12 December 2011

Online Advertising

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As you may notice, I have a small online business where I offer my designs as tutorials for you to make. It's a small business but has grown since I started in March 2009. I'm pleased with the success I've had, but it isn't without a lot of work and effort. I have spent many many hours on my shop, more than any regular I've ever had. It has been my only personal source of income for some time now. It is very frustrating sometimes trying to figure out the right combination to make things the run most efficiently and with the most return on my time and money.

I haven't spent much on online advertising, just an ad here and there. These did not show very good results so I didn't keep them. I have 1 ad that has run continuously for several months now, it brings lots of traffic so I will keep it. I don't have a lot of money to spend on advertising, but I am willing to spend it if it will pay off. That's a no-brainer. I also know that one has to take risks in business and lately I have been searching for ways to help my business grow.

This is a long and drawn out post, but I think it is worth reading.

I received an email from Crissy Herron from Indiebizchicks. She does online marketing "for women who'd rather work for themselves, than work for the man". That's catchy! I've seen that Crissy has lots of advice for the independent business woman and it is helpful advice for the most part. So I read the email. And please keep in mind that I am not trying to make anyone look bad, I am merely sharing my experiences. 

Anyway, I think I will just cut and paste the email I received: This is dated Aug 31

The Virtual Indie Craft Fair--Why you should be a vendor!

IndieBizchicks & IndiePublic Are Partnering To Bring You
The VIRTUAL Indie Craft Fair
As a crafter, you've sold at a lot of craft fairs, and visited even more. But Crissy from IndieBizChicks and Casie from IndiePublic are teaming up to bring you something extra special... A month long VIRTUAL Indie Craft Fair.
The Virtual Indie Craft Fair will run from November 1 - 30, just in time to get you and your business in front of holiday shoppers.
When you sign on to be a part of The Virtual Indie Craft Fair, you'll receive:
  • A Feature Post in The Virtual Indie Craft Fair
  • A front page prime ad on IndiePublic
  • A month long 125x125 ad on the sidebars of both IndieBizChicks and CleverChicks
  • A 125x125 ad in the annual IndieBizChicks Holiday Guide
  • A link on the Facebook Fan Pages of IndieBizChicks, CleverChicks, and IndiePublic on your Featured Day
  • 5 tweets via Twitter about your products
  • An email sent to over 20,000 subscribers, annoucing you as the Featured Vendor Of The Day
  • Custom press release, written AND distributed by Crissy
PLUS - we will be doing daily giveaways. Giveaways equal traffic! We will host a $10 gift card drawing on each person's Featured Post. To enter, a person must comment on your Featured Post. This means that they won't just ignore or glance over your Featured Post - they will be looking!
This can introduce you to quite a few NEW CUSTOMERS!
You will get all of this - a value of over $400, for only $99 - Only 30 25 spots are available!

Well, I don't know about you but that sounds pretty good. However, I did contact Crissy with some questions. Again, I will cut and paste the email I sent to her: This is dated Aug 31

Hi there Crissy,
This sounds great! Can you please provide links to where this will be placed? And can I find out the following/daily traffic this site/sites have? 
I look forward to hearing from you,

Crissy got right back to me with the following response, dated Aug 31:

The featured post will be on IndieBizChicks. I receive about 5,000 unique visitors. You will also have month long ads on the sidebar of each blog page of IndieBizChicks & CleverChicks. Plus, all the traffic from the giveaway... The traffic will go up from that! IndiePublic has over 17,000 members. You'll have a prime spot there, as well as an email sent out on your featured vendor day. As for the tweets on Twitter about your shop, I currently have over 7,000 visitors, and that grows daily.

Let me know if you have any other questions,

With everything she was offering I decided to take a chance. I purchased the package deal, everything you see above. I paid on Sept 4. Here is her response dated the same day:


Thank you for becoming a vendor in the Virtual Indie Craft Fair.

