Overseas Call Centres

I know that they are a necessary business requirement for really large companies that need phone support for huge number of customers, but boy do they make you mad!

I have an ecommerce website called Piel Frama Cases found here at www.pielframacases.co.uk which currently uses PayPal.

I decided that I would add Amazon payments to the site, so completed their application forms and waited.

After a week I needed to call to Amazon about the application.

The problem was that the Pilipino girl kept asking me for the last 4 digits of my credit card.

I had not entered any card details, the current screen said there was an issue that needed resolving and the girl just would not listen to me. Instead she just kept saying she needed the last 4 digits of the card!

No wonder people struggle to get things done when individuals just don’t step off their robotic platform and think outside the box.

I have no idea when or if my issue will be resolved.

Part 20 – From Sketch to International Distribution … in 5 Months!

Well the Kickstarter campaign finished bringing in £3611 before commission and card charges. It was 515% funded from its initial goal!

But the marketing did not stop there…

The next stage as I approached the end of the campaign was to compile all the data of the pledges and mail merge to everyone ensuring that what I was about to send them and their address details were correct. Furthermore an option to increase their orders further with a special price.

Although I wouldn’t receive the money from Kickstarter for a further 14 days I was able to take my time and pack the orders ready to ship.

Inside each box was the tissue wrapped blocks and tops. In the magnetic gift boxes was a piece of non slip matting, a piece of velour .. enough to cover the sill and base and a voucher offering a discount code when making further purchases on the pen Rest website at www.ThePenRest.co.uk

As backers started to receive them I received the following feedback from people like Christina ….

Just received my gold pen rest and top this morning , and WOW ! What a superb product , much better than I expected and I’m real fussy !! The packaging was fab , and the gift box was a nice touch ! Everything about this product & campaign was quality! I will definitely be on the website soon to order more ! Thank you somuch ! Very happy ūüėČ
and you know what … she placed two further orders!

Part 19 – From Sketch to International Distribution … in 5 Months!

Well Stephan contacted me, as a distributor in Germany and despite liking the product, he is not willing to sell the product to his customers. For him, it is just not the same quality as his other products that he sells. Disappointed.

The Kickstarter campaign had now reached the half way point with over £2500 pledged. The campaign by this point was more than 300% funded over the initial funding goal.

The next challenge was to provide felt for the sill covers. I had found a company based in Yorkshire that said they could provide a thick felt that would be the ultimate in luxury for the pens. They sent me samples that appeared to be quite good.

However when I agreed a cut sample to specific dimensions what they sent was compressed, not square and not even to the exact measurements that I requested.

They promised to send more samples so we’ll wait and see .. in the meantime i tracked down a company that sells adhesive backed velour in black. Nice product, a velvet feel but not as thick.

Despite requesting the new samples from Stephen the felt supplier, I was shocked when he emailed me to advise that there was now going to be significant tooling costs in order to ensure that all felt pieces were exactly the same.

Sadly this made felt a non starter.. I decided to go ahead with velour, and judging by the reaction of those that have seen the velour on the blocks, they prefer it.

So now having past the £2500 mark I decided to include velour with every order.

Find out what happens next when the second campaign on Kickstarter comes to an end in Part 20 – From Sketch to International Distribution – in 5 Months!

Part 18 – From Sketch to International Distribution … in 5 months!

So I decided to start a New Kickstarter campaign for the Pen Rest and added the streamline now in Midnight & Oxford Blue.

The campaign can be seen here http://kck.st/1DfUHDl

collection stack

I set a relatively small funding goal of just £700 .. after all I had the stock.

I sent out a mailing to all past backers to say I had launched this new project and within 24 hours I had surpassed my goal by 140%.

Let me make it quite clear though that more than half of the backers are new.

Within a week I had backers amounting to £1800.

Interestingly whilst this was going on I had investigated about the felt that was needed for the sills. I had found a supplier not far from me here in the UK that had sent over samples.

I had two issues to address.

to give a soft protective surface for pens to rest on
to eliminate the small movement which was seen if the stack was moved between blocks and tops (This was required to allow a tolerance between the blocks and tops.)
My felt supplier, a nice guy named Stephen sent me various samples. The thick felt was perfect! It was adhesive backed and covered the sill beautifully retaining the sill contours as designed. I was very pleased with this solution.

I sent the manufacturers specification sheets to a specialist to ensure that the felts would not cause any issues to pens or their users.

