublic and I clicked on the link, which took me to 'their' Georgio page that included a calendar for me to select my required dates**. Here's the resulting page
After checking the price I returned to Google and searched for the Park Hotel. Again, TravelRepublic had an ad, so I clicked on it ...
And here's the good - no, make that great - bit: the TravelRepublic landing page for the Park Hotel already had my travel dates pre-selected. Excellent.
If you're wondering, its all magic - probably - done with IP address recognition. This should be standard practice for advertisers.

* footnote #1 - this hotel actually changed its name last year [to the Melia] and whilst there is a website on this name, the hotel seems to have retained its own brand online. A lesson on the problems of changing a brand/organization's name when it has an established online presence.

** footnote #2 - for any burglars reading: I have changed my actual travel dates on the examples shown