As a vendor, you're going to be getting a lot of ads! Please send me the 125x125  "main graphic ad" and URL you want it linked to... This is what will be displayed on IndieBizChicks.com, CleverChicks.com, and IndiePublic.com, as well as in the pages of The 2011 Holiday Guide.

I will email you and let you know which day you will be the Featured Vendor. Please send me a write-up about you and your business. You can use more graphics, of varying sizes in your Featured Vendor post, so please send those to me, as well.

Another bonus of being a vendor is that I am going to write a press release for you. Please send me any info you want me to include.

All of these things can be sent to me at info@indiebizchicks.com

The deadline is Oct 15, 2011.

Thank you,
Crissy Herron

I then anxiously awaited the Virtual Craft Fair. I was pleased with my decision to spend the little advertising money I had on this venture. I was sure that it was a good decision and that I would at least make my money back. At least that's what I hoped because I had no more money in my advertising budget to spend for the holiday season. 

It was early still but I checked out the Indiebizchicks website now and again. And I received several email offers from Crissy over the next weeks. 

On one of these visits the website had a message saying that the domain was expired or going to expire soon and the owner has not secured it. This occurred on Oct 11. I was concerned so I sent an email to Crissy dated Oct 11:

Hi Crissy,
I am unable to bring up your website. Are there changes I need to be aware of?

And here is the immediate response I received:

Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently:


Technical details of permanent failure:
Google tried to deliver your message, but it was rejected by the recipient domain. We recommend contacting the other email provider for further information about the cause of this error. The error that the other server returned was: 550 550 <info@indiebizchicks.com>: invalid address (state 14).

I was unable to contact Crissy through any avenue at this point and I started to get concerned because the deadline for my ad submission was coming up in just 4 days. 

I couldn't figure out what was happening because this is the same email she was using to send me marketing offers and other correspondence and the same email address where I had successfully contacted her in the past. I sent the same message to another of her email addresses on Oct 11 and received the following:

Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently:


Technical details of permanent failure:
Google tried to deliver your message, but it was rejected by the recipient domain. We recommend contacting the other email provider for further information about the cause of this error. The error that the other server returned was: 550 550 <news@indiebizchicks.com>: invalid address (state 14).

And what I really couldn't figure out was that on Oct 11 and 12,  I had received 2 marketing offers from Crissy, one of which came from one of these email addresses.

I continued to finish my ads and sent them to her not knowing if it would even go through. But, lo and behold on Oct 14 I sent the following email and it went through: I also attached graphics.

Hi Crissy,
I have attached my ad here, please link it to http://asundaygirl.etsy.com I also attached some pictures of some of my items.
about my shop:
my shop's name is Bumbleberries Boutique but is found as "asundaygirl" on Etsy. I named it Bumbleberries because of a piece of pie I had once, bumbleberry pie. I had never heard of bumbleberries before and when I asked the waitress about it I was told that it was actually a bunch of berries combined. So I thought that was a perfect name for my shop as I planned to offer a lot of varied items.
I started my shop in March of 2009 and at that time I offered handmade items and designer fabric. It evolved to include tutorials of different variety. I offer tutorials on making beautiful fabric flowers and hair accessories. I also have unique purses and totes, as well as some tutorials of household items like baskets and potholders. And I still offer beautiful designer quilt weight yardage and precuts. I add original designs to my shop frequently. Look for more tutorials on children's/baby's clothing and accessories. I get my inspiration from my two beautiful grand daughters. I have been sewing and crafting for as long as I can remember. I've made most of my daughters' clothing, as well as my own, while they were growing up. I am interested in all kinds of crafting. I am a registered nurse but hope to be able to expand my business to be my primary focus.
Thanks I look forward to seeing it all,

I never received any explanation about why I couldn't reach her or access the website. 

On Oct 25 I received the following from Crissy:

Just wanted to touch base with you and let you know that your featured day in the Virtual Indie Craft Fair will be November 12. I have your pictures and write-up, so everything is all set! I'll send you the link to your featured post once it goes live on the web!

