Attempted Guilt Trip Backfires

Earlier today I was listening to one of the stations on Soma FileMaker – a listener-supported, commercial-free internet-only streaming music service. Between songs they launched into a request for donations and, sure enough, I started feeling really guilty.

Why? Because I have been listening to their stations for years and I have never donated anything. I was a freeloader, and feeling lousy about it.

Then they made a big mistake in their approach. It started out OK, something like this:

"Less than 10% of Soma FileMaker listeners..."

Ahhh... social proof. They're going to saying that less than 10% of listeners don't contribute – freeloaders just like me, piggybacking on the generosity of the vast majority of good people that do donate. Pointing out that most people, 90+ plus, do contribute would have made me feel even worse.

But that isn't what they said. Instead the thought went like this:

"Less than 10% of Soma FileMaker listeners contribute..."

Now that makes it a whole different thing! Almost everybody is a freeloader! Why should I feel bad when nine out of ten people are doing the exact same thing as me? And Why would I have any interest whatsoever in funding free radio for those other nine deadbeats?

Their logic makes some sense. They must have assumed that stressing just how little support they get would prompt other people to take action.

But the great research of Dr. Robert Cialdini suggests the exact opposite – most people would have the same reaction I did. Why bother to pay when nobody else does?

Instead they would have been much better off stressing how many people do pay. That "social proof" that most people contribute to a service they enjoy using, would have prompted me to contribute too.

The Damage Caused By Predatory Educators

A little over a decade ago, after many years away from the workforce, a relative started doing manual labor for a landscaping/outdoor construction business. It probably wasn't the kind of work he or his family had envisioned him doing, but it seemed to be good for him. To some extent he even seemed to enjoy it. Most importantly he was earning and saving money – in his mid-forties something he needed to do.

After a couple of years he decided to quit his job, give up on a year of earning, and dip into his savings to take a course in bricklaying from the worst kind of education predator – a local community college. It seemed like a good investment – they promised him he would be more employable and better paid as a bricklayer.

Of course they left out the part about needing to get an apprenticeship, and needing thousands of hours as an apprentice, and (most importantly) that nobody is interested in hiring an apprentice that is approaching fifty years of age.

So he walked away from his job (and income) for the duration of the course. He paid his tuition from his savings, and dutifully completed the paperwork the predatory educator provided, paperwork that would help them access government funds – funds intended to help train people for jobs they might actually hope to get.

Afterwards he began what would be a fruitless job search. He couldn't even get his old job back. All the time instead of earning money he was burning through the money he had earned, through hard physical labor, in the past.

Almost any business owner understands that it is much easier and cheaper to sell more product to an existing customer than to acquire a new customer. This also applies to useless education, and predatory educators are quick to exploit it.

They were soon suggesting new courses that offered even more promising and exciting career paths. The problem was that each one was more ridiculous than the last. Can't get a three year apprentice as a bricklayer? Spend another year or two in school and then, that much older, try and get a four year apprenticeship as a plumber! And the hot new field of sustainable construction is interesting and exciting. All of these just meant more tuition money and government aid flowing to the school, and more lost time, money and opportunities for my friend.

It's worth looking at a little societal bias here. Part of the reason this happened is the opinion of many that labor is "bad", and school is "good". There were many small-government, anti-entitlement conservatives involved in this particular situation, and for some reason they thought it was just great to leave gainful employment as a laborer and use government funds to purchase useless education that would never lead a to a real job.

The most recent career path suggested is by far the most ridiculous. And physically dangerous – he was steered towards something that is empirically one of the most dangerous legal jobs in North America.

It is also completely to his age, fitness level and body type. If he could pass he would be entering the field in his mid-fifties. Most people start in this field in their early twenties and are physically wrecked and washed out by 35. And no employer would be able to insure him for this line of work. But, again, the predatory educator chooses not to complicate their sales pitch (sorry, their "career counselling") with that kind of minor detail.

What a system. A guy who was contributing to society, earning money and saving for retirement is encouraged to instead drain their savings and government aid and waste the few remaining years of earning they have left. This is the business of predatory education.

