This is so true! I don't know how many emails and calls I get each week with unrealistic goals these company's claim to be able to produce.
I take this topic a bit too seriously, I'll admit. Why should it bother me so much if Realtors spend money on software, coaching, and marketing plans that are useless in the end? Realtors are grown-ups after all, and can make their own decisions, right?
I guess it bothers me so much because I am part of this 'online service provider' community that is responsible for so much unethical behavior. Calling it unethical is actually very generous - it's really stealing. Thievery. Cheating people out of their hard earned dollars. Read on or bookmark this article to ensure you know what to do before purchasing ANYTHING online, from a new web site provider, to a graphic designer, transaction coordinator, flyer service, photographer, virtual tour company, virtual assistant, marketing assistant, etc.
I've found that the most common scam involving Realtors and businesses alike revolves around SEO services. If you want to be scammed faster than white on rice, just purchase one of these high dollar packages! I'm not saying ALL SEO specialists are cheats and liars, but you get what you pay for. Getting to the top of the search engine is hard work, and it takes time and money. Most Realtors I know don't have the budget to handle that on a long-term basis. Maybe their market is too large, and too many are competing for that top spot. An SEO specialist should research your market and competition before promising results. If they sign you up without offering to do some research first, this is a red flag! I recently inquired with an online flyer service about their 'Top Google Ranking' flyer for a listing, and guess what? They emailed me back and explained that due to changes in the way that Google indexes and ranks data, they can no longer guarantee a top-ranking. They lost a sale, but they were HONEST! They could have easily taken my money, like so many others would, but they did not! Kudos to ClassifiedFlyerAds.com! If you are serious about SEO ranking and moving up that ladder this year, please follow my checklist below to avoid getting scammed. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And don't fall for the companies that offer to do it for less than $100.00 a month. Sure, they may help, but they're not going to get you to where you need to be.
Another common scam revolves around social marketing and social media. The provider promises the moon and the stars just because they can design a really cool Facebook Business page and Twitter profile, and stick them on your web site. NEWSFLASH: Twitter, Facebook, and Linked In are fabulous tools for cultivating a following of prospects, as well as boosting your 'Google Juice'. It's not worth the money most companies are asking for these days, unless you know something I don't, feel free to tell me what I'm missing. I'm not saying don't pay someone for it; but how much is it really worth to you? When your buyers are looking at houses with you, do you think they care if you have a 'Follow Me on Twitter' button on your web site? Or would they prefer a cooler full of ice and bottled water to utilize while they're looking at houses with you? The water is way cheaper!
If you are considering ANY of the following services from an online service provider (someone you will never have face to face interaction with - an SEO specialist, a Social Media Strategist, a Virtual Assistant, a Graphic Designer, a Web Site Design Company, a Marketing Assistant, a Lead Services Provider, a Real Estate Coach or Mentor) PLEASE use the following checklist to keep yourself from flushing your money down the toilet:
- Once I pay you for the service, what type of follow up system do you have? If you are not available to respond to my emails or inquiries, who is?
- Can you give me the contact information for at least 3 current clients, or clients from the past year, that have utilized the exact service you're selling me today and got the results you promised?
- If I am unhappy with the service and it does not do what you promised, what type of recourse do I have? Does your company give refunds?
- Your prices seem cheaper (or higher depending on the price) than your competition, can you tell me why?
- What kind of time frame are we looking at? When can I expect the final results?
- Is your company in any type of financial hardship or staff shortage? Online companies can start over night, but they have to enjoy cash flow to stay in business and deliver the service they promised you.
Once you have the answers to these questions, here are a few more items to ponder:
- Type the name of the company into http://www.ripoffreport.com/ and see what comes up. Take it with a grain of salt, as ANYONE can write anything without backing it up. The company's main competitor could pose as an unsatisfied client and try to hurt their business. If they have several postings, ask the company if they remember this client and what went wrong.
- Don't rely on their affiliations and business registrations. The Online Better Business Bureau will sign a company up if they pay them; it's not entirely based on their ethics. The company has decided to become a member, paid a fee, and earned the logo. Professional organizations don't count for much either these days; as they are another way for a third party company to collect money. I can join many Virtual Assistant networks for a fee, and most of them only require that I provide them with my web site info and pay them. Once I'm 'ethics checked and certified' - do they know if I've done something unethical if I've scammed someone? Probably not.
- References. CURRENT references. Real Estate service provider companies are going out of business left and right, or they're struggling. If they give you a reference from a client that was satisfied two years ago, ask for something more current.
In closing, be careful out there! There are so many honest, trustworthy companies with owners who appreciate and care about your business and your budget. Take the extra step and don't assume they are fabulous just because your company endorses them, or their web site is pretty. It takes a few extra steps to guarantee you are not wasting your money today - don't take a short cut when it comes to your marketing and/or business building dollars!
Please do not bash a service provider here, as we cannot verify the accuracy of your complaint. File a complaint with the Rip Off Report or the Better Business Bureau. Debate is always welcome on my posts! I'm sure there's an SEO specialist out there who feels the need to comment, and I welcome your opinion.
By Sean jordan @ One Percent Realty