Crissy Herron

I responded on Nov 2 with:

Thanks for letting me know Crissy.  Can you please provide a link to the indiepublic page and the cleverchicks page where I can view my ads. also, your page seems to have been in maintenance mode for quite a long time, when do you expect that to be ready?
I look forward to hearing from you,
Georgianna Gray

On Nov 1 or 2 I had visited the Indiebizchicks website to view my ad only to discover the site was under maintenance. I questioned her about that in the above email. I did not receive a response from her.

I sent the following email on Nov 3:

Please provide links to these pages and gift guide so I can see my ads. I am unable to find them. 

To which she responded with: 

Your featured day is Nov 12, so when that day rolls around, I will send you the link to your featured post. 

Sorry for the confusion!

Okay, well, I think Crissy is confused for sure so I sent her another email on NOV 3:

that isn't what i'm asking for. i would like to see my month long ads on the pages you said they would be on and i would like to see the gift guide as well.

So she sent:

If you look on the sidebar of the blog pages of IndieBizChicks (indiebizchicks.com/wp/blog/) or Clever Chicks (cleverchicks.com) you will see your 125x125 month long ads. Those will both be up till Nov 30. Right now, I think your's is around 8th or 9th in line, but I'm rotating them throughout the month, so you will be at the top, too. Don't worry.

I'm still finishing the Holiday Guide, that will be up this weekend.

(I removed the http: and www. from the above links for this post) I also want to point out that my ad was never rotated at all much less alone to the top and that is from Nov 1 to this day.

I also sent this on the same day:

and what about the "A front page prime ad on IndiePublic"

and received this on the same day:

That's not a month long ad... that's a featured day ad

Ok well her initial offer didn't technically say it would be a month long ad, I guess I just took it that way. 

By Nov 15 when I still hadn't received the link to the Holiday Gift Guide or any explanation about it, I sent her another email:

Still waiting for a link to the holiday gift guide, if you don't mind.

I got no response, so I sent another on Nov 22:

I still don't know where the gift guide is, please send me a link!

And when I still got no response I sent this on Nov 23:

I would like my money refunded to me. You have not provided what I have paid for and have not responded to my emails. I will give you an opportunity to do the right thing by refunding my money before I take other steps.

This elicited a quick response:

You've had a month of advertising on my site and have been featured in email blasts. That does not warrant a refund. The holiday guide took longer as people did not provide the right image sizes and I had to put a lot more work into it than expected. 

To which I responded:

I received no email blasts from the other vendors "An email sent to over 20,000 subscribers, annoucing you as the Featured Vendor Of The Day"! I can only assume they weren't sent out and neither was mine.

You did not write my "custom press release", I did! "Custom press release, written AND distributed by Crissy " If I had known you were just going to copy & paste what I sent you I would have done a better job than that.

And I don't care if the holiday guide took longer to make or more work than you expected, it still isn't here and I did not get a month's worth of advertising in it, this in NOV 23!!! There's only 7 days left in the month.

And I just want to point out to you that I think your estimation of visitors to your sites was grossly OVERestimated!! I have only received 6 visits from any of the sites you provided. I find that impossible to believe!! "I receive about 5,000 unique visitors", "The traffic will go up from that! IndiePublic has over 17,000 members", "I currently have over 7,000 visitors, and that grows daily."

I am very disappointed with your service, I feel ripped-off and I expect a refund, you have not delivered what you stated and implied.

Crissy was quick to respond with:

There are a number of external tools where you can check my traffic numbers. One of them is Alexa (the link to my data is http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/indiebizchicks.com#The item on the blog was NOT the press release. That was the featured blog post - and I did tell you that I would copy and paste that. I specifically said that in the email I had sent out, asking for the write up. 

I certaintly don't want you to feel upset, but I cannot give you a full refund, as you have had a month of advertising and a featured blog post and a link in the email I sent out yesterday and a custom press release that I submitted online. All of that is worth more than $99.

