So tonight I was helping a friend of mine who wanted to advertise his business on the internet. He’s not computer savvy at all. And little did I know, he had no real idea how the internet really worked with regard to search engines, rankings, keywords, and the like. He is a really smart person, but not in this area.
He wanted to setup a web page to create a web presence there so he could get more customers. Simple enough.
That’s fine, he’s a friend and will be a good client. Little did I know that the internet and all it’s seedy folks had already got their greedy little hooks into him.
I laid out how a person could grow an internet presence into a brand, provide compelling content, demonstrate his experience in his field and even answer common questions that his customers might have and given the right amount of time and effort make a real mark in their area of expertise. His web presence can become a big part of his operation.
He is a very honest and trusting person. He wasn’t born in the US so language can be a bit tough for him sometimes. I can’t fault him for any of the things that he has done, but a bit of critical thinking would have saved him a lot of money and time.
When a person goes out into the big electronic frontier that is the interwebs, it’s easy to see that companies like Google and Yahoo and even the Yellow Pages have a commanding presence. They appear like the solid, trusted foundation upon which everything else is built. When you are a business owner, you get an endless parade of calls from companies, including the aforementioned, hocking their virtual wares.
For my friend these wonderful bastions of commerce and provision realized his internet naiveté and quickly put him on the hit list. After I told him all about how we would create his website, he leaves the room, then comes back in with a pile of papers and says: “So what do I do with all of this?” He produces signup forms, information and executed contracts for several search engine companies, listings, and advertising contracts. Several of which he had signed up for and was paying good money for. He DIDN”T HAVE A WEBSITE!!!!
What followed was a three hour explanation that even though companies like Google are what you use to search the internet, the salesperson selling a line-item listing for Google Maps to his home address (not even a phone number) is pointless! But because he equated Google with the internet, and they seem like a big, good, trustworthy company, he thinks: “My competition is on the web when I search for something right under that Google logo, so I need to do that too!” Add rinse and repeat for YellowPages.com, and Yahoo, etc. etc.. These sleazoids were selling him advertising for nothing. You couldn’t even argue that there was ANY value in it because there was no clear link to anything that a consumer could use to contact him at his business (Short of a customer driving to his home and knocking on the door)
Even the Better Business Bureau sent him a letter trying to convince him that he should pay to get listed on a satellite web directory that was to list his business as a “trusted” vendor. This company that has the word TRUST as parts of it’s own brand, uses nefarious tactics to convince people that they are getting the goods. I explained that when someone is looking for you or your service they are going to use search terms that resemble your service or name of your business, NOT the name of a “trusted” directory, that takes a minimum of 5 jumps to hit a page only to get a white pages style listing in some directory.
None of this is news to me of course. I’m in the production industry, Heck I MAKE TV commercials and promotional videos. I convince the consumer that my client’s products are the best, fastest, biggest, most efficient and highest quality all the time. So I’m hardly the one to call out a company for advertising and selling their products.
But when a company clearly sells a service to a customer who clearly doesn’t have a clue what they’re really getting, and couldn’t possibly take any kind of advantage of it, and could never benefit from it in anyway short of the tax expense write-off, this makes me livid!
How could a company in good conscience continue these practices? I guess we can look to Homeopathy and see that clearly, it just doesn’t matter.
I was upset when I saw these, and he was clearly embarrassed. What’s really sad is that it will make him that much more jaded, and my job a bit tougher to convince him that I really DO have his best interests in mind when I present him with options on how best to advertise his business. He will become more skeptical, which is a good thing, but also, I suspect, an equal measure more cynical and untrusting. This leads to one of the roots of the problem with being labeled a skeptic. When one is a skeptic by external factors, we can assume that there’s equal parts cynicism, and lack of trust born from the Big Bad World that’s taken our lunch money and stuck chewing gum in our hair.
In the meantime, we teach, we are patient, and we spend the better part of a Monday evening trying to illuminate the internet to our friend.