Archive for July, 2009

Connections, Comments and Conversions

Mitch Joel made a point that really resonates with me in the below speech. “Negative reviews can have a higher conversion”.

The conversation is being had, it always has been, just nowadays the conversation is easier to find and bad companies are easier found out. What really becomes important is how a business deals with this shift. Do you embrace the community and join in, or do you operate a them VS us mentality and hope you can swim against the crowd.

Trust is a huge part of an online brand, if a customer isn’t sure about the vendor, the advice is clear – go somewhere else you do trust. So it’s therefore obvious that if you have a brand that chooses to restrict speech, pick and choose customer comments that you publish on your site so that only the favorable part of the conversation is had on your domain – you can be sure the unfavorable other half of the conversation will be had elsewhere.

Is it too easy to set up an Online business?

It’s a question than i’ve been asking myself for sometime now. Unlike other industries say food serving or a pub where you have to have a license many companies can break major laws and endanger their clients.

Take for instance someone who stumbles on to this site – The site looks very professional and it makes claims that they have 14 years in the business and are the choice for accountants and Solicitors. They must be very credible right?? WRONG.

First of all any person with the schooling of an accountant or solicitor will know that if you want to register a business name, its a simple online form with the companies registration office – and it costs 20 Euro – not 85 Euro!

But there’s nothing wrong with offering a service and making money, even if it is a bit cheeky its not illegal. What is MASSIVELY ILLEGAL is risking their customers personal information including their credit card info, because they are not the professional set up they claim to be. And unless you have a basic understanding of online security, you’ve done the online equivalent of giving your ATM card to a complete stranger and telling them the pin.


This site has No Security which you can tell by the lack of the “s” in the URL (SSL security), which appears on the check out pages of credible sites:


They then ask for your payment info including your CCV, which means that they have your privileged information and so does anyone that hacks their site.

But surely they can’t do this, no online payment processor would allow this to happen? I hear you say. If you look at the code, they don’t use an online processor. It looks like they receive your full personal information, credit card number and CCV VIA EMAIL and then use a manual terminal to put it through. Ofcourse its massively illegal to do so, you don’t know if they have the latest anti virus or anti Spyware on their computers. Frankly speaking if they are willing to break PCI DSS regulations you can be sure they don’t know the consequences of security at all.

Its not that i have a personal dislike for but as a fellow online retailer, it is infact me that suffers from their ignorance. If your card is stolen and someone buys Bikinis or Costumes from one of my stores – the person who’s data has been stolen will infact receive back their money from Visa or Mastercard – If you used Laser then we’d give you your money back, but as your not entitled to it under law most stores wouldn’t. So essentially we end up sending a fraudster some product and receive no payment, because of amateurs like the above company. Often who cannot be traced back to due to low volumes of sales and they continue to operate illegally sending fraudsters more personal information and card details. How long could this go on? Well the above site has been in operation since December 2005.

Really i think the “.ie” domains need to be closer monitored, so that customers can trust them.

Another thing that really gets my goat, sorry if i’m ranting on, is claims that sites are things they are really not. Not just the above, but in the Fancy Dress business this practice is ripe. For example a new site launched this week which is claiming to be “Ireland’s Largest Online Store” on its first day launched. Not just the largest in its industry, but the largest of every industry. Not bad for a business which is seemingly run out of a garden shed.

If you want to make such a claim on Radio or Television you better have the data to back it up, so why shouldn’t online businesses have to substantiate their claims to be the cheapest or the biggest.

Also it would be very embarrassing to be LYRATH ESTATE Hotel, who’s credible name will no doubt be dragged down in some peoples eyes due to this association with a rogue business.

########### update 24/07 11.30pm ############

In a conversation on Twitter about this post with Brian Honan of Security Watch pointed out that PCI DSS is not a legal requirement only an Industry standard and that the article may confuse readers. To clarify what i meant in terms of legalities is the data protection act section 2(1)(d) which states that “appropriate security measures shall be taken”, which factors in the potential harm caused and the nature of the information store. But really you don’t need to be a genius to work out that when taking something as important as a credit card number you need to factor in special care.

Also if (when) the merchant becomes aware of this practice heavy fines can be implemented for breach of contract.

########### update 03/11/09 15.41pm ############

Got a lovely Email from Alan from the Data-Protection agency who’s been looking into the above story. The above company were unaware of the dangers of what they were doing. And have taken steps to get more secure by adding SSL.


Had to laugh though, they put up a big sign on their site saying how UNSECURE they are! Hopefully though the people at data protection will get them to contact their bankers for some advice before the bankers get on to them with the fines.

DHL Increase Prices

Courier DHL are to increase Prices from the 1st of August, creating another strain for struggling business.

The move has been accredited to them loosing money for sometime now in the Irish Market, after focusing on their non core market – home deliveries.