Stephen also sent me a very fine felt that was so thin that I was able to apply a small strip in the cavity of the blocks and tops so that they locked in place when brought together.

I went back to Stephan in Germany. I told him that I had found a solution to the two issues he raised and he willingly allowed me to send him the felt pieces to apply to the samples I previously sent him. So I sent them in the post … he’ll get them within 5 days. Then we’ll see what he says.

I have now ordered the felt sill covers and the small non slip pieces that can be applied by the user if required.

So right now I watch and wait with bated breath as to the outcome of the Kickstarter campaign and for Stephans response to the felt pieces. Will he place an order and back the Pen Rest or not? If he does and it proves popular would I want to manufacture another 1000??

Find out what happens in the next part of From Sketch to International Distribution … in 5 Months!

Part 17 – From Sketch to International Distribution … in 5 months!

I guess if you’ve been following my project you are no doubt wondering why it went all quiet and why the sudden vanishing with the daily posts?

Well actually for good reason and one which I’ll share with you.

You will remember that when the blocks arrived one third were meant to be left as black, such that I could then sell them on Kickstarter again.

The blocks that arrived were not black… more like a bluey black and worse still the tops didn’t match! Infact they were more of a definite blue.

Zed, my chinese contact agreed to resend the tops on receipt of one of the blocks. They arrived but were all pitted!

So they agreed to resend again. When they finally turned up they were a pretty good match to the blocks… but certainly you would struggle to call them black.

So here I was with loads of blue tops from the first batch and loads of bluey/black blocks and tops ready to launch a new Kickstarter.

I’ll come back to that in a moment…

Meanwhile Stephan in Germany the distributor that was waiting on the samples received them… he was not happy. In his opinion the Pen Rest required a sill cover to prevent expensive pens touching the metal surface .. and that was not all … he said that he felt they came apart too easily and this must all be addressed before he was willing to order them. In his words it was too risky!

Hmm.. so back to the dilemma of the remaining stock.

Selling off the remaining stock given that it was not going to be a simple “The Pen Rest – Now in Black” launch would be complicated.

So hence the delay in my last postings and the continuation of this ongoing marketing project.

So I decided that in order to market the blocks and matching tops I would call these Midnight Blue and the paler tops I would call Oxford Blue.

I created a simple video using iMovie and then put together all the testimonials I was receiving from the owners of The Pen Rest in my promotional text.

I then figured out what combinations would sell such as a silver block and Oxford Blue top and created the campaign to run on Kickstarter here http://kck.st/1DfUHDl

The phone rang on Friday evening … and whilst I was waiting for my wife to get off the phone so we could have dinner I decided to launch on Kickstarter.

Find out what happens once the project is launched in the next part of ‘From Sketch to International Distribution … in 5 Months!’

Part 16 – From Sketch to International Distribution … in 5 Months!

So when exactly do you know you have a winning product? Is there such a thing when tackling a niche market?

One persons view is not a great representation of the many .. and even during the last elections the greatest pollsters out there got it wrong.

One of the things I’ve learnt along this journey and marketing exercise is that you have to excite people to want the product .. you need to help them feel it, touch it and make it so desirable that irrespective of what they initially think of a product suddenly they want a part of it.

A good salesman listens to the needs of the buyer looking for angles to present a solution from a different perspective. It gives them the edge.

So it was with The Pen Rest … there was no demand or desire initially to want or desire this product. It was in fact at concept stage as you would hear Duncan Ballentine on Dragons Den say “I can’t see a need to place your pen on a piece of metal … I’m out!”

The consumer is like a sponge. They love to be sold to and the success of any product or service is often governed by building up that desire.

So when you look at some of the marketing channels that I mentioned in Part 13 and ask yourselves Does this Channel somehow make the product desirable you can ultimately come to the same conclusions as my results showed that by saying “Hey look at my product!… you might be interested” It’s a bit like 100,000 people at a ball game all shouting instructions to a player.. nothing gets through and the player just switches off.

If when promoting on Facebook, discussions breakout and products become desirable through popularity, excitement, perception, etc then you ultimately get desire.

It was during this entire marketing exercise that I could see this and adjusted my strategy accordingly and hey presto backers came along.

At this point I’m still waiting on the missing stock although I see it in transit.

In my next update .. Part 17 – From Sketch to International Distribution … in 5 Months! find out if the missing stock arrives, if the tops match the blocks and if there are any further updates on the distributors.

