My girlfriend and I recently got back from a trip to Florida and a cruise in the Bahamas. I'll have to fill you in on the details of that later. This is just to describe and review a new service we used the night we left.
We had wrapped up all of our work things and scrambled to pack and find someone to watch the house and the animals. We had a ride to the airport prearranged. My girlfriend's super-reliable little sister was supposed to pick us up and take us. She just decided last minute to go to a concert at the Fair. She promised to leave the concert in time to pick us up. As the time of our flight approached, it was becoming clear that she wasn't going to make it. She finally called to let us know she was letting us down.
Well, we needed a ride - FAST! I flashed back in my head to using various taxi summoning apps or calling taxi services and having pretty crap experiences with sitting around waiting for someone to not find my house. It then occurred to me that a buddy of mine just got a job at Uber. I texted him to ask if the service was running yet - and he replied that today was the soft launch. Sounded a bit sketchy, but he gave me a 10 dollar off code and assured me it would be fine.
I signed up for the service and entered my details using my iphone. I used the Uber app to summon a car and started bringing my bags out to the front door.
A huge decked out brand new shiny black Escalade rolled up to my house, and Donald got out wearing a suit. He loaded our gear in the back and opened the door for us. It felt very much like we had a personal driver. I felt like a fancy lad.
He asked us what we wanted to listen to and adjusted the climate inside the car to our liking. We sat back in the plush leather seats and enjoyed the ride to Sky Harbor. During the ride we explained we that our friend was the community manager for Uber and sort of grilled him about how he liked the service and got some information about how it works from a driver's perspective. Seems like a pretty sweet deal both ways.
He took us right to the gate and helped us get our gear to the curb and that was it. I didn't have to sign shit or hand him a credit card or cash or hug "bye bye" or worry about a receipt. We did tip a few bucks, but he told us during the ride that it was included.
We found out later that we were actually the 2nd ride in Phoenix or the first non-celebrity ride or something. It went really smooth for day 1. Way to go, Gabe!
I highly recommend the service - it costs a bit more than taking a cab, but fuck taking cabs. I'd rather sit in someone else's pee than ever sit in the back of a smelly old cab. It's worth a bit more to ride in style - and it's especially worth it if you can use a code that gets you 10 bucks off your ride. Here's our code - please use it and ride around town like fucking P-Diddy. uber.com/invite/ubernom
Top 5 reasons I can think of off the top of my head to use Uber:
1. Cheaper, nicer, hassle-free one-way executive stretch "limo-esque" ride to prom - impress a bitch. Ballin'!
2. You want to get to the airport quick, not stressed out or smelling like a pine tree fart.
3. Drank a bit too much (or plan on drinking too much) at the company Christmas party. Like a boss!
4. Some hooligans stole the tires off your BMW and this girl you picked up at Mint's makeup is about to expire.
5. Role-playing with your significant other that you're the Beckhams or the Trumps (oh, the Trumps... so sexy) and roll around upscale neighborhoods pretending you forgot which mansion is yours... and then bone (when you get back home preferably - this isn't some skanky cab, it's a classy thing).
I worked at GoDaddy for 2 years. I also have many friends that work there (some who have worked there close to a decade) and I know the inner workings pretty well. My take on the company as a whole is that it is run pretty well for such a large company. It is run like a small business. They keep all of their support free and domestic while many large companies either charge for support (Microsoft) or ship it overseas (DELL) or both!
I have to respect and support that GoDaddy values customer satisfaction so highly. The company I currently work for is the only one I've encountered (aside from Zappos) that works even harder than GoDaddy at providing excellent support. Calls are QA'd by seasoned staff and they have ways of measuring and rewarding good performance.
Aside from the antics of the CEO and the controversial and tacky advertisements, I have always had generally good feelings about the company. Their web interface can be admittedly frustrating to say the least (until you spend a few weeks training on it for customer support purposes), but it's all done in-house. Some people find it easier to use than any other thing they have tried. To each his own on that. The checkout screen does try to up-sell you things annoyingly, but that's probably what made the company so successful. In spite of these things, the service is cheap, reliable, and good.
