Internet World

How To Price Up Products And Services On The Internet

If you're considering how to price up your products or services

Yesterday, I heard about an event that would be taking place in Bristol, called the Future of Web Apps. What caught my eye when I got to the site was the "Early Bird Offer" - £39 to the first 30 people who booked. This approach seems to be fairly typical of Web 2.0 or Internet events - tickets come out in batches and the earliest bookers get the best deals. It's very similar to the budget airline approach and can be seen for events like Search Engine Land or LeWeb.

Other pricing options on the Internet include the 30-day Free Trial, which lets you use a product for this time period before paying the agreed internet price.

I did see an interesting one the other day from SEOMOZ who invited me to sign up for 1 month of PRO membership for $1 - no ties attached. After 1 month, I could cancel if I didn't like the service or begin to pay the $79 fee.

If you're offering a product/service that can be charged at a monthly rate, another option is to offer people a fixed price per month and a lower price for paying annually up front. Companies like TypePad use this pricing model - buy annually and get 2 months free.


Using The Internet To Beat The Economic Crisis

How often each day do you hear the words "economic crisis"? What are you and your business doing about it?

Many companies are battening down the hatches and looking at cost cutting measures. Cutting staff, reducing training budgets, buying cheaper raw materials and even sourcing goods differently. Whatever, the outcome of this economic downturn, there is one thing you can be sure of: more people will be buying, using and interacting more with the Internet at the end of it, than before. Here's what we'll find:

  • More money will be spent on Internet advertising revenue; less on traditional media.
  • More people will click on Internet ads and banners (Google, Facebook, Yahoo!)
  • More people will be buying products from online retailers.
  • More people will be searching for services online.
  • More people will be visiting company websites.
  • More people will be emailing businesses with queries, to the detriment of the telephone.
  • More people will be searching the web using their mobile phones.
  • More people will be interacting through social media (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc).
  • More brands will be interacting with their customers.
  • More brands will be damaged by their customers.

In essence, this means that now is a great time to start thinking about how your business or organisation is using the Internet and to identify how you can create a clear competitive advantage over the competition.

Here are some thoughts on what your business could be considering at this moment.

Website - find out what your customers require and exceed their expectations online. Take a look at what your competitors are doing - look at all of them - and come up with something that is 'better than the sum of the parts'. Are there any extra elements you could add to the site which would make people likely to buy/contact you? Start speaking to your customers and find out what they want from your website. Data mine Google Analytics for those little gems that are hidden within the stats yet which could yield some useful insights into customer behaviour.

SEO - now's a good time to speak to an SEO expert (or do it yourself). Take a look at the content on your site, have a look at how Google Analytics and find out your top keywords and pages and decide if they need reviewing. What about inbound links? Spend some time finding some good links. Have you set up a Google Site Map, verified your site and started exploring Google Local?

Press Releases - When was the last time you wrote a good press release for your site? Never? Well, now's a good time to start. Make sure it's optimised and take a look at services like PrLog (free) and PR Web (not so free).

Calls To Action - Are you 100% happy that visitors to your site know exactly what you want them to do? Are you sure that customers have clear calls to action on each page? We're talking email buttons, telephone numbers, pdf download buttons, etc.

Google AdWords - want to put the Ansoff Matrix to the test and discover the delights of market penetration, market development, product development and diversification? Well, with a well-thought out and structured AdWords campaign you could you find new buyers of widgets in Wisconsin today! Time and again I have seen companies reap HUGE rewards by implementing a Google AdWords campaign. And another thought - if you're a UK manufacturer or hotelier, the weak pound makes your products look much cheaper to Europeans!

Training - if you're not upskilling and getting to grips with all the applications available to you, then you should start thinking about it now. How about other members of staff? Are there any Internet Marketing training programmes they could go on (plug intended!)? What about the raft of conferences that are about in Winter going into Spring? I'm thinking Future of Social Media, SMX Travel @ Fitur, SMX West, Technology for Marketing & Advertising, Internet World or Search Engine Strategies.

Email Campaigns - have you been collecting emails from visitors? What are you doing with them? If your site has a shopping facility and you are simply receiving emails and dispatching products, then now's the time to think SMARTLY about what to do with all those satisfied clients. Start filtering the emails and properly organising. Get a product like Email Brain or Constant Contact and start SPEAKING to them. They were happy with your last offering and the chances are that they want to hear from you and buy form you!

Embracing Social Media - ironically we are probably at one of the most exciting times in the history of the Internet and some of the applications that are coming out: suite of Google Tools, Youtube, Flickr, Podcasting, Blogging, Twitter are starting to have an impact on the way businesses operate. If you haven't already, now may be the time to look at some of these tools and work out how they could be used as part of your Internet Marketing strategy.