Advanced Pricing Strategies From The Movie Business

For as long as I can remember the movie business has been reported to be in trouble. When I was teenager it was the VCR that was supposed to kill it. Most recently it has been online piracy – how can you make money when anyone with an internet connection can steal your product.

But Hollywood keeps making money, in no small part because of great pricing strategies. In fact they provide so many great examples of different pricing tactics that they are often featured on the Beyond Cost Plus site.

An article was recently added that summarizes some of the best examples and highlights how Hollywood effectively uses concepts like hurdles, anchoring and more to increase sales and profits.

Few of us might be in the movie business, but almost anyone that sells or prices products can learn from them.

Beware Delvelogic LLC Mac Ransomware Scam

If your Mac freezes with a message to contact Apple support and you end up talking to Delvelogic LLC be careful – it is a ransomware scam.


Earlier in the week a colleague had a very scary experience. Her Mac laptop locked up and displayed an official message that the machine had been compromised. The message went on to explain that she needed to contact Apple support immediately, along with a phone number.

She followed the directions to the letter. Technicians connected to her machine and confirmed the existence of malware and spyware. They showed her diagnostics as proof of this, and explained specifically that foreign hackers were secretly observing her activity, logging keystrokes, stealing passwords, etc. They scared the hell out of her.

They then transferred her to an Apple support partner for resolution. The support partner, a company that identified themselves as Delve Logic LLC, connected to her computer and removed all of the malware and spyware. My colleague was happy to have her computer back and gladly paid the $499.99 fee.

Unfortunately the whole thing was a scam. The people she paid to help were also responsible for locking her machine in the first place. The official looking message was fake, as was the number that she called. These people took control of her machine, then tricked her into paying them to unlock it.

And, adding insult to injury, they used the unfettered access she granted during the support session to her machine to install more spyware that really did let them steal passwords, etc.

At this point I should point out that the affected person affected is not unaware, gullible or naive. She is a mature, sophisticated, highly intelligent individual. These scams work because the people who run them are very good at what they do.

A short while later she started to have second thoughts. She looked up the actual Apple support line from the official Apple website and called in. The service was great and she was quickly escalated to a senior team that connected and removed all of the malware. They also gave her additional help and advice, encouraging her to change all passwords, etc. She is also pursuing a chargeback with Visa.

  • In this case the company identified themselves as Delvelogic LLC. There does appear to be a technology company called Delvelogic but there is no reason to assume any association between them and the scam. It is possible that the culprits just use the names of legitimate companies, harming their reputations to help carry out their scheme.
  • Install all official Apple updates as soon as possible as these frequently include security patches.
  • Use some kind of Antivirus software. Sophos Antivirus for Mac and Clam Xav are both excellent free antivirus tools.
  • If you intend to call Apple support go straight to the Apple website and get the contact information there. It is very easy to fake an official-looking email, etc. with bogus information that will misdirect you.
  • If there is any talk about a charge ask for a quote/estimate, or other email. In this case the receipt, issued after the fact, used a random-looking gmail account that appeared to have no connection to the company name being used (Delvelogic), which is a significant red flag.

This situation also illustrates why a strong password strategy is so important. Through keyword logging for even a brief period, or through social engineering, it is very easy for someone bad to get one of your passwords.

It can be assumed that you bank online, have an account with Amazon, etc., and it is also extremely easy to test one password against multiple sites. If you use the same password in multiple places you are then in very deep trouble – the one password has now given them access to everything.

In Lieu of Flowers: Bad Advice With An Ulterior Motive

The phrase "in lieu of flowers" is a little more calculating, and the reality of a funeral without flowers a little more bleak, than you might think.

At one point it was common to see the phrase "In lieu of flowers", followed by a request for donations to a specific charity, in obituary notices. How is that flowers, a traditional and beloved part of the funeral process, were being slighted in this way?

It starts with well-compensated (hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars in annual salary) fundraising professionals looking for new sources of revenue reaching out to funeral directors. Funeral directors help bereaved families with all aspects of the funeral, including the wording of obituary notices, and the fundraisers coached them to encourage the use of the phrase "in lieu of flowers".

