CSS – Oh No I’ve Got Can’t Shop Syndrome!

Looking after mega shopping directory (CantBarsed.com) and monster discount codes website (DiscountCodes.tv) means I always know which stores are holding Events, Mega days and Spectaculars and where to look for pretty much anything from LCD TVs to pants – which is how I feel about online shopping at the moment!

Even my wife consults me for shopping advice – that’s just WRONG! I’m suffering shoppers burnout and there’s still another couple of juicy shopping weeks to go before I can get off to sleep without seeing my christmas list, promo codes and catwalk models wearing lingerie before my eyes – oops did I write that last bit out loud?

CSS, aggrevated by post traumatic shopping stress disorder, has rendered me incapable of making a purchasing decision – even after doing my due diligence comparison shopping on my own sites, and Froogle, and BillyBargain (shameless plug) when I get to the store checkout I come over all rabbity-headlighty when I see that field where you can enter a promotional code or discount voucher.

Yeah, I know it’s my business to know all about codes but even when I’m sure there isn’t a code I can’t bring myself to complete the purchase so I waste hours looking around other code sites and forums just to make sure I haven’t missed the bargain shopping saving opportunity of the century and the end result is another abandoned basket, yep, I’ve definitely got CSS.

Then there’s trigger levels. It all seems innocent enough with teasers like “get an extra 10% discount when spending over £50” so there I am working out whether to split my order into two, maybe across 2 or more stores, and before you know it I’ve got half a dozen store checkouts open and another bunch of abadoned baskets and every day is one less shopping day and if I don’t get help soon I’m going to have to head into town and shop in person!

I could start a victim support group “CantBarsed to Research All Purchases”, CRAP for short. Then when I get to the checkout and think “Oh CRAP” I’ll know who to call. CRAP advocates an alternative take on the IAB best practice:

When there really, really, really isn’t a promo code, freebie or deal just plainly state:

There are NO codes today. Don’t waste your time looking elsewhere. Don’t Worry, Be happy!

The CantBarsed Affiliate Marketing Lifestyle Experiment…

lifestyle experimentI’ve been around the UK affiliate marketing industry since the early days and there are so many great things about the industry every now and then I take time out to have a look around and see what other affiliates are up to and to remind myself not to take anything for granted because standing still really is going backwards in this industry.

Learning new stuff and trying out new ways of making money are two of my favourite things and two of the most important qualities anyone interested in making a living from affiliate marketing will need along with determination – lots of determination.

It’s not easy to think outside the box, especially on demand, but my background as a product designer means I’m adept at coming up with alternative ways of achieving the same result and when I suffer from designers block I buy other websites and take a look under the bonnet which gives me an insight into someone else’s mindset. Because they’re selling up there’s every chance it turns out to be a cul-de-sac but nevertheless it’s always fascinating.

My fascination with websites extends to domain names and I’m always on the lookout for new domains to support existing projects and inspire new ones so feel free to pitch yours to to me!

I’m not a domainer but I can spot a good deal when I see one. I recently enquired about a domain which the current owner thinks is worth a lot more than I do – nothing new there if you read my earlier post about domain name haggling. I asked one of my favourite web developers with domain name expertise Paul Lasikiewicz for his opinion and he reckoned the asking price was about double what I felt the domain was worth. The owner isn’t budging so I’m content to let the credit crunch bite and have another go later. Learning to play the long game is another essential skill affiliate marketeers need to learn.

Affiliate Marketing feels like a game of Monopoly to me. On the roll of the dice (my google rankings) I cruise the board buying web properties which I develop adding houses and hotels on them in the hope that people will eventually land on them I and make money.

I got chatting with Paul (this means typing in MSN in JoeSpeak) and it turned out he has been busily developing his own web properties including a nice discount code related domain Discount.org.uk and we struck a deal and now I have another code site to look after – it’s good to type!