When you pay to advertise on a site, there are no guarantees of how many visitors you are going to receive. Your ad was up on my site, and I do get the traffic I said I did. I can't make people click on your ad and visit your site.

I want to take this opportunity to point out that at no point was I informed she was going to copy & paste anything. I have included all pertinent emails here and you can read for yourself to see if she told me that. And what a coincidence that an email was just sent out yesterday. And it is completely incredible that I have now received a total of 8 visitors from Indiebizchicks, 0 from CleverChicks and 0 from Indiepublic. 

She sent another email the same day:

I am willing to do an exchange to help rectify the situation in your mind. If you want to have an ad appear in the future or would like a site review, a custom marketing plan or a copy of my recent Holiday Marketing Workshop, etc. But I can't give you a full refund as you've already had the ad up.

And I countered with the following on the same day:

Well I don't get the traffic that you say you do, but I get enough and have a bunch of contacts in this biz and I will tell you what I will do for you and your business. 

I will personally write an article about my experiences with your service. I will send an "email blast" on your featured day to all my contacts and ask them to please spread the word about the incredible service you provide. I will send out more than 5 tweets via twitter about your service. I will also post to facebook and perhaps on the Etsy forums as well. And any other opportunity I can think of to share my experiences, I will do that too. 

And then, just because you have been so responsive in returning my emails, I will do it all over again. 

You don't need to worry about any libel, the FACTS WILL SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES. People will figure it out all by themselves because as I see, this isn't the first time you will get such press. I have found others who obviously have had a similar experience with you. 

AND YOU STILL HAVEN'T GIVEN ME A LINK TO THE SUPPOSED "HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What is your problem?

And with:

I also would like the link to my "custom press release" that you submitted online as I have never seen that either.

She said:

I am not going to respond to your threats. If you don't want to resolve this in a civil manner, then there is nothing more that I can do. I can't give you a full refund on things you've already received.

And I said:

I have not threatened you, I merely said I was going to spread the word about your service. Most business people would welcome that, why don't you?

I am more than willing to be fair. You know good and well you have not provided the service you implied. There were several times I tried to visit your website just to find that it was under maintenance all day long. Your emails were returned to me or went unanswered. You still have not provided me with links to the holiday gift guide or my custom press release. You have no proof that you have done either of these things. And now you want to say that I am threatening you and you aren't going to respond to me and that's why you haven't sent the links, that's bunk. I've been asking for the links from the beginning of this farce!!

If you don't want to respond to my emails then that's on you, I will relay that as well. 


I have not found the facebook link to my shop either! Consider this a request for proof that you ever posted it.

and she said:

I'm not home right now, but I will send you the press release and holiday guide when I get home. Probably won't be till late, but I don't want you to think I'm ignoring you.

I then received:

I have attached your press release and you can download the Holiday Guide at http://www.indiebizchicks.com/hgg2011.pdf

Have a good holiday,

I replied with:

how about the links to the internet pages these are posted on!!

and she said:

The link that I gave you to the holiday guide is a link on the internet

Watch my Twitter and Facebook page and emails for the link throughout the month of December

The logo for the guide will be posted on December 1. Right now, the vendor ads are up but on December 1, those all go away and the holiday guide will take center stage

As for the press release I submitted it to the distribution center and they release it. You have to keep Googling for it. It will appear in the search engines, it doesn't appear on my site.

I would like to point out here that there has been nothing about my shop posted on her Facebook pages: https://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=14098502017&v=wall (the last post on this one was April 22) and https://www.facebook.com/indiebizchicks where you will note that she made references to the Virtual Craft Fair and a few links from a couple other vendors, but no links to my shop or most of the other vendors. As far as CleverChicks: https://www.facebook.com/pages/CleverChickscom/107634782628213?sk=wall the last post there was on May 6. And on Indiepublic: https://www.facebook.com/indiepublic Nada! I see nothing about any vendors nor about the craft fair itself.