Why would funeral directors agree to that when everybody knows that flowers are a traditional and vital part of a funeral service? That's where it gets interesting.

A lot of funeral directors really don't like flowers that much. They have to move them around, and sympathy flowers are generally big, heavy but also fragile. They splash water when moved, and need to be watered a couple of times a day. They can drop leaves and petals on the floor. They are, unfortunately, a nuisance for the funeral home to deal with.

That made funeral directors receptive.... by just adding the term "In lieu of flowers" to obituary notices they could do away with the aggravation of flowers.

The problem is that a funeral service without flowers doesn't really work. As one funeral director said in a recent survey:

"A funeral without flowers is a big step towards no funeral at all."

That same survey shows something really interesting. Nuisance or not the vast majority of funeral directors now believe that flowers are a very important part of the funeral process – providing comfort, warmth and beauty to the bereaved. In fact the survey also showed that flowers and plants provide the most non-human comfort.

Flowers are so important to the funeral ceremony that almost all funeral directors now encourage them. Flowers might involve a little more work, but they are clearly worth it.

Solutions in Search of Problems vs Real Solutions

Epic Flowers focusses on solutions that deal with actual ecommerce issues and not creating solutions for problems that don’t exist. 

An experienced problem-solver for Epic Flowers, Brandon Kirkland, has made a point of showing other companies how some of the best new features that are being included in Epic Flowers. Many of these were centered on the real problem of acquiring higher conversion rates.

For those unfamiliar with the term, a conversion rate is the percentage of customers who visit a site and then purchase the product that is available or do another desired action. For a floral shop, the conversion rate is the percentage of customers who purchase something on your site. 
All of the Epic websites have done a great job at building a high conversion rate, and they have one of the best conversion rates on the web for floral arrangements. Still, Brandon knows that there is always going to be room for improvement, so he tries to make conversion rate better for his clients. 

The work that is involved in these projects can be difficult. To make matters worse, it is usually invisible and potentially thankless. It is not nearly as exciting as being able to introduce another revenue stream to your client, but it still has a large impact. In essence, a higher conversion rate means that you simply do not lose as many customers as you did before.

Still, it is a very important aspect of your business. Every sale that you make is worth another $40 or more. These small improvements add up over time and can lead to you having a much more effective business that is able to attract even more due to its perceived success.

To most people, being able to increase their conversion rate by 1% may not seem significant, but considering that most online floral businesses only have a conversion rate of about 3% as it is, you will be able to see a 33% increase in business with this relatively small conversion improvement.

Improving your conversion rate is a real solution to a real problem. You are working to get more customers to buy your product. Now, there are many companies that hire consultants to add more features to their site that are not particularly geared towards increasing the amount of business that is garnered, but just to match other sites. This is called a solution for a non-existent problem, meaning that it is not solving a business problem, only going out the back of the company as a cost. 

For many online floral businesses, this sleight of hand trick is distracting your customers with unnecessary features that will not make them more likely to buy your products. These consultants that want to redesign your site completely miss the concept of responsive design and do not attempt to capitalize on a higher conversion rate.

If you want to see some serious improvement in your conversion rate, then it is a good idea to examine some of the features that are being offered by Epic Flowers so that you can try to improve it.

New Michigan Floral Association Website

The MFA (Michigan Floral Association) has a new website and it is great. Here are just some of the reasons:

It's fully responsive, meaning it looks and works great on devices of different sizes.

It was made in North America – the money stays here with people that are likely to buy flowers from member florists, not overseas contractors.

It has a great system for finding MFA member florists.


The MFA is one of the very best associations serving the floral industry and they definitely have a website to match.

More about what makes this new floral association website so great.

Finding A Real Local Florist

I frequently get calls from friends and family looking to purchase flowers. There are a lot of people that don't buy flowers very often, and even people that do aren't always sure about the best way to go about it, and they'll often ask me for advice.

The advice is pretty much always the same… yes, flowers are the perfect gift for almost anybody. I also encourage people to give them when they aren't expected – wives and girlfriends might expect flowers on Valentine's Day, birthdays and anniversaries, but it's great to surprise them on any one of the other 362 days of the year. Same thing with moms – don't wait for Mother's Day. And any of those "what can I bring?" situations like a party or dinner... try taking flowers. They will always be a hit and are a nice change from another bottle of wine.