I tend to look for domains with two keywords or something catchy that’s brandable and I’ve never been a fan of generic domains. I also hadn’t really considered org.uk domains as worthwhile properties until that purchase but Paul explained the site could rank well for searches like “[retailer] discount” and “discount for [retailer] and I can see his point so I learned another important affiliate marketing skill – listen to what other people have to say and adapt to prosper and stay in the game. I’ve since registered a few org.uk domains including billybargains.org.uk, renegade.org.uk etc.

We chatted about SEO and I realised not being a domainer isn’t my only lack of expertise – I’m no SEO expert either! It just goes to show that however much you learn about affiliate marketing (and I’ve learnt a helluva lot) you must never stop learning. I make a decent living as a jack of all trades but the challenge is to do even better. I love being my own boss, I get to choose when I work and I’m a tough taskmaster.

My conversations with Paul really inspired me and I’m working on new projects and looking forward to battling with my fellow affiliates for those top slots on all the search engines.

It’s the a4u Expo this week so I’ve been working flat out to get things done before my head explodes to free up some headspace for new stuff at the Expo sessions. I’ve already picked the sessions I want to attend and have added them to Evernote so I can read or change my itinerary from any machine or my beloved iPhone. It all depends how quickly my cold clears up, how much beer I drink and whether I’ll be able to get in or stay awake to all those sessions! I managed to soak up some useful stuff last year without any planning or effort, doffs hat to Mr Lee Mccoy, so my plan is to be just a little bit more professional this year.

For starters I’ve got some shiny new business cards to give out, assuming I remember to carry them with me, and the in/famous cantBarsed booby lady remains a key feature – after seeing her traded for poker chips at a previous a4u event I know she has legs! However, in my quest for professionalism on these overly PC times I’ve cut up some post-its and censored the sensitive areas by hand so peel to reveal or not – the choice is yours! I’ll cover them with a scratch panel next time. If you do see me wandering the Expo or asleep in the sessions do say Hi and ask me for a card.

Affiliate marketing CantBarsed style really does suit me and, like the best experiments, it’s much more exciting when you don’t know the final outcome.

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Affiliates to Give 200% Cashback to Charity

Affiliates Give Cashback to Charity
If that got your attention perhaps you’ll also be snagged by a new breed of spam emails featuring incredulous and witty subject lines. I’ll admit I was enjoying this spam and I was a bit disappointed when they dried up as spam filters around the world sussed the format so for posterity here’s a few highlights:

  • NASA to use Space Shuttles to kill birds
  • Switzerland To Be Devoured By Black Hole (one for James Avery there)
  • Home Office to deport anyone with IQ below 100
  • ICAN To Shut Down Email Services World Wide
  • Obama Captures Osama
  • Mccain vows to withdraw all troops from the US
  • Paris Hilton to operate new atom smasher
  • Paris Hilton’s Vagina Bites Penguin

A different email spammer is sending out more believable subject lines which just don’t have the same appeal:

  • Ronaldo leaves Man Utd
  • Cancer cure from American plant
  • UFO sighting in downtown NY
  • Steve Jobs to resign from Apple
  • London Olympics cancelled

…and so on
It really goes to show the importance of your email subject lines and for affiliates sending out newsletters there are lessons to be learnt.
I filter my incoming mail by subject line into folders and when I send out my weekly newsletters I always start each email with “CantBarsed.com” to make it easy for my newsletter subscribers to do the same and now I’m wondering if I would get a better open rate if I mixed up the subject line so it wasn’t so easily filtered or maybe that would just annoy my subscribers?

Witty one line comments welcomed 😉

Is Less More?

Is less more?Salesperson: “Hello Sir, Mobile XYZ here phoning about your mobile phone contract, we…”
Me: “It’s an iPhone.”
Salesperson: “That’s lovely sir, anyway about your mobile…”
Me: “They’re exclusively with O2, you’re wasting your time… and mine.”
Salesperson: “…”

It’s happened twice already.

In my vision of an Apple inspired future I hadn’t foreseen the welcome side-effect of the demise of mobile phone contract parasites (or that being scewed by O2 would have an upside) and it got me wondering what else in our lives would be better if we had less choice?