GoDaddy is a one-stop-shop for everything you need for your online presence. It's the Wal-Mart of domains and hosting - without all the outsourcing and bad juju. It's the largest domain and hosting provider bar none, and as the largest it is prone to attack and scandal.
This brings us to SOPA - the Stop Online Piracy Act, as you're I'm sure well aware, is bad news for the internet. The language in it has caused a huge stir in the online community over what it means in what-if scenarios and because it puts the US on a short list of countries that censor the internet.
It's not just a bunch of people illegally downloading the latest GaGa album complaining - it's seemingly the bulk of internet users who oppose it. Companies like Viacom, Sony, Comcast, and Disney are among financial contributors to SOPA (to the tune of over a million dollars) because they want to protect their cash flow and cling to old school distribution and revenue models.
GoDaddy added their name to a list of companies that backed SOPA back in November because as a company, GoDaddy always sides with the copyright holder. One of the few positions GoDaddy takes is that they are against theft and piracy and try to protect copyright. I found this out the hard way when my server was shut down because a newsfeed website on it was accidentally set to automatically pull full articles from other sources rather than just the headlines and linking back to the source.
When I discovered GoDaddy was supporting SOPA, I was quite upset and angry and wanted to pull my domains out and move my hosting away, but I wanted to get some inside info and research more. Soon after this, they retracted their stance on SOPA and said they no longer support it.
This didn't stop the internet from roasting GoDaddy for ever supporting it in the first place. Reddit seemed to be nothing but post after post of anti-GoDaddy slander. Many competitor domain registrars advertised transfer deals with anti-SOPA and anti-GoDaddy messages. NameCheap has been the most vocal about it, but they are barely even a real registrar - they started out as an eNom reseller. They also made up lies about GoDaddy blocking transfers - this was absolutely false, but it still made it all over the news online.
The fact is, NameCheap never contacted GoDaddy to get their IP addresses whitelisted for WhoIs lookups. This "slowed down" the transfer process. This also makes NameCheap look like a bunch of idiots - but only to the few people who know the truth. The "news" is already out there. The mud hath been slung.
I know how transfers work because I assisted with them daily for 2 years. They take about a week when transferring from one registrar to another typically. By law, a losing registrar has the right to hold a domain transfer for a week to give the registrant (domain owner) the opportunity to change their mind. Because they can, most registrars do.
GoDaddy is one of the few registrars that actually gives the option of transferring the domain immediately once you've completed all the steps when you're transferring your domain away. In fact, in my years there, I never encountered another registrar that allowed an instant transfer and they always took a week.
Today is supposed to be the day everyone transfers their domains away from GoDaddy. Most sites that have been tracking the number of domains GoDaddy loses over this are completely inaccurate since they are only tracking nameserver changes. Half the time when you transfer a domain, the nameservers don't even change. Also, people buying new domains will change the nameservers to cash park them or point them to their own server.
The annoying thing about the exodus is that people are just doing it because it's easier to move domains than it is to stop watching ESPN or cancel your cable and internet or stop using your computer (both Apple and Microsoft supported SOPA and perhaps still do). It's the protest for the lazy American.
Even now that GoDaddy no longer supports SOPA, people are still talking about leaving because they are flipflopping. I mean, you get what you want and you still punish GoDaddy? I don't get that. Warren Adelman took over as CEO the week this exploded - poor guy. I've met both him and Bob Parsons (and many other higher up in the company). None of them have some evil aura about them. I think people should calm down.
GoDaddy doesn't stand to gain anything if SOPA passes. Many articles online claim that GoDaddy helped draft part of it. I haven't seen any proof of this, but I know that companies like this seldom act as anything more than advisory - providing information to the legislators that draft these things. GoDaddy simply requested that their main nameserver (domaincontrol.com) be exempt from any blockage that would come about should SOPA become a reality.
This was to protect their scores of customers and to keep half the internet from being blocked because someone posts a Metallica bootleg on their GoDaddy hosted blog and Lars sues him.
