Hotel horror stories: more worrying marketing from Tripadvisor

Nothing pulls in viewers like a bit of shock horror, right Tripadvisor?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; this isn’t a good marketing strategy.

Hey, what do I know?

All I know is that this approach to pulling people into the Tripadvisor site does nothing to build my trust in either Tripadvisor’s motives or its methods. Sadly, it’s following that time-honoured, downward trend of all things internet: the more lurid, tacky, salacious and shocking your content and methods, the more money you’ll make.

Pardon me for being…well, not surprised, I suppose is a way of putting it.

Tripadvisor’s slogan used to be ‘Get the truth and then go’. That’s since become ‘The world’s most trusted reviews’ – which is convenient, since it’s now only one small step to change it again to ‘The world’s tackiest reviews’.

Tripadvisor no doubt feels safe behind its US internet libel laws which (to this layman) seem to offer considerable protection to anyone publishing anyone else’s comments about anything. Add the penchant for anonymity in the world of reviews and you have a recipe for sleaze and manipulation.

Yuk.

Smallbusinessdirectory.co.uk – scam or not? You decide…

I’d love to be able to tell you whether the spam I got today from ‘smallbusinesdirectory.co.uk’ comes from a scam..

…but unfortunately it appeared to be defunct by the time I got there.  Fast work, Tiscali!

By the way, if you are trying to set up a legitimate business in this current plague of worthless and outright scammy business directories, you really need to think hard about your approach.  Introducing yourself via spam isn’t a good start.  You’re going to have to go an extra mile to create confidence.  That’s quite a challenge.

And you’re going to need to use English properly.  And be sensible with your claims.

Ah well, I was kind of hoping for a home-grown business directory scammer to play with on this blog, but seems that I’ll have to wait :-(

Mind you, judging by the feedback coming in to this site, there are plenty of legal, ‘respectable’ online business directories it sounds like we ought to be looking into a bit deeper.

Any more you want to point me at?  Just leave a comment below.

Spam: the quickest way to create a bad impression

Got a ‘special offers’ spam email from a Plymouth hotel yesterday.

As it happens, I wasn’t interested in their offers but more importantly I don’t like being sent marketing emails that I haven’t specifically opted to receive.

How did this hotel chain get my email address? What made them assume it was ok to spam me? The fact that I’d given my business card to one of their people at a networking event.

A common assumption that many small business owners make is that exchanging business cards constitutes an ‘opt in’ to each others’ mailing lists. It doesn’t.

If small businesses can be forgiven that misunderstanding (after all, the law regarding spam is a bit cloudy) what’s unforgivable is when they make the process of opting-out difficult or uncomfortable.  Failing to put an ‘unsubscribe’ link in marketing emails means people have no choice but to contact the business directly to ask to be removed from a list they never wanted to be on in the first place.  Not great.

If that isn’t bad enough, there is a final way to really make sure they piss off a prospect completely.  How?  By taking offense when the prospect asks to be unsubscribed.

A few weeks ago I asked someone to remove me from their list.  Their reply? “I’m disappointed you don’t remember giving me permission…”  I didn’t.  Notice how they imply that their spam was my fault?  That line was enough to make sure I never recommend them to anyone else.

Despite it being toothless when it comes to enforcement, the law on spam is fairly simple and I summarise it here (in case you need to be reminded).

If you can’t get your head around that then remember, with spam you’re just three moves away from reputation self-destruct.

1) Send me something I didn’t ask for.  2) Force me to go out of my way to stop receiving it and 3) Get annoyed when I asked you to stop.

Secret of instant wealth

Follow the 3 step route to instant wealth – the ‘mu:kaumedia way

Step 1) Switch off the computer and stop looking for a ‘solution’ to your life’s ‘problems’ in it.

Step 2) Put on your boots, your coat and call your cat.

Step 3) Take your cat for a long walk in the countryside.  Stop, sit or lie down wherever the mood takes you both.

Result?  Instant, lasting wealth.

catwoodsI’m not joking.  Contrast this with the grasping, needy feeling that comes with starting at the computer trying to get-rich-quick online and there’s no contest.

