Month: August 2006

Spelling and Grammar DO Make a Difference

Audio available: [audio:2006-08-31_spelling_and_grammar_do_make_a_difference.mp3]
The girl at the docks said "I like British seamen."
I don’t know whether you’ve ever seen that example before, it was given to me by my English literature teacher a long, long time ago.
What’s that?  You can’t see anything wrong with that sentence?  Well, yes that’s right there’s nothing wrong with it at all.  But if you take away the "a" in the last word, it gives it a completely different meaning.
Through the getting on for 50 years I’ve been on this planet, I’ve had many people tell me that spelling doesn’t matter, it’s the meaning that’s important.
I used to argue with them, fruitlessly in most cases, until I realised that for whatever reasons, in the majority of cases, their perception of spelling and grammar wasn’t going to change.  Even when I gave them the example above, usually well within the argument by this time, I’d get a smile, but the mindset wouldn’t give.
That’s another bit of lunacy I’ve come across – the inability or unwillingness of some people to change their mind even when presented with incontrovertible evidence, but don’t get me started on that one!
I don’t know if it’s because people are embarrassed by their poor spelling which is what makes them so defensive.
But we all make typos, I made several while writing this, but fixed them afterwards (all of them I hope).  And sometimes we all fall over a sentence because we haven’t thought it out properly, or we don’t know where it’s going when we start.  I’m too of that guilty…
And of course, often spell and grammar checkers only make things worse.  Why?  Because they give people a false sense of security that what they’ve written is okay.
For example, there’s countless times I’ve typed "form" when I meant "from".  Now a grammar checker might pick it up, but I’ve always found that grammar checkers just complicate sentences and make them too formal when it was the informal style of writing I was aiming for.  Like this article.
Now why do I bring this up?
Well, a couple of weeks or so ago, I was sent an email from one of the big marketers.  I’m on lots of mailing lists as I like to see what’s going on in the marketing world, and I really don’t like spending too much time in forums as I think they can just suck all of your working hours out of you.
In this email, amongst several typos, was the theme.  And that was that he claimed that spelling doesn’t matter.  He said that it made absolutely no difference to his sales, people would still buy his products even if his emails and sales pages had spelling mistakes in them.
Well, I can tell him from personal experience, it DOES make a difference and he’s leaving money on the table.
If someone is trying to sell me advice (not give it), then in order to get me to part with my cash, I have to feel that they are in several ways superior to me, and have superior knowledge to me.  In my head I call it a big dog, little dog thing.
Bad spelling is a bad start if you want to convince me to cough up.  I always think, "well if he can’t be bothered to just get someone to check out his spelling (or at least use a spell checker), how bothered is he going to be if I have a problem and need to contact him?"
See what I mean?
If spelling really doesn’t matter, then how come I don’t see more spelling mistakes in newspapers and magazines?  And in printed ads?  I see some, but not many, they’re usually caught somewhere in the publishing process, so it’s quite rare.
I’d like to leave you with one last example.
Sometime in the last six months I’ve read two sales pages where their product would give "piece of mind" instead of "peace of mind."
Now I’m not sure if this is a UK only colloquialism, but here we talk about giving someone a "piece of my mind", which means we’re going to really have a good shout at them and tell them what’s what.
So is the writer going to calm my thoughts or give me a good telling off?  Answers on a postcard please…
My wife’s just read this, smiled and given me another example:-
An English professor wrote the words "woman without her man is nothing" on the blackboard and directed the students to punctuate it correctly.
The men wrote: "Woman, without her man, is nothing."
The women wrote: "Woman!  Without her, man is nothing."
Posted by Frank Haywood in internet business

Third Party Payment Processing for your Web Store

Audio available: [audio:2006-08-27_third_party_payment_processing_for_your_web_store.mp3]


When I started selling online just over three years ago, accepting payments online was a long way from ideal. You could either do it the expensive way, or you could do it the cheap way.The expensive way meant get a credit card merchant account and set up a secure website using SSL to process the payments yourself, or use a third party processor to do it for you. Very messy and a lot of work if you’re only going to do a few sales per week.

It also made you a target for hackers interested in your credit card details database.

The cheap way was to use PayPal, NoChex or similar, but that meant anyone that wanted to pay you had to have (or open) an account with that processor which a lot of people just wouldn’t bother doing and so you were losing out on sales.