There are so many things businesses can and should do and the list really does go on, and on. The current economic downturn offers a fantastic opportunity to create an Internet advantage over rivals and ensure that you organisation comes out of all this at the top of the pile. Don't forget - out of the last economic downturn companies like Google emerged.

Tim O’Reilly On The Recession

I was just reading through some of my Twitter feeds and happened upon this Twitter feed from Tim O'Reilly, found of O'Reilly Media, where he links to an article that he had written about the current 'recession'. In it he quotes an email that he fired off to O'Reilly employees a week or so ago.

Many of you have no doubt been alarmed by the developments of the last couple of weeks in financial markets, so I wanted to put a few thoughts out to all of you before disappearing on a combination of vacation and business travel for the next 3+ weeks. the last company meeting, I talked about a theme that I've expanded on in public talks like the one I did at Ignite Boston and at Web 2.0 Expo in New York the week before last: the idea that robust strategies are ones you'd adopt in good times and in bad. And I argued that we probably end up with more robust strategies if we assume the worst rather than the best.

We could be in for a long, rough time in the economy. I'm not going to say otherwise.

But I also want to point out that rough times are often the best times for creativity, opportunity and change. We transformed ourselves from a technical writing consulting company into a book publishing company as a result of the huge economic downturn of the mid-80s. After the dotcom bust in 2001, we launched Safari Books Online, Missing Manuals, the Web 2.0 conferences,  Foo Camp, Make: magazine, the O'Reilly School of Technology, and a host of other initiatives that have fueled our growth and that define the company today. We diversified and invested in new ideas.

This theme of coming up with new and better strategies in times of difficulty is one that I have heard quite a lot on the web and especially through Twitter. People see the months ahead (year?) as an opporutnity to take out the average players and for the quality organisations to really shine through. Tim O'Reilly also goes on to say,

And if you look at history, you see that this has always and everywhere
been true. It's not an accident that economist Joseph Schumpeter talked
about the "creative destruction"
inherent in capitalism. Great problems are also great opportunities for
those who know how to solve them. And looking ahead, I can see great

Like all financial crises I am sure that this will be the case this time round.

Bill Gates on the Money Programme

The BBC has a fascinating 59-minute documentary on Bill Gates and Microsoft - Bill Gates: How a Geek Changed the World. Catch it on your BBC iPlayer before the 27th June.


Living outside the UK? Try this site for solutions:

Acer Direct – The Worst Customer Services on the Web?

I must admit that I do complain about companies - it is my right as a UK citizen. However, I have not been so annoyed with a company that I am prepared to use all manner of Internet tools to make a very public statement.

This is a story of how companies should not treat their customers. Towards the end I will ask you to help me take this message to the wee, small corners of the Internet and show you how you can get your own back at businesses who refuse to listen to genuine customer complaints.

Acer Direct and Acer UK - please listen!

It all starts in January when I decide to buy a laptop computer from a UK company called Acer Direct. I have bought an Acer Laptop from them before and must say the product and service I received three years ago was fine - things do seem to have changed, though. The computer I bought was an Acer Aspire 5920 - it matched my requirements and I also requested that Office 2007 Small Businesses OEM Edition be added. I had set up my own company in December 2007 and wanted this package to help sort out some of my business processes. I asked for the OEM version just to keep costs down - this may have been a bad decision!

I suppose the first indication that customer support from Acer Direct may be bad came in the form of one of the customer support team, whose tone on the phone seemed to imply that he had better things to do than handle a £900 order from a customer - what an inconvenience customers must be for this organisation! I should have stopped there.

I asked him to add on the pre-delivery inspection as I didn't want to find any problems with the following and so have to return the computer:

Pre Delivery Inspection - Check for Missing Pixels, Patch with Critical
updates, load Software, check hardware. **** TAKES 2 DAYS ****

I ordered the computer in the afternoon and Acer Direct were able to send out the machine by lunchtime the next day. So much for the **** TAKES 2 DAYS ****

On opening my brand new Acer Aspire 5920, I flipped it over to put the battery in. I instantly heard a small rattling sound, which sounded like a loose screw or bit of plastic. Not wanting to take any risks I got in touch with Acer Direct and sent it back.

I asked Acer Laptops to refund the money for the pre-delivery inspection which is obviously a way to screw people out of 20 or 30 quid and, 3 months later, am still waiting.

When I got the machine back I decided that I would like to download a Word template from the Microsoft site. On trying to download the template I got told that I may be a victim of software counterfeiting.