Do we really need to choose which company sends us a bill for our electricity, gas, water etc? If comrade Stalin-Brown nationalised the lot again we’d have less choice but we’d all pay exactly the same and we wouldn’t have to endure those pesky comparison website TV adverts.

Do we really need so many separate remote controls with myriad buttons we’ll never use? I don’t. Apple’s remote control is an marvel of self-restraint which everyone can use without a manual, it just works. There’s even an Apple iPhone App(lication) which lets me control iTunes from anywhere in the house. All we need now is some smarty pants to come up with a box of tricks which let’s me control everything from my iPhone and I can throw all my remote controls away – I see there’s already a company working on this, but I’d rather Apple took charge and did the job properly.

Less is more was always my favourite design philosophy but it hadn’t occurred to me having less choice might also be a good thing. I’m certainly losing brain cells quicker than I’m making new ones these days so working smarter is good but working simpler is where it’s at.

Given a free choice I choose less choice.

Apple iPhone iOS 2.0 Updated At Last

Apple iPhone iOS 2.0After my earlier rant I finally managed to upgrade my iPhone to iOS 2.0 at around 8pm Friday evening.
It wasn’t a good user experience and days later the MobileMe service is still a bit clunky so it’s hard to get a handle on how useful it will be to me.
I’ve just discovered there’s now a Windows MobileMe control panel to set sync preferences and now my email, contacts and calendars on iPhone, Mac and PC are all in sync which is cool.
I’ve just spent some time in my happy place (new tech toys to play with) browsing around the new Apple Apps Store downloading and playing with some of the excellent Apps.
Here’s my first thoughts:

The Facbook App The original web app was great and although this app doesn’t really offer anything new it feels more seamless and it’s cool to instant message with other online Facebook users.

Apple iPhone 2Shazam Load this up and play any piece of music and in around 15 seconds it’ll tell you the track, the artist along with links to YouTube videos and more – perfect for setting arguments and combating brain freeze. The only downside is this is a time limited version – so how much they want for it will decide whether it remains on my iPhone.

Remote Control your Apple TV and iTunes music libraries from your iPhone. It’s free and works really well but I also want to be able to play the music on my iPhone via remote speakers. There’s also a remote control web app which replicates the Apple remote features and I’d like to see these two remotes combined into one killer app.

Twittelator Twitter on the move from your iPhone and it will also update your Facebook status (if you have this set this up in your Twitter account preferences).
In addition to posting twitters you can add photos from your camera roll or take a snap. There’s a “panic” feature which posts your location along with a shout for help which is bound to save someone’s life before long.
There’s also Twitterific which is available as a free ad sponsored version or a premium version costing £5.99 which removes the ads but Twittelator gets the job done for free so I’m not sure there’s a future for a paid version.

Shanghai Mahjong I’m not into console games but I do have a weakness for Mahjong when I need to chill for half an hour. There are already 6 different Mahjong apps on the Apps store priced from £0.59 to £5.99 so I plumped for this version from MobileAge which cost me £2.99 and it’s an excellent implementation with some great features and a wide range of tile designs and backgrounds. I do need a zoom feature for this app because my eyes soon became tired of staring at tiny tiles.

iPhone Stuck In Hyperspace!

iphone stuck in hyperspaceThe problem with being right about the popularity of the new iPhone is I didn’t get one and now my 1st generation iPhone is useless too!

For me the trouble started with Apple’s decision not to sell the new iPhone online and I buy all my Apple gear from the UK Apple Store online and I didn’t want to queue at a shop for their PR benefit.

Then O2 sent me an text message upgrade invitation, excellent I thought, I can still upgrade online and get an iPhone delivered to my door this Friday morning.

Then the O2 website broke due to overwhelming demand (event though O2 had been testing their servers all week to cope with a 250% increase in demand).

By the time I managed to get a working website the O2 online store had sold out and I decided to wait and have a play with the new 2.0 iPhone software on my 1st generation iPhone since I do most of my browsing via WiFi at home the 3G and SatNav features are not top of my priority list.

