Beware of Cold Calls from Marketing Salespeople!

I had a lot of fun the other day when I received a cold call from a marketing company. They had no idea, I would guess, that online marketing is what I do, day in and day out, so there are few things I haven’t seen.

The first hint of a scam was the spoofed caller ID: “Mountain View, California,” the home of Google. The caller’s voice and the chattering of voices in the background, however, strongly indicated that it was from a call center in India.

The salesperson said I could be “number 1 on Google.” I asked, “do you work for Google?” No, he replied, but said, very quickly said that they are a “Google Partner”. Ok, so do you make me “number 1 on Google” through organic search–someone searching for a keyword on Google and my business coming out on top–or is this a paid ad–I have to pay for every click to my website? “Paid, sir, he said.”

So, I said, “you have no special proprietary way to get me to the top of Google results? You’re just buying ads for me?” “Yes, sir, he replied.” I feigned interest and asked how much it would cost. He said they have $1,000/month and up programs. He said he’d guarantee at least 100 “leads” to our website. Alright, $100 a lead? “Are “leads” the same as “click”? I asked. “Yes, sir.”

At this point, I had had enough fun and told him I wasn’t interested. (Actually, I wasn’t interested from the start.)

cold calls

Here’s are the problems with his pitch.

  1. “Number 1 on Google” through advertising is extremely easy to do. Just set up an ad, choose an obscure keyword, and set the account up correctly. It might cost $.50-$2.00 per click. “Number 1 on Google” through organic search is a gold mine if it is a high volume search term, but that’s not what he was offering.
  2. Clicks to a website are not very valuable. Many websites will have 1,000 clicks to 1 sale ratios, or worse. 100 “leads” might be one sale, so would you pay $1,000 for one sale? It makes no sense for nearly all businesses.
  3. Google doesn’t have a “back door” system where companies can get proprietary access to the search algorithm and manipulate results. Anyone claiming an association with Google, beyond being a certified Google Partner (training in setting up and running Google Ads) is lying. If you had a secret way to rank high on Google consistently, you’d have a multi-billion dollar idea and wouldn’t be calling me!

If your online marketing salesperson is talking about clicks, be very wary of this. Sure, clicks from Mainland home buyers interested in buying a home in Kona, Hawaii to a Kona real estate company’s website are valuable, very valuable. Clicks, however, are easily manipulated by computer bots or other means, so unless you’re certain of the quality, they are a very poor metric for marketing programs.

What you want in your online marketing are calls (if you’re a service business) or conversions/sales (if you’re an online retailer). Don’t fall for “building a brand”, “exposure” or “visibility” when all that really matters is new customers.

Unfortunately, many small business owners don’t have the knowledge or experience to identify a scam or a bad deal when it comes to online marketing. At Kona Impact, we recommend asking a lot of questions, never buying anything pitched solely on the phone and asking for a written contract or the deliverables. When you have the contract, read it carefully, and be sure to ask someone in the know if it’s a good deal.