The middle of the road at the time was a merchant account with WorldPay, but I wouldn’t recommend them to anyone. I gave them a call to find out how much it would cost. They wanted a $9000 float, they were going to charge nearly 6%, and they’d keep my money for 28 days before passing it on to me.

Er yeah, right. Thanks, but no thanks.

Seriously though, I consider that an insult to anyone with a brain. Because of that, I’ll never deal with WorldPay even if they now give the best rate.

While I was investigating all this, I came across Protx who act as a third party processor if you have a merchant account. At the time this was the cheapest option.

So I took out a merchant credit card account with my bank, and used Protx to handle the processing of cards. This meant I didn’t have to keep any card details and I didn’t have to secure my site, so it was pretty good while not ideal.

It cost about the same as it would have to set up a secure site, and took away any chances of a security breach, so I was very grateful. Protx are also very responsive, so still a good option even now.

Three years later, things have changed quite nicely for small businesses.

You now have a choice of payment processors depending on your location in the world. PayPal is probably the most used one, and in North America and the UK at least, there is no longer a requirement for your customers to sign up so that’s good.

NoChex works in a similar way but is UK only. There’s now also MoneyBookers which are UK based but international in scope like PayPal and have over 2 million users according to their website. There are other larger processors such as 2CO and

And there are probably others in your country that I’ve never even heard of.

In fact there are so many third party payment processors now, that there’s really no need to hold a traditional merchant account any more, and unless Mastercard and Visa turn back the clock (a distinct possibility), it will become cheaper as competition increases.

Now there’s one more new one and I’ve left this until last. The brand new, shiny, Google checkout.

Unless I’ve missed something somewhere along the way, I can’t see the point.

In order for you to use it on your website(s), you need to secure every site. That means purchasing an SSL certificate for each and every site every year if you want to use it.

I don’t care how convenient the rest of it is, if it makes me do something additional that I don’t have to do now, then I’m not going to bother.

It may be that they’ve done it this way because of the rumblings in the Mastercard and Visa camps over third party processors. So if things do change all processors may have to insist on SSL. Then it may be worth considering Google.

We’ll see…

Posted by Frank Haywood in internet business

The Next Big Thing In Software

Audio available: [audio:2006-08-26_the_next_big_thing_in_software.mp3]
I read recently where one online marketer said he could sell 1000 copies of his new product over the next 12 months, and continue to sell it afterwards.  But he preferred to limit the amount to 500 and sell them all straight away.
Then he could move onto his next project.
I can’t be the only person who thinks that’s a very short sighted thing to do.  And what does it tell you about the level of post-sales support you’re going to get?
While it’s probably a very effective marketing technique and gets an immediate burst of sales, the damage done to the sellers reputation and the trust lost means it’s going to be difficult to sell to those customers again.
I know, because I’ve felt that disappointment when I’ve bought a promising product and then a few weeks later found it completely abandoned by the owners.  What a shame, and what a lost chance to build a reputable brand that will bring in a flow of income for years.
Opportunistic marketing like this leaves a nasty taste in the mouth, and I already have a list of "never deal with agains" in my head.
Any software I produce will always be supported.  I may replace or obsolete it by merging it into larger products, but there will always be an upgrade path and a special offer up that path for my customers.  And I’ll never just walk away, that’s bad business practice.
Then we have the other side of the coin.  Hyped up products that promise to solve all your problems and then fail to deliver.  Again, I’ve had my share of those purchases where the product is "as advertised" but isn’t quite what I was expecting to get.
Will I buy from these people ever again?  Of course not.
Posted by Frank Haywood in internet business

Payment Processors – Do They Have a Duty to Protect?

Audio available: [audio:2006-08-25_payment_processors_-_do_they_have_a_duty_to_protect.mp3]

As I pointed out in another post, at some point PayPal have taken the decision to block any payment processing for anyone that they consider to be part of a pyramid scam, or even MLM (Multi-Level Marketing) which is a completely legal way of marketing your business. 

That’s their business, and their decision to make, and I don’t think it’s right to criticise them for that.  We all want to run our businesses in our own way, and if a third party doesn’t like it, then they can go and use someone else.  I’m a strong believer in giving people a choice.

However, someone recently emailed me to say that PayPal will also close down accounts of people who they believe are participating in "Get Rich Quick" (GRQ) schemes.