So I kept trying to download the new software via iTunes and eventually managed to download it mid-afternoon only to find after backing up and restoring my iPhone that the iTunes upgrade activation servers are down so now even my existing iPhone is stuck in Hyperspace.

Way to go Apple to piss off one of your most loyal customers.

Barbados – Message In A Bottle

Barbados message in a bottle
I had several other working titles for this blog post:

“Barbados – The Pleasure & The Pain”
Pleasure because it really was a pleasure to spend time in the company of some of the nicest people around the affiliate marketing scene, some I’d known for years like Pete, Lee, Chris, Ian, Keith, J Lil with apologies to anyone I’ve forgotten and new friends Gulshan (my roomie), Nic, Meisha, Neil, Tom, Aldo, Elizabeth, Naomi, Hannah, James Avery, Mike, Sinéad, Siri, Ben, Sarah(s), Mark and quite a few others whose names I can’t spell until you get in touch with me. I think we’re all agreed Barbados is a beautiful island and it was a pleasure to explore and interact with the locals who are generally chilled, mild mannered, intelligent, respectful and delightful people.

Pain because I managed to badly sunburn myself the first afternoon. In my enthusiasm to go body boarding, one of my favourite things to do wherever I go in the world, I picked up some waterproof SPF50 lotion slapped it on all over but it clearly didn’t work as advertised because I ended up bright red for the rest of the week and now my skin looks like a contour map of the island! And there were the hangovers!

“Barbados – Mixing Business With Pleasure”
I can’t imagine any better way for a network to switch me on to their message than jetting me off to Barbados and Affiliate Future have evolved this winning formula over several years which works remarkably smoothly. There were no formal presentations, no hard sell, just plenty of suggested outings and things we might like to participate in. The only onslaught is alcohol which, as an affiliate, is beer off a ducks back. AlcOClock usually kicked off after breakfast with a poolside bottle of Banks, the local lager, followed by Rum & Cokes (Barbados is famous for Mount Gay Rum which has to be the smoothest rum in the world) leading inexorably to Happy Hour and strawberry Dacaries before heading out for the evening – and we had some great evenings.

My highlights of the week were:
Scuba diving: I was really nervous about scuba diving, I’m comfortable in the sea hanging off my body board but trusting technology to help me breath underwater is huge leap of faith and thanks to Andrew at Eco Dive and Frostie for making that leap a little less scary. We dived down to a shipwreck at around 15m and I also saw a sea turtle, octopus, shoals of fish, all in all a fantastic first experience and I can’t imagine a better place for a first dive.

Touring the island in a Suzuki Jeep: We hired a bunch of vehicles and headed off to explore Barbados which is just 166 square miles (by my reckoning about the same size as the Isle of Wight) which means you can get around the entire country in a day! We headed off to a silver sanded beach up the west coast, stopped for lunch at an excellent restaurant, then headed up to the Flower Caves situated at the most northerly point on the island before making a mad dash down to Crane Beach on the Atlantic coast where we arrived at dusk. Don’t ever follow Lee, or try to overtake him, which left me in an awkward catch 22 situation as he made an unorthodox maneuver just as a bunch of local schoolchildren started to cross the road off to my right. Ian shouted “KIDS IN THE ROAD” so I slammed on the brakes and stopped just a few feet away from half a dozen of them as Lee hurtled past in the opposite direction. Neither the kids nor Lee (aka “Team Fun”) seemed in the least bit concerned so we put the episode behind us and we had our very own catchphrase for the rest of the island tour.

Bodyboarding on Crane Beach: We organised a gang in a local Taxi for an afternoon of boarding therapy. The waves were very messy with no opportunity to do anything other than hang onto them and ride straight up the beach or get wiped out. These waves were really mean – I got dumped unexpectedly more times here than anywhere else and I ended up banging my head on the bottom for my troubles – not the best place for beginners to learn but I had a fab time.