After more investigation and in light of the backlash, GoDaddy removed their support of SOPA and called for it to be better written. They maintained their position on copyright and intellectual property protection, but recognized the negative impact SOPA could have. I'm really happy they retracted their support of both SOPA and PIPA (Protect IP Act - also awful).
I have to believe that they were merely distracted by the change of CEO (after a decade), the annual Christmas party, the new investors, and the busiest time of the year for them. People need to give GoDaddy a break. Some really great people work there, and not a single one of them individually would agree with SOPA or PIPA. I'm keeping my 100+ domains and all my hosting and email with them. I'm a firm believer in voting and voicing my opinions with my money. I will leave if they ever do me harm or provide bad service.
Here is a link to their official stance on both SOPA and PIPA if you care to read: http://www.godaddy.com/NewsCenter/releases.aspx?ci=50929
Advertising is essential to run a successful business. It has always been this way. People have to know about your services somehow, right? Simply telling another person that you have a business is as much "advertising" as a Superbowl commercial or the sign on the front of your building. I'm always amazed when a business owner tells me they don't do any sort of advertising - as though it's a dirty word. It's an absurd thing to say, and absolute nonsense.
Once upon a time (before the internet), restaurants had to advertise via brochures, yellow pages, billboards, TV and radio commercials, direct mail, and coupons in order to get the word out. Times are changing though. Marketing on the internet is becoming the most powerful form of advertising, and the old methods are on their way out.
You have to put your message in front of the eyes and ears. Your expensive Yellow Pages listing isn't going to do you any good if nobody opens the book. You might as well go whisper to a tree. Meanwhile, 78% of Americans use the internet, and half the population are frequent users. If you were wondering where all the eyeballs were, that's where, and if you aren't marketing your business there, you're making a huge mistake.
Below you'll find a list of ways you can market your business online. I've related them to something more familiar to make it easier to absorb. If you're new to all this, the list should help you get started.
1. Social Media - (Word of Mouth) - This has always been one of the most effective and favorable forms of marketing. Word of mouth is perhaps the oldest and cheapest form of marketing. Having your existing customers bring you new customers is brilliant. What's even more brilliant is that these days, people have their "word of mouth" conversations over the internet for everyone to see - and these conversations are often searchable!
It may sound too good to be true, but it really isn't. Social Media websites such as Facebook and Twitter provide forums for people to communicate with one another. As a business owner, you can easily set up Facebook and Twitter accounts for your business and use it to join the conversations people are having about you. You can use it to promote, generate buzz, interact with customers, collect market research and create loyalty in your brand.
The best part is that this costs you nothing but your time (unless you hire a PR company to handle your accounts). These services are free and some of the most valuable resources available. If you don't have a business Facebook or Twitter account, set them up now and do some research on "best practices" for businesses. There are plenty of articles out there to keep you from alienating your customers. As long as you don't treat it like a place to advertise, you'll be fine.
2. Directories - (Yellow Pages) - This is an important one. This is where you should focus most of your marketing efforts. Sites such as Yelp, CitySearch, GrubHub, UrbanSpoon, OpenTable, Google Places, and Foursquare are free and most will list your business without you doing anything. Many of these sites have a social element to them as well. Some are even designed for users to post reviews of businesses.
This is free publicity. Pages and pages all over the internet all about you. Nothing is free though, right? Well, technically someone pays for it - and these sites make their money one way or another - usually from the traffic they receive for providing all of the data they have collected.
Restaurateurs should take ownership of their business listings. Make use of the social aspect of these sites and interact with your existing and potential customers. If the sites offer services like GrubHub and Opentable do where they will actually send you new customers, you need to jump on it. This is advertising you only pay for if it works, and you'll only pay a few bucks per new diner. No form of traditional advertising is that inexpensive, and nothing else is guaranteed to work, profitable and sustainable as is this.
