You Are Your Own Case Study

This was going to be a post about a new online marketing service for SMBs. Here's how it turned into a warning about making sure what you show reinforces what you tell.

Jake Widman, Contributor

June 10, 2010

3 Min Read

This was going to be a post about a new online marketing service for SMBs. Here's how it turned into a warning about making sure what you show reinforces what you tell.Yesterday I ran across a fairly standard-looking press release touting a new suite of SMB-oriented online advertising tools. The idea was that it would put new self-managed marketing opportunities in the hands of businesses that weren't big enough to work with agencies. "Sounds like a worthwhile service," I thought. "Sounds like something readers of the bMighty Blog should know about," I thought.

But the press release didn't say how to sign up for the service, nor did it give any pricing, information I'd want to include in my writeup. So I followed the link to the company website, where there was no signup button for or mention of the new service. I did a Google search for the service's name and specified the company site, and the only hits were for the press release.

That's sloppy, but maybe there was an explanation. Maybe the new service has its own domain and they just don't have a link set up yet. I figured I'd call the company's VP of marketing, whose name and phone number were in the press release, and she would straighten the whole thing out.

I dialed the number and, of course, got the company directory. I spelled the VP's last name, only to be told there was no match. I chose the First Name option and spelled her first name, and end up in a voicemail loop. "P-A-M-E-L-A." "Please spell the first name using your touchtone phone." "P-A-M-E-L-A." "Please spell the first name" I pressed star to move back up the voicemail tree and pressed "0" for the operator. Who informed me that Pamela didn't work in that office and that it would be best to contact her by e-mail.

So I started to send an e-mail. But then I thought: this is a marketing firm. Yet they don't have a link on their website to their new service; their voicemail system doesn't recognize the name of the VP of marketing; and it doesn't matter, since you can't reach her at the phone number the press release gives for her anyway. A far as their ability to market themselves, this was an epic fail; was I really going to recommend them as a marketing resource to readers of InformationWeek SMB, when they can't even handle their own needs? By now, it's probably clear that my answer was No, I was not.

Don't Miss: Ten Local Online Marketing Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)

The experience does illustrate an important point, though. A common way to promote a business is with case studies showing what a good job they did for someone. But usually, the first example of how good a job you can do that a customer will see is the job you've done for yourself -- and as they say, you only get one chance to make a first impression. If you're in the education business, make sure your materials are spelled right. If you provide technical services, make sure the technology works for you as you claim it will work for your customers.

And if you run a marketing business, make sure the phone number you hand out for your marketing director actually reaches her.

How about you? Even encounter a company whose performance for themselves contradicted their claims of expertise for others? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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