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Pushy salespeople, disappointing results

I should know better than to take these calls, but I’m almost pathologically afraid that I’m missing something.

That’s why I feel compelled to answer, and talk to, every potentially credible Internet marketing company that calls me. In this business you cannot rest on your laurels — the stream of new cases needs to keep flowing, otherwise the cash stops flowing and the office doors will shutter.

I had two of these calls recently. One was from a company that we all know well (we’ll call it SuperEgo Inc.) which has branched out from print services for lawyers to online marketing.  They have a rating system for lawyers, and the Superist-Duperist lawyers get the privilege of seeing their names online (for a price, of course).

SuperEgo Inc. also links the lawyers’ websites from their main pages and they told me that their main pages get oodles of hits from the web. Ergo (they want me to believe), my website will get HUGE NUMBERS of hits from POTENTIAL CLIENTS.

That all sounded good, but it quickly broke down with a little cross-examination. What distinguishes my firm from all the other firms that have links on the website (nothing). How many click-throughs, on average, do each of these law firm websites get? She couldn’t tell me the statistics, claiming there is no way to keep track (that’s wrong), and that this was a new program and they didn’t have that kind of data. I told her I’m not interested in advertising without some data to help me decide how good of an investment it was.

That call was particularly frustrating, because it was based on fear. Many attorneys are afraid of the Internet — we all know yellow phone books are dead or dying and that Internet marketing is the wave of the present. These marketing companies rely on this fear and they liberally use terms like “SEO” in their sales pitches. A third-grade education in SEO, however, is enough to prevent that fear from writing an expensive check. SEO is only scary if you don’t know anything about it.

Another call I got was from a pay-per-click company. Pay-per-clicks (PPC) are those ads on the top and side of Google and other search engines. They don’t use the Google algorithm to get their positions; rather, they are bought and paid for. Every time an Internet user clicks one, it charges money to the owner of the site.

I tried pay-per-clicks with Company A right when I started my firm and I was sorely disappointed in the results. So, when Company B called and explained how they would do things better, I was of course interested. In the end, though (and after two, forty-five minute phone calls), I just couldn’t pull the trigger. Part of it was being burned once before. I would feel really foolish if I jumped in and made the exact same mistake a second time.

The other part, though, was that the company was not really interested in proving results to me. I made sure they knew that I wanted to be a believer in PPC, and if it paid for itself with new cases, I’d be sold. But they couldn’t offer me any free trial period or even any substantial discounts for a short test run.

If I find an advertising method that works for my small, solo shop, I’m going to stick with it. If I grow, I’m going to increase the amount of money/energy I spend on that advertising method. A company that comes in and gives me real incentives to test the waters will be the one that gets my business. All marketers out there should know: if you don’t trust your product/service enough to pay for some or all of it yourself the first time out, I’m not likely to throw money at you.

The main problem with those calls is that the salespeople were not responsive to what I needed. One refused to give me the statistics I needed to understand how it would work for me. The other refused to give me any references when a couple of Maryland lawyers who use their services and are happy would have gone a long way toward selling me.

The other problem is that I know throwing money at these problems just doesn’t really work, anyway. The only surefire way to succeed with online marketing is to do the work. You have to build blogs and web pages, and you have to add rich content on a regular basis. With that discipline, the cases will come in.