Sites like Yelp and Foursquare provide ways for restaurants to offer reasonable discounts to customers that are already nearby. I've heard of restaurant owners demanding they get removed from these free directory sites - some even threatening to get lawyers involved. It's ridiculous. It shows a complete lack of understanding of the potential and power of the internet, and these same owners will spend $1000 on a Yellow Pages ad that nobody will see. These sites get traffic into the millions - to remove yourself from them makes no sense at all.
3. Website - (Brochure) - Think of your website as a glossy full-color fold-out brochure explaining everything about your business that you hand out to customers. They are typically expensive to create and maintain. They are pretty much necessary to have, but also not typically very effective for bringing new customers in. Restaurants don't need expensive websites unless they are a national chain.
When you create a website, it's really just another thing you have to market and advertise. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can be expensive. Do you want people to visit your website or do you want them to visit your restaurant and eat something?
Now, a website can be a very useful tool - you can maintain a blog and post specials or provide online ordering (which can be quite expensive). Some services - such as GrubHub - will build and maintain a website for you completely free with online ordering built-in.
Websites can be cheap or they can run into the several thousands. As long as you spend your money wisely and appropriately, you can't go wrong.
4. PPC and Online Advertising - (Billboards, Newspapers and Commercials) - PPC means Pay Per Click so you only have to pay when someone clicks your link. This is a common form of advertising on the internet. The most common places to place your ads are Google and Facebook, but you can place ads on YouTube, Yelp, and even mobile phone apps and games. You can put an ad just about anywhere eyeballs go.
Effectiveness is often low on this one unless your goal is to get traffic to your website. It can also be fairly expensive. People tend to ignore ads online anyway. There are even browser plug-ins that make ads not show up. It can work really well if you target it right though - particularly if you hire a PR company to manage your PPC advertising campaigns and they are strategically planned.
You may want to consider putting part of your advertising budget towards this sort of thing. It's a gamble and the odds are stacked against you, but everyone buys a scratcher once in awhile right? These days, marketers are using ads more for bringing back existing customers. Keep in mind, each different type of online marketing will reach a different type of customer.
5. Daily Deals - (Mailer Discounts and Coupons) - Sites like Groupon and LivingSocial are some of the latest and hottest marketing methods. They work by having you offer a deep discount on your product in order to gain many new customers all at once, and then splitting what little money was collected with the deals site. It works out to you discounting your product by 60-80%. It's like having a "going out of business sale." The problem with these sites is that the customers tend to follow the deals and they're not easy to convert into new customers at regular prices.
Daily Deals work well for some types of businesses - service-related businesses do best because they're only discounting their time. Restaurants are discounting their product which means they are out of pocket. Working with a daily deal site is like taking out a bad loan. For a restaurant, it can be a good way to go broke. I like a good bargain like anyone else, but I don't think these daily deal sites are helping the economy. There's bound to be a coupon bubble as soon as businesses all realize it doesn't work. It's not sustainable economically.
Sites like this are a dime a dozen and they are coming out of the woodwork. Even some of the biggest sites are trying their hand at it - Yelp, Google, and Facebook are all dabbling in daily deals. Small businesses get bombarded by salesmen from these companies constantly, and it can be frustrating. If you do decide to work with one, just be careful with what you give away. You can think of it as dollars you spend to per new customer gained. As such, if you bring them through the door - you had better be prepared to convert them into a repeat customer - and it's going to take more than just providing tasty food.
Yelp is a website that lists businesses and allows the average joe consumer to post reviews about them. It's like a location-based search directory with reviews. There are dozens of sites very similar, but Yelp pretty much gets the most traffic of its kind. Businesses have a love/hate relationship with Yelp. Recently, Yelp has changed up their game and got actively aggressive with their marketing. There are rumors about review placements and scare tactics and bullying.
Still, Yelp must remain profitable. When you get as much traffic as Yelp gets, you need to have many servers to handle the load - you also have to employ many people to monitor the site carefully. It's a crazy business. A site like Yelp makes their money from advertising and that's about it - it's free to view and post reviews, and it's free for restaurants to get listed. Free advertising.
