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Blogging Media Technology

WordPress MU is a great tool. Sadly AdSense link bait spammers agree.

I absolutely love WordPress. It’s a great piece of software – the software that runs this blog.

The code is clean, easy to modify to make it do anything you want, and the wealth of themes and plugins that the WP community has produced is amazing.

But it has a dark, ugly, shoulda-never-been-released-for-free side: WordPress MU.

That’s MU for “Multi-User”, meaning that you can install WP MU once and create thousands of blogs without having to reinstall it. For free.

Free means that it’s a spammers’ delight.

Why? Because these slimeballs have clearly managed to automate this process:

  • Mount a blog on a MU installation
  • Automatically steal article content via article directories, blog content via RSS, etc.
  • Publish the free content as a blog post without the resource box and hot links (thus violating the terms of publication) and instead, use the article as link bait /SEO bait for sites that the thief’s blog(s) link to.
  • Repeat this process thousands of times on many different URLs.

Authors can’t track down these vipers and get the content removed from the thieving sites, nor can they get the sites nailed because they are typically hosted by slimeball ISPs who wont respond or don’t care. Or they are hosted overseas where content protection laws are either weak-kneed, ignored or both.

Some suggest that you can perhaps eventually trace some part of the web host or ISP service back to a US vendor somewhere, somehow. Try talking to Nynex about a site in Taiwan that stole your article, who is using a web host over there who somehow uses that pipe’s provider. They’re gonna care?

How much time do you have per day to spend discussing such matters with ISP1, ISP2, ISP3, ISP4 etc, only to have another 2 or 3 of them pop up 10 minutes later.

Just like with email spammers, it’s like playing whack-a-mole trying to chase these guys down.

Obviously, it’s also a substantial waste of time running traceroutes and so on trying to find out a way to tie the thief or their blog back to a US or European internet provider.

Over the last 25+ years, I’ve caught my fair share of people using my software without paying for it. Not one of them torqued me like these people do, probably because there’s really very little you can do about it because of the nature of the net, and the time expense of chasing them down (much less the futility).

So what would YOU do about this problem – if anything? Realistic comments only, please.

Categories
Competition Corporate America Customer service Management Marketing Software Strategy Technology

Could your business handle an 18 day shutdown?

Zip's cabinNext month, I have a US Forest Service wilderness cabin reserved for a weekend. Good place to hang out for a birthday.

Because of this reservation (and others), yesterday I received an email from ReserveAmerica.com, the service that powers Recreation.gov. Recreation.gov provides information about and handles reservations for campsites, cabins and other Federally managed recreation sites.

It was a notice about an 18 day long event that will begin later this month.

The notification arrived 26 days in advance to warn me about this 18 day long event. I really appreciate that notice, particularly since it could affect my reservation in October.

The event? They are upgrading their online reservation systems. That’s the good news.

The lesson – and the bad news?

Categories
Automation Competition Marketing Software Strategy Technology

Credit vs debit. What’s a retailer / restaurant owner to do?

Glacier National Park

Northwest Montana is a tourist haven.

Just for starters, there’s Glacier National Park, Flathead Lake, the Bob Marshall Wilderness, Big Mountain and Blacktail Mountain Ski resorts. Fishing, hunting, hiking, camping, and heck, we’ve even got some culture and shopping here too.

You meet lots of people from out of town, carrying something that they cant use: Out of state revenue for a state that can use all it can get. But there’s an obstacle preventing them from using their money.

Retailers and restaurants that are missing something that costs them money every single day – and it prevents that out of state revenue from staying here in Montana (and probably where you are too).

Categories
Compass needed Competition Customer service Technology

Online businesses: Service or schmervice?

From time to time, I stumble across online businesses that forget that first and foremost, they are a business – not a website.

TWO this week.

I generally find these things when I need service from a business for the first time. Perhaps the dream of the typical internet business owner is to put up a website, get buried in sales, hire a gorgeous assistant to deal with everything (you know, sales, shipping, etc) and sit back and just watch the money roll in.

Thennnnnnn reality hits. You’ve got a real business, Lucy.

People email, call and fax real businesses. No matter how well you’ve explained something, there will be someone who needs help. Or missed that page, or didn’t see the FAQ, or didn’t scan Google for something that seems totally flippin’ obvious to you. No matter how much you’ve automated – which I’m all in favor of – there will be some things you just need to deal with.

The obvious missing “secret” here is…

Categories
Automation Competition Customer service Management Marketing Retail Technology The Slight Edge

How businesses burn dollars saving dimes

fire.jpg“A Scout is Thrifty.” This Scoutmaster will ask that you notice that while “thrifty” is part of the Scout law, “foolish” or “leaves money on the table” are not.

One of the sad things I see when I visit some businesses is the lack of flexibility when payment time arrives.

One of your primary goals as a business owner is to remove any and all obstacles that might make it more difficult to buy, or to give the customer a reason or excuse to buy later, much less to leave.

Yet many business owners do just that – give their customers a reason to leave, or worse yet, a reason not to stop.

It’s especially prevalent with restaurants, probably because they feel that the credit card merchant fees eat into their small transaction sizes. I’ve seen numerous restaurant employees and EVEN THE OWNER act as if they are offended or annoyed because someone asked if they took credit or debit cards.

Nice introduction to the customer, wouldn’t you say?

In many cases, the ability to use a card is what provokes someone to choose your place over someone else’s.

In a tourist-driven economy like we have here in Montana, you’ve just got to be nuts not to take them.

People are traveling, they have limited cash (not your problem), they want to save their cash for places that only take cash and for emergencies, and so on. They want to use their credit or debit card.