There’s a subtle difference between pyramid and GRQ.  Pyramid is a GRQ scheme, but a GRQ scheme doesn’t necessarily have to be pyramid.

I don’t know why, but I just feel a little bit uneasy about this.  Once someone decides to set themselves up as judge, jury and executioner, then I think they’re on very dodgy moral ground.

I understand that they feel they have a duty to protect their customers, and it’s likely this is a response to demands from customers, but have PayPal overstepped the mark?

Should a payment processor only provide payment processing services or should they also get involved when it comes down to what they see as immoral / illegal practices by other businesses? Or is this even a start to a big clean up in the whole third party payment processing industry?

Mastercard and Visa have recently closed down some third party processors similar to PayPal, due to them not adhering to their standards / guidelines.  Rumours are that 2CO are also in the firing line.  Maybe PayPal are getting a little twitchy that they could suffer the same fate and so are clamping down.

If so, it’s long overdue.  But they have to be very careful not to further tarnish their image by shutting down legitimate business processing for all the wrong reasons.

Posted by Frank Haywood in internet business

IMAP – What Your ISP Doesn’t Want You To Know

Audio available: [audio:2006-08-19_imap_what_your_isp_doesnt_want_you_to_know.mp3]

Do you use IMAP? Do you know what it is? Can you find any mention of it on your ISPs website?

I bet that for most people the answer to those questions is no.

IMAP was supposed to be the replacement for POP3, well, that’s what I was told by a techie years ago when I was introduced to it, but it doesn’t seem to have worked out that way. I haven’t seen one ISP promote IMAP and they all tell you how to set up POP3, and there’s a good reason for this.

IMAP is much better for you, but it uses up more of your ISPs resources. So they either don’t support it, or don’t tell you about it.

So what’s the difference between IMAP and POP3?

I won’t get all techy here, because I can’t, so here it is in layman’s terms. When you set up your mail client to retrieve your email, the default is usually POP3, and you have to select IMAP as an alternative if you want to use it.

The default setting in your email software for POP3 is to retrieve your email from the mail server and store it locally in the database of the email software you’re using. i.e. the email is stored on your PC and is removed from the mail server.

With for example Outlook Express (OE), you can tick a box to leave the email on the server if you don’t want it deleting, but if you forget to do this, all the email will be pulled from the server one at a time and then deleted on the server leaving you with a copy only on your PC.

But what if you have two PCs? One at work and one at home, or one in the study and one in the family room, or a laptop and a desktop, and you want the same email messages on both machines? Or what if you’re like us and have several PCs and you need all of them synchronised with the same emails that you’ve both received AND sent?

In that case you need IMAP.

How IMAP differs from POP3 is that the email messages are all left on the server. And when you send an email, that gets stored on the server too. If you flag an email, then the flag gets set on the server against that email.

The beauty of this is that if you sit down on your laptop and send an email, then later sit at another PC that’s been set up with the same email account, the second PC will connect to the email server and download your SENT message as well as any new received ones. So both machines are synchronised with the same emails.

All the email messages remain on the server so that if you sit down at a third PC that’s also been set up with the same email account, it will again download all the messages and so you then have all three PCs synchronised.

This is very cool in my opinion.

Even if you only have one PC, IMAP is a much better way of handling your email. If your only PC ever fails and you end up with a corrupted hard drive, you don’t lose your emails. They’re all on the server.

So then all you have to do is fit a new hard drive or buy a new PC. When you set the email account up again on your new system, it gets all the messages, and you haven’t lost a thing. You may have to re-create your address book again if you don’t have a backup, but at least you have all the email addresses, because you have all the emails!

The downside for ISPs is that they have to store all of your emails all of the time on the hard drives of their servers. And they don’t want to do it. So they don’t advertise IMAP at all. They want your emails off their server and on your PC ASAP.

Like I said at the beginning, some ISPs don’t even support IMAP. But if you have your own seperately paid for web server with cPanel, it usually comes with IMAP pre-set up, and all you have to do is connect to it.

There are other benfits to IMAP too, such as the ability to drag and drop emails between accounts, just like you do with folders on your desktop.

Why don’t you go and take a look now to see if you can use IMAP? You never know it might be your lucky day.

Posted by Frank Haywood in internet business