Friday, August 22, 2008 - why the hero shot?

Over the years I have often pointed at the BBC for examples of good online practice. Their recently revised home page, however, has become [for me] an example of questionable practice.

Sure, the new page features personalization in content and colour - buts that's pretty standard now. My big complaint is that although I can choose my content, I'm always stuck with this - for me - useless 'hero shot' wasting so much space.
While I was on the site I was presented with three other 'pictures' and none of them had any interest to me whatsoever. Seems to me that it is a waste of prime online real estate.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

nice holiday message

For my hols this year I booked one hotel through Expedia - and a week before leaving I got this email.OK, so it could have been a little more friendly - but this is what permission marketing should be about.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

[still ] no parkin' integration

I raised this issue last winter - when offline ads promoted a special offer for parking at Newcastle airport that wasn't matched online. Well, they've done it again this summer. My local newspaper and radio stations have constantly run an ad promoting 2 weeks' parking for £44 - with a contact phone number. Yet online the cost is not too far off double that fee.

And yet phone contact requires a human response - incurring additional costs for the car park operators - and the website would be free [the site and software already exists, there is no 'unit cost' online].

Hmmmm, a reversal of what is commonly perceived as best practice that runs contrary to the ethos of e-commerce.

good, bad & could do better for pub chain

Lat weekend a made a quick visit to the area in which I grew up. Whilst there we stopped off for a meal at the Farmhouse pub in New Waltham. The suroundings, service and food was excellent. That is not the 'good' of the entry, however.

No, the blog is about Internet-related marketing, and clearly displayed near the door was an offer of a chance to win £1000 by completing an online survey. So that's the good.

The 'could do better' is that the online questionnaire could have been better. Is was far from being bad, but a little thought would have broght it up to the same standard of service I received in the pub.

Several of the questions were poorly worded and there were a couple of grammatical errors, but what annoyed me was the form's refusal to accept a phone number as two elements ie the area code - space - number. Nope, I had to close the gap for it to be accepted. Two points: (1) it would be easy to set up the field to accept all variations of the phone number, and (2) this was on the first page of the form and it was how I identified the pub I had visited. It actually said that I should 'enter the telephone number on the survey invitation' [which I had collected in the pub] - and guess what? Yep, on the card the phone number was presented as two 'numbers'.

And now the bad. As is my wont - hey, it's my job - I had a look around the Vintage Inns website. And I tested the 'find a pub' search facility. And that's when I found out the Farmhouse is listed as being in Yorkshire.

Ermmm, no - it's in North Lincolnshire. Or - as when I was growing up - just plain Lincolnshire. Rubbing salt in the wound is that in the description it mentions 'South Humberside' - the maunufactured county that the government put us in during the early 1970s, but was done away with a number of years ago.

It's a small point Vintage, but if you want local custom, try pampering to their prejudices.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

do you really want the data?

I often get emails like this one ....... asking me to complete online questionnaires - which I usually complete to help develop my 'subject knowledge'. This one offered only the possibility of winning 500 Airmiles in a draw - in itself hardly a significant inducement for 10 minutes of my life. After a few control questions I was asked in detail about my newspaper-reading habits, and then came across this:
Well, I'm sorry Aurora, that's where I stopped - for a number of reasons, not least:

(1) I'm completing this as a favour to you [my chance of winning the prize is extremely limited] - so don't ask me to sign your version of the official secrets act.
(2) If I did 'agree' - how far does this go? Would it mean I couldn't tell my wife I had completed the questionnaire?
(3) If I did work for a competitor, or thought I could sell any information, wouldn't I just tick the 'yes' box?
(4) If this information is indeed confidential - what are you doing making it available to the general public
and finally, perhaps I am just too cynical, but
(5) Although I re-read it a number of times, "... may receive information ... " sounds to me like I am signing up to receive permission-based mailings - if this is the case, shame on you Aurora,this puts a new slant on 'covert'.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

let's play hunt the tax office

I needed to post a letter to my local tax office. I know where the office is - I pass the building [virtually] every day. But I did not know the correct postal address and post code [zip code], so I went online to and looked on the home page for a pertinent link. Surely one of the reasons someone might visit this site is to find a physical location of a tax office - but nothing jumped out at me, so I clicked on 'contact us'. From there I was taken to the page shown below, where I clicked on 'tax offices for individual enquiries'.
From there I was presented with this page:


'Contact my local tax office' - yes that's what I'm looking for.

'... telephone number can be found on any recent correspondence'. Errr, no - I've had no recent communication, I just want to send them a letter.

Then under 'Tax Office locator' - yes, I'm trying to locate a tax office - 'Please enter one of the following:'

'Employer Reference' - now, I have every wage slip since I started with my current employer nearly 10 years ago ... and I cannot see anything that resembles an 'employer reference'. It also advises me to contact my employer for this - if I rang our payroll dept I dare say they would have the address of the local tax office - it is about a 100 yards away!

Or I could input the 'three-digit office code' - hello! I'm trying to find its address, why would I know its office code - surely an internal numbering system?

I then spent around 10 minutes trawling the site and putting various term into the site's search box, including "Gilbridge House, High Street West, Sunderland" - the office's address minus the post code. As this gave only one return [apparently the office is to be closed in the near future] I assumed that the full postal address was not on the site. So I went downstairs and looked it up in the telephone directory ... and the plot thickened.

I looked up 'Inland Revenue' - and the entry [on page 459] referred me to 'Government Offices'. The entry for 'Government Offices' referred readers 'Inland Revenue' on page 459 ! So I tried 'tax' ... nothing.

Despite the fact that I could have actually have walked to the office and handed over the letter in the time it had taken me to find the address [no comments on global warming, health etc please] this had become a personal challenge. So it was back to my files to find my last P60 [it's the tax form that tells you how much you have paid in the previous year] - and low and behold, it included a three digit number under 'HM Revenue and Customs Office name'.

Hallelujah - searching on that number gave me the address I was after [in case you are thinking in the same way as me, I did try the Yellow Pages for both 'HM Revenue and Customs' and 'Revenue and Customs' ... nothing].

So if you are out there and you want to know the post code of the Sunderland tax office on High Street West it is ... SR1 3HL [I must remember to check if this page comes up in a Google search for the address in the future].

Sunday, August 3, 2008

preaching - but not practicing

Whether or not this email constitutes spam is not the point of this posting - nor is the issue of the organiztion's name [rip2it] being different from its domain name []. No, this is say to Armand Morin and his agants that if you are trying to sell places on an e-marketing seminar then you should really practice it properly when sending emails [though the spam and domain name issues are also aspects of e-marketing]. Yup, the technology will put the recipient's name in the greeting - but make sure you tell it to do so.