The move comes at a time when FastWay Couriers have announced new favorable rates to the UK and intend to announce some further new developments in the coming weeks.

Christmas FM 2009

Christmas FM

Plans for the 2009 Christmas FM are getting off the ground already. In truth the plans for expansion have been growing ever since Xmas FM closed down last year, we really didn’t expect such a massive audience and to raise as much as we did for the ISPCC – Christmas Fm received over 10,000 text message during its one month on air!

This year were ramping up the operation. Plan’s to expand the broadcast to Cork this year as well as in an even wider range in Dublin and the surrounding commuter belt are underway. This years charity is the Simon Community, who’s work in the current climate is more important than ever. Sometimes the whole issue of homelessness is so difficult to even comprehend its effects on those that are involved – its easy completely avoid the issue. It’s something that Simon are committed to change and we want to get behind them to help.

At the moment were searching for new sponsors who would like to sponsor the whole station, a single show or even a little part of the website. If your in a position to do so please leave a comment below and we’ll get in touch, but if your not in a position to sponsor we’d love to hear suggestions of what businesses we should approach. I’ve mentioned this before on the blog last year but this in my opinion is the best leverage of a charity donation a business can do – Giving a donation that is a tax write off and then letting us use that donation and multiplying it over and over to a point where Simon can really change lives.

The below example of how EBS used leveraged its money and teamed up with Simon to add real tangible. Now add over half a million listeners, non – stop Christmas music and some great presenters and you’ll agree everyone wins.

We really want your input, not just in terms of donations. We need businesses to play the station in their stores and workplaces. We need bloggers to link to and help spread the story – And most importantly we need your idea’s of how to make this so much bigger.

The Death of Focus Groups

Focus groups are dead! Today better results can be achieved much faster using the internet and people who actually care. Want to find out which of four ads is better?? Put them on You Tube and let thousands of people who care about the brand enough to watch it tell you. Want to find out what people perceive as your brand? Type your name into Google and see what people are saying about you. Want to see where you can make improvements type your name into Google with “sucks” after it!

In a recent conversation with… well lets just call him an “academic entrepreneur” i realized something that i take for granted in my line of work. In the conversation he was outlining the use of the capital he’d raised for his new business. He was making the standard mistakes all new entrepreneurs tend to make – but one above all else stood out.

“What the hell are you spending money on focus groups for I asked?” I’ll save you the conversation that followed but here’s why focus groups are extinct for intelligent businesses.


Focus groups consist of a group of people paid to give feedback in a seemingly unbiased field – after all who would possibly guess that the big mirror oddly shaped and hung taking up the majority of the wall is a two way mirror? Is that really smart or telling the people you want to be honest with you that your not being honest with them to start. Big companies, for some reason big drink brands are a massive culprit for this wastage, hire a middle man to bring in a selection of target audience who test / taste the product. View the material for say a new advert and debate its potential.

I used to love focus groups when in college, you would get some free beer go along and discuss new products! In my case on the way in you’d be told by the woman organising that today your supposed to be x age and prefer x brand over y brand – apparently she could find students who wanted free beer! But lets not assume that all middle men are that inept at their jobs. The issue with the focus groups was that they were (/are) expensive time spent on results that were usually way off mark. The four ads had already been professionally produced and they would only air one! The loudest person in the room would influence the conversation and usually people would be polite, giving the brighter side of their opinion – after all the nice people were paying for their time and had incentivised them up. Noone ever stopped to ask why they bothered making up 4 ads in the first place. Today if you put the story boards up on Google, the customers who own the brand will be quick enough to tell you which one they associate with and you can use part of the massive savings in not producing the three (or all four) lemons.

The conversation has moved from a fake setting to a real time live feed of people talking on their own terms. Whether you choose to engage with it is up to you but the conversation will be had on blogs, on forums and social media groups.

So What Can Companies Do To Take Advantage In This shift?

Well firstly they need to be aware about what the current perceptions are. Every company should have and be monitoring the noise on the net about them using Google Alerts or other medium. They should be engaging with customers, openly discussing and fixing problems, rewarding people who take the time to care about them even if it is negatively and even having their own blogs to making it easy for customers to interact.

For example if a customer has a bad experience with a firm maybe pre-internet they would tell 10 people who may tell 10 more – so the text book college talk used to say. In today’s faster pace economy if, for example, an accountancy firm sucks, then there’s a good chance that the community that hears about it will reach much further. Worse still if someone looks up that company with a view to doing business in the future the experience of their customers are much more likely now to find customer experiences – be it good bad or indifferent.

Its easy for a customer, focus group, friend or family member to tell your product or business is great. Its easier than telling you its not great for sure! If you want to honestly find out if you have potential customers, set up a web page, drive traffic to it with adwords, offer benefits / rewards, but ask them to buy or tell you their opinions in exchange for these benefits / rewards and see what really happens.