Alarm Bells are now Starting to Ring


I continue to try to get in touch with Acer Direct, or is it Laptops Direct, and get nowhere as can be seen by this email:

I appear to be going around in circles with your company. After 3 telephone calls and 2 emails I am now told to go to a returns policy page. If you work in customer support you must have received an email I sent to you on the 21st:
This is my third attempt to get in touch with Acer Direct regarding problem software. I purchased a laptop from you a month ago - I have already had to return it because it wasn't properly checked and subsequently it was found to have a screw loose from the fan. I still haven't been refunded for this. I purchased Office Small Business 2007 from you on the same order and the machine came pre-installed with the software. The problem is that when I go to Mircrosoft to download a template I am told I don't have a Genuine product!! I thought that when I bought this product it would be genuine and not hooky! I have already spoken to one of your staff who said she would sort it out straight away - nothing happened. Last week I telephoned and left a message - nothing has happened. Could someone please sort this out as I don't want to be left with an obsolete product shortly? Surely a customer shouldn't have to repeatedly send emails and calls to your company without anything happening! And now you send me an email to a page to explain your returns policy.

I am not the one who sent out a "non-genuine" product - I simply had the misfortune to be sent one by your company.

Could you please send out a "Genuine" copy of the software I purchased - just like two of your colleagues said they would?

When I finally get to speak to someone about the problem they are very apologetic and seem to indicate that this may be a problem from Microsoft's end and it is not the first one they've seen.

Some days later and after considerable disruption to my own business - hell, I don't want to waste my time trying to sort out someone else's cock-up - the Office Small Business 2007 box arrives - without discs!

I then decide to contact Microsoft to see if they can help me out. According to Microsoft I still have a Non-Genuine Office product. This means that I cannot download any Microsoft Office templates. Here's part of the email I sent through to Acer Direct, after having spoken to the Microsoft Office people - still no response!

I have just had a lengthy conversation with Microsoft
and given them the details they requested. According to Microsoft the Product Id for the version of Microsoft Office on my machine is a retail one (didn't I buy an OEM one?) which does not match the product key that was sent through to me by post. They suggested that, in the first instance, I get in touch with the retailer to find out why this would be.

Guess what? I did get in touch with the retailer (Acer Direct). I sent out emails to all the contacts at Acer Direct I had and 8 weeks later I am still waiting for a reply.

And before you ask, yes I did try and get in touch with the headquarters of Acer UK and this is what Mark in customer services had to tell me:

I'm sorry to hear of your problems but this is not something we can help with as the software has been supplied by laptops direct not ACER so only they can deal with it as you have paid them for the programme.

I have now decided to use the power of the Web and all the Web 2.0 tools including Google AdWords - some friends of mine have received Google AdWords vouchers and will be using them to create ads that will raise awareness of this problem with the wider community and point people in to this article. Please, help me out by creating an anchor text link - like this one: Acer Direct - to this post. Press releases, forums and all manner of tools will now be used. If you're a blogger, please write about my misfortune and link to this page.

And if you're Acer Direct, please try and rectify the problem you created - at NO cost to myself!

**Update** - Google AdWords has now kicked in:


BBC Ads on International Pages

I am currently delivering an eMarketing course in Jakarta, Indonesia and one evening (well, every evening), I thought I'd check the news from home on the BBC. I was quite surprised to find on this occasion that, on opening the BBC website, they are now delivering banner ads. So far I have seen rich html ads appearing above the general BBC homepage template and in the top right corner (just below the nav bar) and video ads, appearing just before sports news stories. Let's just hope that some of this money goes to reducing the amount we have to pay in the UK for license fees (current cost £139 per year)!


World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2007 – The Impact of Web 2.0

If you want to know a little more about Web 2.0 and understand the impact that it may have on your business or social network, you should probably take a look at this video from the World Economic Forum at Davos. They actually assembled quite some panel for this topic:

  • Caterina Fake, Founder, Flickr, USA
  • William H. Gates III, Chairman, Microsoft Corporation, USA
  • Chad Hurley, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, YouTube, USA
  • Mark G. Parker, President and Chief Executive Officer, Nike, USA
  • Viviane Reding, Commissioner, Information Society and Media, European Commission, Brussels

Here's the official overview of the The Impact of Web 2.0 and Emerging Social Network Models discussion:

The rapid rise of online social networks is both a social and business phenomenon, the impact of which is only beginning to be understood. The consumer-powered Web 2.0 creates innovative ways for businesses to operate and people to communicate.

Jeremy Zawodny Puts The Record Straight

A basic rule when writing for the web is: Get Your Facts Right.

Donna Bogatin didn't

And Jeremy Zawodny lambasted her for it (very publicly)!

This Is Not Strictly Related to Blogging or SEO – It’s Actually Far More Important

I've never actually asked people for money on this site but today I wil break this rule and ask you for some money on behalf of a fantastic UK-based charity. On Sunday one of my best friends, Jerry Sandford, will be running the the Bristol Half Marathon (UK) and trying to raise money for a children's charity called the Make A Wish Foundation which helps grant wishes to children and young people from the age of 3 to 17 years old who have life-threatening or terminal conditions. In the photo you will see a young boy, with a life-threatening heart condition, being granted the wish of seeing Il Divo in concert in Cardiff, uk.

This is the link to the donations page - please give whatever you can.