Part 15 – From Sketch to International Distribution … in 5 Months!

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I hope you’re still following this journey with me? By all means drop me a line with your thoughts so far to dsf@pimdesign.com or post comments here on this page.

To be clear this is still a marketing exercise and I would love to get your take on events this far. What did I do right and what did I do wrong in your opinion. How would you have approached this differently?

The stats on the numbers reading my articles are impressive too showing that the articles have been read hundreds of times so far.

So let’s continue where we left off…

So the Dragon Festival was over and Zed .. the manufacturer of the tops sent me pictures to approve.. it was impossible to tell, with the lighting in the images, if they match the sample block or any of the black blocks that I have here.

Despite promising time and again the remainder of the stock would be shipped it was not until 3 days later than originally promised, that there was any movement at all.

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You’ll have to wait and see what actually arrives!

As for the boxes May is still promising 50 free boxes to compensate for all the cleaning and damaged goods… As I have still not agreed to this she asks if I will speak with her manager Irene.

Irene was pleasant enough but sadly still played the “we’ve not made much on the order” card and “Will you be placing any future orders with us?”

My response was simple I don’t think it is relevant what future orders I may or may not place. If goods are faulty then you either agree a refund or you offer a credit. I told her that I was happy to receive a credit against a future order…. she needs to apply for that from her boss!

I contacted Stephan in Germany to see if he had received the samples yet.. sadly not … Not only were the German Post Office on strike so the samples were under a mountain of other parcels… sadly his Father died! … oh and his assistant sent money for the samples in Euros rather than pounds in error!

So at this point I had hit a number of hurdles and challenges to get over..

  1. To get samples to Stephan as soon as possible
  2. I needed the black tops to complete the UK distributors order and the corporate order
  3. I could not start another crowd funding project without the black tops

Find out what happens next in Part 16 – From Sketch to International Distribution … in 5 Months!

Part 14 – From Sketch to International Distribution … in 5 Months!

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So the samples went out to the distributors as I said.

The UK distributor placed his first order, except that I couldn’t send it because I the black tops had still not arrived.

The dutch guy Bart received the samples and wrote back … “Sorry I won’t be selling them because my clients think no one will buy them and they should be given away free to the shop owners”.

The German guy Stephan… well he’s not received them yet. The German Post Office are on strike and the samples are stuck in some remote place under a pile of several million other parcels… so he’s not yet ready to place an order.

The extra pieces I am waiting for along with the black tops (I hope they are black) which should have been sent as promised multiple times from China two days ago … are still in China. Why? Well Zed.. my Chinese contact forgot that the country would be shutting down for three days! It was the annual Dragon Festival. He only just realised. … yeah right!

Meanwhile backers from Kickstarter continue to send in wonderful testimonials … take a look here at http://thepenrest.co.uk/look-at-what-people-are-saying/ and I even received a first order for additional blocks via the website www.thepenrest.co.uk using the special voucher enclosed in the boxes.

So until I receive the remainder of stock … and all is well I can’t send out the distributors orders, finish the corporate clients order and not ready to market the new colour black.

Stay with me to find out what happens next in Part 15 – From Sketch to International Distribution … in 5 Months!

Part 13 – From Sketch to International Distribution … in 5 Months!

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In my last update I recapped on what I’d done to get this far and shared just some of the response so far.

In this update though I wanted to focus on marketing, the physicology I’ve used so far and the reasons why I did something.

Firstly the only way to run my test was to create a unique niche product. It had to be controlled so that any marketing was not skewed by individuals looking specifically for this product already. This was highly unlikely in the case of The Pen Rest.

The experiment to promote links only to Kickstarter rather than to Indiego, neither of which I had ever promoted on, was to create two similar platforms to test the marketing efforts and to show any skewed results as a result of being in front of a crowd funding audience.

My theory here was that a new unknown product needed to be promoted and that the audience of Indiego were not likely to support the product on its own with no marketing.

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I proved this absolutely as the campaigns ran for the same period at the same time. During this period there was not one backer on Indiego compared with Kickstarter proving that the marketing was driving interest to the Kickstarter project.

During the marketing period I promoted the existence of The Pen Rest through the following methods… and in all cases only used links to Kickstarter.