So many restaurants and small businesses have had business driven to them for free by Yelp. Before, outside of word of mouth, they would have to rely on expensive advertising in the Yellow Pages or newspapers. Yellow Pages still charges businesses hundreds to thousands of dollars to show up in their book - which today, nobody even reads. All you need today is the internet to find what you want. Call 800 343 7390, Mon-Fri 6am-5pm PST to cancel your Yellow Pages and save a tree.
Google has been the go-to for a few years now and pretty much sealed Yellow Pages' fate. Businesses can pay Google to show up at the top of searches now and they can also claim their own "Places" page for free... Google can be a free directory as well if you know how to use it. They even aggregate reviews like Yelp does. However, Google isn't specialized like Yelp is.
Business owners need to learn how to manage their online presence. It's a given that most Americans have a computer these days and a way to connect to the internet. Hell, there will be an estimated 80 million smartphones in the US by year's end. That's 80 million Americans who have access to the internet ALL-THE-TIME! If you don't show up on the internet, you're going to be lost.
I've been a "Yelp Elite" for about 4 years now and have written hundreds of reviews for local restaurants and businesses, and have had my reviews seen hundreds of thousands of times. Now that I'm working more closely with restaurants, I have found myself going back to old reviews and feeling genuinely bad about some of them.
I've worked retail. I've worked in the service industry. I even ran my own business for 14 years. I've been an internet expert since it came into existence. I've been a writer since I was in grade school. I've had opinions since I could talk. I've been an eater my entire life. With all that experience, there are still lessons to be learned.
First: Business Owners -
- Take control of your Yelp page... you can do it. It's easy, and I believe it's still free to do so.
- Correct information, submit photos, write a short bio explaining the history of your place.
- See those reviews? Those are your existing customers talking to your potential customers.
- Engage your customers. If you see a bad review, reach out to them and say you were having a bad day - as every business does - ask them to try you out again. Don't ask them to just change their review or tell them they are wrong or stupid.
- If a review is particularly mean, your first instinct will be to find them and kill them. No need. Just reach out to them and try to make it right. You may dislike this person, but think of them as a gateway to other/better customers.
- Potential customers read all reviews and generally take extreme reviews with a grain of salt. Don't sweat a negative review here and there.
- Best rule of thumb here on reviews is to simply realize that you can't please everyone - not all reviewers are even please-able. Try to just focus on your positive reviews and thank your loyal customers for the business.
- If you claim your business page, you can respond to reviews - do NOT argue with a bad review. Simply thank people for good reviews and invite them back, and ask a bad reviewer for the opportunity to try again.
- Do NOT write reviews for yourself under fake profiles - Yelpers can see through this easily and will call you out on it.
- Reach out to Yelp staff to see if they would do an event at your place, or you can simply post an event in the "Events" section for free. You may or may not get anyone to come, but it's more free exposure.
- Owning a business comes with a certain amount of ego and it's easy to take things personally. You are your own PR. Treat others how you would want to be treated - not necessarily as a reflection of how they treat you. There's no shame or harm in asking for a second chance from some "nobody" who has been to your place only once and doesn't seem to have a clue.
- Finally, the more active you are, the more people will respond to you. Just be awesome.
Yelp Reviewers -
- Write more than once or two sentences. If you want people to read what you have to say, then have something to say. Otherwise, why even bother?
- Check your spelling and grammar. Misspelled words and poor grammar leaves the reader assuming you aren't very bright and they aren't likely to take your opinions seriously. Learn your homophones!
- One star scathing reviews are for places that have no redeeming qualities at all. A hair in your food doesn't mean the place should be condemned. Waiting 10 minutes for a drink isn't the end of the world.
- Everybody has a bad day. Before you lambaste a place, consider that you may have only been there once and it may not be the norm there.
- Be descriptive - liken the decor, atmosphere, service, food, etc... to a more common experience.
- Always give both good and bad examples - a good review shouldn't be all praise or all complaints. There should be a balance. It shows that you are genuine.
- Consider the feelings of the people who work there or who own the place. A bad review may feel like a satisfying way to take a stab at them for cold fries or bad service, but take it easy.
