Unsolicited companies wanting to “help you do better” – BEWARE

The contact form on my website has an additional field asking people how they know me. Sometimes I need a kick in the brain to connect the dots between your name, your question and it’s context.  This morning I received an unsolicited email through my contact form from (somehackbunny)@gmail.com. She wanted to let me know all about marketing through Twitter and Facebook and to trust “them” and their “plan.” Yet, there was no link to “their” site, services, pricing, only her email without any branding.

The message went like this:

Subject: Online Marketing of your business

This is how we know each other: N|A
no-portrait-photoMessage Body:
It’s a fact:  more people find out about your business on Facebook or Twitter than on search engines.  Making these sites work maybe tricky for you, but it’s business as usual for us.  Let us improve your visibility and enhance your image.  It’s part of our complete  Internet Marketing package.  We’ll be more than your friends — we’ll be your partners.

Lessons to glean from this:

  1. With RARE exception, any business that solicits to you without your first contacting them is spamming you. Think of it as those coupon packs you get in the mail with “incredible savings.” Think about the offers to lower your mortgage payment from some misleading company that sends you questionable red-white-and-blue letterhead and talks about Veterans benefits. TOSS IT. In the 11 years of having my own business, there has only been one exception – one – to my rule. This supplier found me through my posts on LinkedIn, posts to a forum of which we are both members.
  2. Companies that contact you without giving their website for you to visit, or the link redirects you to an unrelated URL, have an email address that does not match their domain are most likely spammers. At the least they are unprofessional since they haven’t taken the time to complete their branded message. EMAILS SHOULD MATCH YOUR PROFESSIONAL DOMAIN – NO EXCEPTIONS! You can bring your branded email into your Gmail and reply from the branded email. No need to look like a hack. Sure, @gmail is a step up from @aol, @hotmail, but not by much. Don’t be lazy, either hire someone to help you set this matchy-matchy branding up or learn to do it yourself.
  3. It’s not manna from heaven. The unbelievable deal, the promises of marketing miracles, search engine rankings beyond your dreams – go back to sleep and dream of pandas dancing with unicorns. It’s not happening. These spammers, scammers and not-so-honest companies will promise you the world for small fees. Many times you end up getting blacklisted after using their service and the damage is done. Very hard to undo a sullied online reputation. AH-A-A – I see the wheels spinning – REPUTATION MANAGEMENT COMPANIES – they’ll solicit you, too. Think of them as the commercials late night to erase your debt with the IRS and you pay nothing.
  4. If you need these services, find out from who other businesses you trust whom they are using. Ask their marketing team, your contacts. This is where true networking comes in handy. You can trust your business friends. You can also see the mistakes competitors make and do your best not to repeat their strategy.
  5. Do your research – check the company out, search for reviews of the company, not just on BBB, try Yelp, LinkedIn, industry forums. Look for feedback and reviews. Then, CALL THEM, speak to them directly. How difficult is it to get to a human? How about someone who understands you? How quickly were your questions beyond “that person” and you had to be transferred away? Kind of like buying a car and the salesperson has to get the manager and the finance guy involved. Smoke and mirrors! Will they understand your market, your message, your goals, your… humor? If you are to be partners in this task with someone, make sure you know them and their habits before jumping into the hot tub.
  6. Accountability: How will they prove their results? How will they show you what they have done for you? Will they give you a progress report? Will it be in terms you can understand without having to decipher it?

There is a helpful show I heard on SLMA Radio interviewing Judy Key of Key Marketing Group:

SEO Lies, Myths, Falsehoods, Deceptions and Snake Oil Promises

Listen to this episode   |   Download this episode (right click and save)

It’s a 40 minute show. VERY informative. Worth playing in the background. She covers a lot of these same points.