1. Word of mouth – this is very local, minimal exposure and certainly in a niche field too small an audience. It was never likely to attract backers on its own. In fact when speaking to friends and family I was fascinated by the looks of incredulity of some who thought I clearly lost the plot. Some laughed at me and even made fun of the idea.

None of this was a surprise but this is marketing in the most basic and rawest form. By speaking about the product I was interested to hear and see the feedback. It serves as market research, but equally helps you understand what needs to be said to attract any interest.

2. Facebook – I created my own Pen Rest page and posted images and text about the campaign on Kickstarter.

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I was never convinced that this would have the biggest pulling power from a marketing point of view. It was however interesting that some would share almost of loyalty but not one of those that did share … and no criticism here … but it went to show that sharing alone would not convince someone to back the project.

During the campaign I kept posting how much was raised .. how many backers and what percentage over funded I got to.

Facebook from a social media point of view is a great platform, but when you are not topical and too niche you just can’t expect to get any support.

3. Facebook Advertising – you can target very specifically your audience. I set a campaign going focused on people that loved pens, fountain pens, brands of pens and typically over 25 years of age. The adverts were to drive interest to the Kickstarter campaign, but again I was not absolutely convinced that promoting a brand new niche product even to a specific audience would drive enough sales to the campaign to warrant the expense of the adverts. I ran 5 different advert tests to see the click through rates and look at conversions.

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The conclusion of this was that the audience were being educated about a new method of displaying pens, something they were not likely to ever consider and whilst traffic did end up at Kickstarter, they had nothing to measure this new product by. It did not exist before so they had no reference point to judge it. Traffic from this source was very small and resulted in only a couple of backers.

4. Email Marketing – This was easy to do as I have a lot of mailing lists that over the years I have built up. However these audiences despite knowing me certainly were not aware of the product or could reasonably expected to associate this new creation with me.

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I explained about the idea and showed off images and this was sent to thousands of individuals. The result was a very small number of backers, one or two that I actually know from the past. Supportive purchases, inquisitive and purchases of curiosity in my opinion, but grateful nevertheless.

5. I engaged an international PR consultancy, one which helped write up a press release with their expertise.

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They promised that they would send out a Press Release globally and their Ultimate product would get it seen by the likes of the New York Times, The Independent, Global news channels, etc and that their stats would show exactly what was seen.

Frankly this was the biggest flop of all .. the Press release looked good, but it ended up only on USA Television and Radio websites for brief moments.

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677 view were by search engine crawlers… robots.

Not a single backer came from this source and no traffic was seen from this source.

But then when you consider the PR here was a non story … a UK guy invented somewhere to put your pen… sounds like an April Fool story!

PR works best where the news is incredulous, massive success, terrible disasters etc. This really did not surprise me but the test proved that this means of marketing produced nothing despite an international audience of journalists.

6. Twitter – I kept up regular tweets during the campaign … but I was always thinking that when I see tweets they are there and gone so quickly that despite encouraging a following of almost 1000 and many retweets I really expected very little. I focused on pen collectors and writers predominately.

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The result was as expected a lot of followers, retweets and a little increase in traffic to see what the campaign was about.

7. I contacted hundreds of Creators on Kickstarter and offered to do cross promotions with their backers .. I got a very warm reception from many of them .. in almost all cases they helped promote to existing backers The Pen Rest… but incredibly I received only a couple of backers from this source.

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My conclusion of this audience was that they would look but backing was a different issue.. I had a theory but something that I was yet to prove.

8. I joined the Backers Club – This is a site that allows only people who have backed multiple Kickstarter projects to join. The catch is though that you have to offer them something as an incentive to back your project.

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From Backers Club perspective this is self promoting … you have to include Backers Club in the project .. members then see rather than backing the Kickstarter direct they go to Backers Club and get a better deal.

I did get about a dozen backers from this source, but this was in part because they got a better deal than going direct… overall it was aimed at individuals that back a lot of projects .. and trust me when I say a lot… these are Kickstarter addicts. You can check out the backers profile buying history. They appear to enjoy the excitement of being part of the momentum behind a campaign and possible success story.

9. Google Adwords – granted this was a limited campaign but focused on driving traffic to Kickstarter. The results though were not impressive at all … I had a steady stream of visitors to the Kickstarter campaign but no backers.

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10. Ebay – I created a load of listings free on eBay showing the Pen Rest for different makes of pens and telling people to visit the Kickstarter campaign.

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In fact I had around 50 views .. but sadly not one backer from eBay referrals.