Karaoke: In the spirit of doing something outside my comfort zone I ended up singing Karaoke in the hotel bar. I joined in with James Avery, Ian and Lee for an interesting variation on “Don’t Look Back in Anger” and after a succession of Mancunian anthems I roped in Ian, Tom and Lee for my choice of “Puff The Magic Dragon” and by the end of the evening there was incriminating video evidence on most of us.

Fish at Oistins: Great food after dark on the beach mixed with lively music and great company is my recipe for happiness and the Marlin and macaroni pie was the best food I ate on the island. I had planned to do a bit of shopping but I think it was Nic that put a stop to that with a bottle of Mount Gay rum and we started on Rum & Cokes. As I’ve grown older I haven’t really got any wiser and that evening I went for it. I don’t remember travelling back to the hotel, I do remember having a fab time in the hotel bar with Nic, Neil, Ian, Kieth, Tom, Sinéad, Chris, Sarah and Ben – who went to bed early and consuming a brain shrinking quantity of Rum & Cokes. I don’t remember eating street meat and I don’t remember how I ended up in bed face down with my clothes still on but it was a great night.

I also enjoyed a couple of drinking sessions at The Ship Inn and a Bajan evening at Harbour Lights where the “young bloods” of the gang really made a lasting impression – one I’m still trying to forget!

Anyway, I settled on “Message In A Bottle” partly because my blog posts have a running theme of song titles and I can imagine sitting on a secluded beach somewhere spamming the oceans with messages in empty bottles of Banks:

“Please tell Deb to come and join me and give our kids the site logins so they can pay their way through university.”

“THANKS to Affiliate Future for stranding me on Barbados and rescuing me from my daily routine”

The CantBarsed Blog is moving…

I’m in the process of moving the CantBarsed blog from http://www.cantbarsed.com/blog to http://blog.cantbarsed.com so I can use the new blogger.com template features to give the blog a makeover.
I suspect it won’t be seamless and it could well be messy or unavailable in the short term but it should be worthwhile – I’ll be back!

Update 2017

The CantBarsed.com blog has been moved again – on the same URL this time but quite a few URLs had to be redirected, apologies for any 404s you encounter along the way, I’ll patch them up as they pop-up.

iPhone 3G brilliant & iPhone iOS 2.0 Software & MobileMe Inspirational!

I’ve just watched Steve Jobs presentation to the WWDC and while I’m really excited about the new iPhone what I’m most looking forward to is the free forthcoming iPhone 2.0 software update and MobileMe (a revamped .mac service) which together will make a big difference to the way I work as an affiliate on a daily basis.

MobileMe is described as the “cloud in the sky” which synchronises data between your all your desktop and mobile devices in near-real time over the air (3G, 2G or WiFi).

This is perfect for affiliate marketeers. For example I’ll be able to read and reply to an email on my iPhone and both my desktop computer and laptop will know I’ve already read and dealt with that email so I won’t have to read it again or mark it as read on my other machines.
I’ll also have access to all my contacts and spreadsheets anywhere and any changes made will be updated on my other devices seamlessly – no more multiple, but different, copies of the same documents on different machines.
I think I’ll be able to do the same with Dreamweaver web pages but putting the pages live will still be a separate task, I look forward to having a play to see what’s possible and what’s practical.

This time around Apple have made a huge effort to get the business world on-board. A whole bunch of Fortune 500 companies were signed up to the beta program and with full support for Microsoft Exchange, Cisco and the ability to open Word, Excel and Powerpoint documents in place demand is going to go through the roof.

Add July 11th 2008 To Your Diary

That’s the day the iPhone 3G goes on sale in Apple and O2 stores across the UK and it looks like they’re NOT going to be available online (as an Apple affiliate that’s REALLY bad news) and can only be activated in-store. I’m not happy about having to queue up and activate in-store but from O2’s POV it makes perfect sense because it will reduce iPhone hacking/unlocking (again this is bad news for O2/CPW affiliates).
At an estimated 12 minutes per customer there’s going to be some long queues outside stores which means lots of media coverage.
I can’t decide whether to play their game or wait and play with the iPhone 2.0 software on my existing iPhone and run the risk of the iPhone 3G going out of stock, especially because at a price point equivalent to $199 they are going to fly off the shelves (although I want the more expensive 16Gb white model), decisions, decisions.