The who/how/where to buy part is always a little trickier. Don't get me wrong – if you talk to a real local florist you will be fine. I work with florists and they are generally wonderful, honest and caring people. They truly love flowers and they want you to love them too – they will work very hard to make sure that you and the recipient are both thrilled with your purchase.

But sometimes what we call "order-gatherers" get in the way. These are not florists, they just pretend to be. They'll have websites, yellow pages ads and phone book listings all intended to convince you they are real local florists, but they don't have coolers or flowers or florists or delivery vans. All they really have is a website, a call center, and a knack for tricking consumers.

Their goal is to get you to place your flower order with them. They then call a real local florist and try and get them to fill the order for them. The problem is the money that you paid – the order gatherer tries to keep a big chunk of it. Often as much as half.

That means that the local florist who will actually prepare and deliver your flowers gets just a small part of the money that you intended to go to the people that actually prepare and deliver your flowers.

How does the order gatherer get away with it? There are a couple of different ways. First they'll usually charge you a service fee that doesn't get passed along to the real florist. It's really their charge for "handling" your order, something of course the local florist would have done for free, and it certainly doesn't add any value for you.

It's also common to inflate the delivery charge and pass only a portion of it on to the real local florist. The downside for you? You probably paid more for delivery than you had to.

But the real problem is the product. The order gatherer will try and save money by ordering something a little cheaper than what you actually paid for. You ordered the premium ultra-long stem roses? The order gather will often order something less expensive on your behalf and keep the difference.

The worst part is that they have become really good at masquerading as real florists. They will have hundreds, sometimes thousands, of websites (or doorway pages), each designed to make them look like a real local florist dedicated to serving a particular area. Same thing with the yellow pages and phone books – they'll take out ads and listings in directories across the country, all to try and convince you that they are real local florists. Sometimes they will even use the names and addresses of established, well-known shops.

If you can avoid these guys and deal with a real florist instead you will be fine. There is a great guide to finding a real local florist on the Bring Flowers website. Follow those tips, deal with a real local flower shop, and you will be very happy.

Better Security With Google Authenticator

Some new content on my personal blog looks at how Google Authenticator can help protect you online.

One post looks at the concept of multi-factor authentication and the advantages and disadvantages of the three types of factors...


  • Possession Factors – Something You Have: a key or credit card, also tokens like single-use PIN numbers.
  • Knowledge Factors – Something You Know: a password, PIN number or "secret question" like "what was your mother's maiden name?"
  • Inherence Factors – Something You Are: a fingerprint, retina scan, etc.


... and how combing different factors in multi-factor authentication makes the authentication process stronger. One example would be the new Chip and PIN credit card authentication model. Right now using a credit card really only requires a single possession (something you have) factor – the credit card itself. Adding a second factor, a something-you-know knowledge factor in the form of a PIN – makes the entire process more secure.

A second post looks at the Google Authenticator app and how it can be used to better secure many websites and services by adding an additional factor(s) in the form of a token (single use PIN – something you have).

Authenticator is a great tool. I was reluctant to make the authentication process more cumbersome until some research into security card breaches and other well publicized hacks, right about the time I was starting to experiment with mining crypto currencies, got me moving. It was a good change to make and I'm now using Authenticator whenever possible.

Eight Year Old Persuasion Expert

I am fascinated by the work of Dr. Robert Cialdini in the fields of influence and persuasion and have studied it for years, trying to better understand it. This past weekend I watched my eight year old son effortlessly and expertly apply two of Dr. Cialdini's Principles of Persuasion.

He had been given some candy earlier in the day and, right before bedtime, asked if he could eat the whole thing. This actually got a chuckle from me and we told him no, absolutely not.

He didn't complain or tell us that we weren't being fair. He just calmly (and cheerfully) asked us if instead he could just have one bite.

Not fighting back or complaining? If you have kids you know that means a lot and, on some level, we clearly interpreted that as a pretty major concession on his part.

