It never ceases to amaze me how easily we trust others, we tend to believe what they say and especially so if they tell us something we want to hear. For instance how many reading this article would like me to double or treble their online sales? And, how about I do this for just five thousand dollars… and to cap it off, I’ll ensure you are found on the first page of Google.

Something similar to the above happened to one of our clients recently, in that they were approached by an Internet related company with an offer to maximize their online sales, for a generous fee. The client in question didn’t do any sort of homework or due diligence and from what I can gather simply paid the required fee and hoped for the best.

Is this good business?

Absolutely not. With the increasing number of people calling to offer search engine marketing, search engine optimization and who knows what else … this is what our client should have done:

  • Be Suspicious – If someone approaches you with regard to their services be wary, especially if they purport to be able to increase the effectiveness of your online marketing, or to increase your online sales and advertising effectiveness. What is wrong with that you might ask? Well simply put, if they could do whatever it is they are saying they can do for you… why is it not working for them? Why do they have to contact you to get sales? And why aren’t people beating a path to their door?
  • Check their Website – It takes just a few seconds to look at a company’s website, look at how professional it is, look for a list of their clients, their successes and look for their full address. In my opinion you should never do business with anyone that simply gives you a telephone number or a PO Box as a point of contact, you should deal only with businesses that give you their full contact details.
  • Seek Independent References – This is perhaps the best thing anyone can do … get a list of verifiable clients and select two or three of them and simply call them up and ask how they got on and how long they have been a customer and what results have been generated. And, remember it’s always the customer’s perception that is reality.
  • Check ABN and GST status – Ensure they are a business and if they purport to be successful ensure they are GST registered (tax registered) – It is amazing what you can find out by simply visiting www.business.gov.au and clicking on the ABN link on the right. You can check to see if a business is registered, if it is GST registered and how long it has been in operation.
  • Domain Check – With the number of Internet scammers around, even the most professional looking website can be a scam, so enter this in your browser to see who actually owns the website http://www.whois.sc/websiteaddressinquestion this will generally give you further information and if it doesn’t ask yourself why?
  • Trust your Instincts – Once you have carried out all of the above checks, my advice is to then trust your gut instinct … this will tell you more often than not if a deal is too good to be true.

And please remember even following all of the advice given above it is still possible to get caught out, I know because I recently was. In this instance it was a Telesales company that approached me with a view to securing orders for our website design services. We would pay them a fee per operator per week and they would guarantee a certain number of sales per week per operator. Well, we signed up, we paid our money and waited… almost immediately they started to try and change the terms of our contract away from sales and into leads generated.

Understanding that leads generated via telesales are often the poorest quality leads… I was having none of this, I stuck to my guns and demanded that they fulfill our contract and deliver actual sales… and of course absolutely no sales were generated and my rather large initial payment seemed wasted and lost and with most people they would have gotten away with it.

With me however I made it my own personal mission to get our money back… and so I called and spoke with whoever I could get hold of, I believe I spoke at some time with almost everyone that worked there from the managing director down… and each promised to get it sorted out… eventually they simply got fed up with my calls and so they returned our money as they should have weeks previously.

I guess it comes down to integrity some people have it and some people don’t, we pride ourselves on our company’s integrity and if we as a company promise something we will deliver it… even if it costs us much more than the contract is valued at… a recent example of this would be a client database, we took the unusual step of saying that we would help populate the database… the end result being that we had one of our guys spend three weeks typing content into a database… work I might add that we weren’t getting paid for…. However we kept our promise and we most likely have a client who will stick with us for another ten years…

Please try to ensure you do business only with others who have integrity and use your trusted business friends for referrals and advice…

Oh, and the donut reference? I’ll let you think about that one.

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ps – this was first published in 2008 and is still applicable

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