Yet all they get is excuses like these…

Categories
Automation Competition Customer service Marketing Technology The Slight Edge

Even a car wash has a loyalty program. You should too.

Cincinnati-based Proctor and Gamble owns Mr. Clean car washes, an extension of their Mr Clean brand that expanded into the profitable car wash supply market a few years ago – and tripled the revenue from their oldest brand. Wouldn’t you like to triple the revenue from your oldest brand after 50 years? Count me in:)

Like any smart business, they have instituted a car wash loyalty program, which is briefly mentioned in a Cincinnati Enquirer story about the new car wash: http://news.enquirer.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070720/BIZ01/307200033 ( archived at http://www.rescuemarketing.com/MrCleanWashingCars.pdf, just in case they delete the article )

Even though the Mr Clean car wash concept is new and only at one location so far, they’ve already signed up 400 loyalty program members.

I wonder if they are missing THE key element that is critical to their success in generating profits from a loyalty program…

Categories
Technology

What I should have done to care for my blog, week before last…

Last week, I was at Scout camp with my troop.

When my phone had a charge and there wasn’t a hurricane or a tornado lurking in the area just for fun, I occasionally managed to get online, post a story for the Beacon and most importantly – check the weather radar. Ordinarily, my cell’s browser would suffice for that, but Tuesday and Wednesday’s storms made detailed weather radar a priority.

But I digress.

I should have entered a few posts for the blog in advance so that they would post automatically throughout the week. Most blog software will allow you to write in advance and choose the date when the post appears. If yours doesn’t, get new blog software.

So that was my plan, until an untimely laptop crash struck on Tuesday evening week before last – instantly rearranging most of my free time during the week before camp. Interestingly enough, I already had my Beacon columns in place through the first week of August, but those columns and blog posts are different animals.

Suggestion: Learn from my mistakes. Your customers may or may not be affected by what affects you, so Be Prepared. In fact, be more prepared than you thought you needed to be.

The one nice discovery that resulted just before leaving for camp was a little program for my Palm-based Treo 650 (the Treo I love to hate). It’s called PdaNet and it turns your data-enabled cell phone into a modem for your laptop. Works pretty well when your phone actually works, isn’t wet, and when Mother Nature isn’t serving up Mike Tyson-style kidney punches to get your attention – much less creating service opportunities for the “Can you hear me now?” dude from Verizon.

Categories
Competition Corporate America Customer service Entrepreneurs Software Technology

“GE, We bring old browsers to life”

My wife is paying bills today. She comes into my office and tells me her browser doesn’t have enough encryption for one of the sites she’s using.

The GE page she shows me says that her browser isn’t secure enough. Riiiight.

See, her laptop runs Internet Explorer 7, which comes with 128 bit encryption right out of “the box”.

So I try it on my machine, which also runs IE7. Same error.

Annoyed, I try it on Firefox 2.0.0.4, which is my laptop’s primary browser.

Same error.

Seriously annoyed, I go downstairs to a test machine that still has Internet Explorer 6 on it – specifically left on IE6 so I can test things like this.

It gets past the security check, then does nothing. Just sits there. No spinning e, no movement at all. I try hitting the URL again.

Nothing.

This is the same company who makes jet engines that keep airliners in the air.

The same company that supposedly has a handle on millions of mortgages, auto finance contracts and so on.

Despite that…they have no IE7 support after almost a year, and no Firefox support.

On the bright side, as you can see from these screen shots, they do support “IE 4.0 and higher, Netscape and AOL 4.0”.

And the engine behind all this – one of the largest merchant processors on the planet: First Data.

Errors like the ones seen on this GE site are the kinds of things that kill online stores. A big corporation like GE doesn’t have to care, even though they should.

Big corporations are interesting critters.  Powerful, but not very nimble. Like the elephant.

Your business should be more like the cheetah. A bit less powerful. A lot more nimble.

Categories
Automation Customer service Management Sales Technology

Would you send a customer home for 48 hours?

One of my suppliers does.

See, 3 of the material suppliers to my wholesale business have online ordering.

One of them, naturally the one I use the most, is the one that I had never used online.

Sooo, when I got in a pinch for some supplies a few weeks ago, I figured that ordering online would be faster. Plus, it was after their normal business hours – the perfect time to make sure my order would be in the pipeline first thing in the morning…

Think again.

Categories
Technology

AdWords is my ONE today.

Maybe it’s not a dog (apologies to dogs everywhere) where you are today, but Google AdWords is slower than a 55 gallon drum of molasses that just arrived in a freezer truck from Ice Station Zebra.

And that’s when it’s working – which has been very sporadic so far.

Be careful what you depend on. Even Google can be your ONE.

What’s a ONE?

One is the most dangerous number in business. You’ve likely heard Kennedy say it numerous times. I sure have.

Putting yourself in the position of having only 1 of something that is absolutely critical to your business.

1 supplier, 1 employee who knows how to <whatever> that you don’t, 1 media (or 1 publication in that media), 1 source of raw materials, 1 computer, 1 …something… that will royally torch your day, week or month if it happens to go south.

Examples of a One:

  • “We make most of our money from cold calls to people we dont know”. Enter the Do Not Call list.
  • “We get 85% of our orders by sending faxes to businesses we have no relationship with”. Enter new permission-only fax legislation.
  • “We have email addresses for all of our customers, so we don’t need their mailing address.” Enter spam legislation.
  • “Marge is the only one who knows how to assemble the items we sell and the process isnt on video or documented in writing.” Enter a drunken nutball who t-bones Marge’s car on the way home today, or Marge’s dad suddenly entering the hospital, or Marge wins the lotto.

Ones can be painful. Do your best to eliminate them.