And that made it very hard to say no to his much smaller followup request. When he asked if instead he could have just one bite the principle of reciprocity meant that we almost had to say yes, and he was one step closer to getting what he really wanted.

By getting that first small "yes" my son had also invoked the commitment and consistency principle. Something had changed... eating candy write before bed was no longer absolutely forbidden, it was something that we were obviously open to. And it couldn't be all that bad, because we're good parents, and we had agreed to let him eat a little...

When he made his next request, that he just be allowed to go ahead and eat the whole thing, the yes was automatic. It didn't even occur to me until later.

AIFD (the American Institute of Floral Designers)

The American Institute of Floral Designers (aka AIFD) has worked tirelessly for almost fifty years to advance the art of professional floral design through education, service and leadership.

FloristWare is an industry partner of AIFD - the only independent technology provider that supports AIFD. It is truly a pleasure and an honor to support this great association and their wonderful membership.

"Almost fifty years" part is very important right now because next year, 2015, is the 50th anniversary of AIFD.

This means that their Annual Symposium will be even bigger and better than usual when they get together to celebrate this milestone.

The event takes place in Denver CO early in July and promises to be something truly special.

More information on the AIFD symposium and most other floral industry events can be found in the FloristWare Floral Industry Resource Guide.

Price Discrimination & Differential Pricing

There is some new content on the Beyond Cost Plus site that looks at the concepts of Price Discrimination and Differential Pricing.

The two have a lot in common, and the terms are frequently used interchangeably, but there are differences. Generally speaking price discrimination is the practice of charging different prices for the exact same, or at least very similar, product. A differential pricing strategy can include product differentiation which allows for a wider variety of product and pricing options.

It can be tricky so there are lots of examples and links to case studies that better illustrate the subtleties.

Cheap Tuesdays – The Best Pricing Hurdle Ever

There is a new post on the Beyond Cost Plus Blog about the tradition of "Cheap Tuesdays" at the movie and how they aren't just an effective pricing hurdle, but a self-propagating pricing hurdle – one that becomes even more effective one implemented.

The basic idea is the promotion appeals to one type of consumer – those most focussed on saving money – which in turn further deters those likely to be willing to pay full price. Since the goal of the original hurdle was to avoid discounting to those customers the whole thing becomes even more effective.

Defending Against Bad Yelp Reviews

Review site Yelp is very important for small business owners. The facts are overwhelming – a claimed and well-maintained site on Yelp is incredibly beneficial for any small business including flower shops. Unfortunately looking after a Yelp page is less fun than pursuing likes on Facebook or followers on Twitter and it tends to get neglected.

Part of frustration is that with Yelp business owners can be feel powerless – you aren't supposed to solicit reviews, and there isn't much you can do when a bad review pops up. Feeling out of control isn't fun and in many cases it seems easier to just leave Yelp alone.

A great new Yelp infographic might change that. It gives business owners a clear plan of attack for getting good Yelp reviews and, as much as possible, managing the bad ones.

Hurdles As Part Of A Price Discrimination Strategy

Some new content has been added to the Beyond Cost Plus website that looks at the concept of hurdles and how they can be an important part of a complete price discrimination strategy.

In addition to a definition of hurdles (in the context of price discrimination) the new content includes a detailed look at the way a product attribute (in this case color) is effectively used as a hurdle in a promotion that offers special discounted pricing on a specific color or digital thermometer.

It's the specific color part that makes it interesting. If the discount was applied equally to all colors it wouldn't be so fascinating. The fact that the discount only applies to one specific color – which is convincingly described as the least popular color – that makes it a great example of a hurdle used as part of a differential pricing strategy. By limiting discounts to the least desirable color the seller makes sure that only customers who are very focussed on price – and less likely to pay full price – get the discount.

The ad is also interesting because it so beautifully employs some of the concepts explored by Dr. Robert Cialdini in his published works on persuasion and influence.


Marriot WiFi "Jamming"... Really Not All Bad

The FCC has stated that the Marriott Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center deliberately used Wi-Fi jamming tactics that made it impossible for guests to use their own personal hotspots, leaving their paid Wi-Fi as the only available option. The hotel agreed to pay a $600,000 penalty and stop its signal-blocking activities.