So you might ask “David how on earth then did you succeed in raising 74 backers, raising over ¬£4000 and achieving backing for almost 250 Pen Rests … a feat where so many campaigns fail…?”

Well I had always had a theory… and what you read above was to prove that the traffic and source to buyers is not always from these obvious media sources.

Watch out for Part 14 – From Sketch to International Distribution … in 5 Months! where you’ll see what happens with the distributors, if the Chinese keep their promise to send me the missing stock and the black tops and see more feedback as more people receive the Pen Rest.

You’ll have to stay with me if you want to find out what my theory was and how I proved it … you might be surprised.

Part 12 – From Sketch to International Distribution … in 5 Months!

So a quick recap here…

This started out as a marketing exercise and test.

I sketched an idea, created clay models, had 3D CAD drawings made and then invested in prototypes.

I took photos, launched it on Kickstarter and Indiego promoting like crazy to get traffic to Kickstarter.

Then I had the blocks and tops manufactured along with boxes in China and shipped out all the Kickstarter orders.

We’ll come back to the distributors later … but for now take a look at what people are saying..

They arrived the other day but I waited until today to open the box since today is my husband’s birthday and the whole reason for the order. He loves them! He took each one out and unwrapped it as though it were a train set, lol. It was very well packed; there seemed to be very little shifting of the boxes. We liked the black tissue paper, which added a little special something. And we both love the boxes themselves! They are much nicer than I imagined they would be. … Besides fountain pens, my husband also likes boxes, so this was an added bonus. The pen rests themselves are very attractive and glide together very well ..
Thank you for all your hard work in bringing your great idea to fruition!! Congratulations! – Jane USA

I am extremely happy with the packaging, the look and feel of the packaging with the magnetic latch, and of course, the pen rest themselves are just wonderful! I especially love the brass ones. I guess the others are aluminium …. All in all, you should be very proud of yourself as you do have a winner. – Steven USA

Just got it today! I really like the packaging, it looks very sharp. The Pen Rest is heavier than I expected, and I like the feel of the smooth curved surfaces.

When I am able to do a more thorough review I’ll send a link. But so far my first impressions are all positive! – Elizabeth USA

Just pulled it out of the mail box. Looks amazing – Matthew UK

I received my three Pen Rest blocks and cap today and I am very pleased.

The blocks and cap are of excellent quality and the finish is perfect. As the attached pictures show, the packaging was good and the blocks arrived without any problems or damage in shipping.

I would also like to compliment you on the manner in which you conducted your Kickstarter campaign. You provided frequent and informative updates including interesting options along the way.

Great product and great service. Thank you!

Mark Lonergan

Tickled pink with my pen rest. It is beautifully made and looks rather stylish on my desk. I went for two storeys and can now find more than one pen when the phone rings . . . it came nicely packaged and is a pleasure to own.
P. J. Turner, Pontefract

Well, I received my PenRest order this morning.
WOW this item is better than expected.
GREAT look and GREAT feel.
My pen has never looked better.
Thank you
David & Team – Sally UK

Gift boxes

The Pen Rest

I stopped buying expensive stationery for now, but there is still some stuff coming in that I ordered in the past. One of these arrived this weekend: The Pen Rest.

The Pen Rest blocks

I backed The Pen Rest on Kickstarter and chose the rewards for two pen rests and a top. I think the price has changed since I backed this Kickstarter, but I got the price that was valid when I backed the project. I chose the silver blocks, but they are also available in gold.

My impressions

My first impressions: Great! The packaging is really nice and the pen rests came in gift boxes with the lid held in place by a magnet.

The blocks and the top look even nicer than I imagined. The two blocks have a perfect friction fit when you slot them together. The top is a bit loose though. I might put some blue tack in to provide some better hold. The blocks came with a non slip mat, too, but in my opinion it doesn’t look great and is a bit too thick. (EDITORS NOTE: The mat was for smartphones to sit on the Pen Rest in landscape without slipping)

Altogether a great way of storing pencils and pens. I hope they will be available for many years to come in case I want to add to my existing pen rests.

So as people start to receive their Pen Rest so the marketing machine continues to drive more interest.

I’ve not yet sent out the first order to the UK distributor as I don’t yet have all the tops!

Find out more next week when I expect to receive the missing stock, the new black tops and hopefully the samples have arrived in Europe.

Look out for Part 13 – From Sketch to International Distribution … in 5 Months!