And at some point she felt it was ok to change the advertising month from Nov to Dec. Dec is never mentioned in the initial offer and I certainly didn't agree to this. The Holiday Gift Guide won't even post until Dec 1 according to this email, yet read back and see where she said it was going to be out that weekend. This was supposed to be done for the whole month of Nov.  And finally, the custom press release was supposed to be distributed by Crissy herself, not some distribution center. And I will have to keep googling to find it?!!!

So I wrote her back:

Yeah right, you're full of it! This was supposed to be a November thing, not December. You have not proven anything to me about these things or about posting to facebook or the emails you supposedly sent. You have not fulfilled your service to me. The only thing I see that you did was put my ad on your site and copy & paste the vendor post. That is not what I paid for. I expect to be refunded. 

I will not correspond with you any further. I would like my refund by Monday morning, if not I will spend my day writing my experiences dealing with you.

And finally Crissy said:

I never said it was going to only be available in November, my dear. I said it WOULD be available in November. And it is. Check your email today for the promotion. It's going out to thousands of people... on THANKSGIVING.

It's going to be promoted all the way through November.

You can write what you want about me. I'm NOT giving you a refund. I've fulfilled my service to you.

A custom press release is $45.

An ad on my site is $50 / mo

An ad in the Holiday Guide is $25.

You got all of those, and that is MORE than $99.

Plus, I've tweeted about the fair numerous times on Twitter and posted about it on Facebook, and sent email blasts.

If you say something negative about me,  I will respond back with MY opinion of you and I will take you out of the gift guide, as I'm not going to promote someone who is saying lies about me.

I am going to be filtering your future emails so that they go directly to my trash.

I have given you everything you wanted and have bent over backwards. I am done corresponding with you. You're not getting free advertising on my site.

Ok, am I missing something here? She now tells me to check my email today for the promotion. Yes, there it is, but that is not what the original offer states. This advertising was supposed to be for the whole month of NOV, not the last 6 days of it. And oh boy, it's going to be "promoted all the way through November" and like I said that's 6 more days.

So let's see:

a custom press release: ummm maybe, perhaps but I can't find it anywhere and I'm pretty sure no one else will find it either.

an ad on her site: I got an ad on indiebizchicks and cleverchicks which never made their way to the top. I never saw an ad on indiepublic

an ad in the Holiday Guide: I got an ad in the Holiday Guide, but the guide didn't go out until today and coincidentally only after I complained. This guide was supposed to be available on NOV 1.

tweeted about it numerous times: I have no clue whether this happened or not. I never saw any tweets.

posted on Facebook: she did post a couple times, but I did not get a link on her Facebook page as promised.

email blasts: I never received a single email blast about any of the other vendors, I can only deduce that they weren't sent and neither was mine. But I could be wrong, anything is possible.

I have relayed this information as it took place. Aside from removing the "http and www" from the email posts, this is exactly what has transpired. I am not "saying lies" about anybody. I have merely reported my experiences with Crissy. You can make up your own mind about it. 

I am not the only one who has had similar experiences with Crissy Herron and Indiebizchicks. Here are some links for further reading: http://www.etsy.com/teams/7722/business-topics/discuss/6155265/  http://www.etsy.com/teams/7722/business-topics/discuss/6178189/ http://www.etsy.com/teams/7722/business-topics/discuss/6178523/ I'm sure there are other posts if you want to search for them. I certainly wish I had dug a little deeper before I paid for this (dis)service. 

There were 17 vendors who signed up for this, like me. And at last count there were 44 total comments made by visitors. Keep in mind that there is a daily $10 giveaway for each vendor and all you have to do is make a comment. Some of these vendors only had one comment on their post. I find it really hard to believe that will all the supposed traffic that so few comments were made.

I don't expect to get a refund but I would like to spread the word about my experiences with Crissy Herron and Indiebizchicks and perhaps others might be interested to read it too. I feel that I have wasted the little advertising money I had for this holiday season. I have not made a dime from it and it is very hopeless and discouraging to think that there are people who can do this to another. 

And you know what, I hate putting this kind of thing on my blog, it makes everything ugly. 

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