The computer is great as a communication device.  Wonderful.  Things like email, Skype are miracles in themselves.  The computer is great when used for discovery.  Watching the earth turn in real-time from the International Space Station or a dust devil on Mars is breath-taking.

But the computer seems to have become awful,  poisonous even, when it meets business.  It’s not the computer itself though.  It’s the underlying human emptiness that puts the computer to work in such inhuman, soul-destroying activities.  It’s that emptiness and neediness that’s in danger of turning online communication into simply a medium for driving sales and content into nothing more than a kind of soil in which to plant keywords.

leavessq

When I use the computer to communicate or learn, I generally feel good.  It’s a positive experience.  I feel enriched in some way.  But if I use it to try to ‘fix’ the ‘problem’ of my life (not enough money, independence, status, success, control, love, expertise, followers, traffic, hits…) I feel bad.

If you’ve just gotten off the computer after a day of chasing search engine positioning, or social media connections, or website traffic or any number of online marketing activities and you feel… well, less than you would had you gone for a walk with your cat in the countryside, then maybe it’s about time you took a look at the story you tell yourself about wealth.

I did.

10 Big Marketing Mistakes: No.1 – Make everyone your customer

Don’t make the mistake of making everyone your customer.  It doesn’t work.

The big mistake here is the belief that ‘everyone is my customer’.  It’s so easy to make this mistake.  Hey, I sell PCs – and since everyone uses them, doesn’t it make sense that anyone is my customer?

Yes and No.  Yes, everyone could be your customer.  But how can you develop solutions to everyone’s problems?  How can the benefits of your products appeal to everyone at once?  Who are you talking to ? Everyone.  What needs have they got?  Every kind.  What language should your marketing materials and advertising use?  All kinds.

If everyone is your customer, you’re just making everything you have to do harder.  So, No.  Everyone isn’t your customer.

Our advice is to choose a sector you know something about and have some experience in.  Why? Because knowing something about that sector will make it easier for you to understand the kinds of problems that your products could be the solution to.  And because knowing something about the sector will give you far more credibility.

Remember that people in the education sector will feel more confident buying PCs from someone with experience in their sector because you’ll already have an appreciation of the particular issues they have to deal with.

So step No.1 then, is to identify an industry sector as your market.  That will take focus plus the courage to choose one area and let go all the others.  Try it!

How to get extra traffic to your blog / site

Responding to what’s going on with the right titles is key to driving extra traffic to your site

Would you like hundreds or thousands of extra visitors to your site? It’s not that hard to do. Here’s how:

1) Set up a blog. Either add one as part of your existing site or create your site AS a blog (we did).

2) Keep your eye on what’s going on in the world so you know what people are searching for in Google. Google Trends will tell you the top 100 US searches. Watching TV will give you other clues. Breaking news will create waves of search traffic.

3) Write posts about the things people are searching for – with the keywords upfront in the titles. Make sure you re-iterate those keyphrases / words in a header at the start of your post.

Here’s a real world example.

Late December, someone sent me an invite to a free music streaming service called Spotify. I signed up, downloaded the player and dived into enjoying the music. It was clear that Spotify were marketing this service via ‘invites’. Each new sign-up got 5 or so invites to share with friends.

[ding!] Opportunity [ding!] It was obvious that invitations were limited but as soon as people heard about Spotify, they would be searching Google for invitations.

So I posted here to ‘harness’ that traffic.

To arrive at the keywords/phrases I asked myself what people would be searching for. “How do I get a Spotify invitation?” was my choice of phrase. So that was my title. I followed that with a header: “How do you get a Spotify ‘free account’ invitation?”

The result? Top of Google for that search question. So lots of visitors – including Spotify who gave me loads of invites to give away on their behalf. Benefit to them? I did their marketing for them.

Benefit to me? 2000+ extra music-loving visitors a week.

So that’s the principle. It’s mechanically quite easy. There’s nothing magical about this site or the posts I make. Now you can see that the mysterious – and dreaded – ‘search engine optimisation’ (SEO) simply means putting the right keywords in your post title.