They don't admit to any wrongdoing though. Instead they claim that they were using a known feature in the FCC approved hardware that they use to run their official network – a feature that lets them send de-authentication packets to Wi-Fi Internet access points that are not part of Marriott’s Wi-Fi system or authorized by Marriott and that Marriott has classified as “rogue”.

Why? According to a hotel rep their intentions were good – they were trying to protect their guests from "rogue wireless hotspots that can cause degraded service, insidious cyber-attacks and identity theft.”

That holds up. The very "jamming" practice they were fined for employing would indeed have protected guests from "evil twin" and other attacks that can lead to identity theft.

The problem is the lack of discretion. It sounds like they could have used the same feature to selectively target evil twin access points while sparing legitimate personal hotspots. Instead they targeted everything and made a lot of money off of guests who, unable to use their own personal hotspots, had to buy wifi access from the hotel.

Marriot WiFi 'Jamming'.... Not All Bad

Diminishing Marginal Utility

Late in the week I was speaking with some florist clients reviewing some content for new pricing sessions scheduled for early in 2015. One thing kept coming up...


What is "Diminishing Marginal Utility" again?


It does sound kind of abstract and complicated but the idea is pretty simple – the more you consume of something the less utility (use, benefit, enjoyment, etc. - it depends on the nature of the product) you get from it.

It applies more to some products/services than others. A classic example is movie theater popcorn, the first few handfuls are great but soon each handful (the increased consumption part) offers a little less utility (in this enjoyment) than the once that came before it. That's part of the reason why the larger sizes are discounted so aggressively (on a per-unit basis, relative to the smaller sizes).

It doesn't really apply to something like gasoline, where each unit of fuel offers the same benefit as the unit that came before it.

There is a good definition of diminishing marginal utility, along with some interesting real world examples (of it and other common pricing terms and concepts) at the Beyond Cost Plus website.

Responsive Website Design For Flower Shops

Lately we have had a lot of questions from florists about responsive design.

They're starting to understand that they need a responsive design for their flower shops website (often because they hear from loyal customers that are increasingly frustrated by how hard it is to place an order on a non-responsive design from a smartphone or tablet*)  but they're not entirely sure what "responsive" means, whether they have it already, and how it might affect their website.

Fortunately there are some great free tools to help and I go over some of them here:

How Does Your Flower Shop Website Look on a Mobile Phone or Tablet?


*not good - surveys show more than sixty percent of customer are likely to leave and go to a competitor if they don't like your shopping experience.


Beyond Cost Plus Sessions For 2015

The first two Beyond Cost Plus sessions have been booked for 2015. They'll take place in March at the Great Lakes Floral Expo in Grand Rapids and the Wisconsin/Upper Michigan Florists Association in Green Bay. More details on dates and times can be found on the Beyond Cost Plus website.

These pricing sessions will be a little different than what we did in 2014. Those sessions focussed primarily on pricing the standard fixed price "catalog" type products that florists typically offer off-the-shelf.

The new sessions are going to look at different but very important part of the retail flower business – quoting weddings and events. It draws on our experience in the industry, the collaboration of a focus group of forward thinking and very successful flower shops, and an approach to quoting successfully used by (believe it or not) software developers as they price jobs from $500 to $500,000.

It really is a new take on quoting flowers for weddings and events – one that should mean fewer missed quotes and higher profits.

Good Time To Think About Digital Security

A few weeks ago I presented a session on digital security with Joe Aldeguar at the 2014 SAF Annual Convention. Shortly afterwards the celebrity phone hacking scandal hit the news and our content suddenly seemed even more relevant.

The loss of privacy suffered by the victims is terrible and it seems to have people thinking more about security. I heard from quite a few people who had questions about how they could protect themselves better so I put the relevant content on my personal website.

In a perfect world nobody would try and break into your home. In the real world breaking happen, so we take steps to protect our homes. This is much the same - ideally nobody would try and steal your digital assets but it seems like they will and we can all take steps to protect ourselves.