- Have a look at your review overview - you should have mostly 3s and fewer 2s and 4s and even fewer 1s and 5s - if not a fairly even distribution. If you're all one way or another, you're probably doing it wrong.
- Give a place a second chance - if an owner reaches out to you and invites you back so they can make it right - take them up on it, or at least adjust your review to indicate they at least tried.
- Your review score should reflect the level in which a business owner cares about his business and customers.
I just want to remind everyone to not be an asshole. Life is too short.
Finally, I just want to remind you to support local businesses. Business owners, you should support your local community. I'll be writing a more in-depth "Best Practices" article for restaurant owners and how to control your presence on the internet. That's coming soon, so come back.
If you have any feedback or anything to add, feel free to leave a comment.
HP announced recently that it was getting out of the computer hardware business. Less than two months after the release of their HP TouchPad WebOS Tablet, they decide to call it quits. They drop the price of both the 16gb and the 32gb model by $100 - leaving them at 400 and 500 respectively.
They still weren't selling after a few weeks of that, so they made the "tough decision" to just drop the price to $99 and $149 respectively this weekend and get out of the PC market completely. Stores sold out within minutes of announcing the price drop. Wal-Mart, Best-Buy, OfficeMax, Staples, etc... all ran out of available units like it was a Black Friday special.
Websites offering the deal suffered from heavy loads. HP's own Small Business website was brought to a crawl on Saturday. Other websites had their servers completely crash within minutes of changing their pricing. As of this writing, there are still a number of sites that are holding out with the original pricing and still have units in stock. Newegg and BarcodeGiant and Buy.com all still have inventory and are waiting to change the price.
Those who feel like they missed out on this "opportunity" can blame the people who single-handedly clear out stores just to resell the items for profit. Sites like ebay and craigslist and Amazon marketplace are crawling with bottom feeders (similar to ticket scalpers) and are flooded with units on sale just under their original retail cost. Waiting in line is not a job.
Having played with an HP Touchpad, I can say that it's a nice little device. I recently had purchased an e-reader for 99 bucks and it was pretty much slow and useless. The Touchpad is snappy and solid. It is definitely more than 99 dollars worth of hardware and software.
HP has even come out and said that they will continue to support WebOS - they are focusing on Printers and software. They bought Compaq and VoodooPC and Palm and then just threw most of it out the window. It's an interesting move and we'll see what their stock does on Monday. They will likely sell off their PC and hardware division to a competitor like Sony or Toshiba or Dell - similar to what IBM did with the Thinkpad when they sold out to Lenovo. It's definitely bizarre when a market leader just quits like that.
iPad and Android tablets have been selling like hot cakes for awhile now. It's the trendy new thing. Oversized smartphones and undersized/underpowered laptops without keyboards. There's not really a need for them, but people are buying them anyway as a luxury item.
Now it seems that HP has turned them into a necessity by finding the perfect price point for a tablet. If all tablets were under 200 bucks, everyone would feel like they needed to own one. It's more or less a toy, and it should be priced accordingly. However, HP clearly spent more money to produce each unit than it is taking in.
This holiday season is going to be very interesting. This will definitely surge the popularity of Tablets in general. October will see the release of a few new Android Tablets including the ASUS Transformer 2. Microsoft has a tablet in the pipe and Apple is working on the iPad 3. If the prices don't come down significantly on tablets by the end of the year, these HP units are going to perhaps go down as the deal of the year.
Android hacker groups are already working on porting Android to the TouchPad. Personally, I'm happy with WebOS. It's the only tablet that really does justice to Flash. Perhaps dropping the price of the hardware to the floor was a way to get these tablets into as many hands as possible so they can get WebOS into as many hands as possible. A bold gamble, to be sure... time will tell if it pays off.
Hopefully you managed to get in on this deal. I got mine. It's definitely worth it (if there was ever any doubt). If you haven't, then check fatwallet and slickdeals forums for info on getting yours. Avoid ebay and craigslist. Good luck!