If you’ve got a blog, go away and play. If you haven’t, get one started and play. Spend a few weeks just hooking into Google traffic to see how easy it is.

The next thing we’ll look at is how to use the same technique to get extra traffic from your target market to your site.

Sony camcorder with external mic input jack?

Anyone else getting nowhere looking for a Sony video camera you can plug a mic into??

UPDATE!! If you need a low-cost HD camera with a mic input, look no further than the Drift HD. I bought one and can report that the mic input function works perfectly well with my wireless Sennheiser lavalier tie-pin mics. Excellent! Great for wide-angle group shots and amazing for sports and outside activities. I also use mine for filming my glider flights (using the option heavy-duty suction mount). 

[Original post]

I’ve spent over an hour doing Google searches trying to find a Sony camera (actually ANY camera) that has an external microphone input.

Why?  Because as any online media producer knows, most video cameras will give you acceptable image results, but none will give you the audio quality you require.  That’s not because the onboard mics are bad, it’s simply because you need to mic from up close to get acceptable quality.

So. You go to the web and search for what you need.  And you use every combination of words you can think of: video camera, camcorder, mic input, external mic and so on.

Do you think that any of the sellers or manufacturers out there leap out to satisfy that need?  Nope.  Nothing but thousands of tangential, inconsequential references – mostly from people as frustrated as me, looking for the same thing.

So I called Sony UK customer service.

“I’ve got a need that your website isn’t satisfying” I began to the bored front-line Customer Services girl. “I’d like to speak to someone in marketing about it.  It’s a missed opportunity because I know there are quite a few people looking for the same thing”

“I’m sorry” she said “We don’t pacifically (sic) have a marketing department”.

“Oh you do” I told her.  “Yes but they don’t have a customer facing role” she answered back.  At this point I lost the motivation to teach this corporate giant the basics of a customer-focused (as opposed to ‘product-obsessed’) marketing strategy.

Nevertheless, at least she tried to do her best to meet my need.  After 10 minutes on hold listening to horrible music, she returned to say “We do have one – it’s the DCRVX2100E”

Ah yes. This one.

Isn’t it idiotic that I KNOW there are other, cheaper cameras in their product range that have mic inputs.  I JUST CAN’T FIND WHICH ONES and nor can they when asked.

Save yourself 1hr searching online and call Sony UK Customer Services on 08705 111 999.  Be warned, you won’t find out what you need to know – just what they’re geared up to tell you.

Sony, if you want to talk to me about how to make your marketing more customer focussed, I’m available on a consultancy day rate.

Facebook ‘offers up users’ as marketing tool

Facebook intends to capitalise on the wealth of marketing information it has about its users

So says ‘SocialMedian’ which goes on to talk about how Facebook users are going to be outraged that they’re going to be used in polls for market research.. or something.

Why, oh why is anybody surprised?

Did they think that Facebook was there for their well-being? That it somehow wasn’t accumulating a mass of personal data (given up with an unbelievable lack of caution)? That the people behind Facebook care about social media and personal empowerment more than good old-fashioned profit?

The minute any of us sign up to something like Facebook, we’re meat to the marketers.  Expect it. Expect the worst – then expect some more worser, because the bad news is that this social media stuff exists to make people money, not to create a nice touchy-feely world.

If you don’t like it, don’t be part of it – but don’t be all shocked and horrified, please!

The Spotify Magic Invite Fairy has been!

Overnight Spotify gave me 5 invites. Great marketing move.

Since their on-site blurb said that invites only came with paid membership, I’d like to think it’s because their clever online reputation monitoring picked up that I blogged positively about it.

Either way, I enjoyed inviting 5 friends. That’s a great piece of marketing.

I used Spotify last night (New Year’s Eve) to power our music at home, resulting in a really nice mix of stuff I’d never normally listen to plus a few deliberate forays down the cul-de-sacs of Memory Lane…

I got an ad every hour or so which was entirely bearable. It remains to be seen whether the premium proposition is irresistible but the battle is half won already with a product I feel good about.

Thanks, Spotify – and well done. A great online reputation / marketing example.