More Apple News

Last July I blogged about how iTunes was the Trojan horse which lets Apple loose on Windows machines and alongside a new Apps Store you’ll also be able to install iPhone apps from iTunes and I’m looking forward to seeing how MyMobile interacts with Apple TV, where you can now rent and buy movies along with popular TV shows. It’s all coming together rather nicely now isn’t it?

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CantBarsed Blog – A4U Awards 2008 Excel London

Well I didn’t win anything – which wasn’t a surprise since I wasn’t nominated but I still managed to get nervous for 2 award nominees I felt quite strongly about.
Happily Julie Wood romped home (judging by the cheers) as the Publisher’s Choice Of Account Manager and Kirsty McCubbin just missed out to Kieron for the Affiliate Marketing Blog of 2008. As I was waiting on the balcony alongside Kieron I reminded him I’d voted for Kirsty and he agreed she would be a worthy winner so I was delighted when he told me after collecting his trophy that he intended to give the sunshine.co.uk holiday vouchers to Kirsty and Duncan could so they could have a mini holiday after their wedding and before the A4U Expo.

Of the 14 other awards I correctly guessed 7 and was only left scratching my head over a few.
I expected sunshine.co.uk to pick up an award but Chris Clarkson picking up the Affiliate Manager of 2008 is a real achievement up against old hands like Zak and Graham.
Virgin Games winning the Gaming vertical award ahead of Jackpotjoy was odd. They’d been squeezed onto Kieron’s “affiliate only” table and disappeared downstairs just before the award was announced so I’m guessing they only attended at the last minute and knew in advance they’d won the award – which is better than not attending and filming a cheesy video – probably! I wasn’t even aware there was an independent Virgin Games affiliate program so I’m guessing they actively canvassed for votes which feels wrong to me but it’s within the rules and even actively encouraged but I still don’t like it. OTOH the Virgin Media guys sat either side of me and Deb at lunch and they were both really nice and we drank a glass or two of their celebratory Champagne so I’ve no cause for complaint – I bet Jackpotjoy Jasper and Claire will be canvassing for votes next year!

As An ‘umble Affiliate Plus 1 Missus Was A4U Worth Attending?

The comedian Michael McIntyre made my face ache with laughter which partially numbed the pain of spending around £600 all in including tickets, hotel, breakfast, trains and taxis to eat and see a few mates pick up awards. From a business perspective I wouldn’t get it past my expenses manager (happily I don’t have one) and the A4U expo is a much better opportunity for networking. OTOH as a glitzy event to take the missus along too and spend some company money it was just about worth it but I probably won’t attend next year unless it comes immediately before or after the A4U expo so I don’t have to make an extra journey and hotel booking.
It’s also always good to spend time in the company of Elaine and Dave, Kieron, Frostie and others. I also learnt Redcar is up north, oxygen can be flavoured and that I can drink a lot of Champagne, to date, I haven’t been able to afford to find my limit.
I didn’t give a toss about the involvement of the IAB at the awards – it’s been largely irrelevant to my affiliate life and similarly I don’t understand why people seemed pleased NMA wanted to be involved. As a magazine about new media they’d be stupid to ignore a sparkly event tailor made to fill column inches – maybe they were pleased NMA isn’t as stupid as they thought it was.

A4U Congratulations

Once again Zak from Prezzybox and Graham and Dan from Buyagift pick up awards and it was really good to catch up with Julian from IWOOT and talk seafood again. It’s also always good to put names to faces of all the other merchants and affiliate managers I chat with by email, telephone and MSN on a daily basis and best of all it was great to celebrate Julie’s win at our own mini after-after show party with Nadeem, Martin and Carl from the A4U forum.
As usual there were loads of people I didn’t get around to chatting with but, thanks to Matt and the Existem gang, the A4U Expo is just a few months away so we can all catch up again there.

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